Recently I explained what the Divemaster course is, why I decided to sign up, and how I chose where and when to do so. Now I’m breaking down the course into four sections — I started with theory, and now I’m on to skills. I hope this will be helpful to those looking into doing their DMT and searching for a first hand account of someone who has been there, as well as interesting to those simply looking for a peek into a different industry!

Big Bubble, Gili Trawangan

The skills portion of the Divemaster course is fairly straightforward. It is basically there to make sure that you are a thoroughly competent swimmer and diver, and then beyond that to ensure that you have the basic aptitude to work professionally in the dive industry.

Things kick of with Waterskills Exercises. These include a 400 meter (.25 mile) swim, a 15 minute water tread, an 800 meter (.5 mile) snorkel swim, a 100 meter diver tow and an underwater equipment exchange (which I’ll cover in my hazing post. Each of these exercises is ranked out of five and a minimum collective score of 15 is necessary for passing. I consider myself to be a very strong swimmer yet was only able to score a total of 21 out of 25 points. Getting those fives is a challenge! If you are not an exceptionally strong swimming I would recommend requesting to do the swims in a pool rather than the ocean. Currents, tides and other factors make ocean swims more challenging.

An Eel in Gili Trawangan

The Search and Recovery dive is meant to test your navigation and knots. After learning several different knot skills on land, my mentor Victor and I went for a dive where he hid a spare weight somewhere on the dive site. I had to use one of the several search patterns from the Divemaster Manual to find it, and then use two different types of knots to attach a lift bag and send the weight to the surface. It sounds somewhat straightforward but I know several DMTs who have had to repeat the exercise again — underwater knot tying is no joke! It is no small miracle that I managed to do so in one try, considering the amount of sleep I got the night before (my mom recently expressed concern that I mention being hungover too often on this blog, but let’s face it — anyone who has done their DMT will attest that nocturnal activities are a major part of the experience!)

Diving at Big Bubble on Gili Trawangan

The Diver Rescue Scenario was something I was dreading, going into the course. It wasn’t really the rescue that intimidated me so much as that I hate role playing activities. I know it sounds ridiculous but basically an improv class is my worst nightmare. So having to act out this entire scenario, where I pretend to save some drowning diver while shouting out directions to a bemused boat full of people just seemed kind of mortifying. Worst of all, there’s no warning — you have to be prepared to complete the scenario at any point in your course. Still, it’s obviously a crucial skill when working in the water and I felt much more prepared after an afternoon practicing in the pool with an instructor and the other DMTs.

Dive Site Mapping was a challenging skill due to my location. In Gili Trawangan, the dive sites are enormous and sloping and amorphous in that they kind of run into one another. There are few pinnacles or other identifying characteristics. In Koh Tao, where I helped a few of my friends through their Divemaster courses, there was a shallow wreck dive that was painless to map. I mapped the Shark Point dive site here on Gili, but I wasn’t very proud of the outcome.

Diving on Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

The Divemaster Skills Workshop is really what gets you ready for the internship and teaching portion of the DMT. It involved several hours worth of underwater pool time in which you demonstrate a series of twenty four skills to an instructor as if you were demonstrating them to a student. These skills must be performed by students of the Open Water and other courses and include regulator recover and clearing, air depletion exercises, five point ascents, etc. Each of the skills is ranked out of five, with a total score of 82 necessary for passing. I managed a 105, though I think I think my score would have been improved had I been ranked at the end of the course rather than the beginning.

After watching so many courses in my videographer days I assumed this would be a breeze for me, but demonstrating is harder than it looks. Each skill has several steps and must be performed with total clarity and plenty of emphasis and exaggeration. For example, a simple mask flooding skill has seven steps when you break it down (note that the students don’t need to be so precise when repeating the skills back to you — but the instructor sure needs to have it perfect!) I prepared by writing out the skills step by step and practicing on land with other instructors or in front of a mirror.


In the end I quite enjoyed the Waterskills Exercises, the Search and Recovery Dive and the Divemaster Skills Workshop (even if it did mean several hours underwater in the pool at a time!) The Dive Site Mapping and the Rescue Scenario just weren’t my favorites, but with such a broad course there’s no way everyone is going to love every second. But, well, I did love most of them!

Next up, I’ll go into the teaching and hazing portions of the Divemaster course, and finally, post about the emotional moment where I almost called it quits. Readers, please contact me if you are looking for a recommendation on where to do your DMT in Gili Trawangan.

  • Shaun
    July 16 2013

    I’m so damn naive!

    I was thinking as you started writing this series that a DMT course would be just a series of dives. Maybe increasing in difficulty. It’s SO much more involved!

    LoL! can’t wait for the hazing!

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      Ha! Well I guess that’s making the series worth it then, if people now know they should be more impressed with me! (Ha.) Glad to spread the word!

  • Krystle
    July 16 2013

    I loved my scuba diving class in college and my dream is to get my Open Water Certification. How lucky are you to become a Divemaster, I’m officially jealous! 🙂

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      That’s so cool that diving was offered at your college! I went to art school, so it definitely did not fit into the curriculum 🙂

  • Caty
    July 16 2013

    WOW, Alex I’m impressed that sounds like a lot of work and also really difficult. You can be so prud of yourself for completing that course. Honestly, I also thought that becoming a divemaster would be way easier but I guess it all makes sense and it’s important that divemasters know all that stuff. I am already scared of getting my regular diving license (can you believe it, I went on so many dives with him but never got certified)and was toying with the idea of maybe also becoming a divemaster one day since I had so much fun teaching with him but your posts kinda scare me. I am not sure I am made for this…maybe I will just stick to recreational diving.can’t wait for the rest of your posts on this.

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      Aw, Caty, I don’t want to hear I scared you off! Take it one step at a time. When I did my Open Water I would never have imagined becoming a divemaster! But your passion and your knowledge builds with each course and somehow when the time comes, if it does, it will be manageable! I believe in you 🙂

  • memographer
    July 16 2013

    Alex, this is crazy! I would never complete these waterskills exercises…
    Thanks for the detailed information on your divemaster course!

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      You are so welcome! Glad you are enjoying the series!

  • Dad
    July 17 2013

    I really enjoy learning more about this. There is more to it than could have imagined

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      If only I had documented my college years in the same way, really could have wowed you there 🙂

      • Shaun
        July 17 2013

        LOL! “I was this hungover and still aced the exam!”

  • Breanna
    July 17 2013

    While diving is not something I am interested I love reading about your dive master course for some reason!

    • Alex
      July 19 2013

      Thanks Breanna! I really appreciate hearing that 🙂

  • Camels & Chocolate
    July 26 2013

    Now you’re making me want to go through DMT, too!

    • Alex
      July 27 2013

      You totally should! And I’ll come dive with you, of course 🙂

  • TammyOnTheMove
    August 2 2013

    Gosh that rescue mission sounds terrible. I would hate to play it out too. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do I guess. Well done for passing everything!

    • Alex
      August 3 2013

      Thanks Tammy! It definitely felt good to be done.

  • CarlaZ
    August 19 2013

    It is much more difficult than I imagined! But I hope one day, if I have time, I will do it. It will help me to be more confident in my divings. I am always a little scared in the first dive and then I start to relax and then I start having fun.

    I did that search and recovery dive in my AOW, but as I did with my husband I think he did almost everything, but the knots were done by me (of course I can’t remember).

    • Alex
      August 21 2013

      Good luck to you when the day comes, Carla!

  • Francesca
    November 9 2015

    I’ve been told I have to map shark point for my DM…kill me now!

    • Alex
      November 10 2015

      Oh man… I don’t envy you right now 🙂 Good luck!

  • Joanne
    July 20 2016

    Thank you so much for the info. I have been a rescue diver for two years now and is considering the DMT course with only 71 logged dives. I am looking for first hand experience. Your blog is very helpful. Looks like I will need to improve my swimming skills. Thanks again 🙂

    • Alex
      July 25 2016

      So glad to hear it! Sounds like you’d be a perfect candidate for divemaster. Enjoy the journey!

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