Diving in Tioman, Malaysia

Scuba diving in Pulau Tioman

South-East Asia is famed for its diving. From the whale sharks of Oslob in the Phillipines to the mantas and manatees of the Lembeh Straits in Indonesia, the discerning diver doesn’t have to look very far to find an embarrassment of underwater riches in this diverse and exotic continent. Not to be outdone by its notorious neighbours, Malaysia has long been recognised as a hotspot for exceptional diving; the jewel in its scuba crown – Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo – has been voted time and time again as the best diving location on the planet. But in all the hype that Borneo receives, it can be easy to overlook the small but perfectly formed island that you’ll have to fly over to reach the fecund waters of Sipadan, an island that holds an underwater secret all of its own – Pulau Tioman.
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The World is my Office – Will


In the latest ‘The World is my Office’ interview, I speak to Will who is working as a diving instructor on the beautiful island of Roatan, which I was lucky enough to call home for three months. Will, tell us a bit about yourself… I am a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor working on Roatan, a small island off the coast of Honduras in the Western Caribbean.  When I am not teaching or swimming with sea turtles, you will likely find me on the beach, unless it’s sunset in which case you will undoubtedly find me at Sun Downers with good company and a cold beer! How did you get into your line of work? Complete and utter detest of my former employment.  Prior to my Great Awakening, I was a Regional Sales Executive at a Fortune 500, selling telecommunication solutions into a base of new and existing customers.  After eight years and a few promotions, I simply could not escape from the idea that at (then) 31, retirement was a literally a lifetime away.  I wanted to experience life rather than simply exist in it and I knew I needed a drastic change.  So I did what any other rational person would do; sold my house, cars, and boat; rented a 10×10 storage unit for everything else; moved to Honduras and became a scuba instructor. How often do you travel with work, and where do you tend to go? Living and working in Honduras, I’d say that I’m permanently
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Becoming a PADI diving instructor – Part II, the IE

Becoming a scuba diving instructor - the PADI IE

“IE stands for It’s Easy. It really is, you’ll breeze through it.” Everyone said it, everyone really seemed to mean it, but it did very little to untangle the tight knot of nerves that had taken up residence in the pit of my stomach over the two weeks building up the exam. Or rather exams. Because the PADI Instructor Exam (IE) is in fact a series of tests and practicals that determine whether you are capable of safely and effectively teaching others how to scuba dive.
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Teaching my Dad to scuba dive

Teaching my Dad to scuba dive in Costa Rica

My father has put his life into my hands once in my lifetime already – when he taught me to drive. Stubborn to a fault, I drove my poor Mum to the brink of nervous breakdown – speeding up when she said slow down, insisting that ‘people just don’t drive like they did in your day any more’, and shouting over the discordant wailings of my indie rock mix-tape that my driving instructor said it was ‘totally fine’  to have music playing while driving. It came to a head when, after pulling over for a terse dressing down, I slammed the gearstick into reverse so obstinately that it came clean off in my hand. And there ended the car’s no-claims-bonus and my mother’s patience. After that, I had to wheedle my Dad to take my out to practice as often as his nerves were up to it. Finally, after months of permanently white knuckles from gripping the grab-handle and toes permanently cramped from slamming on the phantom break, I emerged successfully as a bonafide driver. Quite a good one I’d like to think.
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Becoming a PADI diving instructor – Part I, the IDC

Step 1 in becoming a diving instructor - the IDC

People choose to travel for many different reasons: to see new sights and marvel at the wonders of the world; to meet people and make new friends; to give themselves the time and space to heal from the pain of loss or heartbreak. My list of ‘why’ was long and complex, but right up there at the top was the chance to learn something new, to challenge and test myself. With half a decade passing since my university days, I was aware of just how sluggish my ‘learning’ muscle was becoming. Of course I learned things over my five years of work, lots of things in fact. I picked up new skills, became well versed in the nuances of office culture, and eagerly rose to new professional challenges. But the problem was, once I’d mastered something new, I’d start to feel just a little bit bored, unfulfilled. This was the driver that lead me down the road to professional diving. Not only would I be learning a whole host of new skills – communicating underwater, teaching, the art of perfect buoyancy control – I’d finally be putting the sleepy corner of my brain that was responsible for acquiring new, academic information back into action. Not just palm trees and rainbows – I wanted to travel to challenge myself by learning something completely new
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part V – what, where, who, why, how

becoming a divemaster - what, where, who, why, how

Over the last month, I’ve been reminiscing about my time as a divemaster in training (DMT) by sharing the ins and outs of becoming a divemaster. I’ve recalled what a day in the life of a DMT looked like and I’ve spilled the beans about the nitty gritty of the course itself. Now I feel it’s only right to round off my nostalgic recaps by answering some of your questions. My time on Roatan has been and gone and after 12 weeks of hard work, big laughs and good friends, I have emerged as a fully qualified divemaster. The three months I spent at Coconut Tree Divers were some of the most valuable of my life, and for anyone considering becoming a DMT, I would highly recommend it. However, I’m aware of just how much choice there is out there.
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part IV – the skills

Training to be a divemaster (DMT)

You watch me. Three words that you’ll use more than any others during your time as a DMT. As someone who doesn’t exactly shy away from the limelight, it’s fair to say I’m not altogether uncomfortable with being the centre of attention, which is a good job as training to become a divemaster puts you in the spotlight time and time again. You. Watch. Me. After all, divemaster is the first rung on the professional diving career ladder. Divers of all different experience levels will look to you as the expert to act as a confident, calm leader whilst underwater, to find and point out interesting marine life, to explain how things are done, and to answer questions about anything from fish identification to equipment malfunctions. But, most of all, you’ll be looked to as a role model and, consequently, your diving skills need to be inscrutable.
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Diving the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in Playas del Coco

Diving the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Diving in the Pacific – an adventure 65 million years in the making With the long-awaited sequel to Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hitting the screens this year, it seems like the world has once again been swept with jurassic fever. But for me, the original is still the best. The soundtrack, the drama, the slightly dodgy animatronics, and of course the setting. The original story is based in Costa Rica and, flying into the country over miles and miles of sprawling hillside, it’s not hard to see why. From the sky, Costa Rica stretches before you as an untouched paradise, carpeted in green. It takes only the smallest leap of imagination to picture a herd of diplodocus plodding over the verdant terrain, or a pterodactyl circling the mountain peaks.
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part III – the scenarios

PADI divemaster - the scenarios

I wrote recently about an important portion of the divemaster training programme – the academics. It’s here where you get stuck into the theory of diving, the science behind the sport and the knowledge required to improve your skills. But, important though the academics are overall, they can feel like something of a fun-sponge. Because, let’s face it, the reason anyone does their divemaster is because they want to, well, dive. The good news is that not all of the learning revolves round pen and paper. In fact, the whole point of the DMT programme is to get you in the water as often as possible and improve your overall diving abilities. That’s why you’re required to complete two distinct scenarios, both of which are designed to teach and test a very specific set of skills.
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part II – the academics

PADI divemaster - the exams, the knowledge reviews and the mapping

“The academics” – it’s not the most inspiring title and, truth being told, it’s not the most inspiring part of the DMT (divemaster in training) programme. But at the risk of sounding like your mother / boss / headteacher, academics are integral to most of what we do. When it comes to diving, they are quite possibly the most important bit. It’s a shame therefore that the academic portion of the divemaster programme is often overlooked. Dive schools are keen to sell the time spent underwater, the friends you’ll make and the skills you’ll learn, but often avoid spelling out the details of what the less glamorous classroom time looks like. So allow me to enlighten you.
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