223505_10151691229449942_1337041437_nAletta Van Der Merwe

PADI Assistant Instructor and PADI Divemaster, part time

Scubaversity, Johannesburg South Africa

PADI Five Star IDC Centre


What is your current job?

Accounts Executive


Describe a typical day in your working life.

I wake up at 05h00 to leave at 06h15 in the morning. After dropping my children at school and sitting in traffic for about an hour plus, I finally get to the office. Because I’m in a sales environment I need to pre-plan my day to make time for all I need to accomplish in just 8 hours. A typical day consists of contacting and following up on clients, setting up new meetings and going to set meetings, sending quotations and handling client queries. Our company provides technical solutions to huge corporate clients, so my day can also change within a second – from being structured to doing damage control most of the day. So if it’s not stressful enough being in a sales environment, I have an enormous target to reach each month as well. But hey, my motivation for working as hard as I do is to keep on diving and getting to go on trips with Scubaversity – I work to dive!!!


Diver in cave of glass-fish, by Peter DriesselWhen did you start diving?

We are a family of four and 3 of us started diving in June 2012 – Yes, in the middle of winter! My daughter was only 8 at the time, but we can’t wait for her to join us when she turns 10 in November 2013. My husband, my son (10 at the time) and I did a DSD the end of August and were hooked immediately. We did our PADI Open Water Diver on a very cold winters day and qualified in Miracle Waters the following weekend…..it was freezing, but so worth it. The very next weekend we went to Sodwana Bay for our very first sea dives and for my husband and I to complete our PADI Advanced Openwater Course. We have not stopped since. We then started with our specialities one after the other and gathered as much experience as possible. After completing 6 specialities we did our PADI Rescue Diver course and then our Emergency First Response course. We then decided that it was time to start with PADI Dive Masters. There were 7 of us doing the course at the time and because of everyone’s hectic work and social life, it took us about 12 weeks to complete. It was tough because of us having young kids at home, but hey, it was great fun. We were such a strong group and I think we learned so much more than what you would learn on a typical Dive Masters course. So after Dive Masters my husband and I did our Emergency First Response Instructor course and then immediately thereafter we did our PADI Assistant Instructors course. So just to recap – we were so impressed with this ‘diving thing’ that we managed to do our PADI; Open Water, Advanced Open Water course, Six PADI specialities diver courses (Search & Recovery, Deep, Nitrox, Shark, Wreck and Equipment) Rescue course, EFR course, Dive Master course, EFRI and AI in just under 6 months. Unfortunately, I had to go for an operation, so we’ve placed the PADI Instructors on hold for now, but will finish Instructors in December 2013. Once that is finished we won’t stop there. We want to still get to IDC staff instructor one day. Who knows…Course Director might still be a possibility as well


Pool TrioWhen and where did you become a PADI Divemaster?

We wrote our final exam on 28 October 2012 through Scubaversity Dive Club in Ruimsig.


How did you feel when you became a PADI Divemaster?

It was amazing and overwhelming. This is only the first step into what I really want to accomplish as a PADI Professional. Our dream is to be able to leave the corporate world and work permanently in the Diving industry. We want to give our children the best in life and by following this dream we will provide them with a better life as well. And not only is this our dream, but they’ve been so positively influenced that they can’t think of doing anything else. They are just as excited as we are.


What highlights do you recall from your DM course?

Being able to assist with students in training really stands out for me. Then I really enjoyed the skills practise with my fellow Dive Masters. Like I mentioned earlier, we were such a great bunch and we all became such good friends during our DM course.


Where have you worked as PADI Pro?

My husband and I did an EFR course for a family of four in February this year and are now currently running the very first PADI Seal Team for ten children at Scubaversity Dive Club – my daughter being one of them


BFP_5746What is one of your favourite memories in your diving career?

My first favourite memory must be my first sea dive at Sodwana Bay having my husband and son by my side. It was such an amazing experience. Then another highlight was when my husband and I did the bated shark dive in Aliwal Shoal. Wow, what an experience. If you want a rush like no other, then this is a must on your bucket list. At one stage there were about 25 – 30 sharks swimming around us. It was an experience of a lifetime.


What words of advice would you give to new dive professionals?

Never forget why you wanted to become a Dive Professional in the first place. Don’t lose focus and remember we are in the business of changing lives….so go out and change some lives!!! If you manage to change just once family’s life through diving, you have achieved more than most people can say after working 50 years in the corporate world. Have fun and make every second count.

Growing your business with Facebook


Although Social Media is not the only answer to your marketing needs, it can play a big part in increasing your certifications.  I am going to share a case study from one of my colleagues in the PADI Asia Pacific office, Regional Manager, Jimmy Christrup.

He has a client, Coral Bay Resort in Coron, Palawan https://www.facebook.com/CoralBayCoronPalawan which is in the Philippines, who a year ago had 17 fans on their Facebook Page.

They approached Jimmy and asked him what they could do to increase their likes.  Jimmy gave them a presentation of what they could do to include asking their clients what they wanted to see.   Coral Bay Resort then surveyed their customers and asked them they wanted to see on Facebook, what would bring them back to this site?

So how did they increase their fan base from 17 likes, what did they do it and what effect did this have on their certifications?

In September 2012, they began promoting Facebook Adverts, if you are unsure how to create a decent Facebook advertising campaign, go onto YouTube and type in, how to create effective Facebook adverts.  They started spending around US$50 a month on their Facebook campaign.  As already mentioned, they also asked their clients what they wanted to see, this in addition to monitoring their Facebook page to see what postings their clients likes and posted similar articles as to those that got the most likes.

We often neglect what our customers want, they are after all the most important people to your success.  I recommend you ask them what they want to see in your social media campaigns, what specialty course they would like to do, what is on their equipment wish lists, if you are in a non-resort area what are their diving travel aspirations? Knowledge is power, and can also lead to your business success, by recording these facts and using a tool like EVE you could easily compile accurate marketing information and have a tool use it effectively.

Coral Bay Resort started putting their new strategy into effect; they grew their likes by around 4,000 – 6,000 per month, presently 16 April 2013, they have 25,625 likes and more importantly around 2,000 people are either talking about their posts, liking them or sharing them.

Those are really impressive figures, but what has that got to do with your business when you do not have that much time for Social Media campaigns and have more important tasks to complete like servicing regulators, traditional marketing campaigns to attend to, doing your accounts, painting your dive centre, etc.?

Coral Bay Resort have not only increased their total amount of bookings but within the first two months of 2013 increased their certifications by 93% over the same time last year.

Social Media therefore can be one of the tools you use from your marketing toolbox to bring in new clients and keep existing clients active.  If you do not have the time to do Social Media look into hiring someone for an hour a day or use your instructors or divemasters to look after your various Social Media campaigns.

If you would like assistance with your social media campaign, please call or email your Regional Manager, Peter Driessel, mobile: +27 82 570 5763, email: [email protected] to set up a personal, telephonic or a meeting using a Google Hangout or Skype.

Customer Service Hub

To assist you with contacting the correct people in the office, here is an extensive list with their direct contact details.  Please feel free to contact any of the following in their respective fields, if for some reason we do not get back to you if you send someone an email, please feel free to call, and vice versa.

If you would like to discuss setting goals, marketing ideas, look at potential ways to grow your business please feel free to contact Peter Driessel to set up a store visit or a telephonic meeting.

Customer service hub

Customer service hub 1

The Master Scuba Diver Challenge

Untitled-3The Master Scuba Diver (MSD) challenge is exactly that for many dive centres, a challenge to promote, cost and even teach it.  There are dive centres that are doing really well and find it easy to promote and run, it obviously keeps divers diving and also works as an acquisition tool as these divers dive regularly and bring their friends in to lear to dive so that they can dive together.  The divers feel like they belong to a community, they join a tribe, and diving becomes their lifestyle.

I was recently visiting dive centres along the Eastern and Western Coast of South Africa where several centres have started a loyalty programme for their club members whereby they pay a certain amount per month and the divers can dive as often as they like.  These divers appear to go on trips and regularly purchase equipment.  The great thing with this programme is that dive centres are guaranteed income on a monthly basis as these club members have signed an annual contract and pay their subscription with a debit order or similar.Continued Education 064, photo by Peter Driessel

What has this got to do with the MSD, you may ask yourself?  By following similar principles the MSD could be successful in any dive centre that works with local residents even in the resort areas, as you could solicit embassy staff, expatriates as well as your local residents.

You could put several packages together, here are a few examples:

Package One:

  • PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
  • PADI Rescue Diver
  • Emergency First Response
  • 5 PADI Specialities

Package Two

  • PADI Rescue Diver
  • Emergency First Response
  • 5 PADI Specialities

Package Three

  • 5 PADI Specialities

Package Four

  • An away trip to an exotic location of your choice
  • 5 PADI Specialties
  • (30) Dives

DSC00591Set a price whereby your diver pays an initial deposit and the diver receives all of their training manuals, this would give the diver something tangible and could alleviate buyer’s remorse.  They would then pay a set amount every month for 12 months, which would also be the time they have to complete the programme.  I would recommend that you have a legal contract drawn up with your diver to protect the both of you.

In order for this to be a success it is important to have an annual calendar and schedule two speciality courses every month to give your diver a wide choice, remember that they can join this 12 month programme any time of the year.  Another suggestion would be to conduct the speciality even if you only have two people on the particular course.  In many instances you might need to run several courses with low numbers to get the programme running.

For divers completing this programme you may want to give them the recognition that they have achieved in the form of a bomber jacket, recording their name in your dive centre, website and social media. See my past Master Scuba Diver article for additional marketing ideas.

How (and why) to become a PADI Rebreather Instructor or Instructor Trainer

It is now over a year since we launched the PADI Rebreather and Advanced Rebreather Diver courses and recreational rebreather diving is going from strength to strength.  

decostopThe demand for courses at all levels is growing steadily and as manufacturers and dive centres work together to provide more support for the travelling market, divers are getting more and more enthusiastic about recreational rebreather diving. In a difficult market this kind of potential for growth is rare and dive centres who are embracing rebreathers are using this to attract and keep divers at all levels.

Below is a step by step guide to becoming a PADI Rebreather Instructor or Instructor Trainer. Before we get into this however, an important piece of advice before getting into rebreathers is not to spread yourself to thinly. Do your homework and commit to one rebreather. Whether you are an instructor or dive centre this is not something you can dabble in. You need to get and maintain experience on the unit you teach and to be able to back this up with current knowledge and expertise. You’ll also need to market your services, of course, and the discerning diver will look for someone with extensive experience and a good reputation on the chosen rebreather. Developing a positive relationship with the manufacturer will also help both you and your customers and make sure your investment reaps rewards for everyone; instructors and divers get to enjoy the amazing feeling of diving on rebreathers as well as being good for business, now that’s a WIN WIN situation!

How to become a PADI Rebreather Instructor

PADI Rebreather Instructors teach the PADI Rebreather Diver and PADI Advanced Rebreather Diver Courses on the specific unit they qualify on.

1.  First Steps – becoming a rebreather diver and getting the pre-requisite experience:

a)      Qualify as a PADI Advanced Rebreather Diver or equivalent on the specific rebreather  you want to become a PADI Rebreather Instructor for.

b)      Log 75 rebreather dives including at least 50 dives and 50 hours (30 hours and dives for additional units) on the specific rebreather you aim to become an instructor for.

2.  PADI Instructor Requirements – the PADI professional qualifications you need.

a)      Teaching Status PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor or higher

b)      PADI Enriched Air Nitrox Instructor

c)       PADI Deep Diver Instructor

3. Sign up for a PADI Rebreather Instructor Course. Contact your local Rebreather Instructor Trainer or [email protected]

4. Medical Requirements:

a)      Current diving medical clearance signed by a physician.

5. Additional requirements for Instructor Crossovers:

a)      Current rebreather instructor on the specific unit with a recognised organisation.

6. “Additional Unit” courses:

If you are already a PADI Rebreather Instructor or Tec 40 CCR Instructor you can take the shorter “Additional Unit” Instructor course.

7. Contact the manufacturer to make sure you meet any additional manufacturer requirements

8. Course Materials – what do you need to prepare for the program?

9. Purchase all required diver level materials from your regional PADI sales department:

a)      PADI Rebreather Diver and Advanced Rebreather Diver Manual

b)      PADI Rebreather Predive Checklist Slate

c)       PADI Rebreather and Advanced Rebreather Diver Key Skills Video

10. Purchase all required instructor level materials:

a)      PADI Rebreather and Advanced Rebreather Diver Instructor Guide

b)      PADI Rebreather and Advanced Rebreather Diver Exams

c)       PADI Rebreather/Advanced Rebreather Diver Instructor wet guides

11. Have a copy of all the manufacturers materials:

a)      Manufacturer’s manual and/or other support literature for rebreather used in course

b)      Manufacturer’s checklist (if available)

12. Course Assist. This can be done before or after the instructor course or crossover.

Prior to certification as a PADI Rebreather Instructor, the candidate must assist with at least one PADI Rebreather Diver course or one PADI Advanced Rebreather Diver course.

How to become a PADI Rebreather Instructor Trainer

PADI Rebreather Instructor Trainers teach the PADI Rebreather Instructor Courses on the specific unit they qualify on.

1. Before you can be an Instructor Trainer you will need to qualify as a PADI Rebreather Instructor on the rebreather you want to become a PADI Rebreather Instructor Trainer for.

2. Teaching Status PADI Course Director or TecRec Instructor Trainer

3. Current diving medical clearance signed by a physician

4. Contact the manufacturer to make sure you meet any additional manufacturer requirements

a)      Sign up for a PADI Rebreather Instructor Trainer Course. Contact [email protected]

5. Gain additional experience. As an Instructor Trainer you will need to have a minimum of 150 logged rebreather dives

a)      Have certified at least 5 PADI Rebreather Divers and 5 PADI Advanced Rebreather Divers including at least 4 certifications on the specific unit.

For more information on PADI Rebreather Courses please contact [email protected]

Marketing your Digital Underwater Speciality

Digital Underwater PhotographyLooking for a new innovative way to promote your Digital Underwater Photography (DUP) Speciality?

With so many low cost cameras out there, why not look at increasing the price of your DUP speciality and include it with your next course?

Many instructors negate the importance of offering this easy to teach speciality, not only is it fun to teach, your students will also find it really rewarding.  With the advent of social media they will more than likely post their best images on Facebook or some other form of Social Media, in some cases they will post all 300+ images they take.  This could really be a marketing edge for you as all of their friends will get to see why they are so enthused over scuba diving.

You could run a monthly/yearly competition on your company Facebook page with the image receiving the most likes winning a prize.  I would recommend that if you do this, to create a different theme Landscape 11, group of divers walking, in swimsuites,  boat and shore, pic by Peter Driesselevery month with a standing theme of the lifestyle of scuba diving.  In that way even surface images will be entered and promote you or your dive store in several unique ways, remember to put a rule in that all divers are tagged as this will drive the desired traffic to your page.   If you are concerned that one person may get all of their friends to like an image, do not fear as the more activity your page receives the better for you in the long run.