Diving and traveling are two things inextricably linked. Unless you live in front of a beach surrounded by diving points, you will need to travel to go diving.
In most major diving points around the world, the beauty under the water compares with the beauty outside of it too. Just think about the beauty of the Brazilian coast, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Galapagos and so on.
Since my passion is traveling, learning to dive and exploring the underwater world during my trips was a perfect complement. However, until a certain point, it was only a supplement… I would go to a country for other reasons and diving would be a fun, add-on activity if possible.
Everything changed when I met a Danish guy during my snowboard instructor’s course in New Zealand. He told me about the incredible experience he had attending a Divemaster Trainee Program in Sipadan Island in Borneo, Malaysia.
After hearing all of his stories over the course of a few beers, I decided I had to go through that experience myself. However, I couldn’t at that moment when my focus was to succeed in my snowboard instructor’s course, which was one of the best and most fun experiences of my life.
Returning to the subject of diving, I’ll first tell you how my experience was and how you can do the same.
First of all, you need time and money to attend a Divemaster Trainee Program so I had to wait for the right opportunity. It came when I participated in a study to test new drugs for a pharmaceutical company. Calm down! Before you think I’m insane, read my page on how to become a Human Guinea Pig. During this period I was living in Australia and working as an event waiter. I had the intention take a trip to Southeast Asia and decided that adding the DMT (Divemaster Trainee ….I’ll shorten it like this for the rest of the text) to it would be perfect!!
By participating in this study, I would make enough money to pay for the trip and to stay without working for a while. Taking advantage of the 8 days I spent in the hospital during the testing, I used all the free time I had to do a lot of research on the web and to call some diving schools in Asia to choose the best option.
My first choice was where my Danish friend had done his in Sipadan Island, Borneo. Sipadan is known as one of the best diving points in the world to the point that they limit the daily number of divers there. Because of that, if you want to dive there, you should make reservations well in advance.
After calling several schools in Sipadan, I concluded that it was very expensive to complete my DMT there as it was a super exclusive diving point. Plus, apart from diving, there wasn’t much else to do during my spare time. A DTM typically lasts about 5 to 6 weeks or more, depending on how many dives and courses you have. Imagine spending all that time in a place without much to do… it wasn’t going to happen.
Anyway, I recommend everyone to visit Borneo and dive in Sipadan, one of the best dives I have ever done in my life. To learn more about travel and diving in Sipadan, visit this link: https://www.sipadan.com/.
Oh, and if you would like to extend your trip to the rest of Malaysia, I recommend visiting the great island of Penang. This excellent Ultimate Penang Travel Guide will definitely help you!
Going back to my endeavor, I kept searching and found the island of Koh Tao in Thailand, considered the mecca of diving in Southeast Asia and one of the cheapest places in the world to dive and take courses.
Besides the low prices, what also interested me was the atmosphere of the island. Unlike other parts of Thailand, such as Phuket, Bangkok, or Koh Phi Phi, which are generally crowded with all sorts of tourists, Koh Tao has a more “cool” tourist crowd consisting of people who are more into diving as well as some traditional backpackers instead of a lot of “Sansonites.”
With this particular crowd, the night there is also an attraction in itself. Imagine the same cool people partying at night on the beach…. priceless!! Especially because partying there is VERY cheap. If you are still not satisfied with the partying on the island, you can go to the neighboring island of Koh Phangan and take part in the famous FULL MOON PARTY. It used to be better but still worth giving a try.
You can also go to the neighboring island of Koh Samui which is gorgeous! This article has a lot of things to do in Koh Samui.
Returning back to the topic of diving. Once I decided that I would do my DMT in Koh Tao, I read more about it on Wikitravel.org, where you can find a relatively complete list of all the diving schools on the island. I researched the website of most schools, I sent e-mails and personally called several of them explaining how many dives I had and which courses I had taken (at this point, I had only taken the Open Water course and had around 15 dives).
Based on the price, my conversation with them, the reviews that I found on the internet, the location, the equipment that they asked me to have and the accommodation they offered me, I ended up making my decision. Since it depends on each person what they value the most in a Diving School, I won’t suggest any, instead I will give the link where you can find all of the options in Koh Tao. https://wikitravel.org/en/Koh_Tao. For other diving spots, just do the same, go to wikitravel.org, put the name of the place and you will be able to find a list of diving schools as well.
Since I was traveling through Southeast Asia before the course, I ended up passing thought Sipadan in Borneo and doing 3 wonderful dives there. Once in Koh Tao, it was a little more than five weeks of hard work, many dives, many drills, a lot of studying, and of course, a lot of fun. Beyond this, you have to add all friendships from the diving school that you make to keep for the rest of your life. However, it is also important to remember that although it may not look it, diving is extremely tough on the body when going on two dives a day for such a long time.
In my case, I tried to be audacious and I did it upside down…..needless to say, it was a rather stupid idea…. and the laws of gravity made me review my dinner a little earlier than I would have liked.
To my surprise, just after I finished the course my school invited me to stay and work as they were lacking Divemasters…..and I would already be getting paid!! I ended up spending a week getting paid for something that I used to pay for, but unfortunately I had to leave because I had already commitments in Australia.
In short, an amazing experience!!
So, why should you do the Divemaster Trainee Program??
Besides the fact that you will have a fantastic experience, meet amazing people from around the world and have working experience at a diving school, this is the most economical way to become a professional diver for two reasons:
1. Rather than doing all the courses and dives that you need to become a Divemaster separately, you will pay all together in one package. Imagine how much you would have to pay if you did all the minimum 60 dives you need to do to become a Divemaster plus the following courses separately:
– Open Water diver;
– Advanced Open Water diver;
– Rescue Diver;
– First aid course that includes CPR;
– The Divemaster course itself.
It would cost a fortune to do everything separately!! Remembering that you need to have all the curses above (minus the Divemaster course) to be able to start the Divemaster course.
How to find out where to do the Divemaster Trainee Program??
Basically, you choose in which region of the world you would like to do the course and contact the diving schools from that region to see which ones have the DMT available. Don’t forget to also ask about prices and other relevant information.
How much does a Divemaster Trainee Program cost??
Only the Divemaster course begins with prices just above US$ 600.00 without any equipment but can reach over US$ 3,000.00! This value will depend largely on a few factors:
- Where you go: If it is in a premium dive spots like the Galapagos Islands, an expensive place like Maldives or in countries with few schools, it will be more costly. Usually, the cheapest dives and courses are in Honduras, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia;
- Accommodation: Some schools offer free accommodation with their course. If you have to pay for it, you can stay in a beach hut, a hostel or a 5 star resort … all depending on your pocket. How much the accommodation will impact the final cost will depend on you. To learn more about accommodation during travel, check out my page on how to find the right accommodation while traveling;
- Your diving experience: I met some people who had never dived in their life and spent three months doing all the diving courses needed to become a Divemaster. Obviously, they paid much more than someone who already had 80 dives, a lot of courses completed, and just needed to do the Divemaster course itself;
- The equipment that you already have: Most of the necessary equipment will be provided by the diving center but some schools require you to already have your own diving computer and your knife among other things. Do not forget to ask what equipment is included in the price and what you will need to buy. You should also make sure you ask if the books, manuals and tables are also included in the course or if you have to pay for them separately;
- And, of course, transportation to the diving spot. If you live in Brazil but will have to fly to the Philippines to take the course, the trip will cost 2 times more!! But if you are already nearby or are preparing a trip to the region anyway, taking a local flight, a boat or a bus wouldn’t hurt your pocket quite so much.
What are the prerequisites to do the Divemaster Trainee Program??
As I said, to start the whole program you do not need much, but to get to the final part which is the Divemaster course itself you need to already have at least 40 dives and finish with at least 60. Plus the following courses according to PADI:
– Open Water diver;
– Advanced Open Water diver;
– Rescue Diver;
– First aid course that includes cardiopulmonary massage (CPR).
All of these can be done during the DMT.
Again, talk to the school which you have chosen to know which equipments you need to have to take the course.
To learn more about the Divemaster course, check out PADI’s website: https://www.padi.com/scuba/padi-courses/professional-courses/view-all-professional-courses/divemaster/default.aspx
Some final considerations:
- Apply for a good travel insurance which includes coverage for diving in its policy. Check out my page about the 3 best and most affordable travel insurances in the market for more information;
- Check the visa requirements for the country you are going to and see how long you can stay there. It is easier not to tell the immigration authorities that you are taking a course. Instead, simply say that you are a tourist and that you will be doing a few dives;
- If you start working for the school right after the course, it worth asking how the payment and working visa works. It’s hard to find countries that have working visa available for foreigners. You will probably be paid in “under the table” cash;
- To learn more about backpacking and get tips about traveling while you are taking your course, check my page The Art of Backpacking.
Once you get your Divemaster certification, you will be a professional diver that is recognized and able to work worldwide.
I hope I have motivated you to start a new career or maybe just a new hobby.
Divemaster Trainee FAQ Update
Hi you all. I’ve received a very nice email from a reader with a few questions about the Divemaster Trainee Program. Since I thought some of you might have the same questions, I decided to put them here with my answer…. so I hope this will help!
The email I received:
Great article on your dive master program . . . . I’m considering doing the same thing and have some questions if you have the time . . . Just to give you a little background on myself . . I’m 28 and own/operate my own restaurant and bar with my two buddies from college. We work all summer and take the winters off to go travel and have fun . . I’m also a rescue and recovery diver here at the lake where our bar is located. I love diving and adventure. . . . Backpacking SEA and getting my dive master cert sounds like a dream come true. . . I plan on doing this this Oct/Nov . . .
- Do you think that’s a good time ?
- I like to meet/party with other like minded people, are there other divers/backpackers at the dive/lodging spots . . .
- What is a typical day like?
- Are you diving 7 days a week ?
- Do you have time to travel ?
- How hard is the actual master dive written exam ? . . .
Thanks for taking the time to help me out. I really appreciate it. As you know, I’ll be preparing to spend 4 – 6 weeks at this one location, so it’s important to do my homework haha..
And here is my response:
- If you could go a bit earlier, I think it would be better because monsoon season is near the end of the year and that means lots of rain, bad visibility, and few tourists. I’d just check out exactly where and when you are going and find out when they expect the monsoons in that area.
- Hell yeah!!! A lot of them!! Half of the deal is the diving part and the other half is the party. You will plenty of both. So I would recommend you do the whole process as long as possible so you can have quite a few days off from diving that’ll allow you to party the night before. You will definitely have a great time!
- Meet at the dive school early in the morning. Go out diving (usually 2 dives in a day), head back, help clean everything up and then have theory classes (this last one not every day). For some of the dives, you might do some underwater exercises depending on the specialty. The rest of the afternoon is generally off.
- Because I was short on time, I was diving almost every day. But it’s pretty demanding on the body. So go back to answer number 2. Talk with your school and see how long you can extend your training and see if the price changes and so on. I traveled a lot before and after the course. During the course, I only went to the Full Moon Party for two nights on an island close by.
- It’s not that hard at all if you study a bit. I think what can catch you are the decompression tables that you’ll have to learn to calculate. They aren’t too bad, though. Plus, you have a few water tests that you have to pass that also require some training. If you are willing to dedicate some time to it, you should be just fine!
That’s awesome. You will have a blast. As you said, the more you prepare now, the easier it will be during the training itself. Plus, it seems like you already have quite a few dives, so that’ll take away a lot of the time you will need there.
Don’t forget your travel insurance (it was something that a lot of my fellow divers seemed to forget about… and diving is definitely something you want to make sure your covered for), you can find some info about the 3 best and cheapest travel insurances here: https://www.outofyourcomfortzone.net/how-to-buy-travel-insurance/
I hope you will have a great time and let me know if you have any other questions.
How not to dive!
This is a video I filmed of the safety stop on my first dive in Palau….which was a horror show. Divers going up and down the 5 meters / 15 feet zone, playing around and losing equipment. Horror!! And on my second dive, the Divemaster didn’t check our oxygen and my partner ran out of air. We had to do a buddy breathing (sharing my oxygen) during the last few minutes of the dive. Super dangerous!!
What about you? Do you also want to become a Divemaster and have questions about text above?? Ask your question in the comments area and I will try to help you the best as I can. If you are a fan of diving and would like to comment or criticize, your free to join in as well!
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