When I first sat down to write about my time with Ocean’s Unlimited (Go Pro Costa Rica), it turned into a several page narrative and I had barely gotten past the first day. I decided to change my approach and attempt to answer the questions I had when I was trying to choose where to do my Divemaster internship. I had heard a lot of horror stories about Divemaster internships and I wanted to make sure I did my research so I would have a good experience. Most of my questions fell into the following categories:
Travel– One of my first questions involved physically getting to Quepos. There are a few ways to get there. I flew from JFK on LACSA airlines. They routed me through El Salvador and then to San Jose Costa Rica where I took the SANSA flight direct to Quepos. Once I got to Quepos, I was picked up at the airport by Georgia. A couple things to know about SANSA. First of all, the “terminal” is actually a hangar that’s outside the main terminal. This isn’t a problem at all and is easy to get to but was something I didn’t know when I got there and was confused when an airport employee took me outside when I asked for SANSA. The other popular option from San Jose to Quepos is the bus. It’s not expensive and takes you right into the center of Quepos which is a small town so you’re close to everything. I travelled with a carry on and two fifty pound checked bags.
What to Pack- I definitely over packed. I knew I was going to be in Costa Rica for at least 8 weeks but since I didn’t have a flight home booked when I left I planned for up to 90 days. Prior to that, the longest I had ever had to pack for was two weeks. That in addition to not knowing what to expect as far as things I could buy down there lead me to stock up on everything. There are multiple grocery stores and pharmacies readily available so there is no need to pack gallons of sunscreen like I did. As far as clothes went, I pretty much lived in swim trunks and t-shirts. Since my laundry was done for me regularly in the homestay, I probably only needed about half of what I actually brought. I do recommend bringing a backpack and a rain jacket. Somehow in planning my trip to a rain forest in rainy season it didn’t dawn on me to bring a rain jacket. A backpack is a good idea because you will do a lot of walking from place to place and it’s an easy way to carry things (like dive books so you can study theory!!). I also brought a lot of zip lock bags to keep things like my electronics and money dry. I brought all of my own dive gear except my wetsuit. I figured my 7mm full length wetsuit would be a bit excessive in the 84 degree water. I borrowed a shop wetsuit while I was down there. I was pretty comfortable in a 3mm shorty.
Housing– The homestay was a lot of fun and an incredible experience. During the time I was there I lived with two other DMT’s (Divemaster in training). If you choose this option you will have the chance to meet Mirna and Carlos, two of the nicest people you will ever come across. They open up their home to you and genuinely enjoy having you there. Mirna cooks incredible homemade meals every night and everyone sits down together for dinner. Unfortunately I speak zero Spanish and they speak almost no English but this was never a problem. They were always very patient with me and we always figured out what we were trying to say to each other and ended up with a lot of good laughs in the process. This is a great option if you want to practice Spanish, but if you’re like me and don’t know any, don’t be intimidated you’ll have a lot of fun trying. Another great benefit of the homestay is having your laundry done for you three times a week. One of my favorite things to do over the course of the entire trip was relaxing on the porch of the homestay with friends. We would gather after a great day of diving and tell stories, listen to music and mix the occasional Cuba Libre. They also have the greatest rocking chairs I have ever come across. I don’t know how to describe them other than rebar with thin plastic tubing wrapped around it.
The People– When I considered my Divemaster training I only really thought about logistics, not necessarily the people I was going to be with. This changed after my first email to Georgia. I asked a ton of questions and within a couple hours she had responded to each one extremely thoroughly. The time she took to email with me and help me figure out my internship is what ultimately lead to me choosing to do my internship with Go Pro Costa Rica. Each person who works at Ocean’s Unlimited has their own unique background and they all have so much to offer. My best advice, be a sponge! They each have so much to teach and are extremely willing to share. I have never come across a group that is more knowledgeable. Do not let their modesty deceive you, they are all extremely decorated divers. Learn from them and listen to them. They are amazing people who legitimately care about you and your success.
Diving– The diving conditions depend on the time of year. I did my internship during the rainy (low) season. The conditions during that time varied. Visibility at times was 40 plus feet and other days closed in a bit but I enjoyed the challenge. I felt it would make me a better diver if I was prepared for all types of scenarios. I know I will not always be diving in the best conditions so I didn’t want to train in only the best. Ocean’s Unlimited uses several different dive sites around the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area, all of which are within a 15 minute range of the marina. Since they are also the only shop in the area, if you lose something odds are it will be found sooner or later. When you get there ask about the legendary Search Team Alpha. They once found a wristwatch in 85 feet of water! Masks, Go Pro cameras and weight pockets were no match for them.
The Dive Shop– The dive shop itself is incredible. People talk about how shops in other countries have different standards but the owner Bob takes pride in the fact that his shop exceeds American dive shop standards. The shop has an onsite pool which makes confined training really convenient. It is also nice because you always have the opportunity to strap on a 60 and practice skill circuits and anything else you might want to do including blowing bubble rings and practicing underwater breath holding for free diving. The workshop is what you would expect MacGyver’s workshop to look like. It has literally everything you need to take apart and fix every piece of gear and then some. The rental gear is all serviced on site and is high quality. One of my goals in addition to diving was learning about gear maintenance. I went from being nervous about changing hoses on my regulator to taking apart first stages that had been dunked with confidence. The compressor is held to the highest standards. Air samples are sent to the US on a monthly basis to be tested. The air is purer than where I live in Pennsylvania. If you bring your own gear there is a DMT locker (with some extra shelves thanks to two pretty awesome Divemasters) so you don’t have to worry about where you’ll keep it. You’re welcome to label your gear before you come down but there was never an issue of things getting confused. There is also a restaurant located upstairs run by a guy named Jeff. The food is really good and he is always trying new things. When hanging gear to dry, make sure you don’t use the yellow hangars.
Training– I was a rescue diver with no specialties when I left for Costa Rica. I came home a specialty instructor with five instructor specialties in addition to the ones you get automatically and an EFR instructor. I also got my master scuba diver rating. The training was above and beyond what I hoped for. Divemaster training is kept track of on a board. The DMT board serves as a great motivator and also at times a fun competition with your fellow DMT’s. Overall the training is challenging, especially the instructor training, but it is also a lot of fun. The quality of my training became truly evident when I came home and started teaching. I had multiple students tell me I was the best instructor they had worked with thanks to my knowledge and patience. One student after certification went so far as to offer to write me a letter of recommendation if I ever needed one. The crew at Go Pro Costa Rica deserves the credit for those compliments because they put me in a position to succeed. If you’re looking to go beyond the basics and learn about things such as equipment repair and other aspects of running a dive shop, you’ll definitely find it here.
Things to do Other Than Dive– There are many things to do in Quepos when you’re not diving. You have access to everything from a variety of adventure tours like zip lining to a relaxing stroll on the Manuel Antonio beach. Surfing is a very popular way to pass the time. If it’s something you’re interested in there are plenty of people at the shop who can teach you or just go with you. There is a football pitch (soccer field) in town which is always good for kicking a ball around or watching the locals play. There are a few bars and even a club if that’s your preferred scene. We spent many a happy hour at one bar in particular called El Gran Escape relaxing and telling stories over some “JT Smoothies” and calamari. You’ll never run out of things to do in the area.
Random– There are a few things I thought of but couldn’t fit them into the other sections, so here goes. By the end of your training with Go Pro Costa Rica you will likely end up with a nickname. I had five over the course of my three months. Transportation in town is very easy. There is a bus that costs about $0.50USD and there are also taxis. Everyone who goes through training adds an animal to the “aquarium”. Check out the eagle ray! A fun way to pass the time while filling tanks is playing ring toss with the role of green tape and the tank valves. Combate is the best TV show ever. Never, under any circumstance bring a banana on the boat!
I hope this gave you some insight and answered the questions you have and maybe some you hadn’t thought of yet. There is no way I can do my experience with Go Pro Costa Rica justice in just a few pages. Without exaggeration this was one of the best experiences of my life. I received way more than the training I went there for. I made great friends, saw things I had never dreamed I’d see (sharks, sea turtles, and a manta ray to name a few), heard humpback whales sing underwater and became part of the Ocean’s Unlimited family. I chased a dream and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I cannot thank Bob, Ileana, JT, Georgia, Eddie, my fellow Divemasters and Instructors enough.