From Losing A “Missing Diver” To Finding A “Mola Mola”: A Month In The Life Of A DMT

By Divemaster Trainee Dan Nelmes

I look back every so often and think just how far I’ve come in the short space of time since joining Simply Diving’s team. Who’d have thought that I’d make it to PADI Rescue Diver? And to top it off, going onto the next step as a Divemaster Trainee. It’s crazy to contemplate, but a real smug bringer! Although, I will confess, it’s been hard work all the way…

It will probably be remembered for a long time to come how many times myself and a fellow intern attempted the ‘Missing Diver’ section of the Rescue course – battling currents, horrid visibility, bad compass bearings and short search times in search of our makeshift ‘missing diver’. Our first attempt to find our ‘diver’ on Torremolinos beach ended with us surfacing five minutes over our bottom time to see our Instructor waving us down from the beach and pointing in a direction completely opposite to the one that we’d been heading. We both looked at each other and just laughed, knowing that our Instructor would simply shake his head with a disapproving grin on his face… and we were right. Naturally, this made us build our confidence and gave us a little time to prepare a small action plan ready for ‘take 2’ when it came about.

The following week saw us attempting it yet again in calm, clearer waters of La Herradura. Our confidence was fit to burst and we set off on our mission to locate the ‘missing diver’ only to find that the elements were against us again, changing our perfect dive conditions to a rescuer’s nightmare. It seemed to be going well until we came across a familiar object. Not the missing diver, but a piece of old iron that we’d previously passed four times before! Surfacing, we found our Instructor in stitches as he pointed out that we’d been literally going back and forth over the same stretch of sand for the whole time, plus ten minutes longer then we should have been!

But by the following week when ‘take 3’ would begin, we had prepared ourselves for every worse case scenario possible: bad viz, currents, surges, search patterns, dive times, compass declination… you name it, we’d covered it! And so when the Instructor gave the nod, we were ready and willing to show Mother Nature who was boss. Entering the water, we did 30 fin kicks south only to find that the missing diver was already within arms reach. Together we let off the biggest cheer underwater that I’m sure people on the beach could hear! But we were also a little disappointed to find our diver in less than 60 seconds after all that planning! But that is exactly the point of the exercise: To expect the worse case and solve the problem by changing things to best fit the situation.

So, with our fun times of Rescue Diver finished and Divemaster training beginning, what better way to start a new section of a career than with a killer discovery! Upon guiding a small group of certified divers on a reef of one of Simply Diving’s favorite dive sites, I came across the holy grail of Marina del Este hovering above a small rock and being cleaned by smaller fish: An OCEAN SUNFISH! It was a juvenile MOLA MOLA, but easily 1m in length and 1/2m in height. And in only 14m depth!! It came within arms reach of the clients and me before slowly swimming off ahead of us into the blue. FANTASTIC! I’d heard of this elusive creature from our Instructor, but it seemed that only he had seen them – not even a fellow employee that’s lived in Spain for five years has seen one. And here I was, only a couple of months into my internship and into my new life in Spain and I had been close enough to touch one!!

I can only wonder what other surprises are in store for me…