Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: A Typical Day Around The Shop

  • Updated: November 15, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 2019

Leading up to my departure I had grand visions of spending my two months in Thailand getting to dive in the ocean or be in the pool teaching almost if not every single day. And sure enough my first few days did get me off to an impressive start with a solid 10 dive tour across the Similan Islands on the dive shops liveaboard the Similan Quest.

But of course I'm not here just to have fun. My other main goal is to complete my SDI divemaster certification and that involves a theory portion requiring time spent in a classroom. Basically you go back and for all those cursory rules you learned in Open Water and Advanced Open Water you dive a little deeper and *sigh* learn how to do the math. And of course I'm getting exposure to the ins and outs of how things work around the Sign Scuba shop and how they run the boat. This is how my non-boat days typically go.

I'm staying at small hotel called the RT located not far from the shop. So far I'm pretty sure I've been the only guest for most of my stay possibly because it is located a fair distance from the north and south tourist hubs of Khao Lak.

On a typical day I leave my room at about 5:45 am while it's still dark outside. If I'm lucky it's not raining (or if it is not too hard) otherwise breakfast is going to be whatever scraps I have in the hotel room.

I start at the shop at 6:30 am which leaves me needing to find food earlier than most places are open. So far the best option I've found is two street carts about a half mile up the road selling grilled pork on a stick and another that has instant coffee that's a bit on the small on not great tasting side but gets the job done. Ish. And you can get it iced which makes it a little easier to get down.

The shop lent me a bicycle which has sped up the morning commute quite a bit and depending on the day I eat quickly on a nearby bench or gingerly balance the cup while I pedal back to the hotel.

A few minutes before 6:30 am I hope back on the bike and pedal my way down the partially paved / mostly dirt road to Sign Scuba. Along the way I pass several private residences and usually get eyed by a few stray dogs and a small flock of chickens.

Once at the shop the door is generally already open and I can get to work checking the gear bags ready to by send out to the big boat.

These are a mix of bags packed with our rental equipment or gear from others agents who have guests on our boat for the day.  I check the names / numbers against a sheet made the night before and make sure everything is accounted for since a missed bag basically ruins a day for someone.

That done it's time to start loading gear into the truck which depending on the morning can get a bit snug.

Our usual load involves gear bags, drinking water, food resupply, day bags for the guests, a large cooking fuel canister, and any miscellaneous equipment or supplies needed by the boat.  And if we're off schedule a big pile of fuel canisters.

We then leave for the pier with a mix of staff, dive guides from other stores, and thai helper boys occasionally taking the back of the truck from "slightly snug" to "packed in cheek to cheek" And we hold on tightly as whoever is driving careens through Thailand traffic since there aren't seatbelts back there.

After about a 20 minute drive we arrive at Thap Lamu Pier and there is a flurry of activity as we unload everything from the truck and into the speedboat and then head over to the tables to welcome the clients for the day.

As with any good operation the key component to kicking things off is of course signing paperwork and scuba is no exception. Everyone signs yet another waiver to cover the boat, we go over a few quick rules for the transit and boat stay, and then we escort them to the speedboat where they surrender their shoes and climb in for a fun day of diving in the Similans.

Once the speedboat is off the main time pressure is off and things can get a bit more relaxed.

Next up we have a series of stops at a local gas station and then out to the area where the speedboat is stored at night. It's located at the end of a rural road that has a number of rubber tree groves along the way.

Fuel for the speedboat is kept in these rather large barrels. They get filled inside the truck but that does mean we have to offload them. And they can have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 liters.

Peter has his method down to a science and I usually share the duty. It's easy enough as long as you don't get your feet in the way of the barrel and as long as you don't lose control of it.

The middle part of the day is usually spent doing the classroom review / assessment for a few hours hopefully with a break in there somewhere to grab lunch.

Other days it's been off to the pool to help with teaching, guiding a local wreck dive off a longtail boat, or working on demonstration skills with my instructor Peter.

A little after 3 pm it's time to go back to the pier and grab the guests coming back from the big boat. So into the truck we go.

The main trick at the pier is trying to get everything off the boat and clear off before the literal hoards of chinese tourists arrive from their day snorkeling out in the similans. Multiple boats will arrive disgorging 30 or 40 people each and the crowd then strolls down the pier while the operators try to sell them small plates with their pictures on them for 200 baht a piece.

Once we've escaped we have a few quick stops to drop off dive staff, dive gear, pick up more fuel (occasionally coffee), and then we arrive back at the shop.

 Once we're back it's time to unload all the bags and wash any of the gear belonging to Sign.

The back of the shop has an area for washing and drying gear. First off I dump, rinse, and then refill the large bin with clean water from a nearby hose. Then I wash all the masks, computers, and regulators. The latter get hung on the side with the second stages in the bin and the first stages just get sprayed down with fresh water from the hose.

Once that's done I pull out the masks and regulators, hang them up, and add some Dettol to the water which is an antiseptic. Now I can wash all of the wetsuits, BCDs, fins, and bags.

Once that's done the other staff are generally busy confirming all the bookings for the following day and getting the paperwork in order for the permit that allows them to go to the Similans so I'm usually turned loose somewhere around 6 or 7 pm unless there are tanks to fill.

I climb on the bike, ride the short distance back to the hotel, take a quick shower, and then head out for dinner with the goal of getting to bed as early as I can manage to start the whole thing over again.

So that's the basic structure of my typical day around town. There is almost always something else going on that throws a spanner into the works but days like are just periodic breaks between the boat trips which has been where I've spent most of my time.

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