by Claire Holubowskyj
Under that rock? Nope. This one? Still no octopus. Maybe it just isn’t my day. *whoosh* A large Spotted Eagle Ray glides serenely through the 30cm between me and the rocky bottom. Ah. Should’ve seen that. I turn around to the bemusement of the group I’m leading. Not every dive features such close encounters, but every Divemaster has similar tales of triumph, random chance and happy accidents of nature. All in a day’s work.
Learning to actually be a Divemaster is so much more than just completing the course. Equal parts exciting, nerve-wracking, and full of wonder, you learn to adapt to whatever the ocean throws at you and discover what kind of leader you are, all while directing some world-class diving.
The Rocket Frog Divemaster Internship is part getting on with the job and part fly-on-the-wall observation – at least to start with! Working here we get to a) be smug about wearing ‘staff’ shirts but more importantly b) dive every day with a Divemaster/Instructor and groups of customers, which is the quickest way to see how things are done.
First job in the morning: cuddle Thor, our resident beagle puppy. Second priority: load the day’s tanks and gear onto the dive boat and get everything ready to go quickly so we can enjoy more time sunbathing and snacking on the boat’s biscuit stash before our customers arrive. Tough job, I know.
Despite learning the essential knowledge and skills during the Divemaster course, there some things you just have to learn yourself. The ability to spot seahorses and nudibranchs doesn’t appear overnight, as much as we want it to. Learning the best places to look and their typical behaviour just takes time in the water. On quiet days we’ll have Divemasters and Divemaster interns alike volunteering to join dive groups, just for the chance to lurk at the back of the group on the hunt for an elusive seahorse.
Nothing can ever prepare you for the sheer terror of leading your first few dives, or the rush of relief when you’re sure you’re going the right way in poor visibility. The smug satisfaction when you point out a camouflaged critter no one else spotted is just a bonus – as divemasters we have the best view in the group, with no one else’s fins in your photos.
In the Gulf of Papagayo we’re lucky enough that even the worst day’s diving is still amazing, with whitetip reef sharks, green sea turtles, and rays of all kinds pouring out to see us. Fantastic, but only a bit embarrassing when we miss them because our noses are buried in the rocks trying to spot out an octopus or scorpionfish!
The best part of being a divemaster is getting the chance to make someone else’s holiday the best it can be. We love finding unusual species and hidden gems underwater, but seeing the wonder and surprise in other people every day is the icing on the cake. That, and the fact that no two days of diving are the same, and we’re here for all of it!
Last week we had a couple of PADI Advanced Open Water Students who loved it so much they stayed to become divemasters here. The only true requirement: a love for being in the water and for sharing it with other people. The early mornings and gear moving are so worth it when you look forward to going to work every morning and can’t quite bear to leave at the end. You only really get once chance to learn something new, and becoming a divemaster here might just be the best job internship in the world.