I didn’t have the greatest start in my SCUBA diving journey. I suffered severely from mask panic, claustrophobia and anxiety, so much that I didn’t continue diving after I earned my PADI Open Water diver in 2012. It took me a whole two years to build up the courage to get back in the water, and even then, if you had told the 2014 me that I would be travelling to undertake my Open Water SCUBA Instructor five years later… I most likely would have laughed at you so hard I would have given myself a stitch! Seriously. But indeed, that was what I did!
A lot of thought went in to with whom, and where I was going to do my instructor course. It’s a big decision, a lot on money, and I am slightly OCD when it comes to organising travel related things. I knew I had a couple of requirements. I had never undertaken a recreational dive course with a female instructor, so naturally, I wanted a female course director. And secondly, I was going to be spending a few weeks where ever I was going, so it had to be warm. After narrowing down my global search with these two requirements, I found Gili IDC, operating out of Trawangan Dive Center, Gili T (see my previous blog post about the land side of life on the island).
Boy, am I glad that is who I chose. I was recently asked to write a review for Holly, and Gili IDC, and to be honest, I struggled to encapsulate how fantastic an educational experience it had been. So with a few more words available to me, I will give it a go now.
My journey to do my instructor course started in late 2017. I had the most insane amount of email conversations with Holly in the 18 months leading up to me doing my course. She was always responsive, and if it took her longer than 24 hours to reply she was profusely apologetic (after I got the scheduling, it dawned on me that Holly teaches 10 IDC a year, and she was replying to me in her lunch break or after she left work = commitment). Through the course of our communications, I knew I had made the right choice. No question was too stupid, and every question was answered. I got the feeling, even without ever meeting her, that she would be just as attentive to my education. I was starting to get the picture this woman was a role model I wanted to follow closely in the footsteps of.
What is an IDC you may be asking me. IDC is the PADI Instructor Development Course. This consists of 12 days, minimum, of a mix of class work, group work and of course, diving! Gili IDC however, has a 4 day prep work class, where Holly walks the students through all the academic and theory side of diving (physiology, physics, decompression theory, and equipment maintenance). This is great for every one, regardless of how recently they have completed their dive master certification. There were also plenty of pool sessions to hone your skills to the high standard Holly expected, and due to the way the dive center was set up, if you wanted more practice, you could jump in one of the two pools at any time of the day to practice.
The training reef, Hans Reef, was well set up for us to practice our instructional skills. However, one of the biggest things I was not expecting, was to train in current. We get current occasionally in Tasmania, but our training sites are generally pretty calm, with a little bit of surge occasionally. Consequently, the first time we went to the training site, I spent at least 10 minutes trying to tell my buddy the current had changed direction, without knowing the hand signal for it. There were a lot of confused faces, as I tried writing current in the sand, and making up ridiculous hand signals. That hand signal will stay with me forever.
It wasn’t all hard work though! I was able to get for a couple of fun dives during the course. I also did a few speciality instructor courses after my Instructor Exam. The deep instructor speciality was my favorite. Our first dive was at Simon’s Reef and it was stunning. There was a little bit of damage from the 2018 earthquakes, in particular this massive section of beautiful and ancient coral and broken and slid down the bank. However, the fish life and coral appeared reasonably healthy. The most amazing thing about this dive was our safety stop. We were diving as part of a large boat load of experienced divers (mainly dive masters and instructors going on a fun dive). Despite all having our own dive plan, and not seeing the rest of the boat for the whole dive, we all managed to come together for the safety stop. There were about 18 divers hanging motionlessly, in 30 meters of visibility, when all of a sudden, someone started pointing manically behind me. I dared to turn around, and casually swimming approximately 2-3 meters above all of us was a magnificent whale shark. I was crying within 5 seconds, and everyone else had a look of ecstasy on their faces. Back on the boat, we continued our disbelief and I think the high carried on for the rest of my break in Indonesia.
My last couple of days on the island, I chose to do my sidemount speciality. Well, now I am completely obsessed with sidemount diving. The extended bottom time due to more gas, and combined with nitrox, my brain almost imploded. But hands down, the final dive of my sidemount course with my fantastic instructor, Dani, held the tie with the whale shark dive as the best dive of my whole trip. We dropped in to 30 meters on to the Glen Nusa Wreck. There was a lot of current, and Dani signalled to go up on to the bow of the wreck, and carefully hold on to the gunnel. It was breath taking. The current was so strong it almost took the masks off our faces, and regulators out of our mouths. But the sight in front of us, I will never forget. Schooling giant trevalley and batfish hovering effortlessly in the current I was struggling to hold on to the wreck in, and then my favorite, white tip reef sharks right on the edge of the 25 meter visibility, streamline and chilled. We stayed there for ages, and still didn’t feel long enough, but sadly we were beginning to run out of no decompression time, instead of gas.
In short, I learnt so much about instructing, diving and myself. I have come back to Hobart a different person. The IDC is one of the best courses I have done for my self esteem, and my diving career. I love instructing, and helping newer divers discover the beginning of that self confidence in them selves, and I am willing to put almost all of that down to Holly McLeod. Now to continue the adventure.