Sunday, 29 July 2012

From above to below the waves

Angie first arrived on our doorstep over a year ago to complete her PADI Open Water Diver course. As a surf instructor near Perth, Australia, we knew she wouldn’t have any problems in the water. What surprised us was how addicted to diving she became. It didn’t take long to realise she had her sights set on going the whole way to PADI Divemaster.

So Angie, you’re pretty confident in the water. How come?

I guess so. I’m an Australian and I was born in the water. Literally. Dad had built a house and outside in the garden he installed a hot tub. And Mum gave birth to me in that. I guess it means I’ve always had a natural affinity to water.  My Mum says that I learnt to swim before I learnt to walk though I don’t remember, obviously. I know I had swimming lessons at age 4 but everyone did.  And to be honest, it’s not such an uncommon thing in Australia. The ocean is such a big part of our culture. We all live close to the sea and we all spend lots of time on the beach. It’s only natural that we should be comfortable in the water.

When did you learn to surf?

I was taught to surf by my Dad who bought me my first board at the age of 10. He used to write notes to my teachers at school so that I could get time off to go surfing with him! I soon became addicted to surfing and spent all of my free time on the beach.

How did you end up as a surf instructor?

When I finished school, I wanted to work with kids and the most obvious activity was to get involved with teaching them how to swim.  After six months, I travelled to USA where I worked in a summer camp with kids. I was an Outdoor Education leader and I took them hiking, canoeing and bike riding. Afterwards I spent some time travelling through the States and then I hung out in the UK for a few months. When I came home I studied to become an Outdoor Education teacher and it’s a job that combines well with working as a surf coach.

What made you take the plunge and become a diver?

I became interested in scuba diving because I was intrigued by the life that exists beneath the waves. As a surfer, I obviously tried to spend most of my time on the surface.
Also, I wanted a hobby that wasn’t my job. In the past, all my hobbies have ended up becoming work.

Why aren’t there more surfers that are divers?

In Australia, diving can be an expensive sport. Added to this, surfers can be kinda lazy. They are so used to just grabbing a board and heading to the beach, that the thought of having to rent lots of gear and spend time planning dives doesn’t interest them. I think there is also a common misconception that the training takes ages.

Why did you come to Gili Trawangan?

Like many Australians interested in surfing, I’d been to Bali many times before. I came to Gili Trawangan after a recommendation from a friend who had said the diving was really good here. I arrived and instantly began the hunt for a dive shop to do my PADI Open Water Diver course. I chose Trawangan Dive because everyone was nice and friendly. They weren’t at all snobby.

How did the Open Water course go?

We went to Meno Wall on our first open water dive and I remember being fascinated by all the fish and the coral. I was so mesmerized that I completely forgot to pay any attention to my Instructor, Adam. We had a gentle telling off during the debriefing!

What made you decide to return and complete your PADI Divemaster?

It’s a relatively cheap way to get lots of diving experience. When you do your PADI Divemaster course on Gili Trawangan, you get free fun diving. So by the end of the course, I’d managed to rack up more than 90 dives.

What was your favourite part of the PADI Divemaster course?

I really liked assisting on courses and seeing people’s reactions after the thrill of their first open water dive.

How did your snorkel test go?

It was hilarious! I was dressed up as a Care Bear because it was 80s night at the Irish Bar. The IDC finished on the same day so it was a massive party. After many years of training in University, I managed to skull the jug with no hiccups. I don’t really remember much of what happened later in the evening!

What do you think about Gili Trawangan?

It’s like being in Alice in Wonderland. It’s a beautifully weird place that sucks you in. The people are so lovely and the climate is perfect. Life is super easy here. Food and accommodation is cheap and the locals are really welcoming. Ramadan can be noisy with the mosque going non-stop all day. But you just accept it for what it is.

What’s the plan for the future?

I’m going to stick around for the rest of the high season and help out around the dive shop. I’ll be heading home for summer in Margaret River and I’ll no doubt carry on with surf coaching. I’ve no plans at the moment to complete my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) but I’m not ruling out in the future. I just want to get a bit more experience first.

If you’d like to learn more about how to change your life and the path to becoming a PADI Divemaster or PADI Open Waster Scuba Instructor, check out our courses, our prices, or just contact us!

Originally published on the Trawangan Dive website for PADI professional courses including PADI Instructor Development Courses (IDC)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

From fun diver to PADI Divemaster

Nina arrived on Gili Trawangan a few months ago and started diving with us here at Trawangan Dive.

First she did a few fun dives, then her PADI Rescue Diver and Emergency First Response (EFR) course and then decided to go all the way and become a PADI Divemaster. She blew us all away with her infectious laugh, her enthusiasm and high level of professionalism.

Tell us about yourself, Nina.
I’m from London, I’m 28 years old and I studied Interior Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art. I finished my Masters degree in 2008 and had my sights set on becoming a Designer. Due to the financial crisis and ensuing recession, I ended up managing a bar in London!

In May 2010, I started travelling. I went to South and Central America for a year, then to Australia for a year and then back to Argentina for two months. Then I flew into Bali around May 2012 where I spent a couple of weeks and travelled to Lombok with some friends. I celebrated my two year anniversary since my departure from the UK on the Gili islands.

Were you already a diver before you arrived here?

Yes. I did my PADI Open Water Diver course in Koh Tao, Thailand in 2004. Quite a while later, I completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course in Utila, Honduras in 2011. Then I did my PADI Rescue Diver and EFR courses here at Trawangan Dive.

What made you want to become a PADI Divemaster?

It was a pipedream from many years ago when I first became a diver but the real world got in the way. However, after a few fun dives on the Gili islands and after my PADI Rescue Diver course, I really didn’t want to leave. The perfect solution was therefore to start my PADI Divemaster course.

What made you choose Trawangan Dive as the place to do your PADI Divemaster course?

I made friends with all of the Divemaster Trainees when I was doing my fun dives and PADI Rescue Diver course and really liked the atmosphere at the dive resort. The island itself was also a big part of the decision. It’s a beautiful place. Although I’ve dived in some amazing places, I’ve never felt as comfortable or relaxed as I feel here. The island is so chilled and surprisingly, given its size, it doesn’t get boring. There’s always something to do, another party to go to and another celebration to be had.

What was the most challenging part of the course?

At the beginning, I was daunted at the prospect of having to guide divers around the dive sites here. Which is ironic considering that this is now my job! Also, I hadn’t really dived in strong currents before so that was an added challenge. Especially since it doesn’t depend on your own technique so much as the technique and ability of the divers you’re guiding.

What was the most enjoyable part of the course?

After so long travelling it was so nice to be learning something new. At the end of every day, I felt as though I’d achieved something. And every morning, I looked forward to new challenges.

What are your plans for the future?

No idea! We’ll see what happens! I’m going to go home in September but I’ve realized I could have a career in diving if I wanted. What’s fantastic about diving is that it’s not just about becoming a PADI Instructor – ultimately, there are so many other options such as conservation work, research, videography, etc.

Are you considering becoming a PADI Instructor?

At this point no, because I don’t want to teach at the moment. I’m too selfish and don’t have enough patience! However the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor certification can open a lot of doors and it’s often required for other areas such as research, so for this reason, I might complete the PADI IDC at a later date.

If you’d like to learn more about how to change your life and the path to becoming a PADI Divemaster, check out the courses we offer, our prices, or just contact us!

Originally published on the Trawangan Dive website for PADI professional courses:

Our next PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) begins on 13th August

Do your PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) with the best!

Check out some of the reasons you should choose Trawangan Dive for your instructor level training:
  • You’ll benefit directly from the real-world diving industry experience of our PADI Course Director. Ayala Cohen has many years of work experience as an PADI Instructor in Thailand and Indonesia. Ayala’s background means that she has experienced many of the situations you can expect to meet as an instructor. She shows you how to apply what you learn and handle successfully the challenges instructors face every day.
  • You’ll become highly employable, worldwide. Dive centres seek instructors who know how to balance the needs of guests, colleagues and management, and who can deliver high-quality courses, sell and promote diving. Ayala will help you to develop and apply the skills that make you attractive to employers.
  • You’ll gain teaching experience, by shadowing one of our staff teaching a PADI course. You see for yourself the practicalities of running a course, and make a smooth transition to teaching students of your own.
  • You’ll benefit from Trawangan Dive’s IDC Staff instructors who will assist, advise and support you. They are ready to share with you their experiences of working in diving, and the challenges and rewards of being an instructor.
  • You’ll enjoy the same high level of professionalism, high-quality facilities and friendly atmosphere that we offer to everyone diving with us. There is a maximum of six candidates per IDC group, allowing each to receive individual attention.
And if you're not convinced, how about some more reasons:
  • We are the only PADI 5 star IDC dive resort on Gili Trawangan with a full-time PADI Course Director running regular IDCs.
  • Our Course Director, Ayala Cohen, has enviable 100% pass rate.
  • Our modern IDC facilities include an air-conditioned classroom with up-to-date materials, large visual aids, DVD players and interactive teaching aids. Our swimming pool meets all of the requirements for teaching PADI courses. We also have all the materials you need to conduct successful teaching presentations such as descent lines, lift bags, first aid mannequins and oxygen kits.
  • Rental of all diving equipment is included. 5% off equipment purchases for IDC candidates.
  • Our open water training site is located minutes away from the dive centre on Halik Reef, one of our most beautiful dive sites.
  • Lunch is included on each day of the course.
  • Extra workshops included, such as a Rescue workshop, Ascents/Descents workshop, CESA workshop, DSD workshop, Navigation workshop and Search and Recovery workshop.
  • Emergency First Response Instructor, Enriched Air Instructor and Emergency Oxygen Provider Instructor are included.
  • Course Director and IDC Staff Instructors are present at the Instructor Examination for support.
  • Backpacker accommodation is included.
  • Free wireless internet access is available.
  • Travel and visa assistance provided.
For more information, please check out our new website for PADI professional courses at Trawangan Dive, or simply contact us!

How an Essex lad became a dive guru

Anyone who has been to a Trawangan Dive quiz night will be familiar with James, our quizmaster and one of the lead PADI Instructors at our dive resort on Gili Trawangan.
His story from office job to dive god is a familiar tale to many of us in the dive industry. At one point, we all decided to say goodbye to the usual nine-to-five in order to take a leap of faith into the world of diving. And just like the rest of us, James has no intention of ever going back…

What was your previous job?

After studying accountancy at college in Essex, I started my first job with a construction company in East London. I was 18 years old at the time, and I stayed there for 3 years. It was awful, really awful.
The daily commute was mostly spent sitting in someone’s armpit listening to some idiot chatting rubbish on his mobile. The late night’s journey home was inevitably on public transport, trying to avoid catching anyone’s eye in case they had a knife and an attitude.
To be honest, I hated England. It was cold, boring and it never stopped raining. If my family didn’t live there, I could happily never step foot in the country ever again.

Not your happiest moment then! So what did you do?

I saved up some dosh and booked myself on a six month trip around Africa. It was an overland trek in a bus with a bunch of other people who were disillusioned with the real world. It was my first trip outside of Europe so it was big eye opener. We started in Cape Town and I learnt how to dive there. But blimey, it was cold. The water was 13 degrees – we had to wear a 7mm semi-dry and I was still freezing! Despite this, it was an amazing experience and I continued to dive throughout trip.
Lake Malawi was my first taster of diving in fresh water. Lots of different fish and also different planning was required because it was also altitude diving. In Zanzibar I had my first dive in warm water and I couldn’t believe the change it makes. I saw loads of stuff – turtles and lots of different reef fish. In between, the trip included numerous safaris, white water rafting, trekking to see gorillas, etc. It was fantastic. And for six months, I lived in a tent and learnt how to make a fire, how to cook for the group and got in touch with my inner caveman!

Did you head back home at the end of the trip?

Absolutely not! When the trip ended I flew to Bangkok, Thailand and celebrated New Years Eve at a full moon party Koh Pha Ngan. Mental. After a month or so of partying in Thailand, I made my way to Borneo where I volunteered at a wildlife centre called Matang Wildlife Centre. This involved helping with the orangutans, helping to build enclosures and lots of trekking into the mosquito-infested jungle.

After that, I made way round the South-East Asia backpacker circuit including Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Singapore. I dived whenever I got the chance. In particular, Sipadan blew my mind. There was so much going on during each dive that I didn’t know where to look.

And then, did you head home?

Nah! I applied for a working holiday visa and headed to Australia. I’d always wanted to experience life down under. Rather than making a beeline to Sydney like everyone else, I went to Melbourne. I was worried that Sydney would just be London-on-Sea.
And for the first time in what seemed like ages, I got myself a proper job as an accountant again. It was the easiest way to earn some decent money. After all the travelling I had done, it was nice to enjoy some of the comforts of the developed world again. I had a good group of mates that enjoyed a drink or two, so every night was spent down the pub. And at the weekend, I would try to get away. On one occasion, I headed up to Cairns for a dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef, which was cool, but not really what I expected.

Did you continue your PADI education there?

Actually, it was on the way home that I stopped off in Malaysia and did my next course in the Perhentians islands. I had planned two weeks of chilling on sun-drenched, palm tree lined beach before heading back to the UK. But I was bored after a couple of days so I signed up for my PADI Rescue Diver course with Emergency First Response. It was a fun course with loads of people pretending to pass out underwater or drowning on the surface. I had to tow a fat guy for what seemed like miles. It was good workout.

Were you excited to be going home after so long away?

You would think so. But no, not really. Of course it was nice to see friends and family. But the main reason I went back was because I had run out of money, not because I wanted to return to office life.

Nevertheless, I did get an accounting job again. I figured it was time to grow up and stop running away from responsibilities.

After three months in the job, I realized I didn’t actually want to grow up so I saved up some more money to go travelling again and then quit my job! Again!

How did you find out about Trawangan Dive?

I did a Google search for ‘diving in Indonesia’ and the Gili islands popped up. I emailed various different dive centres and the reply from the manager at the time, Amy, was the quickest and the funniest. That’s all it took! I booked my flight the next day and a month or so later I arrived on the island.

What do you think of the Gili islands?

When I arrived, I was really pleased with my choice. It has the best balance of social life and diving of any island I’ve been to before. Sometimes you arrive in a diving destination and while they are picture perfect, there’s absolutely nothing to do in the evening.

If you don’t want to dive the Gili islands (which would be damn shame) you could still do lots of things – kayaking, sunbathing, snorkeling, horse riding, trek up a volcano in nearby Lombok, etc. Some girls even sunbathe topless so it provides the guys with a nice pastime between dives!

How was your PADI Divemaster Course?

I honestly loved every moment of it. I had Philip as my mentor and it stood me in good stead for the rest of my diving career. I assisted on lots of different courses from – Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver and Rescue Diver courses. Every Divemaster’s favourite is the assist on a Rescue Course – fainting, screaming, puking, bleeding, panicking! So many opportunities to channel my inner drama queen!

I’ve seen you in a fair few costumes since you arrived…

I do love a costume party! I’ve been dressed as Tarzan, a school girl, a go-go dancer, the Hoff, and many more besides. And who can forget the teenage mutant ninja turtles? That was for my snorkel test at the end of my Divemaster course – another mental night I can barely remember!

How did the find PADI IDC?

Ayala is an fantastic PADI Course Director. The two weeks went by so quickly because we were so busy. I was under the impression we would be locked in the classroom all the time, but there were so many workshops, we never seemed to be out of the water.

I think I surprised many (including myself) with my knowledge development presentations. My Essex accent is a constant source of amusement for the people I work with, but in the classroom presentations, apparently I changed my accent and became a polite Englishman speaking the Queen’s English. It’s never happened again since!

And what about the PADI Instructor Examination?

For my PADI IE, we went to Bali. The conditions were much different to those around the Gili islands. We had 5 metre visibility and raging current that made the open water presentations kinda challenging. In comparison to the other groups there, we seemed to be much better prepared and this showed in the final marks – I passed with flying colours!

And so you began your new life as a PADI Instructor…

When I came back I helped out doing some diving and then they offered me a position as a permanent dive instructor at the dive resort. Financially things are much easier now. I can make ends meet without having to dip into savings. In fact, I’m even managing to save a bit as well. I love teaching and the variety it brings. One day I’ll be conducting a Discover Scuba Diving session and the next day I’ll be teaching Deep Specialty or Enriched Air.

What are your plans for the future?

I really want to stay on the island long term and would like to invest some money in property at some point. The island is slowly getting busier as more people are venturing outside of Bali and there are lots of good investment opportunities.

Obviously, I’ll continue to work at Trawangan Dive as well though. This place really is home now. I’m going to continue hosting the weekly quiz night until I get thrown off it! It’s a good laugh. Some people commented the other week that it was the least serious but most entertaining pub quiz they had ever been to. Job done!

Originally published on the Trawangan Dive website for PADI professional courses:

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Meet Matt, the adrenaline junkie

As scuba divers working in the industry, we all like to think we’re living life to the max. There is a fair amount of excitement in our daily lives – a new dive site to discover, new marine life to marvel at, new conditions to master and obviously new students to teach. Each day brings challenges, fun and stories to tell at the end of it.

And then we met Matt and we realized that our lives were comparatively boring. He arrived at Trawangan Dive nine months ago and it was instantly obvious that he wasn’t your average guy. For a start, he jumps out of planes and off high buildings for fun. As a sky dive instructor and base jumper he really lives life on the edge. Give him a sport and he’ll master it. Motorcross, speed bike racing, Judo, Jiu-jitsu. He pushes himself to the limit in everything he does.

But in his previous line of work, there were many dangers. And after a few too many close calls and reminders that he was still very young, he left Canada to begin a different life. The plan was to travel the world but he got as far as his first destination, Indonesia, and was amazed by life here. And decided to stay…

Were you already a diver?

No. I arrived in Bali and headed to Sanur and completed my PADI Open Water course and PADI Advanced Open Water course. I knew from the first dive that I would take it further. How much further wasn’t clear at that time. But as always, whenever I start a new sport, I want to become the best at it. Diving was the perfect sport for me at this stage in my life. Done properly it has a calming effect. It’s like meditation. And the feeling of weightlessness is like flying but unlike skydiving, everything is a lot slower!

And then you came to the Gili islands…

Yes, I heard about the Gili islands from some people I had met in Bali. I planned to stay for three nights but when I arrived I instantly wanted to stay longer. I’ve realized since that this happens to lots of people! It ticks all the boxes of what people expect of a paradise island – no motor traffic, picture perfect beaches, clear warm seas, amazing marine life and happy people. Also, there’s enough happening on the island to not get bored and enough tranquility to relax. It’s the perfect combination.

What made you choose Trawangan Dive?

I visited many of the dive centres on the island but it was at Trawangan Dive where I felt the most at home. I spoke to all the Divemaster Trainees and asked them about how their course was going. It was obvious they were loving every minute of it. As a French Canadian, I was worried that I would have problems with doing the course in English. But at Trawangan Dive they have an English instructor who speaks fluent French after having lived in France for years and he reassured him he could translate where necessary. That closed the deal.

And so you carried on your education and completed the Emergency First Response (EFR), PADI Rescue Diver and PADI Divemaster courses. Which was your favourite?

I think the PADI Rescue Diver course was my favourite course. The course made me consider not only my own safety but also others. It expanded my awareness and taught me a whole new set of skills. It’s obvious why it’s a compulsory step to becoming a PADI Divemaster because it teaches you the appropriate response to such a wide range of situations, some of which you encounter when you start working with student divers. I can’t thank my instructor enough for his sharing his experience with me – his amusing stories, his insights into the psychology behind rescue situations and his commitment to proper technique.

What did you think about your PADI Divemaster course?

The PADI Divemaster course was a lot of fun! I learnt a lot about the dive industry and how it works. I took every opportunity to dive and logged well over 80 dives during the course. I improved my dive skills and learnt how to deal with customers whether they are students or certified divers. I realized that what makes me tick is helping people overcome fears. I love seeing their faces when they master a skill they were afraid of, such as mask clearing skills. It makes my day when I show new divers their first turtle or bumphead parrotfish. New experiences is what it’s all about.

And you worked as a Divemaster for a while. How was that?

Once I completed my PADI Divemaster course, I knew that I had to become a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. If I could have done it sooner I would have done. But I needed to be a diver for at least six months before I completed my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC). So I worked as a Divemaster in various places to get the experience. In retrospect, it was definitely needed as I learnt so much during that time. No matter how much studying you do or how much time you spend under the watchful eye of an instructor, you don’t really learn until you’re doing if for yourself, every day, with real customers.
How did you find the PADI IDC?

The PADI IDC was tough! Mentally it was exhausting because there was so much information to process. Ayala was firm but fair. She was very helpful, she really pushed us and she really prepared us well. Not only for the PADI Instructor Examination but also for the real world. It was obvious why she has a 100% first time pass rate.

How did you feel when you passed the PADI Instructor Examination?

I was so relieved and happy. I felt like I had achieved something amazing. I’d made my way up the PADI ladder and was able to teach another of my passions.

What’s the plan now?

I’m spending the next couple of weeks team teaching with the amazing instructors at Trawangan Dive to learn how they schedule courses. The quality of the instruction is so high that I can learn a lot from these guys. I already have a good idea about scheduling because I assisted on many courses during my Divemaster course. But now I’m obviously looking at things from a different perspective.
I am in the fortunate position of being able to speak three sought-after languages – English, French and Spanish, so I don’t think I’m going to have too many problems finding work. Especially when I’ve got some experience under my belt. And I’m working with Ayala to get my five specialties so I can become a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer once I’ve got my first 25 student certifications.
And then we’ll see. There are so many amazing places to work as a dive instructor. I can’t wait to begin exploring the possibilities!

Originally published on the Trawangan Dive website for PADI professional courses: