After much deliberation, I decided to start my year abroad working in a Scuba Diving Centre in Spain. I agreed to work in exchange for my PADI Divemaster certificate which would allow me to assist instructors and lead qualified divers alone.
The inspiration came from my first diving experience in Borneo, Malaysia and the promise of a relaxing summer spent on the beach seemed an appealing way to spend my days at work. Little did I know it wouldn’t quite turn out as I had expected…
Whilst on the bus from Girona airport near Barcelona, I was extremely excited to embark upon my first adventure of the year. My enthusiasm however, was somewhat dampened when I arrived in the coastal town of Lloret de Mar aka Toilet de Mar which was splattered with dreary, decaying 70s style hotels, hordes of drunk holidaymakers, and what must be the world’s busiest beach. Bearing in mind that my aim was to improve my Spanish, things weren’t looking great.
On my first day at the dive centre I was introduced to the boss, who, let’s just say, wasn’t the politest chap I’d ever met. He enjoyed playing solitaire online, eating paprika flavoured ‘patatas fritas’ and most of all ignoring potential customers. But his best attribute had to be his hatred for the English. As you can imagine, I was beginning to question whether it would be the fun-filled summer I’d dreamt of.
Despite the tired town and monster of a boss, it can’t be denied that the diving along the Costa Brava is in fact fantastic (not quite Borneo, but surprisingly good!) There are hundreds of octopi and eels, but the highlight for me was definitely my first night dive, when all sorts of unusual creatures reveal themselves in the glare of the moon, such as scorpion fish and cuttlefish.
Despite the tired town and monster of a boss, it can’t be denied that the diving along the Costa Brava is in fact fantastic.
A typical work day involved assisting the instructors on boat dives and taking customers for ‘Try Dives’ – their first ever dive. ‘Try Dives’ are particularly challenging as the first time diving can be a strange experience. The sensation of breathing underwater can feel unnatural to begin with. Our job was to try and ease any panic felt by the divers and also help them to master buoyancy control. For many, the temptation to play with the buoyancy control button is too great, and consequently, I found myself routinely chasing after floating divers.
For those interested in becoming a Divemaster, there are a number of practical exercises you must complete. One of the most challenging is exchanging all of your equipment underwater with a partner. You each have to remove and swap each piece of equipment one by one whilst being videoed and timed.
As well as the practical element, there is also a lot of studying to do. To reach Divemaster level, you must first complete PADI Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, First Aid and Emergency and finally, Divemaster. The studying itself is interesting and after each course there is a practical and written exam. You are also expected to be able to give a brief to first-time divers (i.e. explain how all the equipment works) and eventually lead a dive alone.
I think it justifiable to claim that Lloret won’t be winning any awards for beauty, but the rest of the Costa Brava is beautiful. Just outside the town there are some stunning hidden coves and sleepy Catalan towns that are definitely worth exploring. I may have qualified in Toilet de Mar, but I now have the opportunity to work as a Divemaster around the world following the flow of fish to my heart’s content.
Photo courtesy of David Domingo