THE HAWAIIAN DREAM: THE DIVEMASTER WORK-TRADE PROGRAM WITH HAWAII ECO DIVERS
Discovering the Underwater World
Have you ever dreamt of exploring the underwater world, surrounded by vibrant marine life and captivating reefs? Growing up in Orlando, Florida I’ve always been drawn to the ocean and the idea of being able to spend more time underwater than just as long as my breath could take me. Even being a competitive swimmer for the past 17 years, there was only so much I could see by just diving down on a single breath. I wanted more than just a tiny glimpse, I wanted to be able to immerse myself in the underwater world.
Finishing up my last year in college at UNC Chapel Hill, I was trying hard to figure out what my path would be after graduation. It always seemed like everyone around me had a plan and knew exactly what they were doing. With seemingly an overwhelming amount of options, I sat down and listed my priorities. At the end of the day, I realized I didn’t want to leave the water that I had swam in for so many years. When I realized that I could explore the ocean and work to protect the animals that lived within it, I had finally found that passion that I had been searching for for so long. So in searching for a way to accomplish my goals of being able to see the underwater world, I came across scuba diving.
Fascinatingly enough, scuba diving is actually one of the closest experiences that we have on Earth to floating in space. Even NASA has their own pool, which they use to replicate space walks. Once I found this out my interest was immediately peaked and I went down an information rabbit hole and came up with so many questions. What does it feel like to be able to breathe underwater? Am I going to be able to equalize in deep water? And what the heck is a BCD? I had never been scuba diving before, so to answer those questions and so many more, I called a dive shop on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii Eco Divers. I found that they offered a divemaster work trade internship, working in the dive shop to pay off the cost of the dives.
The Work-Trade Program
The divemaster work-trade program with Hawaii Eco Divers is truly a once in a lifetime experience that allowed me to achieve my dreams of moving out to Hawaii. It was so amazing to be able to start working towards my divemaster, even though I had no previous diving experience. I am essentially in the process of going from zero to hero, going from no certification to becoming a scuba professional. The structure of my week is designed so that I am able to work in the office during the week to pay for my certifications, and dive in-between work to progress towards my certification. With the work-trade program, you can start at any level of experience and work your way up. For reference, before you start the divemaster certification you have to complete, in order: PADI Open water, Advanced Open water, and Rescue Diver course. Here is a link to a more in depth descriptions of these courses, as well as pricing and how long they take to complete. Once you are a Divemaster, you are able to lead guide certified divers on underwater excursions. The best part about being a divemaster is that it is so much more than just a job, as it is a lifestyle that allows you to travel and work in cities by the coast all around the world.
Imagine waking up to the gentle sound of the waves crashing against sandy shores, surrounded by swaying palm trees and vibrant tropical colors. Moving halfway across the country to pursue a dream is so scary, yet so exciting at the same time. You may have no idea what may await you on the other side, and yet you push forward eager to start life in a beautiful and unknown world. There are so many things that no one talks about when it comes to moving. Finding a home, securing transportation, knowing no one, the local culture, and more. Whether you are visiting on vacation, or looking to find your forever home, I hope that this in-depth guide will help you make the most of your Hawaii experience.`
Choosing the Right Island:
When I finally decided to make Hawaii my future home, I was faced with the dilemma of choosing the right island. After countless hours of research, I found my match in Oahu. Access to the city, picturesque landscapes, stunning beaches, and crystal clear waters sealed the deal for me. Take the time to read about what each island has to offer, and let your intuition help guide you toward the island that is best suited for you.
Navigating the Housing Market:
Oh the Hawaiian housing market– where demand often outweighs supply. As I started scouring rental listings and AirBnbs I soon realized how important it was to be proactive. Many Airbnbs are booked out months in advance, especially in the town that I was looking to live in, Haleiwa. I started looking for housing in December with a move-in date of June 1st. All of the ideal Airbnbs for month-to-month rentals were already booked out. The availability may differ depending on the length of your stay, but it is always ideal for short term stays to book way in advance, especially if you have a dream spot picked out.
The thing about the rental properties is that when they are placed on the market, they are ready for move in almost immediately. This makes it very difficult to have any sort of housing in advance, and realtors want you to be able to tour the house before they send you the lease agreement. This is where Facebook groups come in handy. As I didn’t know anyone on the island already, there were several Facebook groups with other people looking for roommates in the same situation as me. These Facebook groups are the whole grail for anything you are looking for, whether it be roommates, used furniture, and even cars. I ended up finding two girls to live with, and as one was already on the island, she was able to tour current homes on the market. This was just my personal experience trying to find housing on the North Shore of Oahu, but it may vary depending on the city and area you are looking to move to.
Finding transportation on the island is key, especially when there are so many places to explore. Hawaii, at least on the island of Oahu, has a fantastic public bus system called The Bus. If you don’t have the funds to rent or buy a car for your stay, The Bus is a great way to get around. Here is a link to the various pricing and further details. I wouldn’t personally recommend a bike to get around, as there are no designated bike paths on the North Shore and it can be quite tricky and dangerous to navigate especially through thicker traffic. A moped is also a viable option, but if you are looking to explore other areas of the island I would recommend the bus or saving up for a car, because you wouldn’t be able to ride on the highways.
If you are looking for cheap cars, I would recommend the Facebook group “Hawaii cars under 5k(Cars for sale under $5000)”. You can very easily get what is called an island beater, and that will ensure that you can get from point A to point B. If you want to buy any car from a private seller, I recommend that you get an OBD scanner. These scanners can read the computer on any car and will give you codes that you can look up that will tell you if there is anything wrong with the car. My word of advice is to trust your gut, and do your research.
Living or visiting Hawaii means that you always have the best that nature has to offer, whether that be on land or in the water. There are so many outdoor activities to do on the island including hiking, skydiving, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, sunset beach walks, and so many more. There is always an endless amount of activities to do, and each one that I have been able to do has helped me really connect with this beautiful island.
Some of my favorite activities are as follows:
Scuba diving at Sharks Cove, Electric Beach, and the deep dive out of Honolulu to see the Sea Tiger shipwreck
Seeing dolphins while scuba diving at Electric Beach
Shark diving on the North Shore
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
Watching the stars at Ka’ena Point
Eating Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice
Watching the turtles lay on the sand at Haleiwa Ali’i Beach park
Hiking to the waterfall at Manoa Falls
Watching the annual North Shore 4th of July fireworks show
Building a Support Network:
While moving to a new place and not knowing anyone can be quite intimidating, Hawaii’s tight-knit community really made me feel like I had found my Ohana, which means family in Hawaiian. I have never been so grateful to have such amazing roommates, neighbors, and dive shop crew to be able to share so many wonderful experiences with. Everyone here really goes the extra mile to make sure you feel welcome, and I really feel as though I have been received with open arms.
My decision to move out to Hawaii was one of the best I’ve ever made. Each day brings a sense of peace and gratitude that can’t be expressed in words. Whether you are looking for a home or just visiting, Paradise awaits, and your journey lies ahead. If you’re looking for a truly memorable moment to check off your Hawaii bucket list, be sure to drop by Hawaii Eco Divers for an unforgettable underwater adventure.