Laura Harron, our Guest Blogger based in New Zealand, gives us an account of her week working as dive guide:
A PADI Open Water Diver course begins! I meet my three students in the morning and we begin to explore what we all want out of the week. The three of them want to go diving and see some incredible marine life, I want to take them diving and hopefully produce some new avid, safe divers who will pass on their experiences and convert to the tribe of marine conservationists.
We meet at the shop in the morning and the guys try on final bits of gear we will need for the pool. We then hop in our dive shuttle and drive to Whangarei, our nearest town with a training pool.
Time to go out to The Knights! My ’nearly’ PADI Open Water Divers bounce into the dive shop ready for some open ocean diving. I brief them on their skills, and what the day will involve before we step onto our dive boat for morning introductions to the rest of the crew, and our boat safety briefing. On the way out our eyes are peeled for whales and dolphins, we often see both on the 12 NM journey to and from the reserve. At the islands my students perform all the requirements for open water dives one and two, in the process we are graced with the presence of enormous stingrays, large schooling snapper and trevally gorging on krill, and scorpion fish as large as dogs. Back in Tutukaka I show them how to wash their gear, then we log our dives and discuss what we saw. They are hooked already.
Last day of the course, I tell the guys I want to see superior skills and good buddy etiquette. It’s also their second day on the dive boats so I inform them of their duty to laugh at the skipper’s jokes, even if they sound familiar. Out at the islands they are superb. After their dive we congratulate them and take some photos of that new diving glint in their eyes. The weather is stunning, so we go for a tour of the arches and visit Riko Riko Cave, the world’s largest sea cave by volume. It has awesome acoustics so we encourage our divers to sing, yoddle or shout out. The echo lasts for over ten seconds. On the way home we are lucky enough to spot a school of false killer whales. They spy hop next to the boat enjoying the oohs and ahhs of all the passengers. One begins to tail slap which is often a sign of territorial behavior, and soon after a pod of perhaps 30 – 40 bottle nose dolphins engulf the boat and begin to surf on the wake of our bow. We are one of the few operations that have a permit to swim with dolphins, however we are not allowed to swim with whales, so alas we watch from the boat! Good day at the office.
Day off. The morning is dedicated to mundane chores and the afternoon is dedicated to a 4 hour coastal walk with stunning views and isolated bays. We have a picnic on the empty beaches and I take photos of my friend doing handstands in the sand.
A normal day crewing on the dive boats. We meet and greet our customers in the morning and kit them up with everything they need. On the way out we have a chat with everyone on board, and divide them into groups based on experience. We recap the concept of buoyancy control in 2 piece 7mm suits, signal use and discuss how we will dive together. I have a few nudibranch fans in the group. Easy! The nudis are everywhere at the moment. During the surface interval we make hot drinks for our divers, go through ID books and send them upstairs for the skippers animated stories of the history of the islands. In the afternoon we guide our second dive and them it’s time to head home. We stop to watch a sunfish cruise past the boat, a pretty rare sight so it’s a treat for all of us.
Day off. Into town in the morning for the weekly supply of groceries, and then off to a BBQ on the beach in the evening where we enjoy a few steak and rums under the stars. There are only three bars and restaurants in Tutukaka, but it’s not a problem for most of us instructors. Life on the coast is more about outdoor eating on the beach or on the deck. We camp, trek, surf (if you can) and fun dive on our days off. Coastal life is pretty sweet.
Laura Harron, 29, originally hails from Ireland and has previously worked in Malta and Tonga before moving to New Zealand. She is now based Poor Knight Islands with Dive! Tutukaka.