This is the first of several posts I’m writing in order to document my experience becoming a PADI Divemaster in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. While I was in the planning stage of my Divemaster I found a remarkable lack of online information regarding the course and judging from the frequent emails I get asking about my experience I know I’m not alone. I hope by sharing my journey I can give prospective divemasters some information, inspiration and peace of mind about what is to come.
To get everyone up to speed, I’m kicking off with a summary of what the divemaster is, why I did it, and my thought process as I decided where, when and with who to complete it.
The six to twelve week Divemaster course, or DMT, certifies students to the first level of professional rating in PADI and other training agencies. Divemasters, or DMs, can guide certified divers as well as assist instructors on courses. To begin a DMT, candidates must have a minimum of 40 logged dives and have completed their Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Responder and Rescue Diver courses. Generally, next on the hierarchy after a DMT would be the Instructor course — which typically requires another two weeks and at least two grand!
The price of the Divemaster course varies wildly by destination. In cheap locations like Central America and Southeast Asia, it can be done for as little as $800 USD, while in places like Australia and Europe the course can run over $2,000 USD.
My Open Water Course, Koh Tao, 2009
Against all odds, diving has been a big part of my life since the day I started my Open Water course back in Thailand in 2009. The next year I went on to do my Advanced Open Water and Rescue Courses in the Cayman Islands, and trained there as an underwater videographer. Later I returned to Thailand to do more video work, and in between managed to dive in twelve different countries.
Back in 2011 I attended the Beneath the Sea dive show in New York, and learned of diving scholarships offered by the Women Divers’ Hall of Fame. In 2012, I applied for and won a Continuing Education Grant from the organization. It was a great honor to be chosen, and to be among a group of such accomplished women. The grant finally made it possible for me to sign up for my Divemaster course – it paid $500 towards diving equipment and $500 towards my course fees. I had been flirting with the idea for some time, but becoming a Divemaster requires a major financial and time commitment. I have plenty of flexibility in my schedule, but my bank account was another issue.
For many, the DMT course is a stepping stone to becoming an instructor. For me, this is the end of the line. For me, becoming a divemaster was about becoming an attractive candidate for better video jobs and becoming more confident underwater.
Winning a grant from the Women Divers’ Hall of Fame
The next step was picking a location. I asked all of you for help with that, and you delivered. I considered locations all over the world, from Venezuela to Mozambique, but eventually I zeroed in on Southeast Asia. I reasoned it would be crazy not to take advantage of my love of this region and more importantly all the connections that I have here right now. I knew I wanted somewhere with a laid back lifestyle, lots of young or young at heart travelers, a low cost of living and a decent nightlife. I also wanted, of course, some good diving!
Unfortunately there is often a sacrifice between what is above the water and what is below it. Some of the world’s best diving locations are remote and wouldn’t deliver the atmosphere I wanted on land. While of course mind-blowing dive sites are very tempting, the divemaster course is six weeks long and I knew that as a solo traveler I wouldn’t be happy if the lifestyle on land was sacrificed.
Eventually, after hours of consulting with my friends in the dive industry, combing through posts on Scubaboard, and flipping through guidebooks and blog posts, I found my island – Gili Trawangan. It was frequently compared to my beloved Koh Tao in terms of lifestyle, and I was assured the diving would be at least a short step up. The waters were warm, the sea life abundant, the island setting beautiful, and the pace of life simple. Boom. Done.
Diving in Thailand and Iceland
My grant had a expiration date of March of 2013. I spoke to the organization and received an extension until August, which gave me a bit more flexibility. Still, I wanted to spend Christmas at home and then be back in time for my sister’s graduation. At first I hoped to make Indonesia the first stop of my Southeast Asia trip so that I wouldn’t have to rush my DM at all, but weather patterns didn’t agree with me. The rainy season didn’t end until April, pushing it to the last stop on my trip.
I would only have six weeks on Gili Trawangan. This was not ideal – this is the minimum time to complete the course for anyone really, but I was also balancing a full load of freelancing work and blogging. Still, I was starting with more than the minimum required dives to sign off and a decent amount of experience compared to average new DMs, so I knew it was possible.
Once I had my heart set on Gili Trawangan, I had to pick between one of the island’s sixteen dive schools. I tried doing a bit of research from a distance, reading online reviews and emailing some of the dive shops, but I soon gave that up and just decided to make my decision on the ground upon arrival. In my four months in Southeast Asia immediately prior I did get tons of word-of-mouth advice from travelers who had been to the Gilis, which I mentally filed away.
The very day I arrived on the island, I set off with a notebook and a short list of questions and started making my way around the island. Prices are fixed by the dive association on the island a just over $1,000 USD for the PADI Divemaster course, so luckily I didn’t have to factor in price much – though shops did offer varying discounts for me having my own equipment. (In the end I would get 10% off for having my own equipment, meaning the grant I won had a true value of $1,100.) Mainly I was looking for a good atmosphere, and a group of people that I would want to spend every day with for the next several weeks.
Some shops I just walked straight by, not getting a good vibe from the outside. Others rejected me before I had the chance to reject them – one said I didn’t have long enough, while another wasn’t taking on any DMTs. Some were far too large for me, and others just too remote. At the end of the second day I had done the full loop of dive shops and had found six that I thought I could see myself at – Mango, Aquaddiction, Manta Dive, Diversia, Big Bubble, and Buddha Dive.
I am horrible at decision making (just ask my little sister, who stopped taking my calls altogether last time I was laptop shopping) but knew that I didn’t have the luxury of time to mess around. On my second day on the island, I took an hour to do some yoga and meditate and at the end forced myself to chop the list in half using little more than gut feeling. I then decided to make one last round to my final three, and vowed I would make a decision then so that I could start the next morning.
Big Bubble was my first stop and when I walked out I had a light step and massive smile on my face. I didn’t even need to visit the others. I based my decision on the very scientific and profound process of finding “good vibes,” and at that moment in time with that group of people, Big Bubble had them in spades. For once in my life, I had made a decision quickly and efficiently — and it felt amazing.
As I pulled out on my first dive the next morning, laughing with the staff and looking down at the clear waters, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.
Note: I have one criticism of my Divemaster experience, and that is Big Bubble underwent a management change during my course which I found stressful. I encourage future DMTs to insist that their main instructor remain the same throughout their course.
Readers, please contact me if you are looking for a recommendation on where to do your DMT in Gili Trawangan.
LoL! You’ll have to share your “good vibes” formula with the community!
What a big step and great adventure.
Haha, it’s my secret formula, currently under patent 🙂
Great article Alex and lots of good information shared.
I took my Open Water and Advanced courses in one week in Cairns, Australia in 2008. I wanted to take the course and was glad I did. Unfortunately I’ve not dived since but at least I can say that I’ve done it 🙂
I hope to work in Cairns someday! Let’s see if it really happens 🙂
Great write up. I did the DM course while in college, and while it wasn’t as fun for me as the rescue diver was, I am really glad that I did it. I still want to do my instructor cert, but I’ve just not had the time now that I’m working full time.
My rescue course was kind of hilarious… I was doing it with a course director (basically the diving equivalent of a CEO, ha!) and he was such a tyrant! It was a good time, in a way 🙂
Thats Great stuff,
Im just finishing my DMT here in Oz, am uber jealous that of your locale!
Good luck with it all!
Oz sounds like a great place to do it, aside from the cost! Hoping to get there someday!
Yup the cost can bite the big one, and the water is getting wickedly cold at the moment. Don’t let that put you off, there are some really amazing sites all up and down the coast. If you get the chance do it.
For now its off to Truk lagoon with me, in 40 days… not that I am counting.!
Excellent post, Alex… well written! (and what a surprise to see my photo posted!) I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures to come!
Thanks Bonnie! Hope you don’t mind your image being used here 🙂 Lots more divemaster posts to come, actually!
Actually, I was very flattered! And the Women Divers Hall of Fame LOVES all the publicity and exposure we can get… (if anyone’s curious… http://www.wdhof.org) The training grant that Alex received is only one of a number that are awarded yearly to very deserving individuals wanting to further their knowledge and exploration of our oceans & marine environment.
Oh, I should have linked to that in the post! I know I have in my previous posts about the application process and receiving the grant, but it belongs here too. I tell everyone about what you guys do. And especially that it isn’t just open to Americans, and some awards are open to men as well. So international readers, have at it!
Congratulations on your accomplishment Alex!
We’re all very proud of you!
Thanks David! Much appreciated!
I am so proud of you! What a HUGE accomplishment!!!!!
Thanks Andi! You are such a sweetheart!
Really enjoyed the post, Alex! Thanks for the detailed info!
Good luck with DMT!
You’re very welcome! More to come 🙂
I definitely had trouble finding info on it before I went for my DM as well. Luckily I already knew exactly where I was going and had people to ask here… I can’t imagine not having those resources before deciding! Can’t wait to hear more about it!
Yours is definitely one of my favorite diving blogs…. okay, and not to dilute that statement, but it’s also one of the ONLY diving blogs I know. It’s not a very common niche, I’ve found!
i loved this !
Thanks Jus! Amazing you were there back when I was doing my open water, eh?
I was definitely also missing more info on the divemaster course when I had to make my decision on where to do mine!
Can’t wait to read the rest of your posts on the course 🙂
Thanks Chris! Stay tuned… and enjoy Koh Tao! It’s one of my favorite places on Earth. I miss that island!
🙂 just a smile…that’s what i felt after reading this this, just a smile 🙂
Someday… we will dive together! Maybe Florida 🙂
Thanks Dad! Glad you enjoy reading this even after getting the daily blow by blows 🙂
That’s awesome. I’m only on open water but dying to continue it and lead up to Divemaster.
It’s definitely a great way to spend a few months. One of the major bonuses is that while you are a DMT you get unlimited fun dives. Go for it! 🙂
My husband and I are both planning on becoming DM’s, and we’re going through the painful process of selection. When you were visiting your diveshops (which btw is probably a great strategy to choose) did you get the impression they’d take on a couple? Were they friendly towards that type of thing? We’d like to do it at the same time of course!
Absolutely they would take a couple! Ultimately you are the customer in a DMT situation (though it is more of an internship than just a course) and so actually shops will be competing for your business in most cases. Getting hired afterwards, well, that’s another story 🙂 Good luck with your search!
I love reading about all the technical stuff that accompanies doing the DMT. Maybe one day…
For some reason I have a strong suspicion you’d be an A+ student 🙂
I have a couple of questions, hope you don’t mind!
What was the total price of you DM course? (Sorry if this is already way obvious in your post but english is not my first language) And was it unlimited diving fot that price?
Do you have to have you own equipment? And if so, what is the required stuff?
And how hard is it to find living space in general? Like on Koh tao, Gili etc.?
Last but not least, do you mind if I send you an email with some other questions in the nearby future? I must warn you though, I might drive you crazy.. So, you can say no if you want!
Hey Nicole! The course on Gili runs about $1,000 and unlimited fun dives are included. You will have to pay around $140 a year on top of that for your PADI status to stay active. You don’t need to have your own equipment, though you do get a small discount in most places (for me it was 10%!) I highly highly recommend having at least your own mask, fins and snorkel and a dive computer.
Finding a place to live is never a problem in either Gili or Koh Tao, so long as wifi isn’t a big requirement for you. Dive shops will help you find accommodation. Feel free to send me an email with more questions anytime, though do read through my diving and destination archives, as I’m sure a lot of the answers are there! 🙂
Hey, I was thinking of doing my DMT there as well. I just wanted to know if you got a chance to do much marine conservation work and if the nightlife was good there?
Hi Adam, between running my business and doing my DMT I didn’t have time for much conservation work but you could absolutely get involved with the Gili Eco Trust or the Gili Shark Foundation if you want to do some good. And Gili is famed for its nightlife…. just avoid Ramadan 🙂
Good article Alex!
I’m Indonesian but ironically got my OW certification in a freezing Newfoundland water. I’m just did my advanced and will soon take rescue diver, DMT is my next objectives and keen to do it around SE Asia, how did you compare the diving experiences between Thailand, Indonesia or other countries in SE Asia? in term of life and budget which one is best to spent 4-6 weeks time 🙂
Hey Septama! Congrats on deciding to do your DMT. I wrote a post called “The Complete Diving Guide to Gili Trawangan” and I encourage you to look it up as I did a lot of comparisons between diving in Koh Tao and Gili, the main hubs of diving in Thailand and Indonesia. Honestly, for the reasons described in this post (wanting a mix of good diving and lifestyle) those were the only two countries I truly considered. While I loved the diving in the Philippines I didn’t find a place there I would want to spend a full six weeks in.
I’m a divemaster and i’m thinking about going there and try to work. Do you know if there are aportunities and if so, how much is the wage?
Hi Marcos, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but finding work as a divemaster on Gili Trawangan will be both difficult and unprofitable. If you speak languages other than English you may be able to find work, despite the fact that most employers would prefer to hire instructors. However at a few bucks per diver, it will be difficult to sustain yourself solely on dive guiding.
Hi Alex…… I’m selling up and leaving the uk this summer and heading out to do my divemaster. I’m thinking of going to Wicked Diving at Khao Lak in Thailand. They dive in the Similan Islands. All the trip advisors reviews are great, and I was just wandering if you have any experience of them. The only down side is that the price is $2050, but I think it’s because the course includes 3 liveaboards in the Similans. Any advice would be cool. Thanks. Simon
Hey Simon, I unfortunately have no experience with that company or with the Similan Islands in general! I am hoping to remedy that one of these days. However, I do love liveaboards and I think they would be very enriching to your DMT course. Check scubaboard.com too to see if there are any reviews. Hope that helps, good luck!
I am curious whether you have gone to Wicked Diving at Khao Lak or to some other place and what your experiences are.
Currently it is one of the options I’m looking at aswell, but I’m really in doubt whether to make such decisions so early. I’m going to travel in South East Asia starting end October and will only start my DM beginning of January.
Especially since it is not quite a small amount (now even $2150) I am quite hessitant.
Thanks for sharing! I am looking for somewhere to get my divemaster. Where in the cayman islands did you get your certifications? Im definitly interested in videorgraphy and coral reef conservation
Hi Steven! I actually did my advanced with my ex boyfriend as a private instructor (which is possible through PADI) and my rescue through Diver’s Down. It was a very long time ago but I had a good experience with them!
Congrats on your achievement 🙂 I’m nowhere near considering a DM certification I’m afraid, but want to take my husband somewhere to learn to dive (a complete newbie) and for me to refresh my skills. I have spent ages researching Gili, because ideally I’d like to book from the UK before we go as we’re going around Christmas/New Year. Can I presume that the companies you mentioned above you would also recommend for others learning to dive even at a lower level? My husband’s nervous and I think somewhere not too bustling but quite caring and reassuring would be best, and I could use a tip from someone who’s actually been there!
Hey Beth, any of these dive shops would be a great choice for a beginner! The key is to find an instructor you are totally comfortable, so don’t be afraid to stop into more than one dive shop to meet someone you really click with. It will be worth the time you spend searching 🙂 Enjoy Gili — it’s the PERFECT place to learn to dive!
I am a recent college graduate looking to get away for a year to scuba dive before I start work elsewhere. I got my advanced open water last year in Koh Tao. After getting my dive master certificate would it be hard to find a job as a DM to sustain my living? I can afford the plane ticket over as well as the course and rental equipment, but I’m not sure if I can last too long financially after the course ends. And also how do the Gilis compare to Koh Tao?
Hey Sam, finding sustainable work as a divemaster is indeed incredibly challenging. I’d highly recommend that if you hope to use diving as your main source of income, you consider your instructor course. Also, you won’t be able to use rental equipment — you’ll have to buy your own set if you hope to work in the industry 🙂 Hope that helps!
Im planning on doing something similar to you at the moment and I’m choosing locations but think Thailand is a good place to start!
what was the average price for all your equipment including the underwater camera
Hey George! Check out my packing section — there’s a whole post about my dive gear, including costs 🙂
What a spectacular blog. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Jason! That is so kind!
I have just finished my advanced PADI and I am considering doing my rescue then DMT! I am doing this in Honduras and I am travelling to South America afterwards for about 8 months! I am hoping to get work along the coast as I travel but I am unsure of how easy it is to just pick up work as a DM? Whilst I enjoy the activity it will cut a significant part of my budget out and the idea would be to work and cover the cost! Is it easy to get work for a few weeks as a DM or would my idea not work?
Hey Nick! In my experience it would be hard to find short term work — a couple weeks is not long for a dive shop to invest time in getting to know and train you in their way of doing things. There certainly is seasonal work but most places would expect you to stay for at least a few months. That said, it’s always worth dropping your CV off — you never know when a shop might be busy and need a freelancer. But I wouldn’t depend on it as a way to get free diving if you’re just passing through a place very briefly. Hope that helps!
Im searching around for a location to do my DMT and was wondering if you could give some more information about the Gili islands. I work on a dive vessel in Miami, Florida as the Marine Biologist and am looking for a place with a very healthy marine ecosystem (for possible master’s study…shhh) as well as a great diveshop with people who I can get along with well. I’m easy going and laid-back, but want a serious course to really teach me what I need to know to be a DM. What are some pros and cons about the Gili islands? and any advice on dive travel you could give would be much appreciated! I have done some diving in Cairns as well, which was awesome! Im looking for a new adventure and would love to get some input before I start booking! Thank you!!
Hey John! There are many marine conservation programs in Gili that might be of interest to you if you chose to do your DMT there. You might want to get in touch with the Gili Eco Trust. While I was there, one of my fellow DMTs was a Fulbright Scholar studying something coral-y 🙂 You can definitely find healthier reefs and better diving in Southeast Asia, but for me, Gili was the perfect balance of lifestyle and diving. Hope that helps! Good luck and happy diving.
Love your blog and the comments for becomming a Professiona Diver. Did you complete your Padi IDC yet?
Keep the blog rolling!!
Hey Joey, thanks! Nope, Divemaster is as high as I want to go. I’m not interested in teaching, though I loved the DMT experience!
Your blog posts are really interesting and informative, thank you so much!
I’m planning on doing my Divemaster internship and marine conservation work on Gili T because I got the dive bug last year and I want to do marine conservation work, with a limited budget. Gili T seems like a lively enough place to do something as long-term as the DMT, and marine conservation appears to be a serious topic there!
Now, I’ve decided to already go with Lutwala Dive (and not search around on the spot like you did) because:
1) They have a gap year project, with a wide range of conservation projects, specifically meant for people looking to do what I want to do (they even mention a strong connection with my old school, which got me into conservation work in the first place!),
2) It’s located in the less busy part of the island, and I think I would like to live like that. The center really isn’t that far away anyway, so I can always head there whenever I get bored :).
I’ve also read a lot of good reviews on TripAdvisor about Lutwala. So I just wanted to ask you, did you not consider Lutwala simply because it was a distance away from the center?
Hey Hanna! I went to all the dive schools on Gili T, even one that was clear across the island much further than Lutwala. To be honest it’s been so long I can’t really remember the reason certain schools didn’t make my initial list. I kind of just went with gut instinct and vibes. If you feel more comfortable making arrangements before you arrive that’s fine too — seems like you have a good list of reasons. Best of luck!
Hi Alex … fantastic info … well I just started my Divemaster course with Huron Scuba in Michigan …. So far, I like all of the tech info … I am learning from excellent dive professionals with great information and good dive tips. Well my reason for DMT was to become a better diver, possibly teach or help other divers. Yesterday, I completed the 400 yard swim & my 15 minute treading water stress tests. What a workout this was in conjunction with assisting with an Open Water class on Saturday & Sunday w/ being in the pool for quite a few hours on both days.
I got my OW cert in 2009 but hardly did any diving until this past June 2014 when my wife & I went to Roatan … There I caught the diving bug and got my Advanced Cert and a couple of months later got my Rescue Cert … well, did I mention that I am 63. It is kind of weird (but in a good kind of way) to be with so many different talented and much younger people. 🙂 … It humbles me & I like it … Man do I envy you guys doing your training in warm water. 🙂 … wish this Great Grandfather luck.
Just though you’d like to know
Hey Jammes! I absolutely love your story 🙂 I bet those younger people are learning a lot from you as well. There’s nothing like a shared passion to bring many different generations together. Hope you get to share diving with the rest of your family as well. Good luck with the rest of your course!
Hi, great post !
Would love to hear more about how you trained as an underwater videographer ? Do you still work as an underwater videographer ?
Hey Sarah! No, I don’t work as a videographer anymore — this blog takes all my time now! You can learn more about how I got started though here. Hope that helps!
I am currently an Advanced Open Water Diver and I am looking at doing a DMT course in Gili Trawangan – any suggestions?
Hey Leah — tons actually! Have you checked out my conclusion post to this Becoming a Divemaster series? It’s packed with tons of tips! Let me know if that answers your questions, and best of luck!
Thanks for directing me to that – I hadn’t seen it!
I did have a few questions –
Does Big Blue do any tec diving? You cited Blue Marlin as the place to go for WW2 wrecks. I am always down for reef and wildlife dives, but I also love seeing old ship wrecks and definitely would want this to be part of my dive experience there. On top of this, going off course and navigating sounds like an incredible skill I’d love to learn. Does Big Blue do this as well?
I think a medium sized dive school would be my best fit, and I just want to make sure I pick the best one!
Also, I just wanted to say that your blog has been really helpful. I’ve been trying to pick a place to do my Divemaster this summer for months and I have been stuck choosing an island across Thailand and Indonesia, picking a dive school and working out a budget. Seeing your blog has shown me the big picture, and is helping me put all of this research into a (hopefully) fantastic two months. 🙂
Hey Leah, you are asking about Big Bubble, right? (Not Big Blue?) When I was at Big Bubble, they did not do wreck or tech diving — that was really the exclusive domain of Blue Marlin. But things change super fast on the island so that might not be the best bet. Truly, as always, my best advice is to arrive on the island and make your final decision in person 🙂 So happy to hear that this series has been helpful to me — that’s exactly what I was aiming for!
Do you still recommend Big Bubble? I am scheduled to do my DM over 18 days at Sipadan with Seaventures, but there is a problem with instructor schedules now. And, frankly, business is slow there, so a risk of not enough courses to assist, and they won’t negotiate prices for the stay (which are high considering you’re stranded on an old oil rig with no nightlife at all). Thus I am exploring other options.
Hey Bernie, they have changed location and ownership since I did my DMT there, from what I understand. So it is hard for me to give a current recommendation. That said, I had a great experience with doing my DMT on Gili Trawangan and couldn’t be happier with my choice!
I ended up going to Koh Tao to do my DM at Crystal Dive Resort. BUT I am going to Gili T to do my IDC in August, with Holly at Trawangan Dive. Looks like I have better times and airfares flying to DPS, then catching a Garuda flight to Lombok; or I can stay overnight in Bali and catch the fast boat in the morning. After the IDC, might dive at Tulamben, Holly recommends it? Should I take a bus right from Tulamben back to DPS?
Holly says I can get better monthly rates on Gili T if I wait until I arrive and negotiate price, rather than book ahead of time. She suggest I book a couple of nights someplace then take my chances; I’ll be there Aug 14 to Sept 6 (unless I do the Tulamben and Bali bit, whence I’ll leave earlier). Any advice on lodging that is not in your blog post about it?
Btw, what happened with Anders??
Hey Bernie! I have not been to Tulamben but hear great things — and you should listen to Holly, she’s smart 🙂 I’d also listen to her on the lodging. In Southeast Asia, it is fairly unheard of to rent sight unseen. Just wait till you arrive and you’ll find something fairly quickly. I spilled all my secrets in the blog post 🙂
I last saw Anders in Malta, where he worked as a dive instructor for a full season before moving onto crewing in the Caribbean. We are very friendly and check in on each other often!
I just recently came back from getting my Open Waterin Utila Honduras. I want to get my Dive Master now but I want to get it in Indonesia…can you suggest some dive shops for me?
Hey Christine! I recommend reading this post on all my divemaster tips and tricks — you’ll see that in it my biggest recommendation is to arrive somewhere and choose your dive shop in person! I can’t think of anything more important than having good vibes with the people you’ll be working directly with. Hope that helps! Enjoy the ride!
Hi Alex, Thanks so much for your awesome posts! I’ve just started researching Dive Master internship programs and your advice and details of your personal experience is incredibly helpful! I was wondering (because I don’t think I read it) if you had your own accommodations while doing your DMT or if you stayed with Big Bubble. I of course want a reliable, professional DMT experience, but always want to have fun and make friends too 🙂 I completely understand how the ‘vibe’ is important. I’m also looking into Koh Tao. What were your other top choices for dive sites before you settled on Gili? Thanks again, your posts have been immensely helpful!
I did indeed have my own accommodation! Check out my post on the cost of living in Gili Trawangan for more info 🙂 And here’s a post on my other location choices. Best of luck deciding!
I was going to do my DMT in Koh Tao then realised that the quality of diving has deteriorated in the last few years. I dived there many times during my rescue course and afterwards. I then visited Gili T once last year and was amazed at the clarity of the water there. Do you think Gili T has better dive sites than Koh Tao?
The dive sites are so different, it’s kind of comparing apples and oranges. Gili is basically all drift dives, teeming with turtles, and a little less crowded with divers. Koh Tao has a bit more diversity of dive sites including more impressive deep dive sites like Chumphon and Sail Rock with large pelagics and massive fish schools. So I couldn’t say which is better, but I hope that helps 🙂
are u just independently wealthy or what? normal people cant afford to travel and live out their dreams like this.
Oh Ricky, I wish I could show you my bank statement so you could see how entertaining the idea of me being independently wealthy is 🙂 But seriously, no — I live frugally and earn my living through this blog.
And believe me, of the thousands of people doing their divemaster course every year, very few are flush. While some do take the course for entertainment, in reality it is a trade training program that will result in a certification that allows you to work in the diving industry. Hardly a lavish indulgence if it leads to a job! While it’s true that I’m enormously lucky to be be living my dreams, I’m pretty darn normal — so are the many, many other people who have chosen to make travel a priority in their lives. If you’re interested in seeing how other real world people have made it work, I hope you’ll check out my Earning Abroad series.
Do you have any recommendations/opinions on taking a divemaster internship? It is a complete course starting from your OW all the way to DM. Also, did you look into Lutwala Dive on Gili Trawangan? What were your thoughts?
Hey Lia! If I recall correctly, Lutwala Dive was just a little too far north on the island for me. It is tiny, but I really wanted to be in the center of the action 🙂 As for the divemaster internships, personally I loved spreading out my courses across time and the world, and would be concerned about investing so much money and time into one activity and one shop without more dive experience (I’m assuming someone wouldn’t have much experience if they have yet to do their open water). Others I’m sure love the consistency and comprehensive education! Hope that helps a bit.
Hope you can be of help answering this -you’re probably sick of getting these kinds of questions actually! But I’m hoping to go out and do my divemaster in january as I’m quitting my job and I know this would be the perfect challenge for me. That being said I have trained in diving in the UK for the past two years on and off and have only managed to log around 15 dives! I do love it however! Do you think there is a dive school that would work with a novice diver through to divemaster? I should probably wait until i have more experience but I don’t think I’ll get another chance like this to take off around 6 months! ( I’m willing to take a long time to do it). Just hope I wouldn’t be getting myself in over my head!
Of course its a personal decision but I just wondered if you had advice as someone who had already been through it 🙂
Thanks in advance, also I love your blog, always an inspiration!
Hey Charlotte, there are plenty of dive shops that offer “zero to hero” programs, which means they take you from open water all the way to divemaster! So you definitely won’t have a problem finding a shop that will work with you. You’ll need a good forty dives to get started on your official divemaster training but they’ll definitely help you get up to that number. You didn’t mention your certification level but you’ll also have to go through your advanced open water training and rescue diver training before you can get started on the divemaster. I think you have an awesome plan for this career break — you are going to have the time of your life! Enjoy, Charlotte!
I just had a few questions as I’ve been considering doing my DM for ages – in fact I have all the course material but just couldn’t face the freezing cold waters of the UK to do it. Do you work as a DM now? If so, how do you/did you find it?
I think I’d worry about the same things as you, wanting a lifestyle you enjoy and allows you to do other things, whilst also getting the chance to do some diving.
I wondered if you’d every heard of people working as teachers abroad (TEFL), and then doing some dive guiding on the side to get the best of both worlds? This rainy UK weather certainly does have me dreaming of warm seas, sunshine and sand between my toes 🙂
Hey Louise! Nope, I work as a blogger and dive for fun 🙂 I’m not sure how many locations would allow for both a DM and TEFL job as most TEFL jobs I’ve heard of take place in big cities… but it would certainly be ideal if you could find that position! Maybe you could find a dive instructor job and freelance English tutor on the side? I can imagine that rainy weather is quite motivating!
Hey 🙂 Great article! I was wondeirng which dive schools you would recommend for DM on Gili now?
Hey Layla! I recommend you head right to the island and spend a few days going in and talking to all the dive shops. See which one you click with! Staff and management change often, so it’s impossible for me to give a current recommendation now. Best of luck!
I haven’t had a chance yet to read the other comments on the thread so forgive me if I ask you something you have already answered! It is so great to find a blog that has recomendations on where to learn to dive. It has been so hard to find information online, especially about diving schools/destinations that have good courses but also a great atmosphere, vibe and social life as well.
Out of all of the schools/countries you have gone diving, can you recommend your top 3 favourite schools that had good courses and diving as well as an overall atmosphere, and young/fun social life?
Thank you so much! Love reading about all of your adventures
Hey Lyore! It’s tough to recommend schools sometimes as things change quickly in the diving world and I don’t always feel comfortable recommending a school I haven’t been to in years (teachers come and go, etc.) But I think three amazing places to learn to dive are (1) Utila, Honduras, (2) Koh Tao, Thailand and (3) Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. You’ll be spoiled for choice for great shops there!
hello, I am just in the process of deciding where to do my DMT, i did my open water on Gili Trawangan, and really enjoyed the location and vibe of the island. I have been researching new locations and was thinking i would do it somewhere in Thailand. Kho Tao at the moment is standing out for me. How did you find Kho Tao, is there enough to entertain me for 6-8 weeks there? And the diving how dose it compare to Gili?
I’m been drawn there mainly for the whale sharks – as i have a slight obsession! So its winning at the moment!
Hey Wendy, I’m currently living on Koh Tao for six months and in the past have lived here for up to a year, so I definitely think there’s enough to entertain you for 6-8 weeks 🙂 It’s an amazing island! The diving is different — dive sites are further away and much more crowded, but there is more variety (wrecks, deep pinnacles, etc) and yes, the chance to see whale sharks! Really, you can’t go wrong. Good luck!
Hi everyone !!:)
I am planning to do my dive master in Khao Lak ih Thailand..
I have heard that it is amazing there..Do you know any good diving school ?
Wendy ! When are you planning to do yours ? We could do together ! I am originally from Italy but I live in Australia, Perth for 2 and half years. I have done all my scuba diving courses here 🙂
Hey Maddalena! I haven’t heard of any dive schools in particular in Khao Lak, but I know it’s a popular area. Best of luck choosing a location!
Hi Alex, I have absolutely loved reading all of the questions and your answers on the comments – I can’t tell you how good it is to find a blog that contains so much information about what I need. I have a lot to learn however I also have a lot to save before I head out to do my DM course and (when I have enough dives my IDC course) …therefore I have plenty of time to become clued up haha.
I know that learning another language can help boost your chances of making it in the industry as to say. What language would you say in your opinion would be best to learn?
It really depends on the area you want to teach in! Personally, I’d take a language I was already interested in or had a base of (maybe one you studied in school) and pick up from there 🙂 Best of luck!
Hi there, just found this wonderful page and thank you very much for writing all this. It has been such a big help. I’m actually going to Big Bubble to do a dive master in just a few days, but I’ve been wondering if it would be a good idea to bring my own computer or tablet maybe. What do you think? Would an iPad be fine or will I be needing a computer?
Personally I love traveling with my computer because I work from the road, but I’m sure for most an iPad would be great. Just be aware that wifi is very poor in Gili Trawangan!
Thank you for your post. It was very helpful in narrowing down DM possibilities from a sea (pun not intended) of endless options. I had a few specific questions that I’d love to chat with you about. May i email you personally please? Do let me know. Thanks!
Hey Parineeta, planning to tackle my inbox this weekend — I’ll get to it soon 🙂
thank you for this great article!
For days that i am searching for a good location for my divemaster course and i found also the “Trawangan Dive” in Gili Trawangan before. Do you know Trawangan Dive?
Now I had a look at “big bubble dive” and have just written an email to them for further informations.
Can I ask you how you organized for accomodation?
I wonder where you lived because i think the “Big Bubble Dive Resort” is not very cheap for accomodation.
Thanks in advance!
Hey Norman, check out my post “The Cost of a Month in Paradise” — it outlines the different places I stayed, what I payed and how I found them. I can’t recommend specific dive schools after this much time has passed, I always encourage people to just go and schedule in a few days to interview schools ahead of time. It’s the best way to find the perfect fit! All the best!
Hey Alex, great blog! Good to see another American and New Yorker for that matter traveling the world 🙂
I just spent a month in Komodo finishing up my DMT and I gotta say it’s hands down the best diving I’ve done in my life, and I’ve been to a few places in my time. I’m writing about my experiences now on my blog and I actually found your blog while searching for other blogger’s DMT experiences as I wasn’t sure what to write about! Sure enough, I’m plenty motivated now so thanks and keep on traveling!
Wow, Komodo! One of my dream destinations. I’ll definitely be checking out your blog to hear more! Thanks for following along!
Here you go, finished it up thanks to you for the inspiration 🙂
Great Article! I’m looking to do a DMT in Gili, can you recommend some good places to do it ?
Hey Abdel! I recommend heading to Gili Trawangan a week or two before you want to start the course and do a circle around the island, stopping at each dive school around the way. Make a list and narrow it down from there 🙂 It’s best to go in person and get a feel! Enjoy!
I’m going to Gilis in July to do my DM courses, what do you know about internship in Manta Dive ? Don’t wanna be in a club where I have to do all the bad stuff..
Hey Jane! I looked at Manta Dive but if I recall correctly they are an SSI school and I wanted to do PADI. I’m not sure what you mean by “the bad stuff?” If you are referring to the snorkel test, every school does those, but don’t worry — they’ll be respectful if you’re upfront that that’s not your vibe.
What sort of time off did you get while doing the training? I’m curious because I’m taking a 4-6 week DMT course and it seems like we’re almost expected to NOT take time off – or maybe once every two weeks (it’s on an let them know basis but then they emphasize how HARD we’re supposed to work). I’m not sure it’s worth it if it’s only a personal goal and not something I plan to do for a living.
Hey Julia! I don’t remember the details but I had a pretty relaxed schedule. I was at the dive shop pretty much every day at some point (it was a tiny island!) but sometimes it was just to say hi or do a little coursework or fun dive or whatever. If I wanted to go to a yoga class in the morning before starting for the day or something, I just politely asked my instructor and they were really chill about it. Because of my online work I really needed to be in an understanding environment. Personally I wouldn’t have thrived in such a militant program, but everyone needs/wants something different!
Hello,I am a Turkish guy who currently lives in the Philippines.I grove old in Turkey and the city i was living has no sea.So I was not in to diving things.But when I got in the Philippines and tried once I LOVED it.
My question is: I got something like a licence from PADI first time i dive and i want to become a dive master.There re agencies around my place but it s kinda expensive.Is it possible If i will dive with any certified dive master and follow the process to be a master and get my certificate from PADI ?
Hey Eren! Let me see if I understand your question correctly. Are you asking about crossing over from one agency to another — taking a course with SSI and then getting certified by PADI, for example? Let me know if I am getting your question.
Hey Alex – just come across your blog, you have some really great posts on here, I’m extremely jealous of your adventures!
I’m actually going for a lifestyle change as well, I have handed in my notice for my current office job and am looking to move abroad and complete my divemaster qualification.
I’m really looking for advice on location – I did my OWC on Gilli Air last year, it was a beautiful location and I loved it but it was very small. I’m between two minds in going back to the Gilli’s or whether to complete it in Koh Tao. I backpacked around the thai islands around 6 years ago but don’t remember the specifics of Koh Tao.
I’d love any advice or your recommendations to help me choose between the gilli’s or koh tao. In terms of finding work afterwards which location do you think would offer the most opportunities?
Thanks in advance! Jessica:)
Hey Jessica! I had the same back and forth debate in my own head about Koh Tao vs. The Gilis. They are both amazing options! Of course I chose Gili in the end, mainly as I’ve done so much diving in Koh Tao but had I not had that factor I’m not sure how I would have chosen. Koh Tao is larger and there are more dive schools which hypothetically should make it easier to find work but there is also more competition. So I think they’re probably around even. In the end you might have to do what I did… flip a coin 😉
Love your posts! I am heading out to gili T to do my divemaster in September hopefully after having done my open water in koh samui and advanced in Sydney. I’m also hoping to do my dive instructor course around christmas but can’t figure out where! I too am obsessed with the lifestyles of thailand & Bali and would want to find somewhere that could re-create that kind of atmosphere, where would you suggest?
Hey Harry! Are you hoping to stay in Southeast Asia or are you looking further afield? You may consider the Bay Islands, which are considered by many to be the Koh Tao of Central America. Enjoy!
Thank you for writing about your experience! I am currently looking for a divemaster internship in Thailand and I was wondering if you have ever heard about Princess Divers? They offer a “free” internship and it all looks pretty legit. Just seeing if you have any advice. Thanks.
Hey Kevin, I haven’t heard of Princess Divers but I have seen free internship program offers in the past. They definitely can be legit, just be aware that you’ll pretty much be working off the price after so it’s not totally “free” of course. Also, these deals tend to be offered in less popular dive spots where there may not normally be enough demand to entice divemasters. Not sure if that is the case here but just a heads up. Congrats on making the leap!
Hi Alex, love your blog!
Ok so I’ve done OW, AOW & Enriched air so looking for Recsue next, then DM, in all the Padi courses from this point on, it seems as though you have to have your First Aid & CPR certs up to date, is that true? Is it a prerequisite?
Yes, you will have to have completed your EFR within a year of starting your DM, to my understanding. Best of luck!
This was an awesome read! This is my dream and I’m determined to make it happen as you did. Thank you.
Glad to hear it Kenny! Best of luck — where are you thinking of doing the course?
Still looking into that. I had a friend who lived in Utilia for awhile and the environment there from his description sounded perfect. As for me right now though in my mid 20s it’s a pretty scary leap to make to just pack up and leave the states. My biggest concern would be my income throughout getting my certification. Are you familiar with the area?
Hey Kenny! I have a bunch of posts about my travels in Honduras that might help you out. You’ll never get rich working in diving but you will have the time of your life! I recommend saving up a nice cushion before leaving home in case it takes you a while to find work. Life is shockingly cheap on the Bay Islands, however, compared to anywhere else in the US!
hey alex! how are you (:
so im very interested becoming DM since i love a lot diving and the sea! i have some questiong if u can help and say what u think!
first of all – as certified DM i guess u just dont do it for money but i am curious to know if u do get salaty by doing this in some diving clubs or its more like vaulenteering thing, when u basiclly get food and accomondationg in exchange for your work.
– in addition, can u state if a certified DM will have a hard time by finding somewhere to work/voulenteer?
my second thing id love to ask is about getting it done. im AOW right now. so i think the stages to get there is doind EFR certification, rescue diver course, then the DM course itself?
-if i understand it correctly the DM course is about a week but after this u have to spend around 3 monoths internship or anything like that?
– if i plan to dedicate a trip of 3-4 weeks for this matter – what courses would u recomend for me to do?
i mean – EFR, rescue diver and DM course all together?
Hey Tamir! Awesome you’re considering becoming a dive master! As a certified DM you typically receive a commission for each diver, though some do receive salaries in some parts of the world. It can definitely be somewhat tricky work to find, and being an instructor will help your employment search if you’re interested in going down that road.
As for the order of things, yes, you need to do EFR, rescue and then the DM! EFR and Rescue are typically done concurrently. The DM course is usually 4-8 weeks long, and you could fit the EFR and rescue into that time if you already have the minimum number of dives needed to start out with. Your best bet is to contact a dive center you’re interested in working with and setting up a plan with them. Good luck!
I did read up on some of your posts of doing DMT in Gili Trawangan.
I did mail bigbubble and they promptly replied back.
Since you mentioned they had a change of location and management, would you still recommend them or someone else ?
Hey Altaf, unfortunately I haven’t been back to the island since completing my course, so I really don’t feel comfortable giving a current recommendation so many years after the fact. I recommend you go to the island and check out a few schools in person! Enjoy the process!
Hei Alex =) Im Amir from Malaysia.Now Im a Padi Rescue Diver.In future I want to be a Padi Dive Master =) Can I email you , for a few question ?
Sure Amir! Always happy to help a fellow diver!
Awesome post thanks for sharing all your advice!
Like a lot of people who’ve commented on here i’m venturing out to start my Divemaster and very buzzed about doing it in the Gili islands after reading you post. My only worry is the season. I plan to do the course for a good 6 weeks but i have to do it in January/February time which i’ve read is the rainy season in Indonesia and can effect the visibility. Just wondered if you had any advice on this?
Cheers from the UK Keep on blogging!
Hey Jacob! Having never been there around that time of year I’m afraid I’m not equipped to comment! Perhaps try emailing some of the dive schools you are considering and seeing what their take on it is? I did mine in April, if I recall correctly.
Hi Alex ! Your blog is an absolute joy :)! .Im currently a AOWD and I plan to do my masters in engineering in applied ocean science this july . Were do you recommend i do my DM in Gilli T ??
Thanks in advance
Hi Sniggy! I recommend you go to Gili T and spend a few days walking around the island and personally interviewing the schools you are interested in. See what schools and instructors you mesh with in person. It’s too big of an investment to make over email! Good luck!
I am enjoying reading your blog. I am happy to see people enjoy underwater world. Currently, I have done my open water and recuse course in Koh Tao, Thailand and advanced in Lipe Island which is an island in the south Andaman. I very enjoy diving in Thailand.
However, I plan to move in Australia next year with work and holiday visa. Therefore, I would like to acquire new diving skill as DM before going there for jobs (although I know it is difficult). After reading your blog, it’s very convincing that I should stop by to do DM in Indonesia. If it is not about the price, do you think it is a good idea to do DM in Australia in order to increase the chance of getting a job? or I should do DM in Indonesia and look for internship in Australia? Which alternative that you recommend?
Thanks in advance…
Hey Fon! Having never been to Australia it’s hard for me to comment on the ease of getting work there in the diving industry. I do know that industry-wide, it is much easier to find work as an Instructor than just as a Divemaster. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but going all the way to instructor definitely only makes you more employable. It might be worth pricing out doing your instructor in Indonesia vs. Australia as typically it’s easiest to get a job at the school you do your DMT/instructor at, since you already have a relationship. Good luck!
Thank you again. I have been decided to go to Indonesia for divemaster course this coming May. I enjoy your blog and wish to meet you in person one day. 🙂
Fon that is amazing! Congratulations! I am so excited for you — let me know how it goes!
I just discovered your blog via this post as I am working on my new life plan, and divemaster/IDC would be one of the first steps.
I am also an experienced photographer and videographer, and digital marketing pro (but I deeply need to step out of the office life).
Well with a few thing in common, I feel like I can get lots of good info and tips from your blog, so thank you in advance for sharing!
Now I have some reading to do here.
Hey Nico! Sounds like an awesome and exciting big step you are taking. Congratulations — and good luck! You’re going to have a blast 🙂
I was wondering if you have any suggestions for what i should major in in college that could possibly help with a future as a dive master or really anything having to do with scuba diving
Hey Bella! Great question! I’d think anything to do with marine biology or marine conservation would be a great start 🙂 Do you have an interest in science?
Yea I actually really do like science. Maybe i could try oceanography or something like that
You go girl! That is awesome!
So where do you find yourself now? Great article, however haven’t read all the messages so you might have mentioned it.
I’m currently doing my rescue diver course. I have read all the material now just need to complete one more pool session then the two open waters dives. My questions is, shall I start doing the reading now for the DM course? Makes sense to me, it should give me a head start to pass the exams early on.
What do you think?
Hey there! No reason not to go ahead and dive into the reading material, however what usually takes the most time with the DM course I think it actually the training dives rather than the exams. So it might not help you finish any earlier, but I’m sure it will help you to have more time to absorb the material! Best of luck!
What a great article about the DM. You wrote that six weeks were the absolute minimum of time to complete your DM. Right now, I also would like to accomplish my DM and do some seasonal working in the diving scene afterwards. Unfortunately, i just have one week of holiday left but the dive store offered me to do my DM in this week if I finish the PADI elearning before. What do you think about it? Shall I go for it or not?
Hi Sascha… personally I would not. I cannot imagine how it’s physically possible to fit in all the divemaster requirements into one week, and even if it is so, I can’t imagine it would be enjoyable or pleasant or that you’d leave with the confidence to start working and leading divers. I would take some of the time you planned to do season dive work and devote that to a more intensive course instead. Good luck!
Great post Alex! I think like a lot of enthusiastic hobbyist divers I wondered what it’s like to actually qualify as a DM, and your article really fills a gap – wish more people would blog about it the way you do!
Hope I can come and dive with your outfit in Gili Trawangan one day!
I know what you mean, Jon — when I was looking into where I wanted to do my divemaster, I was dying for more first hand accounts of what the course was like and how it went for various people. It’s really hard to find reviews of any kind when it comes to continuing give education! Happy to fill the gap however I can!
My research on finding good Divemaster internships brought me to your page and I’m loving everything in your blog! I am planning on going for a DM internship sometime around March/April. Do you have any suggestions for a good place? I came across Tenerife Dive Academy and Crystal Dive in Koh Tao and other 20 odd ones. Your suggestion will help me breathe better with the decision.
Hey Dee! I wish I could help but it’s really hard for me to have input on the comparison as I’ve ever been to Tenerife Dive Academy. While I haven’t personally dove with Crystal, I did partner with them for part of my retreat this year and they have an excellent reputation! Good luck — I know firsthand how agonizing the decision can be!
Than you very much for your blog.
I am Cristiana from Brazil and soon I will turn 28 years old.
I am linking for a place to get my masterdive course and I would like to hear your opinion about koh Tao vs. Cayman vs. Gilis.
I am looking for a place where I can find people at my age from different countries and some nightlife as well.
Hey Cristiana! Cayman will be very expensive compared to the other two and also the crowd is a tad older. I’d narrow your search to Koh Tao or Gili!