The Whitsunday region of Queensland has always been a popular diving and sailing destination, attracting visitors from around Australia and the world. In fact the area is often referred to as the “Heart of the Great Barrier Reef”. The first dive shop in the Whitsundays opened its doors back in 1976 and conducted its first PADI Instructor Training Program in 1981, led by PADI Course Director, Tony Fontes. That was 32 years ago and many things have changed since then, including instructor training. Back in 1981, the dive shop was simply a thatched hut on a dirt road.
Today, Whitsunday Dive Adventures have a state-of-the-art PADI 5-Star Instructor Development Centre at Cannonvale – just 3 minutes drive from Airlie Beach – providing PADI Instructor Training. On the 10th of August this year, Whitsunday Dive Adventures ran their first PADI Instructor Training Program – and believe it or not, the program was run by PADI Course Director Tony Fontes.
Still at the top of his game as one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most experienced PADI Course Directors, Tony explains,
“It’s great to be working with Whitsunday Dive Adventures at their new facility. Over the years, I have run programs up and down the Great Barrier Reef coast as well as overseas and this facility is one of the best – perfectly designed for diver training at all levels. It almost spoils the instructor candidates with the 20m pool, classrooms and equipment room all at your fingertips. There is even an espresso coffee machine in the classroom!”
There were five candidates on the program and like most PADI Instructor Development Courses in the Whitsundays they came from far and wide, including England, France and Australia. The program was spread over 14 days starting with some serious theory and skills review. “Although it is common for newly qualified Divemasters to move straight onto the PADI IDC, I find that everybody benefits from a fairly formal review of the diving theory topics, particularly physics and decompression which we push up a notch at instructor level,” noted Tony.
With the theory review completed, the candidates moved into the Instructor Development phase of their training. It is this part of the program where they develop and hone their communication skills. This is done with actual teaching assignments with each candidate delivering a variety of presentations in the classroom, pool and open water. “This is the part of the program that I enjoy most – as we see the candidates develop their teaching skills,” said Tony. “It is amazing to watch an extremely nervous candidate stumble through their initial presentation and within a week become a confident, fluid presenter. These are skills that are useful in all aspects of life.”
Of course, it is the open water diving that everybody most enjoys, particularly in the Whitsundays. The region is best known for the 74 islands that lie just off the coast, each surrounded by fringing coral reefs. “Sometimes it is hard to stay focused on the dives as the incredible marine life presents never ending distractions,” commented Tony. “On our PADI Discover Scuba Diving workshop, we encountered a green sea turtle that was not the least bit shy. At this point, we called a ‘time out’ to enjoy the moment.”
With the PADI Instructor Development Course completed, the five instructor candidates were well-prepared for the PADI Instructor Examination – the final step on the road to becoming a PADI Instructor. Needless to say, all were successful and now Airlie Beach has five new PADI Instructors.
“We were really stressing just before the PADI Instructor Exam started,” said Jackson Henry, one of the instructor candidates. “But once the evaluation started, we found that our preparation came through and we all scored at least as well as we did on the IDC. In fact, I think that we even had a bit of fun.”
Another of the new instructors, James Fluker, had this to say, “I have been working towards this goal for well over a year, and now that I have earned my PADI Instructor qualification I am really keen to start travelling and teaching.”
Congratulations to Steve Cosstick, Julien Gerardin, Lucas Frazier, Jackson Henry and James Fluker – we wish you all long and successful careers as PADI Instructors, demonstrating “The Way the World Learns to Dive”!
To find out more about PADI Instructor Development, contact Whitsunday Dive Adventures, telephone 61 (07) 4948 1239, email to: email@example.com or visit their website at: www.whitsundaydivecentre.com/