Lots of people ask us for our experience working in diving, what’s the best way to get work, what’s the salary like and is there fulltime work? In this 3-part series we’ll give you the low down on Mexico, New Zealand and Australia based on our personal experience.
First up Cozumel, Mexico!
There are many amazing dive sites around Mexico; Baja California, islands like Socorro and on the Riviera Maya. We lived and worked in Cozumel, Mexico for 5 years in the dive industry captured by its beautiful reefs, 40m visibility and marine life like Spotted Eagle Rays, 3 different species of turtles which nest on the island, nurse sharks, the endemic Cozumel Spotted Toadfish and many more. Once you’ve dived in Cozumel, most other dive sites will pale in comparison.
Cozumel has something like over 100 dive shops so getting work is pretty easy. Do your research first online to see the biggest dive shops on the island as they will have more opportunities.
It is quite difficult to find any work without actually being there. People want to meet you and talk to you in person before hiring any staff.
Do some dives with different shops, see how they operate and if it’s an outfit that you want to get involved with. With so many options, some are better than others. Make sure that they are looking after the marine environment, visit a range of reefs and have both guiding and teaching opportunities.
You’ll need to sort out your work visa. Most dive shops won’t offer any type of sponsorship straight away but talk to them and see if it will be an option. Not all dive shops will hire foreigners and if you hear that visas aren’t necessary, don’t listen! Immigration is often visible out and about in the state of Quintana Roo, particularly in industry where there are foreigners working and you don’t want to be doing anything illegal.
This is a tricky one to answer. What people are paid in the dive industry varies some much, even within one area. Most operations in Cozumel will pay you per trip or possibly per day but never per hour. A dive trip in Cozumel is around 4-5 hours and you can do 2 trips or even 3 in a day in the busy season.
Most shops will require you to prep the gear for the customers and load the boat with tanks etc and will pay the diver in US dollars. For a guiding trip (with certified customers) you can expect to earn around $35-40USD. There are plenty of places where you can earn more than this for instructing courses and teaching Discover Scuba Divers.
If you are interested in becoming a Dive Master or Instructor there are also operations where you can do internships. You won’t get paid but you get to earn experience in one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world. They will also help with organising your accommodation while you’re learning.
About the dive trip:
Diving in Cozumel is always drift diving. There is a strong current that runs from south to north which makes drift diving easy as well as the fact that you are diving in a marine reserve and can’t anchor the boat.
The size of the boats vary but the majority are relatively small, for 6-10 divers, and fast so you can get to the reefs further away. Bigger boats will typically only do 1 trip per day as the travel time between sites is longer.
Boat captains are very knowledgeable about the area and will drop you and the divers off at the exact start of the reef making it easy to guide your group. At the end of the dive, you send up your surface marker buoy and the boat will pick you up.
Living on the island:
Cozumel is a small but extremely beautiful island. It is situated in the Mexican Caribbean, off the coast of Playa del Carmen and has a permanent population of around 90,000 people. It is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world with more than one million cruise ship visitors per year. Because it is famous for diving, there is something like 2000 divers per day so there are always lots of tourists.
The beaches are exactly what you imagine when you think of the Caribbean; white sand and clear blue water. All the diving is done on the western side where the Mesoamerican reef runs along but the eastern side of the island is more remote with no electricity or houses so the beaches are untouched and you can enjoy it almost completely to yourself.
Living costs are low, particularly if you eat at local restaurants rather than those catering to tourists. Rent prices range from $350-$500USD per month for a nice 2 or 3 bedroom in a decent neighbourhood. You can pay less depending on your style of living.
So if you’re thinking of going to work abroad in the diving industry, Cozumel definitely has its advantages. The water temperature is always warm and the clear water full of fish will easily make you want to stay.