This article is part two in a series about the process of getting my PADI Divemaster certification. I felt that it was not real life to omit the fear I had to overcome to do this course, so I wrote about that in part one. This article will focus on the good and bad parts of doing my PADI Divemaster course at Sundivers at La Pirogue in Mauritius. At the end of the article you will find my suggestions in choosing a place to do your Divemasters.
After failing at my Divemaster (DMT) course the first time around due to a heavy dose of fear and anxiety, I went into finding a new dive school with more than a little bit of apprehension. I wanted a school that was supportive, organized and safe. As I was spending the summer in Mauritius, I decided that the little island, with it’s warm water and familiar dive sites was the place. I choose to go back to the dive centre where I actually did my first ever scuba dive, Sundivers at the La Pirogue Hotel.
La Pirogue is a friendly four-star hotel on the West Coast and has beautiful green gardens set back from a long stretch of beautiful beach. It’s the kind of resort where you’re happy to spend the day barefoot and your only concerns are the ripe coconuts that fall from the hundreds of palm trees. The dive centre has been running for over thirty years. With a staff of six people they dive three times daily with full boat loads each dive in the summer season. It is a very busy operation and they run like clockwork most days. It has great reviews on Trip Advisor mostly due to the owner who spends his days socialising with guests over cups of coffee- more on this later.
For those who are not familiar with the course, the PADI accredited DMT Certification is a structured course that takes between 6 and 12 weeks to complete. DMT applicants need to be above 18, have 60 logged dives by the end of the course, and are certified rescue divers. It has lots of different components from water skills to extensive decompression theory. It pretty much covers everything you need to know about diving, how diving affects your body, how to be an affective leader and how to grow a diving business. It’s incredible comprehensive which is justifiable when your learning to take other people’s safety in your own hands. When you have finished the course and passed the exam, you can lead and assist with a whole bunch of PADI accredited courses. For more information, http://www.padi.com has everything you would need to know.
Instead of focusing on the specifics of the course, I thought I would write about my personal experience doing my training at the La Pirogue dive centre. Although I ended up finishing and passing the course, there were many things about how the dive centre was run that didn’t sit well with me. I hope that by reading my experience, I can you help you choose an amazing dive school for your DMT or just simply entertain you with my stories (stick to the end to read about my near-encounter with a corpse and how my instructor nearly killed me).
The Staff- The dive centre at La Pirogue has some great staff. All the main instructors work so hard at their jobs, love diving, and are just positive human beings. My two main instructors, Anais and Jean-Marc are safe and patient teachers and during the day would rarely even get to sit down to shovel some food into their mouths. They were happy to call off a dive if the diver was panicking or distressed. Herman the Divemaster was like a kid in a candy store every time he went diving and he would laugh manically every time he played a prank on me. His favourite prank would be to wait until I was just ready to get out of the communal shower, then he would leap in with a giant handful of shampoo and rub it into my hair. I would then have to wait until he wasn’t around to wash the masses of frothing shampoo out of my now squeaky clean hair. His other favourite prank was the old bread-in-the-BCD trick. Having bread in your dive gear would lead to you slowly getting engulfed by hungry fish on your dive.
The Dive Sites- Having now done dives off every coast in Mauritius, the dive spots in Flic En Flac are very good. With only a couple of dive companies utilising around 20 dive spots, you almost never run into another group of divers. A good thing for new DMT’s because divers all look remarkably similar underwater and you really don’t want to mix groups. The coast has two very good beginner sites (less than 20m) named ‘The Aquarium’ and ‘Coral Garden’. Both sites are just out of the reef and can be reached by a ten minute boat ride. Both are rocky sites with anemones, gathering schools of fish, and occasionally impressive eagle rays. The deeper advanced sites nearby stand out with their rocky formations and colourful soft-corals.
The Location- This played heavily into the decision for me as the dive centre was a comfortable 20 minute drive from my apartment. Flic en Flac has some amazing spots to eat cheap street food and I quickly got into the routine of buying lunch for a couple of dollars everyday.
The Price- As a near-broke traveller, the price was obviously another big factor in my decision. The management at the La Pirogue dive centre allowed me to do my DMT for 12,000 Rupees (AUD$450). A good price considering you can pay upwards of AUD$1000 in Australia. Although in retrospect it did turn out to be a “ you get what you pay for” experience.
The Intensive Experience- I was thrown into the deep end (pun intended) when I was expected to lead a refresher course on my own on day one. Sometimes having such a hands-on experience felt like slave labour but other times it felt like I was getting some invaluable experience working as a dive professional.
The formal training- Because I was doing my course over the busy season (summer), the centre was running at full capacity everyday. Full capacity being three dives, up to seventeen divers on each dive with only three instructors and a DMT…. In other words, it was crazy busy.