I am a divemaster! (least for a little while)

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July 14th 2006
Published: October 10th 2006
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In this modern day and age it is said that before we retire, most people will have had five distinct careers.* With an expected working life of 45 years that's one every nine years. Ten years since I graduated and now I've hit my second, professional diver. A grand title. After months of training and lots of hard work I've reached the lowest wrung of the PADI professional career ladder, I am a divemaster.

I found a job on Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil - at Dive Tribe. Island fever hit the previous divemaster, hit her hard and left her reeling. Island fever is the result of spending too long on a very small island, a special tropical edition of ground hog day. Same food, same music, same weather, same sand - sounds and looks idyllic, but it's a serious problem in paradise, working a season on the little island is something that only a few manage. Bin left, I took over her job with and started my career as a diver guiding a couple of guys from Kuala Lumpur who had no intention of waiting for me, dropping in and disappearing under the boat before I could turn on my air. Learning to anticipate problems and behaviour of customers is something that I got a lot better at, no matter how much you learn on a course the real education comes from doing the job.

"Good morning everyone, my name is Ali and I'll be your divemaster today. We're going to Sugar Wreck. Sugar Wreck is a 70m long cargo vessel that sank during the monsoon of 2000, transporting sugar from Thailand down to Singapore. From what we know, all speculation and rumours, the ship took several days to sink, no one was hurt, and all the cargo was removed. Some say it was an insurance job."

"Because the ship only sank 6 years ago you'll see that it is incredibly intact, and because it is only 18m deep we'll get to have a nice long dive on it. We'll see the propeller, look into the control room, swim into the cargo hold, and look around
Crazy Bamboo SharksCrazy Bamboo SharksCrazy Bamboo Sharks

How many?! - all crammed into one little hole. I saw this only once, regularly there would be 3 but 12? only once.
all the masts and rigging. There's a huge amount of sealife around the ship, highlights are the shoals of snapper, baracuda and batfish, we'll also see bamboo sharks, lionfish scorpionfish, starry and map pufferfish, boxfish and porcupine fish. If we're lucky we may see razorfish, squid and cuttlefish."

"Both lionfish and scorpionfish are poisonous, so do not touch them, be careful of the many sea-urchins, and as a general rule avoid touching any of the aquatic life. If you are going to use any area of the wreck for support make a sweep of it before touching it, scorpion fish are very well camouflaged the sweep will scare them away."

"We'll descend on the bouyline as the current will be strong today, and then drop into the shelter of the wreck, we're expecting about 10m visibility. When at the bottom of the wreck the sand is very fine, almost silt, so if you could frog-kick to avoid dragging up the silt and making the visibility worse for those behind you that would be appreciated. We'll swim around the outside of the wreck to start and then get closer. You will be in areas where there are overhead obstacles, remember that you have an extra 18inches of hoses and tanks above your back so make sure you have plenty of room. If you do become entangled don't panic, back up slowly and if that doesn't help, get help from your buddy or myself."

"Our expected dive time is about 50 mins, or low on air at 60 bar, let me know when you get low on air so we can return to the bouyline and make our safety stop. I will ask occasionally on the dive how much air you have, with this signal (hand tap), let me know how much you have by using (a T) for 100 bar half a tank, and fingers for 10's. 150 bar like this, 120, 110, 100, anything below 100 two hands please and 60 bar is low on air (clenched fist to chest)."

"Other signals we'll use are, OK, something is wrong, directional signals, hazard, buddy up, slow down, swim-through and at the end of the dive stafety-stop. I have a slate if we need to communicate more than this."

"If you get separated from the group or your buddy, search for one minute, use your watch or count, if you haven't been reunited ascend slowly to the surface, no faster than the smallest bubbles or 18m per minute. We'll all reunite at the surface and depending on conditions and remaining air either continue the dive or return to the boat."

"We'll be using our speedboat to get to the dive site, it's about 20mins from the shop, when you're on the boat, please put your mask, fins weight-belts on the floor next to your feet, and sit in front of your scuba unit. Ok - let's go dive"

Diving is the best job I've ever had.

So many diving stories I could share!

The one where Vanya had a mask full of blood due to a sinus squeeze, never dive with a cold 😊 - (bah it's just a little bit of blood!). Where after a drift dive I spent an hour in the water drifting away from the boat while the boatman watched the bubbles coming up from a wreck - yelling and waving to no avail - "ok - lets kick towards the island and flag down a boat...". Linking up Marcus, a disabled German guy with Stephan a German instructor on the island to make a dream come true was one of the best things I've ever done. So many stories I can't do justice to here writing much to long after the events, memory hazy and log books full... diving with herds of bumphead parrotfish for 30mins at a time, the fish the water.

I left. How could I leave?

But... but... but... but...

I had to make a choice. I couldn't quite cover my island costs, I didn't have time to work on the websites and island fever was starting to kick in... too much time on "couple bay" as a single man? Too much noise on Long Beach to relax and chill out? Too many distractions?

It came down to a very very sad reason, but I had to leave, I couldn't work the season that I had hoped to do so much.

I couldn't give as much to my divemaster job as I needed to, due to having to run this website. I couldn't run this website from the island, I was a fool to try. Internet access on the island started to deteriorate, everyday a new reason that the internet
Black-blotched RayBlack-blotched RayBlack-blotched Ray

This guy was fairly big! Least a meter across and with that tail about two long.
cafe wasn't working, everyday a growing realisation that I had to leave. How could I leave paradise? It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.

I left. I'm writing from Kuala Lumpur airport on the 15th of July, flying to Borneo, doing a few last things on the must do list, before leaving south-east asia and getting stuck into my original career as webmaster for a few months.

Acknowledgements and thanks:

Thanks to Tip (Divetribe) for giving a rookie divermaster his first break and running one of the most chilled out diveshops I've ever experienced, to Ben and Sarah (Dive Safari) the two instructors I worked with - who now run Dive Safari Asia, and to Michelle who took over the job I couldn't complete. To all the friends I made on the island (Daniel, Bart, Dee who jammed in paradise with me!) - thank you - this experience is one I'll look back on as one of the best times of my life!

* Not really sure by who but - for the purposes of this blog entry it doesn't really matter 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 42, Displayed: 27


False Clown AnenomefishFalse Clown Anenomefish
False Clown Anenomefish

This is the fish Nemo was but he thought he was a Clownfish... yeah just a little obsessive about a cartoon.
Giant Moray EelGiant Moray Eel
Giant Moray Eel

and look closely for the cleaner shrimps.
Sarah and a Hawksbill TurtleSarah and a Hawksbill Turtle
Sarah and a Hawksbill Turtle

from a dive at D'Lagoon
Varacous Wart SlugVaracous Wart Slug
Varacous Wart Slug

Phylladia Varicousa
Anna's Magnificant SlugAnna's Magnificant Slug
Anna's Magnificant Slug

Lucky Anna had a slug named after her. A beautiful nudibranch one of my favourites.
Disco NudibranchDisco Nudibranch
Disco Nudibranch

Probably also has a sensible name :)
Tomato AnenomefishTomato Anenomefish
Tomato Anenomefish

One of four species we'd see on nearly every dive.
Coral Cat SharkCoral Cat Shark
Coral Cat Shark

... yeah not the best shot - but lovely little spotty shark!
Banded Sea SnakeBanded Sea Snake
Banded Sea Snake

One of the most poisoness creatures on the planet!

10th October 2006

What beautiful pictures!
Your underwater photography brightened my day. What lovely compositions you brought to the surface of a world most of us will never enjoy. Happy diving!
10th October 2006

Beautiful photos!
Hey ali, i can see them now....sorry bout the previous message, u can delete it, hehehe.... these photos took my breath away...didnt expect i'll get to see so much underwater beauties, and ur blog definitely inspires me. Other than the under-the-sea photos, i personally love the one where the rain is coming! Great piece! :D
11th October 2006

Congratulations and commiserations
Some lovely photos on this blog - and something of a sad irony that one great thing should prevent another. I'm sure you'll work out a way to do both.
11th October 2006

Nice One
Congratulations Ali....Its a great feeling wish I was working somewhere exotic but for now its diving in Glasgow!!
14th October 2006

great underwater pics
I always like your pictures. You took great photos. These underwater shots are spectacular!!!!
23rd October 2006

Amazing...Amazing...Amazing !
Love your pix ! But I was specifically drawn to your "tropical thunderstorm" piece.....it conjures up some feeling that's hard to explain......well done !
9th November 2006

Hey Ali- I am a Divemaster too-thinking about working as one in the Med. Your story and photographs are truly encouraging. Thank you!
19th February 2007

Your pictures are amazing! Good luck with the diving. I just did my 2 intro courses in Thailand and I'll never be the same again! Good on ya for goin all the way! Keep taking those beautiful pictures ABOVE AND BELOW the ocean. They're magnificent.
11th May 2007

Your photographs are FANTASTIC! With each picture I felt as if I was there. I design jewelry as a hobby and your pictures have definitly inspired me to mix some never before seen colors. God's Speed Pilgrim on your journey through life. May the wind be always at your back. Cynthia
17th February 2008

Ali - Dawn (my wife) and I were on a world tour when we met you and we were with you when you filmed the bumphead parrot fish. We are going back there in March '08. Is tip still there?
18th February 2008

Alistair Watters where are the rest of the men like you i am doing exactly the same thing ' no more hard work more travelling ' but all the guys are air heads
12th May 2008

Such beautiful pictures!
I did my Open Water in Thailand/New Zealand (yes, taking the mask off defeated me the first time) and get so excited by underwater photographs. Unfortunately I've dropped my (3 month old) underwater housing so no more for a while - I'll just be mesmerised by yours!
27th October 2008

16th May 2010
Giant Moray Eel

i do not like this, it is stupid!
15th February 2011
Banded Sea Snake

one cool snake
that is a great photo of a banded sea snake i wish i could go diveing
13th April 2011
More Nemos

underwater wonders
Can never get enough nemos! Great shot.
5th December 2011
Pink Anenome

This photo is gorgeous! I just got my Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology, and have only just begun to dive- though I'd love to make it my job. Your picture was lovely to see on the home page of travelblog! I only just briefly glanced at your blog- your life looks amazing. Any tips on how I can live similarly?!?! Ha ha no but seriously... Anyways, love the photo, along with all your others Cheers Kristin
5th December 2011
Pink Anenome

Thanks Kristin!
I still remember taking that shot - the anemone was just glowing, refracting the light, and the little clownfish was hiding shyly away. As for tips - just make it happen! - something you are passionate about and as adventurous as possible, you won't regret it :)

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