S.E.A. Aquarium’s curatorial department comprises a group of aquarists who are certified dive instructors. On top of their daily duties, they also coach guests who sign up for PADI dive courses such as Open Water Diver and Discover Scuba Diving.
Joining this instructor team is newly minted PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Eliza Lee. A dolphin trainer by day, Eliza is no stranger to spending time underwater, or around marine life. Since her basic dive training in 2011, it’s been a six-year journey of adventure, learning, and discovering the ocean.
Fellow dolphin trainer Ashley Benson did a candid interview with Eliza to give us an insight into her journey to becoming a scuba diving instructor.
Name: Eliza Lee
Profession: Dolphin Trainer
Dive Certification Level: OWSI
Number of years spent diving: 6 years
Favourite marine animal: Sea stars
My PADI is… a ticket to an endless world of adventure
My hope is…. that everyone will get to share this experience with me
My Ocean is…. yours too
How did you begin diving?
I vividly remember my first open ocean dive in Pulau Dayang (Malaysia). I panicked and was afraid to get into the water. My then dive instructor encouraged and reassured me as we slowly descended into the deep blue.
It was beyond my imagination – being immersed in the ocean, discovering new places and animals, the weightlessness and silence in the water. It’s unlike anything I’ve tried before. That was when I fell in love with diving. Now, I want to be that person for new divers, to share the joy of being underwater, and to give others the confidence to explore.
Where did you get your different dive certifications and which was your favourite course?
I underwent Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications in Malaysia at Pulau Dayang and Tioman respectively. I then furthered my dive education at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) where I received my Rescue and Divemaster certifications.
My favourite was the Divemaster course. I gained a deeper understanding of dive theory, learnt to look out for other divers, and assisted in teaching new divers. It was fun and challenging.
Why did you make the leap from being a PADI Divemaster to a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor?
I first had the opportunity to teach when I assisted in the Open Water Diver courses at RWS as a Divemaster. I watched as students struggled, challenged themselves and conquered their fears. It was a humbling experience to interact with people from all walks of life, who wanted to try something new and exciting.
In one of those classes, there was a student who wanted to conquer her fear of being underwater. She struggled with confidence. But with patience and encouragement, she eventually manage to perform every skill, even the commonly feared “no mask swim”. It brought such joy and reassurance that I wanted to continue with this professional path in my dive career.
What was the most memorable moment of your Instructor Development Course (IDC)?
It had to be the last few days of the course. We had been doing presentation after presentation for 2 straight weeks. On our practice instructor examinations, we were told to do presentations “on the fly”, with no prior preparation. It was nerve wrecking, but it showed us that we were more than ready to be instructors. Improvising teaching techniques and giving good values to every skill, was eye opening. All of us were happy to watch each other grow into confident instructors.
As a new instructor, which course do you hope to teach? Anything that makes you nervous?
I’m definitely nervous because I don’t think I can remember to tell my students everything I can about diving. But I guess the more you teach, the more you will remember. As a new instructor, I’m looking forward to teaching the Open Water Diver course. It is probably one of the hardest to teach, but I love introducing the underwater world to new divers, to give them the confidence and skills they need to dive safely.
Which dive specialty do you wish to pick up next?
Wreck Diver. I have only had the chance to see wrecks from the outside, so to be able to explore them would be exciting.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating to get his first PADI dive certification, or embark on a professional career in diving?
It’s never too late to learn something new. Whether you are 30 or approaching 60, anyone can dive. For those beginning on their professional career, I’d say “Lets share the love.”
Lastly, what is your favourite dive destination?