So to the first challenge of obtaining this dream like existence, finding the right school. Well the right school is Master Divers, but then I am a little bias right? So why then is it the right school and how do you choose for yourself.
Well the first part of taking on any challenge is to keep your solutions simple. Don’t overcrowd yourself with priorities, necessities, reasons, just go with what feels right. Go with the knowledge that you will indeed be training hard, and learning a lot, but go with the knowledge that you will need your school to support you as you essentially change your life.
For me, and with close to 50 dive schools on Koh Tao, it was all about taking a walk around to visit as many as I could, take dives with a few that you like and talk to them both professionally and socially, tap into the feeling of the place and see if it is right for you on instinct. I had a few factors to base my conversations on:
Size: I wanted a smaller school. Avoiding the dive factory feel I wanted a close team. Team mates and colleagues that have the time to teach, to remind, to support as you work through the course. I wanted a shop with a professional attitude, goals and ambitions whilst sustaining that chilled relaxed beach vibe. Master Divers has this kind of focus and it is apparent. I knew in general it would be easier to settle in at this school rather than with a school that felt like it was losing its head.
Professionalism: I wanted a professional and proud school. You know what I mean if you have dived with any of the slightly less caring operations out there. I have nothing against cowboys, but stick to the agriculture, in the water these operations can make you feel like you are working for something more along the lines of agro-culture, and above all it’s not safe.
Whilst starting out I wanted to be able to tap into knowledge to have those dumb or simple questions answered. Of course the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving is always on hand to help, but there is nothing better than sitting down with an expert in their field and tapping into all the experience they have. Well it certainly helps when you get the question “What is a J-Valve?” or, “How does a Second Stage work?” Believe me even now as a professional it is still very useful to be surrounded by so much experience and expert knowledge. Thanks to all the team for still answering those dumb questions.
Continuous customer flow. Well it is always a little difficult to assist or learn when there are no customers diving. Something to be very mindful of if looking at smaller schools. Find out if they close for any particular seasons, for example we close for Monsoon (November) so we had to plan for that in my schedule.
Gear and Resources: I wanted to see good, well maintained equipment, up-to-date and well stocked. For most it is uncommon to start your training with a full set of gear, and so it is good to know you will still be able to borrow a good standard of kit until you get your own. Make sure your school are teaching the new outline and have all the correct materials too.
Attitude to the Environment:
You take care of your environment and it will take care of you. A Law of the universe. Above all for me I wanted to choose a school that was both active and aware
when it came to integrating and supporting the natural environment I was going to be working in. Likewise it is as important for my experience anyway, to find a school that was as high on nature as I was. I do not believe there are many people out there that love the sea and the creatures in it more than the team here. All of us had gills in previous lives, as I am sure you did if you are reading this.
So with my criteria (clearly I wasn’t looking for much hey), I found a few schools that met the mark. I felt I had done my research, and I was still not sure. Then I walked into Master Divers, just as they were hurrying around closing for the day, and do you know what they said?…”Please come back tomorrow….…”. Here I was ready to start my Dive Master and I’m being politely ushered out of the door. Brilliant !
However they took the time to explain what the big rush was about. The team was on their way to a fund raiser to generate money for the sinking of the MV Trident. The boat was being sunk to create an artificial reef and ship wreck dive on Koh Tao. It had once operated technical diving liveaboards out of Master Divers and along with its owner was clearly very dear to them. I was invited along and it appeared that the whole island actually attended, over 65 thousand baht was raised in just on night.
The team are focused entirely on safe, fun and exciting diving. It’s a business but they are sure to make as much time for socializing and relaxing too. This team has found the work/ life balance, and believe me they are a long way off retiring. Not a necessity in making the choice of dive school but if you know your team are into life as much as diving then you know you are going to be well looked after. Slightly more brilliant.
This is the second of 6 posts which I have written about being a Dive Master, starting from why I became one and including this one, how to choose the dive center at which to take your course, followed by what to expect, how to expand your knowledge and finally what its like to work as a dive master. Check back to get the next installment…