Diving career dreams end with a tiger shark dive in Aliwal Shoal, Umkomaas

We were planning on becoming scuba diving instructors in the Caribbean, having turned our backs on the corporate world. Marcel had already passed the “Guppy Course” (Open Water 1) and kept me company as I learned mine. Together we followed Open Water 2, Rescue Diver and Master Diver courses.

Then we needed to rack up a lot of hours to become sea dogs worthy of being Dive Masters or Instructors. Aliwal Shoal is known for its rough conditions and fantastic experiences, so we hired an apartment for a month, and signed up to 2 or 3 dives a day. The brief for this dive was to see tiger sharks. Our ‘sea dog’ dive leader Walter took us to “Eels Skins” at a depth of 15m on Aliwal Shoal.

Our time in Umkomaas was an invaluable experience.

Not only did we gain lots of scuba diving experience, we also got a good understanding of the difference between a job vs. a hobby. Scuba diving because you want to isn’t the same as scuba diving because you have to. The more we learned about it from other DM’s and instructors, the more we realised that just like any job, it can also become a trap.

Like gamerangers and other lifestyle jobs, instructors and DMs are often paid very poorly. Aside from food and accommodation, they often rely on tips for the non-essentials in life. Like travelling … if you’re on an island it could become very small, very quickly. Feeling trapped in our previous situation, it was the last thing we wanted to get back into.

I also developed a nasty cold that meant I couldn’t dive for a number of days. What happens then? Freelancers don’t get paid if they don’t work. A reality check we hadn’t considered in our rosy-coloured dreams. Scuba diving as a job was a lifestyle choice we weren’t ready to commit to, so we changed our minds.

Instead, we agreed to an offer of moving to Holland, and relaxed for the last few days.

This Tiger Shark Dive was our last dive, and one of my favourites. So many of the dives we’d done this month had involved a lot of finning to swim against strong currents, so it was magic being able to sit in one spot and watch this aquatic wonderland for an hour. It was like sitting in an infinite aquarium. Schools of dolphins, tuna, a turtle, the massive potato bass and all the other gazillion fishes. And then ending with a waltz while at our deco-stop … just lovely!

We’re not sorry we chased this dream. It’s given us wonderful memories we’ll cherish forever. Who knows what our European future will hold?