Tag Archives: instructor

Visiting and Living on Koh Phi Phi Islands

I’ve been in Thailand for nearly a month now and spent the entire time on Koh Phi Phi Don Island. I love it!

Don’t get any romantic ideas of a quiet, remote village surrounded by beautiful sea, mountains and jungle à la Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach.  It was up until The Beach was filmed here and now it’s a tourism and scuba diving magnet with a big party scene and it’s more expensive than most places in Thailand. It is however surrounded by beautiful sea, mountains and jungle and still has its own soul and vibe. The people that live on Phi Phi tend to be very helpful and smiley. Everything and everyone moves at their own pace and locals still seem genuinely curious about people that come to stay on Phi Phi for a while. I think the place is just on that fine line of being big enough to be able to handle dozens of boat loads of tourists everyday while still maintaining a local community feel and mentality. Oh, and it really is a spectacularly beautiful place.

Loh Dalum Bay
Loh Dalum Bay

The town is built on a sandy beach between two tall limestone ridges and is less than two meters above sea level. On both sides are semicircular bays lined with beaches. Tonsai Bay on the south side of town is crowded with longtail and other water vessels. Nice to look at but generally not great for sunbathing and swimming. On the north side is Loh Dalum Bay and it’s the place to be for swimming, paddling, sunbathing and of course, partying. During the day it’s fairly quiet and chilled while it night it bursts to life with beach bars and clubs.

Tonsai Bay and Loh Dalum Bay
Tonsai Bay and Loh Dalum Bay

Since I’m diving almost everyday starting at 7am I haven’t been seeing much of the partying side of Phi Phi. We mostly have a beer at work in the evenings then head to one of the more chilled out places for one or 2 more before bed. If you plan on visiting and you’re looking for chilled out drinks that don’t cost a fortune head to The Sports Bar, Relax Bar or the only rooftop bar on Phi Phi, Banana Bar (also one of the diving communities favourites). If you’re looking for a more lively scene then start at Dojo and Stockholm Syndrome and when they close head to the beach and somewhere like Slinkys.

In less than a month I’ve stayed at 3 different bungalows/rooms. If you’re staying more than a month there’s a huge range of accommodation options and not very much useful information on the internet to help. My first place was towards the back of town (10 minute walk to work) and cost 9000 Baht per month. It was one room, had a private bathroom and a fan but no hot water and toilets that are flushed manually using a bucket of water. Despite being a hot and dark room it was fine until the rain came. Then it turned into a dank, leaking puddle cave with new layers of mold growing daily. Any lengthy exposure to mold can be really really bad for your respitory system. Not cool if you dive very day. Time to move! Next was a 10000 per month place 2 minutes from work. Complete with hot shower, flushing toilet and a little fridge I thought I’d hit jackpot when I inspected the room. It was bright and spacious compared to my previous room but they had used a heavy amount of cleaning products which I didn’t like but I figured at least that meant they had just cleaned the room. Turns out they had just covered up the smell of mold. One nights stay revealed everything was riddled with mold. Even the pillows smelt like mold. Time to move! Only this time the manager refused to give me back my months rent. She wouldn’t move me to a new room either. After hours of arguing I decided my health was more important than 10000 Baht so I moved out anyway. A word of sincere advice if you’re coming to Phi Phi, do not stay at K House! I’m now in a 10000 a month place which is dry and clean. I have a hot shower and flushing toilet but dear god I miss having a fridge. Oh well.. can’t have everything.

If you’re thinking about staying on Phi Phi for a month or more most places will range from about 7000 Baht per month to 25000 per month. For 7000 Baht you’ll get a private room with a fan and shared toilet facilities. Expect no hot Water and toilets that are flushed manually using a bucket of water. Reach the 10000 Baht per month mark and you’ll be looking at private bathroom, hot water, flushing toilet, and maybe aircon and/or a small fridge. 25000 will get you a beautiful new building over looking one of the bays on a quiet location but it’s still likely to be just one room. I haven’t seen or heard of any actual apartments with a kitchen etc… needless to say, everyone eats out all the time. Good thing the food is relativey cheap. A couple of last words on accommodation speaking from some bitter experiences:
1. Book a hotel or dorm room first, come to Phi Phi then start walking around and viewing accommodation
2. Check if bills are or are not included in your monthly rent
3. Try and pay your monthly rent half upfront and half at the end if possible
4. Always check the room for damp. Lots of rooms are really unhealthily damp so if you smell or see it walk away no matter how good the deal is.

If you’re staying for a few days, Trip Advisor is definitely worth a visit to find your accommodation options. If you have any questions please just shout using comments below or use my contact form.

Yep, so I eat out everyday, 3 meals a day. It’s my least favourite thing about living on Phi Phi. I miss being able to make myself a simple sandwich or quickly scramble some eggs the way I like them. Since everyone eats out all the time there is (thankfully!) quite a a lot of variety and options. My personal favourite is Grand PP Arcade. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the menu is relatively small but the food is perfection, prices are reasonable and the owners are lovely. It’s possible to eat out for less than 60 baht a meal but more realistically you’re looking at between 100 and 200 baht a meal. I’ve started putting together my top 10 restaurants on Phi Phi Island here.

Breakfast at work. I love working next to PP Arcade.  My wallet doesn't!
Breakfast at work. I love working next to PP Arcade. My wallet doesn’t!

The diving on Phi Phi is awesome but my shop doesn’t allow instructors to take cameras with them (for good reason) so I need to come up with another plan to bring you some diving pictures. When I have that I’ll do a full article on the diving here. For now I leave you with some above water shots of the dive sites 🙂

Ciao for now

PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) and the Instructor Exam (IE)

Yesterday was my last day in Mexico for a while so I thought I better get this post out sooner rather than later!

When I started this blog I set out to become a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor.  Well I made it!  It’s been a lot of work but hugely rewarding and 4 months has blurred past at incredible speed . When I arrived in Mexico I was qualified to Advanced Open Water with Nitrox.  I still had to pass Rescue Diver, Emergency First Response and Dive Master.  The Instructor Development Course (IDC) seemed so very very far away.  6 months on and I have the Open Water Scuba Instructor qualification with Master Scuba Diver Trainer prep completed and Side Mount Instructor.  I don’t regret the change and time invested for a second!

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Jo and Angel as Course Directors and mentors.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Jo and Angel as Course Directors and mentors.

To anyone considering going for Rescue Diver I can definitely recommend it.  It has to be the most fun and useful diving course I’ve done so far.  First you learn how to look after yourself if you get into trouble then you learn how to look after others.  For the first time in your diving life you will start to look beyond yourself and become aware of how other divers might be feeling, what that could lead to and how to help them before any really serious issues arise.  You practice the rescue drills often enough for them to reliably kick in when they’re needed. It will give you more confidence and overall resulting in you becoming a better diver.  Included in the Rescue Diver course is Emergency First Response if you don’t already have it. If you are keen my top tips here are:

  1. Anyone can do it.  It’s not just for people looking to go professional.  It’ll take you out of your comfort zone but you’ll never regret it.
  2. Find an instructor that regularly teaches the Rescue Diver course. All instructors are qualified to teach the course but not all instructors have the experience to do it justice and give you value while making it fun.
  3. A group of 4 students is the perfect number to have in a rescue course.  1 or 2 students runs the risk of being very dull while more than 6 will likely equate to many more hours in the water than are comfortable.
Maybe don't try this at home...
Maybe don’t try this at home…
Brought Back to Life and Loving it!
Brought Back to Life and Loving it!

The Dive Master program was a real joy for me and the other guys doing the course at the same time.  We had a lot of skills to master and experience to gain but I’m confident we will all remember that time as one of the most fun diving periods of our lives.  Since experience can only be earned and not taught and experience was what we seriously lacked the most important task was to dive. Diving, diving and more diving.  The program we signed up to allowed us to volunteer for all and every dive going as long as there was room on the boat.  Some of us made the most of this while some preferred to have a little more dive/life balance.  In either case we were given just enough responsibility to push us and keep things interesting while not enough to cause any real havoc.  That said, there was more than one occasion where an instructor debriefed us after the dive in a less than glowing fashion. Some might even go so far as to say we got torn a new one on occasion!  Completely undeserved obviously!  Some things to consider before you go for Dive Master:

  1. Choose between working for free to earn your DM qualification or paying for a DM course.  Working for free will take a lot longer and in most places you’ll work bloody hard but I’ve met many people that did this and not one of them regretted doing it this way.  Paying for the course is quicker and, in my case, was a fantastic 3 months of my life diving as little or as much as I could handle.
  2. Do your homework before choosing a dive center to do your DM course.  There’s Facebook groups such as Dive Jobs Worldwide which are full of people willing to offer opinions and help on which dive outfits are the good ones.  Don’t be afraid to ask.
One of my dive buddies during Dive Master training.
One of my dive buddies during Dive Master training.

The Instructor Development Course (IDC) that leads onto the Instructor Exams (IE) were expected to be by far the hardest diving challenges I had faced to this point.  Later on, it turns out, the biggest challenge is actually doing the job you worked so hard to get qualified to do but hey, that’s for another post!  The IDC and IE are, in reality, just not that difficult if you’ve been trained well as a Dive Master. You do need to be willing to put in a bit of study and preparation time.  There’s already loads of info on the net about what’s involved in an IDC and IE so I’ll leave it you if you want to look it up.

IDC MARCH from TheGoProFamilly on Vimeo.

So where to next?  London for a week and then to Thailand.  I’ll be on Koh Phi Phi starting the 19th of May. For the next couple of months at least I’ll be updating from there.  There’s plenty more I want to write about Playa Del Carmen and the journey so far so stay tuned folks!

Ciao for now Ben

A Quick Update on Playa Del Carmen Since New Years (Video)

It’s been hard work since the beginning of year but incredibly rewarding.  Not much time for blog articles so I thought I’d post a quick update with a small teaser video and attach a promise that there’s more coming 🙂

My Dive Master group are all qualified Emergency First-aid Responders. Yes, folks I can cure what ails you, sort of, well at least keep you alive until the professionals arrive… mostly…

Phil and I have finished 2 weeks of Spanish Lessons.  Our Spanish is a little better but that’s not saying much considering before the lessons it was none existent!  But it’s a start and will help give us a basis to learn more.  They also took the time to share some of the South American traditions over the New Year:

New Years Eve and New Years day was a lot of fun.  We went to dinner at a local place called El Fogon and were home by 21:30.  The plan was to go to one of the Dive Instructors house to see in the New Year.  Unfortunately we fell asleep and woke up at 23:40.  We rushed down to the beach and celebrations started again from there.

Other than that it’s been diving, diving diving.  It’s all about learning, gaining experience and learning some more.  We’ve done a lot of diving in swimming pools (currently nursing an ear infection from said pools), plenty of diving in the ocean and a small amount of diving in cenotes.  I have an awesome blog post on the cenotes dive so stay tuned folks!

For now here’s a small taster of around Playa Del Carmen and some of the diving. The video looks much better if you set it to HD!

The Count Down Begins!

4 weeks and counting… the well paid and comfortable job comes to an end, I wave farewell to London and everyone I love that keeps me here and I move to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for 5 months.  The beginning of a journey towards becoming a SCUBA Diving instructor, Spanish speaker and proficient underwater photographer.

I intend this blog to be the telling of that journey.  As well as keeping friends and family updated I hope it will help and inspire people that might be thinking of taking a sabbatical, career break or just thinking about making a change.

I’ll be learning how this blogging malarkey works along the way so must beg your patience.