Sunday, January 14, 2018

Weather and diving

As is normal on a tropical island throughout the year, we can experience tropical storms and showers. Generally this doesn't affect us and a rain shower or thunderstorm is short lived. However particularly around our Monsoon season (November-December) we can experience more severe weather patterns which normally includes strong wind and consequently rough seas. This can then mean that we have to cancel a tour. 

We always advise our customers that our decision to cancel any tour is based on safety as that has to be our priority. We follow various maritime websites as well as the Thai Meterological Department. If the TMD issue a weather warning, then we follow it. The same as in any other country in the world, if you ignore this warning then you are risking your customer's safety and your insurance will be invalidated. 

Often we hear comments like "what if we go to a different location to dive", "we had a dive booked with another dive centre and they have cancelled our tour - can we go with you instead", "a snorkel company went out today, so why didn't we". Sometimes, even once explanations are given we still do have customers desperately pleading with us!  

We really understand a cancelled tour can be disappointing for you but hopefully knowing your safety and enjoyment is our priority gives you some perspective. No company wants to turn down business and if we could take you diving and snorkeling we would!! We are being only honest with you and letting you know about conditions that are completely outside of anyone's control. Not being honest with you or indeed not telling you what to expect only leads to upset, frustration and lack of enjoyment. There will always be another company who wants to take the risk and is only concerned about money and not your safety - but that is not The Dive Academy, which is why we have a 100% safety record and many happy customers!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Divemaster training 2017

As we enter the last couple of months of the year, we are kicking off the next Divemaster course here at The Dive Academy.

Young Jake (yes another one!) from England already has some 250+ dives and quite a bit of varied experience and now he has decided to change his career from being in the Army to becoming a PADI Pro!

The Dive Academy has already produced some great Divemasters this year with Matt, Jake & Kevin, all of whom are also continuing their education with us to move on and become PADI Instructors. Hopefully, the latest Jake also decides to follow in their footsteps.

Jake has already completed some of the Divemaster presentations and knowledge reviews and has commenced his first watermanship skill; scoring a 5 and is starting to work through how to perfect his demonstration quality skills. So far things are looking good, just need to slow the breathing down Jake!!!

Divemaster training at The Dive Academy is very intensive and thorough, we don't just tick the boxes and all of our Divemaster candidates repeat tasks and scenarios multiple times to ensure they are really comfortable and competent. We assess them on the basis of would we be happy for our customers to be led by them. If the answer is yes, then they are ready to be signed off!

If you're thinking about a change of career, then why not look at becoming a Professional diver. It will completely change you as a diver and we'd be happy to help you achieve your ambition.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Q1 2017 at The Dive Academy

So it's been a crazy first few months of the year here at The Dive Academy, with several weeks in January and the beginning of April with heavy monsoonal rain and severe flooding around the island. Naturally this was devastating for tourism on the island, not just for us but for all the hotels, restaurants and various other small businesses. Fortunately, the flooding receded and eventually we were back to business as usual! Sometimes you just have to ride it out, after all you can't change the weather no matter how frustrating. But don't believe everything you read in the international papers, it's always best to ask locals or people actually living here for the up to date situation!

Since then we have gone from no boats being able to go out at all to both Midnight's in full operation every day. From trips to the usual places around Koh Tao and to the fabulous Sail Rock, to many Angthong Marine Park tours, private charters and also venturing out to Koh Phangan as well. So a great variety of different tours are available depending on what you are interested in doing and how much time you would like to spend out on the water. Have a look at our tour options and drop us a line if you need more information.

Throughout most of March and pretty much all of April we have had awesome diving conditions, with generally calm seas, great visibility, little current and loads to see. All the juvenile fish are around during these months so you can be diving through schools of what looks like rainfall - it's very pretty! Then we have the baby black tip reef sharks, around 1m in length in schools of around 6-8. They are very shy but relaxed and if you're quiet and don't make too much movement you can spend a long time watching them swim around. The best way to see these is to join one of our VIP snorkel tours, in a small, personalised group with 1 of our Instructors who can show these and other wonderful things.

Now, the big topic of conversation is definitely the Whale Shark action we have been experiencing lately. We generally get sightings all year round across all of our dive sites but this is normally sporadic where we maybe get 1 or 2 sightings in a week and nothing for a few weeks. 2017 has been very different, with many, many sightings and often 2 at a time at a variety of dive sites. Sail Rock so far has had the big fish(s) there every day for the last 3 weeks which is amazing! We must all remember good etiquette around them: NO touching, NO chasing or crowding the fish, NO deliberately stopping it's natural path and NO flash on your camera. These basic things will help everyone enjoy the experience all the more.

If you are one of our customers who had the pleasure of a Whale Shark during your Discover Scuba dive or Open Water course dives, you are VERY lucky!!! Sometimes people clock up hundreds of dives over years and long to see a Whale Shark!

We have also had some rare sightings including Dolphins, large Bumphead Parrotfish and some pseudo 'Orcas'! So lots of activity going on right now in the Gulf of Thailand and a great time to come diving as a beginner or an experienced diver.

At the end of March, we saw Heath one of our long term Senior Instructors leave us. He decided that he wanted to focus on himself a bit more and take some time to enjoy things around the island that we often don't get a chance too because we are all so busy! 1 month after saying goodbye to Heath, he is now back doing some part time work with us as he missed us so much!! We also had a new addition to the team in the form of Marc. Marc was a repeat customer of The Dive Academy for many years and after completing his Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses with us, decided to turn Pro. After becoming an Instructor last year, he has subsequently worked on a part time basis with us and is now a full time employee. So look out for the Scot on the team!

You may have seen our exciting news about the launch of The Freediving Academy. A new addition and service offering, this is a new sport that is really taking off around the world and our Instructor Sophie who can offer both PADI & AIDA courses is really looking to show our customers something new. Already, we have had some snorkelers keen to give it a try and Scuba Divers wanting to see what the differences are and whether they could be as successful at this sport. Have a look at our new Facebook page to see what all the fuss is about!

When we talk about our team, we generally refer to our Instructors, however we mustn’t forget that we have 2 boat crews and Thai office based staff. So after our boat crew all getting to experience recent Whale Shark sightings (normally whilst cleaning the boat!), Sak our driver was feeling a little left out. So after a pool session to introduce him to Scuba and get him comfortable breathing underwater, out he went for a Discover Scuba Diving experience to Sail Rock! He did a great job and we are all really proud of him as he was a little scared!!

Also this year, saw us move away from the Bandara resort as our secondary location to Peace resort just a little along the beach. The Dive Academy is now working together with Peace resort to establish combined hotel & diving packages. So watch this space!

The latest news on the IDC front is that Paul has been helping out another dive centre in Bali and has so far completed 2 there this year. Our next IDC's at The Dive Academy are scheduled for June and September, if you are thinking of becoming an Instructor and would also like to get 5 free Specialites!

Lastly, we were awarded another Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor last year, so a big thank you to everyone who has written a fab review about us or told their friends or who come back many times to dive with us! May you continue to enjoy diving and snorkeling with us!!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Interview with our newly qualified Instructor Marc Clark

We asked our recent successful IDC Candidate Mark Clark to answer a few questions about his experience completing his Rescue Diver, Divemaster and Instructor courses with The Dive Academy.

Q: What lead you to decide to take your Professional Courses here with us at The Dive Academy.

I started at The Dive Academy on my Open Water course, and the friendships I built there and the way they conduct courses with regards to safety and fun made it an easy decision to take my professional courses here. 

Q: Before you began your DM Course you had to complete your Rescue Diver Course - did you find it challenging and do you think it made a difference to you as a diver?

During my DM course I assisted on a rescue course, The course was challenging to the student. I think the rescue course made the biggest difference of any course to me as a diver. 

Q: Did the Rescue Diver Course help you at all with your Divemaster and Instructor Training?

For me the Rescue Course changed my thinking completely about diving. Rather than just diving for fun and following a dive leader around a dive site, this course made me think constantly and stay switched on when diving. If there was a strong current during the dive, my first reaction would be to turn around and check the other divers weren’t struggling to swim through it. I would check air and dive computer more often and also check how much air my buddy had during dives. 

Q: What aspect of Rescue, Divemaster or Instructor Training do you think had the most effect on you as a diver and do you think you see things differently now you are a PADI Pro compared to being a certified diver?

The aspect that had the most effect on me, was assisting on courses and working with complete beginners doing DSD or Open Water, having that sense of responsibility and having people look up to you while watching them learn and grow confident into becoming divers. For me, that was the best thing about becoming a Pro. Also being responsible for other divers, for their safety and to make sure they had fun when I was leading dives. 

Q: What do you think is the most important attribute or skill you most needed during your Professional Training?

Attitude! You have to really want it and be prepared to work hard.

Q: Did you find working with different instructor's helped you during your DM training? If yes, how did you benefit from working with more than one instructor?

Yes, definitely. It was good getting different opinions and perspective on a skill or task I wasn’t completely comfortable with. I also had help at hand any time I needed it. 

Q: Did you find the training intense or quite relaxed? Do you feel we pushed you hard enough to make you a good Pro or did you find it fairly stress free?

It wasn’t stress free, there was a relaxed atmosphere at times around the dive centre and on the boat but at the same time, I was being pushed hard to ensure I was prepared for what I had to do. There was always something to do, all day every day, from being involved with customers, helping out with the logistics of dive trips, preparing for assessments or studying for the theory and standards exams, so the training was intense but that is what’s required to make it as a Pro. 

Q: Do you feel we took you through the courses at a good pace that suited your learning or could we have pushed you to get through them quicker or taken even longer?

I don’t think they should be done any quicker, I felt the courses were taught at a good pace. There was a lot of practical, hands on work required almost every day, which meant I had to do most of the required studying after work hours, there were a few long days but I felt I learned the most from being hands on and working with real customers. Maybe some people would benefit from taking an extra week on the DM but I didn’t mind studying in the evenings or on my days off since I was getting so much practical experience. The pace was perfect for me. 

Q: How well do you think your Divemaster Course training prepared you for the Instructor Development Course?

The DM prepares you for the physical side of the job and gives you plenty of time to perfect your diving skills. The DM course was excellent preparation as the IDC itself is more classroom based.  

Q: Were there any parts of the Divemaster or Instructor Courses you enjoyed or disliked more than the other parts?

As above, I enjoyed the practical side a lot more. I also understand how essential the classroom based learning is. 

Q: Are you ready to face the world as a confident PADI Instructor?

Of course.

Q: Is there anything you would like to change about the IDC?

I think the classroom presentations could be altered slightly, PADI have highlighted certain points you need to cover in every presentation to gain the marks you need to pass the IE. I don’t think in every real life situation, this would always be possible. 

Q: Do you think you will enjoy life working as a PADI Instructor seeing as you have had first hand experience of how much hard work it is being a Pro, taking responsibility for people on a daily basis and making sure they remain safe while under your supervision. And of course the effort that goes in to loading tanks, packing bags and the other less glamorous jobs involved in being a PADI Pro?

Yes, I think this job will suit me perfectly.

Q: Have you got any comments about the way your training was conducted at The Dive Academy - good or bad and which course did you feel you got the most benefit from?

I enjoyed the training, I think it was conducted professionally, there were always other instructors around willing to give advice and help me out. The dive centre owners were always very approachable, they were willing to answer my questions and clear up any discrepancies with regards to teaching. The dive centre was fully equipped  with all the learning materials I needed.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

October IDC at The Dive Academy all finished

So,the October IDC has finished after a week of great presentation scores from Marc to prove he is ready for the PADI IE in 2 days time in Koh Tao.

Marc has achieved consistently high scores throughout all of the sections of the IDC and has continued to develop his understanding of what he will need to do to become a great PADI Instructor like the other Instructors he has been surrounded by at The Dive Academy in the past few weeks that he aspires to emulate!

Today Marc completed the Emergency First Response Instructor Course and, ably assisted by Red the office cat, Marc demonstrated how to deliver CPR and Rescue breathes to a non-breathing baby although it does look as if Red was actually delivering the breathes!! Good luck with the IE Marc, it has been a pleasure having you as a candidate and we are sure you'll become a great instructor - with Red's assistance!!

Good luck in Koh Tao and we look forwad to celebrating you becoming a PADI Instructor in a few days time!!
#padiinstructorthailand, #goprosamui, #padidcthailand, #thediveacademysamuigopro, #padiprothailand

The meaning of Internship in the diving industry

In the diving industry their is a common misconception regarding the meaning of "Internship". Many people believe that it means that you get the dive courses for free in exchange for working around the dive centre. That is not what is meant by the internship option on the courses.

At The Dive Academy both the Divemaster Course and the Master Scuba Diver Trainer Course are completed by means of an "Internship" which you pay for. What it actually means is that you complete the courses over a period of time by working alongside our Instructors, learning and gaining valuable experience by watching real courses, real students and by learning what other jobs around the dive centre are carried out by our PADI Pro's to help the dive centre function on a daily basis. This includes packing bags, washing equipment, washing cups, equipment maintenance, helping keep our pool crystal clear by clearing leaves, dealing with Social Media, customer service issues and many other day to day tasks that are required to run the business. Learning the essential but less glamorous side to being a PADI Professional is part of the courses, particularly Divemaster.

There are many reasons why "free internships in exchange for work" are not a good idea and why we don't offer them:
  • A good dive centre would hopefully have all of the jobs required to run effectively already being carried out by their staff otherwise how would they function? If that is the case you would only be given the real meaningless and worthless tasks to carry out which would be of no benefit to your development. It is known that often free interns are used as nothing more than cheap labour.
  • PADI Pro's spend a lot of time, effort and money along the way to gaining a good amount of knowledge and experience so why would we give away for free the benefit of that knowledge and experience? If you get it for free there is a good chance that your training will not be as good or carried out with as much enthusiasm as it would if you paid for it.
  • Being a PADI Pro isn't all about diving with lovely fishes and getting a suntan. It is an amazing lifestyle and a great way to live but like many other professions it is hard work and some of it not so glamorous. You need to learn as much about your new profession, the good bits and the not so good, as you can to be a success.
  • Here in Thailand it is illegal to work without a work permit so a free internship could lead to problems for both us and anybody on a free internship doing jobs around the dive centre without one.
  • There are many Divemasters and Instructors in the diving industry looking for work that have spent money and time on becoming a Pro and having people work for free only makes finding a job more difficult for those deserving of it.

If you want the best possible training and the best start to your life as a PADI Pro and are willing to pay for it contact us to see what deals we can offer you to get you started.