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Work as a PADI Divemaster Overseas

Diving Brings Close Contact Wither Other Nationalities

PADI diverguides at work in the ocean

If you are looking for an unconventional means of living and working abroad, one that brings you in contact with people from diverse cultures while working side by side with locals, consider qualifying as a PADI Divemaster.

I fell in love with diving the moment I hit the water. So when I was looking for an extended break from my job in Hong Kong and an opportunity to advance my diving skills while gaining exposure to another Asian culture, I headed to Vietnam for three months to qualify as a PADI Divemaster (DM). On a recommendation from a friend I chose to do my course with Rainbow Divers in Nha Trang.

Choosing a PADI Divemaster Course

Divers who enter the DM course are transitioning from hobbyists to professionals. Thus it is important to consider where and with whom you want to do the course. I chose Vietnam for the culture, and because I like exploring new places. I chose Nha Trang because the diving conditions are benign. This was important since I had only 50 dives under my belt, all done in relatively shallow waters. I wanted time to consolidate and enhance my skills while building my confidence.

Those who want to participate in solid conservation work should head directly to organizations such as Coral Cay Conservation or Greenforce Wildlife Conservation. PADI does have an environmental awareness and education program, but the scope is limited.

While most PADI dive centers offer a 3-month work-exchange program for the DM course, it is best to contact the center by email and negotiate the specifics. The deal I negotiated allowed me to work for three months in exchange for the cost of my DM course. Shorter courses are available. Coral Cay Conservation, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, is offering a free 7-day DM course. One of its aims is to train volunteers in data collection to help conservation efforts; the course is free to those who work on one of its expeditions.

Also, check our prospective center’s PADI rating. A 5-Star PADI Instructor Development Center (IDC) rating means that the dive center has the necessary accreditation to train divers up to instructor level. (Asia Divers, in Puerto Galera, Philippines is such a center.) Higher accreditation usually means a greater focus on safety and higher standards.

Good rapport with your instructor is important in a DM course. While instructors are often busy, beware of ones who are juggling too many other responsibilities. If you feel like a burden every time you talk with your instructor, request another. Thankfully, my instructor was brilliant at translating dry yet necessary information into relevant applications.

Divemaster Training in Vietnam

PADI diver guides in Vietnam
PADI diver guides in Vietnam. Photo by Anna Maria Davis

My days began at 5 a.m. Thankfully, Vietnam is a coffee-consuming nation, and Nha Trang folk are early risers. By 5 a.m. Nha Trang’s seven kilometers of soft, sandy beach is already filled with young and old, running through the surf, doing tai chi, or playing badminton.

Non-locals—Aussies, Brits, French, Yanks, Japanese, Kiwis—work side by side with the Vietnamese with their infectious camaraderie. By 6 a.m. the dive gear has been loaded onto a truck and driven down to the harbor, where it is loaded onto the dive boat. Once the gear’s set, usually around 7 a.m., it’s breakfast time.

Curb-side stalls catering to truck drivers, coxswains, and fishermen line the road to the harbor. On offer are beef noodles, baguettes filled with pork crackling, egg, or cheese, fresh sugar cane juice, packets of rice and nuts wrapped in banana leaves and, thank goodness, more coffee.

At 7:30 the customers arrive on the boat looking as brain-dead as I had looked two hours earlier. After a boat briefing and introduction of staff, gear is handed out and customers are prepared for the first dive.

The reef beds in the waters around Nha Trang are home to 350 different species of coral, which in turn are home to Moorish Idylls, lion fish, and razor fish. On a night dive I saw a real treat, a baby bamboo shark. A variety of nudibranch, colorful sea slugs that carry their lungs extended like antennae, live along undersea walls.

The waters along the coast are heavily overfished. While fishermen have noticed a drop in their catches, dynamite fishing is still practiced, and Vietnam’s diving community lacks the resources to get the government’s sustained attention.

Diveguiding photographer Long Thanh, born in Nha Trang, is a gentle, unassuming man despite his athletic stature and the international acclaim surrounding his work. Whether photographing Vietnam’s landscapes or her people, Long Thanh is a master at capturing a tension that reverberates with the viewer. What a pleasure it was to watch a skilled diver who is also an artist explore his environment.

Working as a Divemaster at Home and Overseas

Most dive centers employ a multi-cultural and multi-lingual staff to cater to an international clientele. Language skills and cross-cultural experience are very useful additions to solid diving qualifications.

For More Info


Greenforce Wildlife Conservation

Asia Divers

Coral Cay Conservation

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