Flipper in Costa Rica……a Divemaster and PADI IDC review

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I went to Oceans Unlimited for my divemaster and open water scuba instructor training and certification. I arrived in Costa Rica Dec 2 and flew out again on Feb 1, spending almost all that time in the Quepos/Manual Antonio area.

I’ll summarize for those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing. If you get to Quepos and go scuba diving, or take courses with Oceans Unlimited & staff, including but not limited to JT, Bob, Ileana, Georgia, Catherine, Eddie, Pandora, and Damien, and manage to not have fun at the same time, you pretty much fail at life.

I arranged my internship through a handful of e-mails with Georgia and arrived in Costa Rica with the following plan. Get me and my luggage from San Jose to the shop in Quepos. Everything else was pretty much arranged for me so I didn’t bother worrying about those pesky details like “where am I living for 2 months”. I showed up at the shop with all my luggage and was greeted first by two dogs. One super friendly and excited about life and the other who seemed mildly interested in what was happening but ultimately preferred to lay in the sun instead of do something difficult, like lift his head. Shortly after that the office staff and dive crew greeted me and made me feel welcome. JT personally brought me to the homestay that was arranged for me. My homestay was super friendly and the food was awesome. Despite the language barrier, I think Anna appreciated me nearly half as much as I did her. At least I assume those were tears of sadness to see me go and not tears of happiness to see me go  Thanks to Georgia for recommending that option.

Because of the high level of professionalism at this shop I was quite literally able to simply show up and all those pesky little travel details were already taken care of for me. I was initially somewhat surprised at the level of specificness some of the tasks at the shop were done to. There’s paperwork for running the compressor, nothing get’s removed from the toolbox without going back to the exact same place, tanks all go with the handles to the right, etc. It seemed rather overdone. That being said, once I was around long enough to understand the why, everything made sense and I was impressed with the operation. Even though it is run to a high standard, everyone was more than willing to help me learn. Just remember that fins are fins, not flippers, and masks are masks, not goggles. 😉

Despite being one of the most professional dive shops I’ve been to, it was also very fun and very much a big family. At one point in my trip, I had been out of the water for a week with an ear infection which was shortly followed by being out of the water for another week with a sinus infection. After yet another day of sickness and generally being a giant suck about it, I had decided to quit the instructor course and just finish off my divemaster program. That evening I was invited out to the local watering hole to join most of the staff and students for an evening out. During this evening was probably the first time I realized how much I enjoyed the people I was taking the course with and decided to put my big kid pants on and finish what I signed up for. I didn’t want to disappoint the people I had come to know and respect.

The students and dive crew I was taking my course with were an absolute blast, but the ones you may encounter may change so we’ll just focus on the permanent employees. That’d be Bob, JT, Eddie, Georgia, Ileana.

Bob’s the owner. He spends most of his time working away in the background and lets the staff handle most of the frontline stuff. But if you ever need to know anything scuba related, pick his brain because he’s an absolute wealth of knowledge. He usually leaves a bit of the rind on the watermelon when he cuts it 😛 but he’s makes the best everything on the bbq. Lots of fun if you can pin him down in between his projects.

JT handled most of the DSD through to divemaster students while I was there. Despite being a Steeler’s fan (Bob too for that matter) he’s actually a great guy. At more than one point he has been called a giant teddy bear. He was probably the hardest person for me to say goodbye to when I had to return home after my internship. He’s fantastic with the regular customers and even more fun with the students. Of course, I suspect he’s at his best when he and Ileana start poking fun at each other. That is hilarious to stand back and watch, which I think says great things about any business to have that sort of staff interactivity.

Captain Eddie drives the boat. Being pretty much the only person from Louisiana I know, his level of awesomeness makes me feel bad about all my Louisiana redneck/hillbilly jokes. Not only is he hilarious, he has an ability to make even the most nervous student diver calm and relaxed. Probably something to do with the awesome accent. By far much more fun than the other boat captain’s I’ve encountered on my dive travels, even though I still managed to get sea sick on his boat.

Georgia may sound like and australian but she’s actually english. She also doesn’t like being told she sounds australian, which is why I felt it necessary to start with that. She non-negotiably comes with two dogs, Pandora and Damien. Pandora pretty much loves everything about life, but especially enjoys fetch and bananas. Damien likes lying in the sun and not moving. If he especially likes you, sometimes he’ll lift his head as you walk by. As the course director Georgia handled the instructor training and the Go Pro portion of the business. She’s an absolute blast to dive with, and I think I speak for everyone when I say thanks for pointing out the highlights of the area. You know you’ve won her over when she gives you an embarrassing nickname. Georgia makes it pretty much impossible not to enjoy your time in Costa Rica. Even if her offer to teach you surfing makes you stiff and sore for half a week.

Ileana runs the front end of the business. There’s also very little chance that’s actually how you spell her name. She’s the local portion of Ocean’s Unlimited staff and pretty much helpful in every aspect of your stay to everyone except JT. As mentioned earlier, her and JT are quite fun to watch. Of course, the regular customers don’t get to them poke at each other, so you should sign up as a divemaster or instructor intern to watch that fun happen. Ile is the perfect front person for any business, and was more than happy to take care of pesky details for me, including, but not limited to arranging my white water rafting trip, a dive trip with another company to a nearby island, and placing lunch orders. She also tried to teach me a bit of Spanish, but that’s an uphill battle.
The divemasters, dive master trainees, and other instructor candidates were also a lot of fun. I wouldn’t have enjoyed my trip near as much without Dunk, Sunshine #2, Noodles, Chico Tortuga and Phil to name a few of many.

And thus concludes my 1300 word essay on why you fail at life if you don’t have fun diving with Oceans Unlimited in Quepos, Costa Rica. Sincere apologies to those who didn’t get special mention, but it’s so long I doubt anyone is reading anymore anyways. I personally plan on returning to take some specialty training and would not and have not hesitated for a moment when recommending this dive shop to anyone and everyone, regardless of current scuba experience or lack there of.

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