Divemaster with IOP

Divemaster with IOP: What to expect

In January 2022, I embarked on a journey out to a small island called Nusa Penida near Bali, Indonesia, to do my Divemaster with IOP (Indo Ocean Project). I already had my Open Water and Advanced diving certifications so I planned on doing my Rescue Diver and Divemaster while there. I arrived when Indonesia was still in pandemic lockdown, so I needed to quarantine for a week in Jakarta. That week made my arrival in Penida all the sweeter: a beautiful, tropical island with almost no tourists on it. 

IOP is linked with Reeflex Divers, in a little village called Sakti, which is away from the main area of restaurants but near Crystal Bay. I was immediately warmly welcomed by the staff and allowed to settle into my accommodation just across the road, in Namaste Bungalows. My first night there, there was a snorkel test (the initiation test for newly qualified Divemasters where they’re fed alcohol, blindfolded, through their snorkels) which I was a bit intimidated by, but soon realised it was the perfect way to meet everyone in one go – and while everyone’s a little bit pissed.

Rescue Diver

Let’s get into the diving propa. I had to complete my Rescue Diver before I could continue on to do my Divemaster with IOP. It was my second day in the water, and I realised why people talk about Penida’s ripping currents. While on the surface, I got swept out of Crystal Bay and had to get rescued… during my Rescue course… the irony! A little bit (a lotta bit) shaken, I knew I had to get back into the water otherwise I might have never got back in. It’s those moments that make you appreciate the power of the sea, humble you, and make you a better diver.

After 3 days, a lot of tugging “unconscious” divers to shore and into boats, giving CPR and life-saving breaths, we were qualified Rescue divers! It’s probably the toughest recreational diving course, but also the most important and necessary.


Doing your Divemaster is all about perfecting your diving skills and becoming a professional diver who can potentially lead guests on dives. IOP is paired with Reeflex, who are a great and safe dive centre (what you should always look for in a dive shop!). When you join the project, your name will be put on a board with these boxes of skills and workshops to tick off – it is so satisfying at the end when all those boxes have been ticked! There’s so many skills to learn: how to deploy my favourite piece of kit – the surface marker buoy (SMB), buoyancy, lift-bags, skills demonstrations, mapping, briefings and leading dives. And to top it off, you’ll be in the water 6-8 times a week, woooo!

Scientific Research 

Doing your Divemaster with IOP differs from a usual Divemaster in that it combines scientific research with diving skills. I spent ages looking for research Divemasters and finally landed on IOP because it seemed to be the most comprehensive, had excellent reviews, and was in a great location. Throughout the 4-8 weeks, you receive lectures from the knowledgeable staff on all sorts of interesting topics: sharks, coral, fish, mantas, mangroves, and nudibranchs, as well as learning about how to actually conduct research in the field! Once you pass your species identification test, you can start doing fish surveys, recording the fish and other important species that we see on dives. You also learn how to conduct Baited Underwater Remote Videos (BRUV), and take turns to lead the BRUV team, from smashing up the fish for the bait, to adjusting the camera, and using your new lift-bag skills to lift the weights up to the surface. Coral restoration is also on the cards, propagating corals correctly and growing them on underwater structures, making sure your buoyancy and knotwork is on point.

Social life

It’s all well and good learning these things, but what about the people?! The staff are all amazing and friendly. Of course the group you’re with will change and rotate, but I’m sure within them you will find your people. I know that I’ve made some friends for life! You can dictate how you socialise as well – going out for a drink, exploring on your days off, or just chilling by the pool. For some ideas of where to go, check out my post here.

So… is it worth doing a Divemaster with IOP?

If I haven’t made it clear already – YES. For the price, you get a lot. I have some friends who came back, even though they’re already Divemasters, just to do the scientific research and dives. You’ll learn so much, becoming an excellent diver, and make friends for life – what more could you want?

If you want to know what day-to-day life is like doing your Divemaster with IOP, then you can read my post here.


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