Intern Mitch

Scuba Diving Intern Mitch shares his gap year Divemaster experiences from Koh Tao

Name: Mitch Lawson



What were you doing before you joining the PADI Divemaster Scuba Diving Internship on Koh Tao?

I was studying at Lboro University whilst at the same time a member of Typhoon Squadron preparing me for Sandhurst .

What is your overall opinion of your scuba diving internship with DJL Diving?

I could not have asked for more from the diving at DJL. I was given the chance to explore a site outside of Koh Tao which was amazing. All the instructors at the shop have tonnes of experience each in their own speciality of diving. I did my intro to tech diving down to 45 meteres very early on and onto a wreck found by DJL.

All the recreational diving is always reallly chilled out and everybody enjoying themselves whilst still getting the serious points across and what needs to be learnt. The benefit of DJL having their own RIB and commitment to always doing something new meant I got to gain a lot of experience fairly early on.

Did you enjoy undertaking deep wreck dives with DJL?

I loved the Unicorn wreck dive for two main reasons. Its was my first ever dive on a wreck and also, I had never been that deep before. I was introduced into a new side of diving at a fairly early stage in my dive career, tech diving. A full briefing before on the deco diving procedures allowed me to learn a lot.

What bits of the Diving Internship did you find trickiest?

I thought that the Divemaster academics and exams were fairly tough. Everything is fine as long as you put the time and effort into the book work. The exams definatly need a lot more attention than the previous dive courses. The thing I found the most difficult was resisting the temptation to go out and get hammered when you knew you had a dive the next morning!

Leading customers on 'fun dives' and realising just how little understanding certain people have when placed in a new environment can be tricky. I would still not really call this difficult because there was always an instructor there, and all the time you were spending with people who knew more than you did quickly rubbed off. The underwater equipment exchange was fine. Once you have the buddy breathing sorted there are no problems as you have already been given the necessary skills.

Do you think taking a scuba diving internship was a productive gap year experience?

The dive internship was constructive in every way that it could be. The qualifications that I gained will help me with my career in the future and the leadership skills that I had to improve will be very helpful to me, leading people without verbal communication provided a new challenge. Just getting away to a completely different culture and taking in a new way of living whilst meeting people from all over the world would be worth the trip in itself. Listening to all these stories from different people helps broaden your mind and by being at the shop doing a DM course you meet at least 4 new people a day.

The way the internship is run is very good in that you become one of the team. You are given responsibility to work with new people at the shop and at an early stage start to pass on what you have learnt, so very good for the instructor course. Everything is done at the pace you want and everyday you learn something new. Just from listening to the instructors stories and having a laugh with everyone. Once the DM course starts, you start working as if you are a DM already and therefore are given responsibility straight away. Then as you progress through, the instructors slowly back off with their assistance - you become capable of doing everything that's required independently. Being fully accepted by all the instructors into the team is a very good learning environment and you make some really good mates. The flexibility of the course isn't too bad either - in that if you want to have a few nights getting hammered there's no problem there either...[just don t get round tabled]!

How did you find giving dive briefings for customers?

By the time i came to give my first boat briefing i had already listened to about 20 of them, so knew what to include. I found everything ok as I don't get embarrassed talking in front of people. The first two times an instuctor was there incase i missed anything out. The hardest part was being heard over the engine but thats it.

Now qualified as a PADI Divemaster, do you think you'll continue your diving education, and are you interested in joining future wreck hunting expeditions?

100%. I will be going back next summer and after seeing the last expedition where the DJL team discovered a new wreck and seeing the things that have been brought back was well cool. Stuff like WW2 plates, antique telescopes and old school compasses that havent seen the surface for over half a century isn t to bad.

I know that there are a lot of marks that are still left to explore and all of different orientation. depths, different vessels containing different things and varied conditions makes it well worth the adventure of going back to join up with DJL and take part.

What did you think of your dive Expedition on the Sampai Jumpa Sailing Liveaboard?

The Sampai Jumpa expedition was amazing. What you first notice is just how clean and well kept the boat is. Of the 7 weeks i spent on Koh Tao the 5 days i spent on the sampai jumpa was the best accomodation i had. A few little luxuries that i hadn t been use to for a while and everywhere the whole ship was always kept in great condition.

A german guy called Alex runs the boat and literally could not do any thing else for you. He's one of the nicest people you will meet and a really hard worker to give you what you want. Everything was always chilled out and you instantly felt welcome aboard somebody elses home. The crew that manned the boat didn t speak much English so communication was limited but these were the people who were cooking all your meals, making sure everything ran as it should, finding calm sights for night so sleep was easy and always giving any assistance you needed if you were unsure.

You will also not eat as well anywhere else in Thailand as you do on the Sampai Jumpa. You will probably leave the boat fat. There is always to much food and its always to a brilliant standard.

We spent the first two days diving around Koh Tao then over to Chumphon marine park for a few days and the last morning back in Koh Tao. Most nights there was the option of doing a night dive depending on where you were. The diving itself allowed us to see alot more sea life that we would not have if just on Koh Tao. Between each dive when the boat was anchored. Myself and a few of the boys would swim off to the little islands that we were close to and try a bit of rock climbing up as high as we could to then jump off. Snorkeling in the shallows or even around the boat let us see things we hadn't seen on the dives.

Again just illustrating how chilled out everything was and for the time we were onboard it was very much your choice as to what you wanted to do. With plenty of drink at night if you wanted. Theres not many Divemaster Trainees who could have done that only three weeks after passing advanced. It made me want to get my own boat.

How was your accommodation on Koh Tao?

I thought that the accomodation in 'the tree house' was really good. I had a fan room with sky TV, a fridge, double bed, laundry service and room cleaned twice a week. Having the shop right below was really handy and the family who run the shop and rented the rooms were really nice.

We had a big balcony where everyone would sit and chat at what ever time of day and a small basket of drinks and snacks laided out each day. All in all i thought that the accomodation was really good.

What aspect of the internship did you enjoy most?

By the time it came for me to leave i had just started to take divers out by myself. This was the most rewarding part of the course. Being given the responsibility to start passing things over to other people who were in your position not to long ago is ace. I think I left Koh Tao just as I had started to enjoy everything more than ever. Knowing the answers to people's questions and putting the skills you have just learnt into practice and seeing it all work gives a real sense of acheivement.

What will be your next diving adventure?

For this year I am going to do as much UK diving as I can to gain more experience in harder conditions and hopefully by next summer have completed my instuctor or be well on the way. I will in the next few weeks begin planning the dive expedition 08 for Typhoon Squadron, with me in complete control. Only stipulation may be where we go as the OC has a say on this.

What are you future plans?

Now that I have tried diving I won't stop. I am now looking forward to doing more challenging dives and really want to try cave diving. For my own interest i want to start pushing my own limits which means doing tech dives and deeps dives. At the same time i want to improve my experience so that i can take my instructor course and go back to DJL and dive with new students. I also will be focusing on building my BSAC experiences up as this is what is required for the army.

Maybe getting off the point of diving a little bit - For the next year I am going to have a lot spare time and will be using that time to learn spanish, organise a diving exped, work up enough money to go back to thailand next summer for longer, improve my diving experiences and quals, get back to full fittness, pass my exams, buy mr ali an england shirt ....

Anything else you want to add?

Thailand is ace, England is not!


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