- Study Abroad
- Volunteer Abroad
- Teach Abroad
- Intern Abroad
- High School
- Gap Year
Pacific Divers - Divermaster Internships in the Cook Islands
Why did you decide to participate in the Pacific Divers internship program in the Cook Islands?
Mitchell: Fresh out of high school, I was already planning on taking a gap year before heading into uni. I had actually left school before the end of the year exams and was starting to regret throwing away those points. Over Christmas, my Uncle's friend, Franz Smith, was around a lot. He was a "Marine Conservation Planning Post-Doctoral Fellow" and was telling me about the time he was spending in the Galapagos Islands and about SCUBA diving itself. Although I had never truly thought about anything involving the ocean or SCUBA as a path to follow, he definitely put a few ideas into my head as to what I wanted to do during the gap year I was struggling to plan.
I did my Open Water and Advanced Open Water at home in Auckland through Dive HQ and then thought about how I could include SCUBA (which I was loving) into the remaining months of 2012. If memory serves it right, it was Franz who gave me the contact to ALMP, the Aitutaki Lagoon Monitoring Project. I followed this up and contacted those behind it, one of whom was Steve Lyons, the manager of Pacific Divers. Unfortunately, the Monitoring Project fell through but luckily Steve emailed me the details of an internship program he runs at Pacific Divers and let me know how I could volunteer or tag along with PICI - Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative - seeing that I was quite keen on volunteer work.
What made this experience unique and special?
Mitchell: Within the first 2 weeks into my internship, I traveled to Mangaia with Jess Cramp and was lucky enough to tag along to different meetings with the Island Council and listen in on the classes she held at Mangaia School. She was there promoting the Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary, which has recently been declared, and also the threats shark fining has to the dwindling numbers of endangered shark species and to the Cook Island culture. This in itself was very rewarding and meant alot to me and has really opened my eyes in regard to marine life, conservation, sharks and the culture of the Pacific.
Returning to Rarotonga after a week there, I was back to my internship. I've already stated about how much I learned during my 6 months there. What made this learning experience unique (atleast to me) came down to several factors. The work was hard at times and yes, there were times between padi courses where you feel like a slave, but you are a slave in paradise. I was in the water more often than not, and the heat, the lagoon, the people, and the good times all made whatever strenuous days I had worthwhile. I also got my Dive Masters out of the whole experience, taking me a step away from starting my Instructors Course which I know will greatly benefit me in the years to come.
Towards the end of my internship, the opportunity to get to Aitutaki became available again. With another member of PICI, Phil Bradshaw, I made my way to Aitutaki, a very popular tourist destination, and for good reason. I was there for 6 weeks! Phil's purpose there was to survey every shore line on the island for suitable nesting grounds for Green or Hawksbill sea turtles (something which has never been done before), educate students on the island about sea turtles at various schools, and conduct meetings with many members of Aitutaki council and public. This was an amazing thing to be involved with; It was hands on volunteer work and on a few occasions I got to locate and excavate different Green turtle nests. While I was there I was also a lot more involved with the schools which I found to be alot of fun.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Mitchell: I've often been told that it's not what you know, it's who you know. And throughout my 6 month internship at Pacific Divers, I was given the opportunity to volunteer, learn, teach, dig, work and dive alongside people like Jess, Phil, Steve and many others. This has undoubtedly impacted my future. I'm currently in the process of applying to James Cook University in Cairns with the (regrettably high) hopes of studying Marine Biology - something I never would have planned to do if not for the advice from various people I met. Although there are several obstacles I put in my own way during high school are currently showing themselves, the time I've spent in Rarotonga with Pacific Divers and PICI has given me the passion to do what it takes to get to where I want to be.
About Pacific Divers
Pacific Divers is one of the very few premier diving instruction organizations based in the Cook Islands, on the eastern end of Rarotonga. Divers will develop skills by the famous Muri Beach in the popular Muri Beach area, located by many tourist spots. Visit the Pacific Divers website to learn more about current divemaster internships available in the Cook Islands.