Wicked Diving Review
From a Customer, Divemaster Trainee and Divemaster
I’m going to provide a lengthy review of Wicked Diving from my experience as a customer on a liveaboard, a DMT in their Divemaster program, and as a working Divemaster. If you’re not interested in all my thoughts, let me just say this: Wicked Diving is FANTASTIC! !!! If you’re planning your next diving holiday, want to learn how to dive, or become an experienced Divemaster, you don’t need to look anywhere else. Wicked really is the way to go. That said, onto my review!
If you’re like me, you do tons of research before inventing time and money into anything. With that in mind, I’ll talk about why I chose Wicked over the competition. First and foremost, Wicked emphasizes the idea of ETHICAL DIVING. One part of this being environmentally conscious. It’s obvious that they care about the places that we, as divers, get to enjoy and do what they can to minimize their impact on the environment. Wicked also does a lot to support the local community, along with several projects that do a lot of good (e.g., Baan San Fan Orphanage, Shark Guardian). There is so much that Wicked does in this area it would take me a while to list it all here. For more information, check out the “Ethical Diving” page on their website.
Another aspect of ethical diving you see at Wicked comes from the quality of their training. The staff here are extremely professional and don’t cut any corners when it comes to your safety. They want to make sure you come out the best diver you can be. This is not only great for you—improving your dive experience from then on—but allows you to raise the bar for others you dive with in the future and helps you dive in a way that minimizes your footprint. Don’t be fooled, not all dive classes/program are made alike. I guarantee that if you learn to dive with Wicked you’ll have an edge that most others wont. While reading about this commitment to quality was one thing, experiencing it was another. Wicked lives up to the hype.
AS A CUSTOMER
I enrolled in the DM program but did not yet have the required dives, so I did a 3-day liveaboard before my program started. While not the biggest or most luxurious boat out there, the Mariner is cozy, the food is great and the crew knows what they’re doing. The absence of televisions or internet encourages a sense of community with everyone on board that I do not experience on boats that have such things. Games (e.g. Murder on the Mariner!), conversation, beach visits, and lounging on the sun deck are preferred ways to spend time when not eating or diving. The dives sites were all fantastic and Wicked does current checks before each dive, ensuring that each one is as enjoyable as possible (I’ve realized that Wicked in the minority with this practice and it is a good one to have). With the Mariner being on the smaller side, you also don’t feel crowded while on the boat or while diving (unless a boat from another shop comes and dumps a bunch of people on top of you). They really do everything they can to make sure everyone has the best time possible. I’ve pointed all my friends who are traveling to SE Asia in Wicked’s direction. If you’re planning a dive holiday, it’s best to book with Wicked early as their trips tend to fill up quickly.
AS A DIVEMASTER TRAINEE
Wicked’s DM program is laid out pretty well on their website, so I’ll add on to what’s said there along with a few other things. First, let me say that this program is extremely professional and thorough. With that in mind, is a lot of work. I wasn’t aware so much went into being a DM and how exhausting in could be at times. Expect to have a good chunk of your day occupied during the six week program, with only a few days off to relax. One that note, if you’re hoping to do more exploring in the area I would suggest getting there early.
That being said, this program was also A LOT more fun than I thought it would be. One of the things that I think made this experience so special was the “Wicked Family.” It sounds nice on paper, but this is a group of really special people who do what they can to make you feel like you’re part of the team. I know from experience that DMs in most places aren’t as “hands on” as those at Wicked. As a DM with Wicked you do pretty much everything the instructors do, aside from certifying divers, of course. Current checks, dive briefings, all the things typically reserved for instructors or trip leaders in other places are distributed evenly among everyone here. You don’t feel like less of a person just for being a DMT/DM, which is really great. I’ve found the experience I gained doing all these things to be invaluable to my journey in diving.
The idea of the Wicked Family also extends beyond the boat. There is always beer and pizza and the staff meetings, which you are welcome to as a DMT, and the guys didn’t hesitate to take me out and show me good time once I arrived in Khao Lak. For the most part, people here were extremely welcoming and I enjoyed getting to know everyone at Wicked. And while this familial feeling fades once you leave, I’ve definitely made some friends here I plan keep. I don’t think I’ve met so many great people in one place. While the program was fantastic, those relationships is what really made my trip here special.
With a limited group size you also get a lot of personal attention and have the opportunity to work with many instructors. This was also a great thing to have, as each instructor brought their own style and experience to the table, allowing me to use what I felt worked for me. And while you may prefer one instructors style over the another, I learned a lot from everyone I got a chance to work with. It was obvious that everyone at Wicked is committed to helping their DMTs become the best DMs they can be, and they set the bar high.
Khao Lak was also a great place to escape to. While it’s a bit touristy it feels laid back and safe. If you’re doing the DM program I would suggest renting a motorbike/moped, or make friends with someone who has one, for a little more freedom. There is a decent surf spot close by along with some national parks that can help keeps things interesting when you’re not in DMT mode. The DMT bungalows are cozy, the pool is pretty fancy (waterslide anyone?), and the internet is fast.
As I said before, Wicked’s DM program is laid out well on their website and, from my experience, they held true to everything they advertised. Some of my favorites things include: mapping dives sites, learning basic equipment repairs, giving Shark Guardians presentations, and diving with mantas (mind blown). Choosing to do my DM with Wicked gave me a solid foundation to move forward in my diving endeavors, which is exactly what I was looking for. I definitely came out a far better diver than I was going in.
AS A DIVEMASTER
As someone who learns through experience, getting a chance to work is what really helped my confidence as a DM. Although Wicked doesn’t promise you any work, I didn’t talk to one DM who wanted work that didn’t get any while I was there. Keith, the shop manger, really seemed to do his best to make sure everyone got work who wanted to work (even for someone like me who I’m sure came across as a complete mess at times). I was able to DM one 3-day liveaboard trip with Wicked as snorkel guide and one as a dive guide, along with one refresher. I also worked one a liveaboard through another popular shop in the area, which gave me some perspective on how others do things. These were all good experiences and turned me on to the idea of doing my IDC, which was something I wasn’t sure about before. They even allowed to come out on their end-of-the-season staff trip, which was a blast. Compared to other jobs out there, diving is pretty sweet gig. If you want to work and gain experience as a DM, which I highly recommend, I would suggest doing the program earlier in the season to allow you more time.
Upon applying for a DM position back home, the shop warned me that they were very selective when it came to DMs and most didn’t make the cut. Well, I must have been paying attention at Wicked because I’m now working regularly as a DM. Being in cold water with much lower visibility, there are a few differences (i.e., the use of dry suites, heavier weight belts that require a different technique to put on, and a greater emphasis on proxemics as the cold water often leads people to spit their regulator out during mask skills). You can’t make a living out here as a DM like you can in places like SE Asia, and if you live in the States be prepared to pay several hundred for liability insurance, but experience is experience.
If you care about the environment, enjoy supporting the local communities you visit on your travels, want to become an experienced diver, enjoy some of the best diving around, and meet a ton a cool people along the way, then Wicked really is the way to go. Their emphasis on ethical diving, along with their commitment to quality instruction, raises the bar for the whole industry. A big thank you to everyone at Wicked Diving for everything. I definitely made the right choice.
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