Dive Careers Course Director, Chris Freestone writes about his first impressions of Malapascua, and what we hope will be the first of many IDCs at Thresher Shark Divers!
After a long overnight trip from the Gulf of Thailand to Cebu in the Philippines I was welcomed at the airport by a friendly guy named Paul, who is one of the drivers for Thresher Shark Divers. We had a quick chat about the local people and Malapascua Island and then, exhausted from the journey, I settled down in his comfortable van and reclined the seat for a nap. A couple of hours later we arrived at the pier, where one of the Thresher Shark Divers boats was waiting to collect me. At the pier, Malapascua was just a tiny island in the distance, but after only 30 minutes we pulled up on the beach just in front of TSD and I jumped out onto the beautiful Bounty Beach.
I was welcomed by some of the local and western diving staff who were extremely friendly and had obviously been expecting me. I had quick chat with the manager, Dino, who I know from a few years ago on Koh Tao (diving’s such a small world!) and I was off to my accommodation to settle in for a good night’s rest.
The IDC Prep Course started on the morning of the January 24th. Only days before, TSD had finished building their new, improved and much bigger IDC classroom, and it was all prepared and ready to go. The classroom is just downstairs from my room, and also in the same complex as some of the candidates’ rooms, so it is really convenient for everyone.
After meeting the candidates I already knew we were going to have a fun couple of weeks together! They were an interesting mix of different nationalities and a really nice group of people. As most of them had already been at TSD for a while doing additional training, they already knew each other pretty well and were good friends already.
We had Natalia from Russia and Livia from Switzerland, who had both been with TSD to complete Rescue Diver on up. Benoît did his Divemaster, as well as TSDs patented DM Pro course. Willy from the Netherlands (or is that Finland?!) completed his DM with TSD last year and some Technical Diving Courses over Christmas and returned for more punishment; given that Willy was the main mischief-maker in the class, whether this was more punishment for Willy or for TSD, I am not quite sure! Natalie from the UK had already completed TSDs DM Refresher program. The DM Refresher is a very useful course, only available to TSDs IDC candidates, that brings you up to speed if you feel you need some extra tuition in advance of the PADI IDC. So if it has been a while since you completed your Divemaster, if you are entering the IDC from a dive agency that is not PADI, or you just want to build up your confidence, this is the program for you! And last, but not least, Su from Taiwan flew in especially for the IDC.
As the days sped by, first through the IDC Prep Course and then the PADI IDC, the candidates progressed really well and developed a close bond together, which always helps in any IDC. My job was also made a lot easier because of the great staff at TSD, and logistics regarding confined sessions and boat times for OW presentations was faultless. So a big thank you to Amy Walton and Dino for always having things organised without me even asking.
Of course we did find some time to socialize as a group and with the Thresher Shark Divers staff members. The TSD bar and restaurant, Oscars, has a good variety of food on the menu and always has a lively and welcoming atmosphere. During my time around the dive shop and bar I very quickly saw that the TSD Instructors were not only very thorough with their teaching methods during the day, but also enjoyed evening antics with their students. One thing I will always remember is the certification Shark Bite shot for all newly certified divers, and the special speech that comes with it, that celebrating TSDs humble beginnings! (You’ll have to come to Malapascua to hear it!).
The certification shots are really great personal touch and definitely something that will be remembered and taken away by the students. So to all TSDs Instructors, keep up the outstanding work!
I also had a few great fun dives with the local guides (these guys really know where to find the cool stuff). Not to mention a couple of awesome dives with the famous Thresher Sharks. The best dives for me were at Monad Shoal, Gato Island and the Dona Marilyn Wreck. Malapascua has a wonderful mixture of macro, sharks and beautiful soft corals and there is still plenty left for me to see on my next trips.
When it came time for the start of the PADI Instructor Exam, the candidates were confident but also nervous. But that is quite normal – the IE is always a stressful time for all of us as the candidates put into practice everything they have learned over the previous weeks. George Wegmann, the PADI Examiner, evaluated the candidates over the two day IE process in the classroom, pool and ocean.
But as always at TSD, all of our guys passed easily, with some great scores and excellent feedback from George. Finally their hard work had paid off and it was time to party!
After celebrations were complete, and hangovers nursed, most of the candidates took some PADI Specialty Instructor Ratings which will definitely help them in finding jobs. Livia has already found work on Malapascua; Willy and Natalie will complete the invaluable MSDT Prep and Learn to Teach program; and the others are off into the wild blue yonder, hopefully to pursue their new careers.
I am now coming to the end of my stay in Malapascua, and I head back to Thailand soon. I leave with great memories of the people and the island itself. I look forward to coming back to work again with TSD at some point in the near future. Once again I would like to congratulate Livia Villiger, Natalie Dagnal, Natalia Andreeva, Benoît Guillaume, Su Huai and Willy Alberti for passing the PADI Instructor Exams. More photos here.
Congratulations to all and I wish you the very best of success for the future!