Tips for Working as a Dive Pro in Khao Lak

kohbonwm
Koh Bon

Have you ever considered working in the Similan Islands? Then this may give you a little insight into how to get on-board.

Text Message:

Matt: Hey mate, what’s it like for work in Khao Lak right now?

Deano: Hey man (imagine a Welsh accent), not too bad, it’s getting busy, why, are you coming over?

Matt: Yeah, considering it as long as I can pick up some freelance work to cover costs.

Deano: Do it, there is always work for freelancers.

So I did, spontaneous decisions are almost always the best decisions; 24 hours later, bye bye Koh tao and I’m on the 8 hour journey to Khao Lak!!

When I arrived I made my way to Wicked Diving in Bang Niang where Deano is doing a bit of work and to see my mate (the manager) Keith, obviously for a beer and a catch up. A few hours disappear along with some Chang’s and before long I have a 1 bed rental up the hill away from the hustle & bustle for a measly 5,00 Baht/ month (Bargain!!), a rental bike from Keith (more about her, yes I said her, later).

wickedshop
Wicked Diving starts here….

I have visited Khao Lak several times before as it is the main port for trips to The Similan Islands & have seriously enjoyed a number of live-aboard trips over the last few years, so all I needed to know now was how to get the work.

Sell yourself & network

Ears pinned back and hanging off every word from Deano & Keith (veterans of Khao lak for 6 &12 years respectively and regularly deciphering Deano’s Welsh twang) I find that getting work here is much akin to that anywhere else in the world within the diving industry; get out there with CV in hand and sell yourself!

There are many dive booking agents in and around Khao Lak but roughly 20 operators/ dive centers so get among it and seek out those operators!!

10 Top Tips to gaining work in the industry….

  1. SMILE
  2. Have confidence in your level of achievement
  3. DO NOT BULLSHIT
  4. Have a concise (1 page) CV displaying
    1. a photo of you that is current (not your catfish profile from Tinder)
    2. Details of your dive qualifications
    3. Number of logged dives
    4. Certification counts (if at Instructor level)
    5. Dive insurance details
    6. Confirmation of owning your own equipment
    7. Previous dive employment locations
    8. Certifying agencies I.e PADI, SSI, RAID etc
    9. spoken languages
    10. Local phone number

Note: Take it from me, as an ex-manager the last thing we are looking for is an autobiography since birth, all we are interested in is the relevant information for the industry you are in.

  1. SMILE
  2. Don’t be picky, if your phone rings, answer it and take whatever job is at the other end. If it’s a 1 on 1 4 day tuition job with the most boring inefficient diver in the world just take it!! you are looking for gainful employment and the manager needs you for the job. Do the rubbish one’s and the good one’s will soon follow.
  3. Don’t complain, if something itches at you then you can always avoid working for that company again, alternatively, if you complain too much just to be in the ear of your prospective new boss, then quite frankly you are losing your own job before you even have it.
  4. The customer is your number one priority now, ensure they enjoy the dive time AND post dive time. Don’t be the guy that dives, shakes hands and legs it out of the office at 5pm. Sit, chat, create a post dive excitement with your customers. This has a number of advantages, the main one being is that they are happy with your service. Your activity gets noticed by any and all of the staff that work at the dive centre (especially the manager), good rapport with customers 9 times out of 10 gets rewarded with further work. The customer may review you and the dive centre online, again this is a way to build your employment base.
  5. SMILE
  6. Be professional, don’t cut corners, everything you do as a newbie to the area gets noticed and the majority of dive professionals around the world are excellent at what they do and as such, anything you do to the contrary will reflect badly on the industry and the company employing you. Albeit you may be working in paradise but if you are working early in the morning know when to stop drinking at night. On a number of occasions I have used freelancers for work that had already been designated to another, just because the original freelancer had rocked up for work red-eyed and stinking. In my opinion, if you cannot be professional enough to stay off the booze for the night then you deserve instant dismissal & and your details passed on to fellow managers in the same region. Being unprofessional is the one sure fire way of being ostracized within the location you may be hoping to work.

Living on location

Many dive locations that have more than 1 dive center tend to have the businesses trying to cater for the professionals intending to hang around. Talk to the pro’s you introduce yourself to, ask about accommodation, at the end of the day its the guys and girls on location that will be able to advise you where and where not to live. By 8pm and after several more beers its time to get to the apartment I’ve not even seen yet. But how to get there?

Cue Tina, Tina the 17 year old 125cc 2 stroke scooter that runs out of petrol every 10 minutes, has a kick start that batters the crap out of my ankle at least 5 times a day & makes me look like I am riding a clowns miniature bicycle (much to the merriment of most of the the Thai and Burmese locals) BUT SHE’S AMAZING! By far the smallest, slowest, most unreliable, thirsty bike I have ever ridden; saying that, she’s a bit like a girl I used to date -addictive and the entertainment value is 10 out of 10.

tinawm

The Social aspect

It doesn’t take long for you to find out the cheapest bars and restaurants to frequent, especially the dive bars, many of which have locals discounts and if you start to run out of Baht during your night of drinking (prior to a day off of course) then some will tab you till the following day.

Once The Phone Rings

First and foremost, answer EVERY call, as I’ve already stated make sure you accept the job no matter what it is and get cracking. Show up early, even consider going that extra mile and call into the dive center to say hi the night before. Prepare your lessons/ dives etc because you will be doing one of two things; either staffing on a live aboard for anything up to 6 days & nights, or heading out for a day trip via speedboat.

Live-aboard Staffing

I cannot speak for all of the companies but a general idea of what to expect is as follows:

Many live-aboard companies operate a full range of trips varying from 1 to 6 nights (sometimes more). You will be expected to be at the relevant dive center or pick-up point at a specific time, usually between 5-8pm with all your equipment and your personal clothing, overnight bag ready to go. From there you will go to the pier to board the boat and assist in luggage movements, briefings, meeting customers as they arrive for the boat briefing and introductions to the staff. A light meal is usually provided then its time to be hitting the hay (once all the jobs are done) ready for a 6am start and early morning dive, usually around 7am. The Cruise Manager/ Director will organize the dive groups and then introduce the groups to their relevant dive guide/ leader/ Instructor before breakfast.

The first dive tends to be a check dive, just so the dive pro’s can assess the ability of their customers in relation to the conditions over the following days of diving. You tend to find quite a mixed array of dive experience, for example last week I was working on this beauty!!

deep-andaman-queen

we had 6 groups comprising of mainly fun divers (some of whom have elected to do further courses). 1 private guide (1 on 1), a group of 5 fun divers with dives ranging from 4 to 37, 2 other groups of 5 Open Water divers & 5 Advanced divers respectively and my group named “Team Awesome or Matt’s Harem” comprising of 4 ladies with dive experience ranging from 40 to 1500 dives (Advanced divers, Dive Master and Instructor).

team-harem
Matt’s Harem

Some of the divers have elected to do the Advanced course and therefore will be broken down into a separate group later in the tour to complete their training dives. Others have requested Nitrox training and the same process will occur for them.

The boat was full of customers so there is no available bunks for staff, we are sleeping on the roof under the stars. Don’t expect to be spoiled just because you are on a live-aboard, if its a fully booked boat you get the roof or the lounge, if it’s not completely full then sure, you get a bunk with the rest of the staff. It’s not all misery though, if you are here to get the experience that being in one of the most beautiful corners of the globe then the roof at night and indeed as the sun rises is truly amazing.

The food on all live-aboard boats is amazing, you WILL NOT lose weight whilst on-board, the Thai &/or Burmese staff are some of the happiest you will ever meet and the diving staff are all full of smiles. It’s not hard to realise why when you are here.

Day Trips

Again, it varies from company to company on how they organize the day trips but from what I have seen so far….

Whether it be Try Scuba Dives, Fun Divers or courses you will have a start time between 6-7am at the shop. The customers get picked up by taxi and you meet them at the pier, in the meantime you help with the logistics of moving the equipment from shop to the pier.

speedboatstretched

At the pier you will meet your customers and climb onto the speedboat, a bit of a bumpy ride and roughly 1 hour 20 minutes later you’ll be in the Similans mooring up with the over-night boat to be used as your dive platform for the day. You’ll dive 2 different locations with lunch in between and around 3-330pm head back to the mainland via the speedboat again. It’s a long day but you’re back in time for beer o’clock and a good snooze in your newly acquired accommodation.

What I have found particularly good about Khao Lak is that the dive companies tend to work together, particularly for the day trips, for example; I have done several day trips via Wicked Diving who have used Khao Lak Fun Divers boat for the day alongside other dive companies. People working together even though they are in competition for the custom is great and creates great relations in and outside of the workplace, leading to more phone calls for work…..winner!

To summarize

Be yourself, be professional and be attentive to the companies needs but more importantly, those of your customers it will pay dividends. A perfect example of this is the trip (and group) I am currently on; 4 amazing divers to lead around the best dive sites on offer in Thailand all because I answered the phone and accepted the job. At the time Steve called me I was on a day trip planned to return to Khao Lak at 6pm (meeting this boat was 7pm) so this is my reward for short notice assistance to the company……..need I say any more?

Looking for long-term work in Khao Lak

Quite simply there is 2 routes available for full time work during the season, 1 is to apply in the closed season to any adverts posted & the 2nd is to do a season as a freelancer, prove your worth and maybe receive an offer from one of the companies you end up working for. Their are other routes available for those wishing to get a Pro status and then get work but that’s another story for a later blog.

Working full time will require a Thai Non-B Visa & Work Permit. To gain these you can set up a small online company for X amount of Baht (usually 70,000 +) or you can get one through the company employing you, although this is dependent on the size of the company and how many work permits they can issue. If you are fortunate enough to be offered one then you’re definitely doing your job right. You can find further information about visas & border crossings in an earlier blog

If you have questions please feel free to leave a comment or look my group up on Facebook- Livingaworldaway

Wicked Diving Similans

Deep Andaman Queen

 

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