Life as a Divemaster trainee –
‘Do you want another beer’ ‘Yeah¨ one more won’t hurt……’
Ever since my first dive on the great barrier reef when i was 20 years old, the lure of becoming a divemaster has always played on my mind. It took me another 12 years to start my journey, but sitting here as a fresh(ish) 32 year old, i finally felt ready to take the step! My career within diving has moved very quickly (apart from the initial 12 year absence) from gaining my open water, advanced and rescue courses at the start of 2018. It was actually a friend who was planning on doing his open water and told me about Bongo Bongo in Dauin, the Philippines, which is now where i sit 8 months on working my way through my dive master training.
Taking a step into a new or different career, at any age, feels like it can be a risk and a very daunting process to begin with. I have had the travel bug ever since my first trip abroad and i have always been chasing the sun, sea and sand. I tired corporate life for a while and it wasn’t for me. So after teaching english in asia for two years i decided to make a change. I started to research my DM course before i had even completed my open water but i was overwhelmed by companies, location and prices. I decided that i wanted to stay in Asia and then Bongo appeared on my radar.
Although i have travelled a lot around Asia i’d never visited the philippines so i decided to head here for a few initial courses. From the moment I arrived i was made to feel welcome and at home, being introduced to my instructor, Anthony and the owners Amado, Magnus and Shine. I had a quick walk along the beach which is located 30 seconds from Bongos entrance, and I instantly felt at home.
Clear blue skies, crystal clear waters, palm trees, coconuts and dogs! What more does a man need in his life? Now, enough about me, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of being a divemaster trainee!!
The average day at Bongo Bongo can differ, depending on whether we have day trips to either Sumilon or Apo Island or we have costal dives. I usually start my day the same no matter what we are doing…. a strong coffee and some of the best banana bread in the morning (banana bread costs roughly 5php).
Next step to to greet the 5 dogs who live at Bongo Bongo. Jessica, Toby, Balountoy and the two german shepherd puppies, Oscar and Jago. Now that’s done, I can get on with some work. Jessica! One of Bongo Bongs many dogs. The DMTs will get to Bongo for 7am to help loads the tanks and all the equipment for the guests! We are lucky to have a nice spacious boat at bongo where we can fit up to 25 guests and staff, which is great, but can be tough going in the filipino heat! It’s nice to get a sweat on before most people have woken up! We interact with the guests from the moment they arrive as we often have guests who come to dive with Bongo, but don’t always stay with us.
During our training at Bongo we aren’t just taught about diving, but also how the shop works and how a lot of the role is customer facing. It’s our job to help the guests feel at home and assist them with anything they need in the morning.
(Including strong coffee, banana bread and introducing them to the dogs).
We are lucky as we have the best boat crew in Dauin (if not the whole of the Philippines) so loading the boat is a very fast moving process and if you are not proactive, the job will be done before you’ve had your first sip of coffee! Another thing at Bongo is that everyone mucks in and helps each other. Within this industry, DMTs are the bottom of the food chain, but this still doesn’t stop everyone joining in to load and unload the boat. Once we return from one of the mainly day trips, it’s time to unload the boat and clean all our guests equipment. Again, the DMs and instructors also join in to help us and as a team, we get the work done very quickly!
At bongo we offer 4 costal dives per day, which as a DMT we are allowed to join as long as we have some free time. This is a good opportunity for the DMTs to explore more local dive sites and gain a better understanding of the aquatic life by shadowing an experienced DM. After each dive we sit down with the guests and fill out their log books and discuss what we have seen. This really gives me an opportunity as well to improve my fish knowledge!!!
Divemaster trainees life. Sun, sea and lots of………sand?
Daily life in the dive industry is generally great. You get to meet a lot of people from all over the world who have the same passion and interest as you, which means you instantly have a conversation starter and some common ground. Many of the guests are very relaxed and here to dive and then enjoy themselves in the evenings. But like any customer facing role, you also have some people who can be difficult and expect the world. Bongo prides itself on being an affordable backpacker style vibe with very competitive prices for courses and accommodation. They offer single fan rooms, but also double rooms with both air con or fan and ensuite. All rooms are a reasonable size, cleaned regularly and neat. Anyway, we spend most of our time in the water or in the common area, so accommodation is a low priority for many divers.
As for the the coursework and studying that goes with the course, there’s one book which is great up until the dreaded chapter 9! Now this is just a personal experience, but it gave me nightmares! I write this having passed both tests and all my practical skills, so if i can do it, anyone can! I’ve never been much of a bookworm so i really had to push myself to study and try and soak up as much information as i could.
Everyone at Bongo has been very supportive and encouraging with quite a bit of abuse (both physical and mental) thrown in for good measure. It’s a fine balance, like in any workplace, when to laugh, when to cry and when to have a beer. I had (have) a love hate relationship with studying as i enjoyed learning new information which i know will be important for me as a DM and instructor, but at the same time i can be very draining.
All being all, it’s been a great course so far and every day has been something new and challenging. Now, i think we should get to one of the most important parts of being a DMT…….social life. Working as a DMT covers all aspects of the dive shop and one of those things is being involved with the guests, getting to know them and interacting with everyone who visits the shop. Obviously not all guests want to drink and care about how cheap banana bread is but many do and enjoy the company and we do as much as we can, to make them feel welcome and part of
Although i don’t always enjoy studying, i enjoy being sociable and i am very good at drinking beer. This is my moment to shine!! But at my age 22 (+10), i can’t be having 10 beers then getting up to dive the next day, so i have to pick and choose my battles. But every evening the DMTs, staff and guests sit around a table having a few cold ones and swapping stories. There is still the odd night where Tanduay (local rum) comes out and then things get a bit hazey and the mornings
are slow. The beginning of a ‘hazey’ night at Bongo.
Overall my experience has been amazing and i would highly recommend the DMT to anyone who wants a career within the dive industry, but also to those who want to learn more about diving and how a business runs. I’ve found that you get out what you put in within this industry and it can be a very rewarding and enjoyable career path (should you choose to take it).
If you want to begin your own adventure, let us know! Maybe you have already done your divemaster training some where but looking for the next step, and make it to Instructor level. Our next Instructor courses starts in January, 2019.