A Spanish Adventure – A Dive Monkey went travelling

A Spanish Adventure – A Dive Monkey went travelling

Created: 2016-06-24

I have been diving for 4 years and became a PADI Divemaster in December 2015. Although being in the UK I am always available to help assist on any courses or other tasks where needed, real life does have rather a bad habit of getting in the way so I was keen and eager to get as much hands on experience as I possibly could.

I spoke to my Instructor, Kerrie, at Ocean Turtle Diving and she told me about a place in Southern Spain called Simply Diving where she had done her Instructor training and suggested that I got in touch with them to see if they could help with my masochistic plan of being a full time DM for a brief stint of work experience.

Initially I’d hoped to spend a month getting stuck into full time work with them but I could only negotiate 3 weeks away from my “proper” job but it would have to do. After talking to Simon, the formidable boss and owner of Simply Diving, everything was arranged for me to go over on the 1st of June to start my adventure in their Torremolinos dive centre.

As I didn’t have a great deal of time available to spend with them I was keen from the start to get as stuck in as possible. I realised pretty quickly that they are so successful there (they’ve been on TV too don’t you know) because everything, and I mean absolutely everything, is done in a very specific way.

The kit room is a thing of beauty if you have any OCD tendencies, if you don’t you may just find it odd! All hangers for BCDs and Wet Suits are hung the same way, all regs are coiled and hung in identical fashion and the masks, fins and other accessories are held in an equally ordered fashion. Some may call this approach “anal”, I think I probably did myself on numerous occasions, but on busy days when packing kit for a lot of divers, it made everything so much easier and quicker to organise.

Away from kit logistics which could actually be a post in itself, I gained a lot of hands on experience in the water at the gorgeous Marina del Este with the Simply Diving instructors. The range of tasks went from helping with DSDs and courses to guiding experienced divers. The courses were very different to what I am used to, mainly because all the elements were performed in the sea. It was quite eye opening to see how many people were overcome with fear whilst attempting a DSD and I learnt a lot about patience whilst being firm and assertive to try and encourage them to complete the experience. This was not always successful but for me it was a brilliant source of development.

Guiding divers was also something new that I wasn’t at all experienced in and the first time I was let loose, I think it potentially showed. A group of 4 divers with 2 Divemasters should have been pretty straight forward to manage but it seems that fishing for divers and keeping them rounded up can sometimes be a lot more tricky than I’d imagined. Each time guiding though I learned from the last and was a lot more confident in my abilities at the end of my stay.

It did surprise me when communicating under water how many people seem to forget what you’ve told them on the surface. An example is that on a couple of occasions I’d ask how much air a diver had and they’d tell me they’re OK, about as useful as a chocolate tea pot! Again though, this did help me and improved my pre dive briefings so that I was confident that they understood exactly what I would be doing and expected from them so it turned out OK in the end!

My last day with Simply Diving I was allowed to go to Marbella for a day with them on their boat guiding a couple of beautiful dives, the Tower is especially great!! It may be a smaller dive centre than in Torremolinos but it’s organised in the same way so it all runs in the same efficient manner.

Throughout my all too brief time over there, I got to work with the fantastic team of instructors, interns and dive centre staff. To use one of Simon’s phrases, everyone in the team is a small cog used to power a larger machine, all as useful as each other and without each one, it wouldn’t work. It’s a total cliché but it really is true, although now that this little cog is no longer there, I hope that it won’t stall and fall over!

This job is hard, there is no denying it, the days are long and in the summer heat things get even tougher. But at the end of each day, everyone will relax and have a beer together, not the beers I would buy though. It seems that getting a large can and a large bottle mixed up in Spain is the difference between a sociable drink with colleagues and starting a major session likely to end in a mild hangover the following day.

I truly enjoyed my time with Simply Diving and learnt a lot from them that I shall attempt to share with the Ocean Turtle Diving team back in the UK. For the guys left in Spain, I hope that you are all now able to sleep again after my mischievous last day creating chaos in your otherwise perfect world!

Would I take time out to work as a Divemaster again? – definitely, is it hard work? – undoubtedly! But is it worth it? – I can honestly say it was fantastic!

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Where's your favourite warm water diving destination? Anna's sharing another of hers with us today.

SAPARUA ISLAND – BANDA SEA – INDONESIA

Where is Saparua and what’s so special about it?
Saparua is such a tiny island that a google map search probably won’t leave you much the wiser as to its location. Where many avid divers have heard of Raja Ampat (an area, not a single location), a few of those now consider Raja to be dived out, and favour a longer but ultimately more rewarding trip further south to the Lease Islands. Saparua, a speck off Ambon well known for its incredible muck diving, is home to breathtaking wall diving, superb muck sites and gigantic plate and brain corals. Tourism here is virtually zero, I had a guide, a boat and a resort totally to myself for a week. It’s not for everyone, for sure, but as an experienced diver with all my own equipment, getting off the beaten path and having the option to laze around the top of a wall for an hour and a half following an oblivious ghost pipefish, watching a solar powered Nudibranch meander the reef or have a staring match with a scorpionfish was a real bonus.

Why should I dive there?
You’ll be diving where very few people have been, getting into local culture and enjoying the sunsets. As I mentioned above, the dive sites around the island are superb, from an underwater arch entered at 5meters and spews you out at the top of a 100m wall, to huge table corals as far as the eye can see, to fabulously coloured coral covered walls and white sandy valleys for superbly long dives. You can motor down to the uninhabited island of Molana where there are several dive sites.

When to go?
February – April & September - November is good. Ambon, which is the muck diving heaven to the west, can be dived year-round as it’s sheltered, but Saparua lies to the eastern edge of the island cluster. The liveaboards that cruise the Banda sea avoid the in-between months due to those wet and windy seasons. Water temp is around the 28C, air temp up to 30C.

What to take?
Take your own gear – have it serviced beforehand. Take spares / redundancy if you can. Definitely take your own entertainment! And your camera.

Preparation, preparation, preparation !

Consider the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy for holding your position whilst photographing. Definitely look at investing in a good underwater camera with housing and light for both night and wall dives and get to know your way around your rig with the PADI Underwater Digital Photography specialty. I’ve mentioned before… my favourite mid range rig is the Olympus TG6, though I’m itching to get out with one of the new Sealife iPhone housings for (much) lighter travel. (Disclaimer, sadly none of the photos below were taken with either of the above, so don’t judge the quality of the cameras on my photos!). Do consider the PADI Equipment Specialist to get to know your way round your equipment and how to fix any niggly problems that may arise.

Where to stay
I stayed at the most amazing Mahu Lodge. Built and owned by local Paul, it’s now managed by his wonderful son Johann – both of whom speak great English. Mahu lodge is no-frills simple, and the grounds are stunning: huge mature trees including Clove, Nutmeg and giant palm; hibiscus, fruit trees and expansive green lawns give you ample space to relax after diving. The rooms are basic, clean and some have a/c (which, due to the number of trees around, isn’t strictly necessary to be honest). Meals are included and you can ask cook to prepare the local “Papeda” – a seafood stew made from the local sago palm. (Be warned. It’s a texture thing, but it’s cooked right in front of you and it’s an … interesting process).

Splurge. There is no splurge accommodation on Saparua. There are no restaurants in Spararua to spurge on either. And you don’t have to splurge to get pretty much a private dive experience here, that’s just par for the course! You can rent a scooter to see the sights, though you can also hire a driver to do just that. I did splurge (£15) on getting back to Ambon for my flight, as it was Sunday and I’d forgotten the ferry (£7) doesn’t run. See the photo of my private speedboat below! Of course, you could do a liveaboard in the Banda sea which is most definitely a splurge!

Bonus
Do visit the old Dutch fort Benteng Duurstede in the town, and do not miss the detailed, superb but slightly dusty dioramas at the museum next door. You’ll have to hunt around for the keyholder but definitely worth it to learn about how these islands were once the very centre of the nutmeg trade and fiercely fought over. A few metres away is the market – see the sago I mentioned earlier, and a plethora of different fruits and vegetables. It’s incredible to read the history of these once fiercely fought over islands at the centre of the spice trade and realise that they have reclaimed their culture and way of life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banda_Islands

How to get there?
Fly to Ambon via Doha/Singapore and Jakarta, then take a ferry.
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Please join me in congratulating Ocean Turtle Instructor @alunsalt on the amazing achievement of #masterscubadivertrainer

To earn this accolade he has studied to become an instructor in five PADI Specialties and certified 25 divers in various courses. No mean feat!

#diving #scubadiving #padi #oceanturtlediving #sea #ocean #ukdiving #adventure #underwater #livingthedream
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One of our Ocean Turtle Diving Hatchlings, Maisie, has written this great blog that we wanted to share.

My name is Maisie, I am now eleven years old and earlier in the year I passed my Junior PADI open water and dry suit diver qualification in February 2020 when I was ten years old. I saved all my money I got from my family for Christmas to be able to pay for the course. The course was tough and being in February very cold; but the Ocean Turtle Team were incredibly supportive.

I got inspiration for diving when I went to Greece in 2019. I did a pool dive followed by scuba diving in the sea. I started then to realise I loved scuba diving.

I love going scuba diving to see all the sea creatures and I would like to start helping the underwater environment. I am planning to go diving in the Red Sea next year (2021) and to hopefully get my photographer diver course, to examine the different types of sea creatures from Egypt (Marsa Alam) and the UK (Cornwall or Porthkerris). I have done multiple dives in different places, for example: Porthkerris, Vobster, Wraysbury and Greece. I also practice and keep up to date with my diving by practising my skills in the swimming pool.

In the future I hope to become more skilled and one day get my Master Qualification and learn more about the underwater world.

Maisie

To book your Hatchling onto a PADI Junior Open Water Course click the link below. They can begin their self-study over lockdown. https://shop.oceanturtlediving.com/shop/diving/en/view-course/padi-courses/begin-your-learning-journey/padi/open-water-diver-winter-12701
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