Swimming with Sharks and Turtles: Instructor Creates Unique Diving Experiences

This article originally appeared at deafprofessional.net.

Swimming with sharks and turtles in the sea in between hours of relaxation is something many people only dream of. For Naomi Hayim, it’s simply another day on the job.

Hayim, 28, works as an open water scuba instructor and logistics coordinator for Worldwide Dive and Sail, a company that specializes in diving and sailing in areas such as the Similan and Surin islands, Burma Banks and Andaman Islands. In between trips, Hayim lives in Phuket, Thailand, where the company has an office to coordinate upcoming trips.

Hayim, who is deaf, has been diving for over ten years. “I started diving when I was 17, as I was already interested in the underwater world,” she says. “From these few first breaths underwater at a swimming pool, I was hooked, and the rest is history!”

Born and raised in London, Hayim studied marine and freshwater biology at Queen Mary and Westfield College in the East End of London during the late 1990s Working in pharmaceutical communications, she had her first sea dive in County Galway, Ireland in 1995 and then in Thailand in 2003. “I always dived in my spare time, and over the years, it gradually took up more of my time.”

It wasn’t until the owner of Worldwide Dive and Sail decided to provide greater access to the sport of diving that Hayim made her passion a full-time career. The company provides access in eight languages, including sign language. “We thought it’d be a good idea to increase the access to diving for deaf and hard of hearing people,” says Hayim, who was raised orally but uses sign language and lipreading today. “I’ve come across many deaf people who face communication difficulty while diving, so on the boat, we make it very easy by eliminating as much of these problems as possible. I believe that diving should be for everyone. We are currently the only liveaboard in the world that offers such facilities, as far as I am aware of.”

A typical day for the company, which leads boat trips each day of up to eleven people, including two instructors and three crew members, consists of having a light breakfast and then having up to four dives a day, starting at 7:00 a.m. After a larger breakfast and rest, the group dives again at 11:00 a.m. before having an European or Thai lunch. The group has leisurely activities such as sailing, snorkeling, fishing, or kayaking before another dive at 2:30 p.m., with a plate of fruits afterwards. After watching the sunset, the group then goes for a night dive at 7 p.m. The day wraps up with a dinner and more relaxation. Hayim explains, “We always tell people that they do not have to make four dives a day. They can choose to relax on the boat, jump off one of the secluded islands, sail around the bays and islands. Flexibility is the key.”

Even a relaxing job like this isn’t without its dangers. During Asia’s devastating tsunami in December 2004, Hayim’s group was in the vicinity. “Luckily, we were at Richelieu Rock, which is situated in the middle of the ocean,” she remembers. “Even though we were diving at the time, which meant we were caught up in strong currents, all of us emerged to the surface.” There were two deaf divers in the group, including one who was doing her fourth open water dive. “What a famous dive that was! It is definitely something we’ll share with our grandchildren.”

Becoming a dive instructor requires hard work, commitment and experience, according to Hayim. “Get up the dive ladder. It’s not only the qualifications, but the experience that counts. The more dives you do in different places and environments, the better,” she says. “The divemaster course is the first level of entering professional diving. A passion of the sport and the ability to relate to people on a personal level are two other key elements. It’s a very rewarding and satisfying job as well.”

Even with all the work that comes with operating a company like Worldwide Dive and Sail, the perks are what make the work worth it for Hayim. “There’s never anything better than seeing a manta ray glide by or a whaleshark cruise by – the gentle giants of the sea. They’re so enormous, but somehow, when you encounter one, you do nothing but gaze in full awe. And that’s why I do what I do.”

For more information on the trips offered by Worldwide Dive and Sail, visit www.worldwidediveandsail.com.

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