From Riches To Rollers To Regs

From Riches To Rollers To Regs

Created: 2016-05-11

Many people have asked me (Kerrie) how on earth I ended up leaving sunny Spain to buy a UK dive centre and totally convert into a cooler water diver…. The answer begins a long time ago.

When I was at uni back in cough, cough, splutter, (Leeds, BA joint honours Business and Spanish) I wanted money. Money, money, money, money (I had a lot less than none!) – so I applied for the best summer paid job I could find, in fact I made about 200 applications and got a summer internship at an investment bank in London. Somehow I manoeuvred my way into a job offer for when I left uni, and my 7 year career climb began. It went pretty well actually and I made the heady heights of Vice President before becoming pretty disillusioned with the politics and back stabbing and beat a hasty retreat.

However, one huge bonus had been that I now had a bit of money to spend – and I decided to fulfil a lifelong desire and train to scuba dive. Little Miss Competitive (I’ve changed, not) would book onto long weekends in the Red Sea (as you do, when you’re a banker), and moved through the PADI courses over a few years before stopping, momentarily, at Divemaster.

Back in London, before I’d handed in my notice, I decided to give working for myself a bash. I’d had some work done on my (posh riverside) flat and was disgusted by the lazy, sexist, moronic builders – which led me to my light bulb moment; a female building company. A few weeks later, A Woman’s Touch was born, eventually growing to almost global domination. Well almost, I had about 6 branches in the UK and one in Spain, but it felt pretty big, and actually had about 70 staff at its peak. Anyway, all good, solid, business experience and I got to live in Spain for a while.

During this time I’d met a pretty special fireman (long story!) and got knocked up (!) with our first child.  The recession hit and I decided to close the business and concentrate on writing a book that Haynes has asked me to do, on DIY for women (available from all good book stores, if you are really desperate for present ideas!).

Once sprog one arrived we decided we’d like to rekindle our love affair with Spain and just after sprog two appeared on the scene we upped sticks and made a break for it. Cue life changing event #7 or thereabouts.

I took my regs into a cute little dive centre on the seafront, and basically never left. The owner was easy on the eye and the chilled atmosphere just drew me in. I started working there as a Divemaster and guide and studied for my Instructor Development Course in Spain and passed my Instructor Exam.

The time came to move back to the UK so sprog 1 could start school, and my long suffering husband conceded that I now wanted to stay in the dive industry forever. One of his fellow firefighters mentioned Ocean Turtle Diving was looking for a manager, so I made the call. Turned out it was a bit more than a manager they were looking for, they were in fact selling. I pleaded with the bank manager (all funds from banking days long since dried up / dived / travelled / drunk) and the next thing we knew, I was signing on the dotted line as the proud new owner of Ocean Turtle Diving!

That was December 2014 and after a hard but immensely fun first year, now in 2016, we really feel like we have our feet under the table, finger on the pulse, singing from the same hymn sheet, shifting the goalposts, thinking outside the……. Sorry, old banking habits die hard!  We’re very, very happy and are surrounding by an amazing team and incredible friends and divers.  Thank you!


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


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!

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.

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
#coursedirector #padiinstructor
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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.


To book your Hatchling onto a PADI Junior Open Water Course click the link below. They can begin their self-study over lockdown.
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