I arrived in Raja Ampat on 8 Oct to start the Divemaster program with IOP. It was a bit too much to take in the first time I arrived, considering the basic facilities in place for the IOP interns. We were hosted at the Scuba Republic Base Camp in Waisai, Waigeo island, Raja Ampat. My initial thoughts were that it was going to be a long 7-8 weeks here.
Fast forward 7 weeks later, and now back in the comforts of home, I have nothing but fond memories of my time with the IOP team in Raja Ampat.
The people that run the IOP program in Raja Ampat i.e. Selene and Mario are top-class Diving Instructors, and coupled with the academic background in Marine Sciences, they made the whole 7 weeks there filled with so much learning.
Apart from the required SSI, PADI content, what was good for me was the experience sharing from Sel and Mario in handling real-life diving situations. Be it equipment issues, people not feeling well, a difficult 'diver', personality issues and so on. The informal sessions on top of the course content were what I found valuable. A lot of support also from the IOP staff at Raja i.e. Shae, Mike and later Jon. Being a senior intern from day-1 (I'm 52 years young) was one of the concerns I had when I arrived, but everyone there was very supportive, and I had no problems fitting in early on and really be part of the family. But seriously, there was a lot of content to absorb, and this was no holiday camp. Assignments and knowledge reviews were frequent and had to be submitted on time. Those in Raja would know what "BRUV LUV" means very well by now :).
Looking back, I came home a much better diver than when I started. The Divemaster certification allows me to pursue opportunities to further my training to work with disabled people that want to experience diving. The learnings on the science content makes me more knowledgeable on the different fish species identification when I'm in the water ( I've had the opportunity to see a Red Emperor Snapper hiding under a coral (go guess if this a Snapper or Emperor!). The workshops and practical session with corals will allow me to participate actively on future coral restoration work in Malaysia.
The final week was the hardest for me at least, starting with the Stamina test, the final Skills sessions and the Stress test (doing the equipment exchange underwater with a buddy 2 sizes smaller than me was a definite challenge !).
I ended my 7 weeks with a fantastic party! The customary "Snorkel Test" to finish of the program was one I would not forget in a long time.
To Mario, Sel, Shae, Jon.. A big thank you to guys. Thanks for taking care of us interns and ensuring that we were always motivated, making the learning sessions on land and in the water enjoyable, interesting and most importantly SAFE.