That’s my Divemaster number, in case anyone was wondering. Yes, dear readers, it finally happened: there are new PADI Divemasters at Coral Divers here in Sodwana Bay. Those of us who have been processed and received our numbers got our beautiful blue rashies (rash guards) featured in the stunning photograph above, and we’re having the time of our professional lives leading dives (and absolutely pretending like we know what we’re doing). Of course, we all suffered from some weird diving luck as soon as we got our numbers. The visibility has been pretty bad under water lately, maybe 10-15 meters at best, so groups have been getting separated from each other left and right (and everybody’s getting found, don’t panic. You get lost, you go up). We’ve also been having a slough of irritations with random gear malfunctions underwater (mouthpieces popping off, buoy lines getting hopelessly tangled [assuming they even made it to the boat at all], BCDs inflating and deflating on their own accord; you get the picture). On the surface, our luck isn’t much better. Gear has been vanishing into a void on beach (RIP my weight belt), three boats from other companies have flipped in the surf (again, everyone’s fine), and four of our Divemasters were put out of commission at the same time due to ear problems (plus a fifth thanks to a bad muscle spasm in her back). But, I mean, doesn’t this always happen as soon as the new guys come in to start working? Everything that can go wrong will go wrong just so the universe can show you that you’re cut out to handle any problem the job will throw at you. Plus, high season starts this weekend (just in time for me to leave, haha!) so we’re hoping that if we get all the bad juju out of the way now, then everything will be fine for the two weeks of utter chaos about to descend during the school holidays. Sadly, though, this will be my last post coming to you from Coral. Like I said all the way back in January, I’m only here for ten weeks and then the glorious road trip along the Garden Route begins. And while I am looking forward to posting more frequently about the sightseeing and adventuring we’re going to be doing across the western coast, I can say with complete honesty that it breaks my heart to have to leave. Ten weeks was simply not enough time here to enjoy the diving or the people. My recommendation to you, potential future travelers, is to come and stay for as long as you possibly can. I’ve been here diving twice a day for two and a half months and there are still dive sites out in the bay I haven’t been to. On a professional level, I don’t want to leave because I know I’m going to be missing out on invaluable work experience. On a personal level, I don’t want to leave because the people are some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, working, and living with (Tim, we’re going to Belize in 2024 and I’m holding you to that; Aadil, I’ll see you in Mexico). I have certainly learned new things about myself and what I’m capable of doing (who knew starting a day before 10:00am could be so nice?), not only on a personal level, but as a professional as well. I’ve learned to be more assertive about what I know and what I want people to do (getting adults to listen to and respect you when you’re a smiley 23 is no easy feat). I’ve learned how hard I can push myself and when to listen to my body telling me it’s time to take a day off (apologies to my inner ear for that last dive that pushed it over the edge...). Most importantly, though, I think that I’ve learned just how much I love diving and what that could mean for my future. For now, I know that returning home, completing my Master’s degree, and working for a few years is the right thing to do. I’m looking forward to that next step in my life more and more each day. But after that, I really do think that becoming an Instructor is a distinct career path I’m more than willing to explore. And, at the end of the day, wasn’t that the whole point of taking a gap year? Exploring new possibilities, pushing the boundaries of what I thought was possible, letting my heart lead the way for a while instead of my head? So, in the end, I think this entire wild ride from start to finish has been well worth the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it possible.