Trawangan Dive’s BioRock Distinctive Specialty Course attracts divers from around the world who want to work on a long-term project with a beneficial environmental impact. It is also a very popular choice for many gap year students. One of our latest arrivals is Pippa, from the UK. She joined us a few weeks ago and has captivated us all with her stories, her diving skills and her professional attitude.
Tell us about yourself Pippa…
I’m an 18 year old originally from Hampshire, United Kingdom but I now live in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. Yes, where the cheese comes from! I’m currently on my gap year before starting a BSc in Marine Biology with Oceanography at Newcastle University next year.
What made you come to the Gili islands?
I wanted to do something conservation and science-oriented in preparation for my studies next year. At a gap year event at my school, I met Ben from Gap Year Divers and he gave me some information about the Gili islands, Trawangan Dive and the BioRock specialty course. It all sounded so perfect.
I’ve been a diver since completing my PADI Junior Open Water Diver at the age of 10. Since then, diving has been a big part of my life and I’ve had my sights set on becoming a PADI Divemaster for a long time.
In addition, some friends had been to the islands before and had amazed me with stories about the culture, the diving and the parties!
What are your first impressions of the Gili islands?
I’d never been to this part of the world before – this is by far the furthest east I’ve been. Everything is so different – the culture, language and cuisine – but you get used to it very quickly.
The Gili islands themselves are beautiful. In one word – paradise! They really are paradise islands, with white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and crystal clear seas. It’s great that there is no form of motorized transport allowed – it’s makes for a very peaceful environment.
Everyone is super friendly and I’ve felt very welcomed since day one. The locals are always smiling and greet you whenever you meet them, even if you’re just walking down the road. It feels a very safe place.
How are you finding it at Trawangan Dive?
It’s very much a home from home and I felt part of the team straight away. When we arrived, we were met by Adam, one of the managers, down at the harbour. He greeted us with a smile and a hug and then bundled us into a horse cart.
It only took a few minutes to arrive at Trawangan Dive and I have to admit I was impressed. It sits right on the beach, overlooking the crystal waters with Gili Meno on the other side of the channel. It looks professional, clean and welcoming. Which was a relief because you can never really tell from looking at pictures on the internet!
I’ve got everything I need here. The food at the restaurant is delicious and there’s lots of variety, from English breakfasts to Mexican fajitas and Indonesia rice dishes. The backpacker rooms are simple but clean. I’ve got a bunk bed room to myself so I have some privacy.
The diving side of things is very well organized and everyone works together as a team. There are so many nationalities working here – English, Scottish, Kiwi, Australian, Swiss, German, French, etc.
Tell us about your previous diving experience
My father is a scuba diver and as a family we go to Mauritius every year for our family holiday. I always really enjoyed snorkelling on the reefs and when I was 10 years old my father enrolled me in the PADI Junior Open Water Diver course. I thoroughly enjoyed it and even got to dive with a pod of wild dolphins on my last dive!
I also completed my PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Diver in Mauritius when I was 15 and then my PADI Rescue Diver course back in the United Kingdom. It was certainly a different experience! I did it at Vobster Quay, a quarry in the south of England. The water was cold and murky and there wasn’t an awful lot to see. I had to wear an 11m wetsuit which is neither comfortable nor flattering!
In addition to those places, I’ve also dived in the Red Sea and the British Virgin Islands.
You’re also a PADI Master Scuba Diver! Congratulations!
I’m pretty proud of myself because I worked quite hard for it. I did most of my PADI specialties including Night Diver, Digital Underwater Photography, Research Diver and Underwater Naturalist, at a company called Action Quest in the British Virgin Islands. In addition, I became an Enriched Air Diver.
How is the PADI Divemaster course going?
I love it! It’s really broadening my knowledge and giving me a whole new take on diving. I’m learning to look at dives and divers from a different perspective.
I’ve already been assisting on a variety of courses, from Discover Scuba Diving to Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses. Over the last few days I’ve also been given the opportunity to play the victim on a Rescue course. I’ve been getting a lot of the theory done and have already completed my first theory exam.
I really appreciate the mentor relationship and am learning a lot from Instructor Jo, but I also like that I get to work with all of the instructors. It’s interesting seeing how each instructor has a different style.
What about some of the cool things you’ve seen underwater here?
I saw my first ever shark at Shark Point the other day! We saw a total of three white tip reef sharks swimming in hundreds of circling jack fish and it was so cool.
There are loads of turtles on the dive sites which is brilliant because they are my favourite marine animal. You can’t go on a dive without seeing at least a couple of them.
I’ve also got to see lots of nudibranch that I’ve never seen before and I spent a good 10 minutes watching a cuttlefish lay some eggs the other day. Amazing!
Your BioRock specialty course is starting soon! Are you looking forward to it?
Absolutely. It’s a new concept that I’d never heard of before. Like most people, I’d heard about the decline of coral reefs around the world, and about coral bleaching and the warming of the ocean. I’d even witnessed this decline first hand having dived in Mauritius for so many years. So I became quite excited when I realized I could work on a project that is designed to combat these problems and help the reefs regrow. I can’t wait until we start building our own structure and then get to sink it and attach the coral. So exciting!
It goes without saying that the course will also massively benefit my university course and give me a lot of material and experience to share with others.
Where else are you going on your gap year?
I was planning to head back to Mauritius to do my PADI Instructor Development Course with the dive centre where I learnt to dive. But after coming to Trawangan Dive and meeting all the lovely instructors here, I’ve changed my mind. I couldn’t think of a better place to do it. I’m now preparing to do my PADI IDC starting on 12th November. I’m so excited!
Once that’s completed and I’ve got some teaching experience, I’m going to go back to the British Virgin Islands as I’ve been offered a position as part of the dive staff at Action Quest.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
My dream has always been to work with the BBC on a series similar to the Blue Planet. I would love to be a research assistant on a program like that, making brilliant television while getting the chance to see nature’s wonders up close and for real. It would also be quite cool to make David Attenborough a cup of tea…
Best of luck with realizing your dream Pippa!
If you’re interested in improving your diving skills and learning to become a PADI Divemaster or Instructor on a beautiful tropical island, get in touch with us at Trawangan Dive.