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Diving in Brunei - February, 2013

PADI to hold first ever PADI Instructor Evaluation (IE) in Brunei 

BruneiPADI is excited to announce that the first ever PADI Instructor Evaluation (IE) is scheduled to take place in Brunei on the 15th & 16th February 2014.

The PADI IE will be attended by several candidates who are undertaking the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Course (OWSI) from across the region. 

Brunei is truly a hidden gem for diving in Asia is fast becoming a must-dive location. Its home to countless sheltered bays, coastal reefs and wrecks for divers to explore. The warm, calm waters attract a vast range of marine life on many of the dive sites. The Brunei Bay wrecks are regarded as one of the best locations to dive in this amazing country. 

Find out more about diving in Brunei, locate a PADI Dive Shop in Brunei

More to follow soon! 

Diving in Vanuatu - January, 2013 

Christina Shaw, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor at Big Blue in Vanuatu has provided the following story regarding Mike Crawford and the excellent results he has achieved with local divers and the diving industry in Vanuatu.PADI Master Instructor, Mike Crawford receiving the PADI award for “Outstanding Commitment to the Vanuatu Dive Industry”, surrounded the staff at Big Blue.  

Mike Crawford, a PADI Master Instructor from Big Blue Vanuatu, recently received a PADI award for “Outstanding Commitment to the Vanuatu Diving Industry – 2013”.  This award is partly an acknowledgement of the twenty-three years Mike has spent as a PADI Instructor with numerous PADI certifications under his weight belt - which in itself is a great accomplishment.  However, the true stand out achievement is the fulfillment of Mike’s vision for a dive industry staffed, not by expatriate instructors, but by local Ni-Vanuatu dive professionals.  

When Mike and his wife Maggie first arrived in Vanuatu there were only a handful of Ni-Vanuatu divers working in the dive resorts and none held professional diving qualifications. The situation is very different now. Today, Big Blue employs six Ni-Vanuatu PADI Instructors and three Ni-Vanuatu PADI Divemasters with more in training. Late last year, after attending a PADI Instructor Development Course run by Big Blue, five Ni-Vanuatu divers working at four different dive centres in Vanuatu qualified as PADI OpenWater Scuba Instructors.  

So what brought Mike to Vanuatu?
He started life on a dairy farm in Te Puke, New Zealand, left school at 16 years old and joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force, serving for 6 years.   

Whilst contemplating his future on a cruise around the South Pacific, Mike bought a lei from a stall on the island of Espirito Santo in Vanuatu. The local stall owner told Mike if he threw the lei into the water he would come back to Vanuatu.  Surprisingly, the very next day he was offered a job in the security department of the cruise ship, there by returning him regularly to the tropical shores of Vanuatu.    

Mike learnt to dive in Port Vila in 1988 and whenever he was off duty whilst docked there, he would go diving. Three years later he attended the PADI Academy in Sydney and qualified as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. He ran the dive operations on the Fair Star cruise ship for three and a half years before settling in Vanuatu with his wife Maggie, also a PADI Instructor. Together they ran dive operations in Vanuatu for 10 years before setting up their own dive resort in Port Vila in 2005 - and Big Blue was born. Big Blue has grown to become Vanuatu’s only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Resort.  

Some of the Big Blue professional dive team. Left to right: PADI Divemaster Mark Anatu and PADI Instructors, Fabrice Billandon, Jerry Songalapa and Maddie Chillia.

Mike and Maggie had worked previously with Jerry Songalapa, Luaki Nabanga and Mark Anatu. Mike encouraged them to complete PADI dive courses and all of them achieved their PADI Divemaster certification within a few years. All three still work for Mike, now with Big Blue. Jerry became a PADI Instructor in 2009. He explains “I would never have believed that I could become a PADI Divemaster, but I did. Then I would never have believed that I could become a PADI Instructor. But each time I passed the next level Mike told me I should keep studying and improving and doing better”. Jerry is now the Diving Manager at Big Blue.  

Mike has taught many other local divers who have gone on to work else where. Janet Moodley (née Nabanga) worked with Mike and Maggie and became Vanuatu’s first ever female PADI Divemaster.  They were also instrumental in helping Janet become the first ever Ni-Vanuatu female to be employed on the cruise ships.  

All staff at the resorts - not just the dive centre staff - were encouraged. Mike would share his enthusiasm for diving with the gardeners, carpenters and others and turn them into divers. He is the mainstay of the volunteers who maintain and run the decompression chamber in Vanuatu. It is not a surprise that Mike is known as “Abu” meaning grandfather. He has had such an impact on the lives of many Ni-Vanuatu that he is seen as part of their families.  

Mike’s influence on the diving industry in Vanuatu can only be seen as positive. Diving with the local Ni-Vanuatu PADI Instructors and Divemasters makes for a more authentic cultural experience for those visiting the tropical islands of Vanuatu. More significantly, giving local people the opportunity to become PADI Professionals can change lives. They can work in a well-paid, secure profession where they have responsibility and are respected by their family and peers. They have the opportunity to progress and continue their education and attain further qualifications through the PADI system. They are, rightly, proud of their achievements. 

 Janet Moodley became Vanuatu’s first ever female PADI Divemaster, pictured with Mike and Maggie Crawford.Mike is a quiet and modest man and when asked to say a few words after being presented with his award he told the Big Blue staff that the success of Big Blue was down to them and all their hard work. He encouraged them to take up the mantel and, in turn, encourage their younger colleagues to keep progressing and trying to do better. Jerry, who has worked with for Mike for 15 years, then spoke on behalf of the Big Blue staff and expressed what it means to them that ‘Abu’ has received this recognition. He spoke of the gratitude felt by many for the opportunities Abu Mike has given them. “This is not just an award from PADI this is from all of us too and it’s from the heart”.    

The award for “Outstanding Commitment to the Vanuatu Dive Industry” could not be given to a more deserving individual. What would ‘Abu’ Mike say if you asked him about his achievements and the award?  “Not bad for a Kiwi farmer from Te Puke”!    

Mike Crawford has changed the face of diving in Vanuatu. 

For more information including all your diving needs and PADI Instructor Development in Vanuatu, contact Big Blue Vanuatu, Tel: +678 27518, Email: or visit their website at

Diving in Vanuatu - November, 2013

Mike Crawford awarded for “Outstanding Commitment to the Vanuatu Diving Industry – 2013”

The recent PADI Instructor Exam in Vanuatu was the successful result of much hard work by the instructor candidates, their PADI Course Director Sarah Kench along with a great team of supporters.  Christina Shaw and Terry Gardner, on behalf of Mike Crawford, receiving Mike’s award for “Outstanding Commitment to the Vanuatu Diving Industry – 2013” from Mark Cummins, PADI AP Manager, PRRA.

Christina Shaw and Terry Gardner, on behalf of Mike Crawford, receiving Mike’s award for “Outstanding Commitment to the Vanuatu Diving Industry – 2013” from Mark Cummins, PADI AP Manager, PRRA

The fact that a PADI Instructor Development Course and Instructor Exam occurred canbe largely attributed to the hard work of Mike Crawford, a PADI Member for 23 years and long-time resident of Vanuatu.  Mike is a PADI Instructor who brought a wealth of experience to Vanuatu when he arrived in the mid-90s. Along with his wife Maggie - also a PADI Instructor - Mike worked closely with the local Ni Vanuatu (Ni-Van) dive guides to assist them to become PADI Professionals.

Mike and Maggie run Big Blue Scuba & Snorkel in Port Vila, Vanuatu in conjunction with their local staff.  Prior to owning Big Blue, Mike worked for the PRO DIVE chain including PRO DIVE Port Vila on Iririki Island, Vanuatu and previously on the cruise ship, Fairstar.

When Mike first arrived in Vanuatu, there were very few local PADI Professionals and Mike identified the need for local Ni-Van to become PADI Divemasters and Instructors. To the Ni-Van, English is often a 3rd or 4th language so Mike’s help and support has been invaluable to the local team in understanding the intricacies of professional level diving - including physics and physiology in the English language.     

The ambition shown by the local Ni-Van divers combined with their very hard workand commitment, has resulted in their PADI Instructor dream becoming areality.  Mike Crawford’s contribution to the success of the recent PADI Instructor Exam in Vanuatu is applauded by the PADI Asia Pacific team and his support is deeply appreciated by the new PADI Instructors.

October, 2013 - Diving in Vanuatu 

New PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors in Vanuatu  

From 1-2 October, 2013 PADI conducted a very successful Instructor Exam in Port Vila, with all six candidates earning their PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor rating. 

Five of the six new PADI Instructors are indigenous Ni Vanuatu - Rystommy Hake, Wilfred Tileya, Madison Chilia, Neidge Soaloand Lionel Jimmy.  Toby Sulis was born in Vanuatu to European parents.  Toby Sulis, Rystommy Hake, Colin Melrose (PADI Instructor Examiner. Lionel Jimmy, Wilfred Tileya, Sarah Kench (PADI Course Director) Neidge Soalo and Madison Chilia.
PADI Course Director Sarah Kench did a great job of preparing the candidates and new PADI Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor, Phil Smith was instrumental in providing valuable translation services for the General Standards & Procedures and Dive Theory exams.

PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Resort, Big Blue in Port Vila hosted the event with candidates also coming from Hideaway Island Resort,Tranquillity Resort and Allan Power Diving

PADI Instructor Examiner, Colin Melrose who conducted the IE, reported,

“The candidates worked very hard both individually and as a team during the PADI Instructor Development Course and fully deserve the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor ratings.

They will make a valuable contribution to the Vanuatu diving tourism industry through their employers, all of whom are local dive operators. The support of these employers as well as that of families and friends was a significant factor in their success.

PADI extends congratulations to all the candidates and many, many thanks toall PADI Members who made this program possible.


August, 2013 - Diving in Cambodia 


Diving can transform lives. It so happened to Peter Bowker, a British soldier and veteran of the Afghanistan conflict. Peter was injured by a road bomb in late 2008 – losing his right leg below the knee and badly fracturing his right femur.  

However, Peter’s injuries did not stop him from pursuing new activities and adventures - he first began diving in Malta in 2012.  The experience mPeter Bowker - Afghanistan 2008 and during the PADI IDC at Scuba Nation in Cambodia, July 2013.ade him realise that diving was a career he wished to pursue.  He made contact with Scuba Nation in Cambodia, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center and having the opportunity to dive there for nearly 2 months, completed the PADI Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver courses. 
He then enrolled in the PADI Divemaster course. 

Peter explained, “I’ve had routine X-rays every 6 months since I lost my leg and the doctors found that during this period the fracture to my femur heals about 20-30%. I had another X-ray when I returned from gaining my PADI Divemaster certification - after diving almost every day in Cambodia, the doctors found that my fracture site had healed over 200%.” 

“Besides the good effects that diving has on my injury, I just love the lifestyle and I became even more determined to achieve my goal to become a PADI Instructor.” 

In early 2013 Peter completed a Disabled Divers instructor course in London and went on to help the injured soldiers diving charity, Deptherapy in Florida, USA. Deptherapy helps to rehabilitate injured UK service personnel and US marines suffering from physical injuries and post-traumatic stress. The organisation has noticed that using scuba diving as a rehabilitation tool is very helpful and encourages many aspects of healing, both physically and mentally. 

Peter organised to return to Scuba Nation, Cambodia and in July 2013 completed the PADI Instructor Development Course – followed by the PADI Instructor Exam held in Bali.   

 PADI Course Director Gerard Leenen and Peter Bowker, now a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.

Gerard Leenen, PADI Course Director from Scuba Nation in Cambodia - who first met Peter in January and then tutored him on the PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) recently, reports: “Peter is like a whirlwind of positive energy and charisma and is also mature for his years. Quite open about what happened to him in Afghanistan and his military career, he constantly surprises with his positive attitude.    

From the first IDC presentation I gave, Peter was a strong candidate and sometimes very funny. He always stands at ease when you talk to him and we constantly had to remind him he was not in the army anymore! Peter was a great student – and a pleasure to teach as he wanted to absorb all the information given. We are very proud to have been able to teach Peter to become a PADI Professional and to see first-hand that diving truly can transform people’s lives. 

Peter explains to PADI a little about his diving experience so far… 

What highlights do you recall from the PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC)? Highlights of my PADI IDC include teaching in open water for the first time as I found it both challenging and rewarding. I remember one dive in particular where visibility was less than half a meter with a current. I found this especially enjoyable due to the added challenge of controlling a group in a difficult environment, whilst conducting the Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA) exercise.  

What do you most enjoy in your day as a PADI Instructor?  The most enjoyable aspect of my day is the sense of pride I have when telling people of my career. I enjoy taking people from their first tentative steps into diving to being confident divers. 

What is one of your favourite memories in your diving career so far? Whilst teaching an injured soldier in America who had lost his right arm, a large turtle swam right up to me which was an amazing moment.  

What words of advice would you give to divers who are considering becoming professionals? There are a million excuses not to, but you only need one ticket to open the door Peter and fellow Open Water Scuba Instructors in Bali, following the PADI Instructor Exam in July. to amazing opportunities. 

What are your goals from here? My goals are to become the first injured soldier to become a technical diving instructor, in addition to teaching other NATO injured soldiers how to dive to help them overcome the psychological and physical injuries of war. Another goal is to summit Everest in 2016 with Summit for Heroes and to be the first amputee to cross Greenland with Heroes Challenge UK. 

Says Rob Scammell, the PADI Instructor Examiner who conducted Peter’s Instructor Exam in Bali, “Peter is an inspiration to us all.Throughout the IE he proved himself to be a great team player and motivator for his group. Peter is a shining example of how diving can change our lives and present us with new opportunities and challenges”. 

PADI would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Peter on his significant diving achievements and we wish him every success in achieving his goals 


June, 2013  


Transperancy-EFR-28.6.13Transparency Vanuatu, through its Duke of Edinburgh Award programme, has launched a first aid initiative for Vanuatu youth.   

With the assistance of PADI Asia Pacific and Nautilus Watersports, they can now offer internationally recognised Emergency First Response Primary and Secondary First Aid training courses to local youth, providing vital skills to communities in the event of an emergency.   

Since its launch in March 2013, 22 Ni Vanuatu youth have received their certification as Emergency First Responders, including 5 visiting community based provincial facilitators,  Johnny Avock, Ps Jean Paul Polycap, Horman Gigina, Shina Timothy and Tom Kohua.  The group were in Port Vila this month for a training series to assist them in delivering EFR workshops through out Vanuatu’s most remote communities.   

Nautilus Watersports in Vanuatu generously offered to facilitate this initiative by providing volunteer EFR Instructors to conduct this course. All participants to date have been most impressed with the level of professionalism which these young instructors bring, and they have made the learning environment enjoyable and easy to pick up, ensuring these young Ni-Vanuatu not only learn, but maintain these vital skills to the benefit of their communities. The course itself is designed to create a fun and relaxed learning experience, allowing students of all levels and backgrounds to easily grasp the material.   

Rebecca Solomon, Youth Coordinator for Transparency Vanuatu says; “This course is fun and to our level, which means we not only learn these skills in the classroom, but we keep them in our communities.”   

First Aid skills are enormously lacking amongst Vanuatu communities, and it is hoped that these youngsters will now be in a position to provide potentially life saving assistance to someone in need in their communities.   

The board of Transparency Vanuatu approved the inclusion of this initiative to extend the benefits to all youth within Vanuatu and as it is being incorporated into the facilitators’ training presently being undertaken.  This will ensure that they take these skills into the provinces, making this a Vanuatu wide initiative.   

Not only does this training cover essential skills such as CPR, it also promotes an overall healthy lifestyle message, which these youths will hopefully spread throughout their communities. With the growing prevalence of illnesses such as diabetes, it is timely for this message to be given priority throughout Vanuatu.   

In the words of one Transparency Vanuatu staff member “The Youth are the future of our country. I believe healthy youth will become healthy leaders, in mind, body and soul.”   

Lyndsey Wilson-Akers fromTransparency Vanuatu adds,   

“On behalf of all 22 now certified EFR participants, Transparency Vanuatu are eternally grateful to PADI and Nautilus Watersports for your commitment to this initiative and hope that this partnership can continue long into the future. Nautilus instructors Colin Bartkowiak and Sean Chung deserve special commendation for this effort, as in spite of the difficulties which arise in the case of language barriers, they delivered this course at a level which all visiting facilitators could understand.”   

As this is an ongoing initiative of Transparency Vanuatu, anyone interested in completing this course is encouraged to contact the office on telephone: (+678) 25715, Email: or visit the office located in the centre of Port Vila, 1st  Floor, (at rear) C&K Real Estate. All are welcome. 

 June, 2013 

Alexa Ballentine, Damien Manfre,Rebecca Solomon, Daniel William, Deffnie Thompson, Rebecca Crosby and Analyn Gilbert.Emergency First Response courses held at Transparency Vanuatu

Earlier this year Transparency Vanuatu, a chapter of the global organisation Transparency International, began to offer courses in First Aid with Emergency First Response Primary and Secondary Care programs to the nationals and citizens of Vanuatu.

With the help of Emergency First Response Instructors, Alexa Ballentine and Damien Manfre from Nautilus in Vanuatu, 5 new Emergency First Responders were certified  - Rebecca Solomon, Deffnie Thompson, Daniel William, Rebecca Crosby and Analyn Gilbert, who were also participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.

Lyndsey Wilson-Akers from Transparency Vanuatu reports that they all thoroughly enjoyed the course and in spite of the language barrier, Instructors Alexa and Damien delivered the material flawlessly and in a manner which enabled all participants to not only thoroughly grasp the material and concepts, but also to retain the information and skills.

One participant who had previously completed a first aid course through a different organisation commented that she didn’t really learn anything before because the instructor was disinterested and the material too complex.  Through the Emergency First Response program and its delivery, she now feels confident that she can be of real assistance to somebody in need.

Lyndsey adds, “It was a job well done by all and we are extremely grateful for the assistance of Nautilus and their Instructors, who are enormously committed educators and who were also very excited to be given the opportunity to train local Ni Vanuatu”.

During April and May, 2013 Transparency Vanuatu ran additional Emergency First Response First Aid programs and will continue with extensive EFR training through the month of June. 

Transparency Vanuatu

Transparency Vanuatu is a chapter of Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption. Transparency International consists of more than 100 chapters– locally established, independent organisations – that fight corruption in their respective countries. For more information, visit

March 2013 
 - Diving in Cambodia 

PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre, Scuba Nation assists in the preparation of Cambodian salvage divers  

PADI Course Director Gerard Leenen, from Scuba Nation Diving Centre, Knights of The Royal Order of SahametreiCambodia who was recently conferred Knight of the Royal Order of Sahametrei for his hard work and commitment to the local community in Cambodia, explains his involvement and the development of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre/ Golden West Diver Preparation course.  The course will lead to the formation of the first underwater UXO (unexploded ordnance) salvage team in Asia.   

In 2006 Len Austin from Golden West Humanitarian Foundation Cambodia walked into our Scuba Nation office in Phnom Penh and spoke to us about setting up a Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) Salvage Divers team program to be supervised by Golden West. We talked about things and sent a quote but heard no more about it.  

Skip forward 6 years. In 2012 Allen Tan, the General Manager from Golden West, approached us again about this.Cambodian volunteers during-fitness training It was to be funded by the US Department of State and the Office of Weapons Removal & Abatement and was now a GO project. 

The basic structure of the program was for one month of training. We started with 40 volunteers from CMAC for Phase 1. After two weeks of training by Golden West Instructors and staff, mainly involving physical fitness, swimming, discipline and some academic work, the 40 candidates would be whittled down to 20 for the two weeks of Phase 2.  Phase 2 was teaching the PADI Open Water Diver course and overseeing the subsequent dives, where Golden West staff with salvage divers from the US Army and Navy would take over the training. I was to be present all through Phase 1 in Phnom Penh for consultation and during Phase 2 off the coast of Sihanoukville. 

On the first day of Phase 1 there was an introduction to the program and the guys were straight into the pool.  It was obvious that this was going to be an experience all on its own: most of these guys couldn’t swim and due to their lack of body fat, almost none could float! Fortunately, they had an extremely competent Cambodian swim teacher who trained in Australia and she was great. Within a week, she had them all floating, swimming front crawl and snorkelling.  

 After the cut to 20 candidates to start Phase 2, the training moved to the coast. I had to design Gerard Leenan keeps a close watch on Confined Water trainingpower-point presentations with many illustrations as most of the 20 cannot read or write English, but we had 2 excellent translators who managed to translate on the spot as I did the lectures. It became quickly apparent that the academics were going to be a big challenge for a lot of the guys, some of whom had very little formal education and had barely been in a classroom up to that point. We quickly adjusted the schedule to allow more time to be spent on the academics. Soon, I began to see the strong ones helping and explaining to the weaker ones, which was great - and for me - this was the start of them becoming a team. 

At the same time, the guys were still doing physical training and also experiencing their first breaths underwater with the confined exercises. We split them into teams of 4-5 and all were allocated buddies to bring home to them the teamwork concept, something the Army and Navy guys really wanted to emphasise. It was very different from training during our normal courses and it was funny to see that if the guys did something wrong after being told several times how to do it, the Army guys would make them do press-ups. We’re still thinking about trying it out with our usual students!! 

By the end of the 3rd week we moved our whole operation to Koh Rong Island for the final PADI Open Water dives and then on to the special training. The 4 open water dives were great and the students loved it; we worked on buoyancy and did the PADI Open Water skills. For Dives 3 & 4, we took them to the reefs and showed them the corals and marine life; all the students came up with big smiles on their faces.  

We certified 15 Cambodian CMAC staff for the PADI Open Water course and handed them over to Golden The PADI Open Water Diver students with their instructors and staffWest to continue 4 extra days of diver training. Joining us then were 3 US military salvage divers who observed the students, and advised the Golden West instructors who took over from Scuba Nation. They were assessing if the candidates were ready to go on to further salvage training over the next few years. 

We were acting as safety divers for these dives and it was incredible to see the candidates doing exercises with black-out masks, low visibility and entanglements. These are divers who had just passed the PADI Open Water course 3 days ago and some of whom could barely swim 3 weeks ago. Absolutely amazing! 

To qualify as a success, Golden West needed four divers to qualify for the Salvage team. We are extremely proud that ten candidates achieved the first level of Basic Salvage diver and the US military Salvage divers will take those ten to be trained as the first ever Cambodian Salvage diver team, and in fact the first in the world of its kind. Due to the success of this program, the US State Department are now looking at repeating it elsewhere in Asia and in Africa, which is a great tribute to the hard work and  teamwork, of Scuba Nation and Golden West.   

As a complete surprise that blew me away, at the closing ceremony, I and the lead instructors were presented with a knighthood of The Royal Order of Sahametrei by H.E. Prak Sokhon on behalf of the Cambodian Government in recognition of our services over the past months to the development of the CMAC/ Golden West Diver Preparation course. 

As a PADI Course Director and Scuba Nation owner, it was an honour to be selected as the PADI Dive Centre to run the program with Golden West, The US Department of State, The Office of Weapons Removal & Abatement and CMAC. For me personally, it was a pleasure and privilege to work with the teams of people involved. The biggest satisfaction was to see Cambodian CMAC people, some of whom had never been to school and could not swim 4 weeks ago, change into a great team of PADI Open Water divers and go on to bigger and better things. I am so proud that I and Scuba Nation were a part of that. It has changed my life forever and I have learned so much over the last 4 weeks that will stay with me to make me a better PADI Instructor and Course Director. 

Gerard Leenen - PADI Course Director          

 Click here to view a short video of the Cambodians during their diver preparation course. 

To contact Scuba Nation Diving Centre, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tel:  Phnom Penh, Mobile: +855 (0)12 715 785   Sihanoukville,  Mobile: +855 (0)12 604 680  Email:  or visit their Website :  and 


March 2013 - Diving in Cambodia   

Gerard Leenen awarded Knight of the Royal Order of Sahametrei in Cambodia Gerard Leenen

PADI Asia Pacific is delighted to extend sincere congratulations to PADI Course Director Gerard Leenen from Scuba Nation Diving Centre - who was conferred Knight of the Royal Order of Sahametrei on February 28th 2013 - for his hard work and commitment to the local community in Cambodia. 

Gerard was presented with the medal of The Royal Order of Sahametrei knighthood by H.E. Prak Sokhon on behalf of the Cambodian Government. This is in recognition of his services over the past months to the development of the CMAC/ Golden West Diver Preparation course which will lead to the formation of the first underwater UXO (unexploded ordnance) salvage team in Asia.   

Well done, Gerard! 

The Royal Order of Sahametrei is a medal presented by the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia by Royal Decree of the King of Cambodia.  It is conferred primarily on foreigners who have rendered distinguished services to the King and to the people of Cambodia, particularly in the field of external relations and diplomatic services or, as a token of friendship. 

To contact Scuba Nation Diving Centre, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tel:  Phnom Penh, Mobile: +855 (0)12 715 785   Sihanoukville,  Mobile: +855 (0)12 604 680  Email:  or visit their Website:  and 

January, 2013
Diving in Cambodia  

Gerard Leenen and Vicky Leah - owners of Scuba Nation Diving Centre, a PADI 5 Star Max Hay is now living his dream as a PADI Divemaster in Cambodia.Instructor Development Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia  -  have provided this interesting story, written by PADI Divemaster, Max Hay.

My name is Max Hay and I was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1972.  My father worked with the Cambodian Lon Nol government and when I was 8 months old, he was assigned to work at the Cambodian embassy in Washington D.C.   While we were gone, Cambodia collapsed under the Khmer Rouge - my father, mother, 3 sisters, 1 brother and I were stranded in America.   

We moved to Silver Spring, Maryland.  My father was an avid fisherman and camping on the beach with my family had a strong influence on my upbringing and lifestyle.  By 4 years of age, we moved again to Long Beach, California - a one week, cross-country road trip in my Dad’s Green Mercury - towing the U-haul.  Growing up in a beach town - surfing, skim boarding, body boarding, just being in the ocean and hanging out at the beach with friends - was the thing to do.  Free-diving to see crabs on the rock jetties planted the seed for breathing underwater; relaxation and deep breathing exercises appeal to me and scuba diving was a natural transition.   

I made my first return visit back to Cambodia in 2002.  Though I only stayed for one short week, I made a connection with the country and what was left of my family who stayed. During the Khmer Rouge period, around 2 million people died under the regime, up to 30% of the population. 

My first time in Sihanoukville left a lasting impression with sandy white beaches, warm, clear waters and islands off the coast.  I remember thinking, I like this place, I like this town - I would like to live the rest of my life in this country I left as a small child.   

Coming back to America was an emotional experience for me.  The connection I made with my family and my country of birth stayed with me; photos of my trip would cause a deep longing to return.   

Once I did my first dive off of Catalina Island in California, I was hooked.  My instructor mentioned diving as a profession and a seed was planted.  It had been 9 years since my trip to Cambodia and not a day had gone by that I didn’t think about returning.  The feeling of being anxious and not satisfied with my life, weighed heavily on me.  The need for change in my life kept growing, I woke one morning and realised I had spent 40 years of my life in America and I wanted a new direction.  On my mind was the suggestion of a career in diving and the images of Sihanoukville - the connection became obvious to me.   

My second trip to Cambodia was a one-way ticket.  I researched the dive shops and liked what I read about Scuba Nation.  I did my PADI Advanced Open Water Course with them and was impressed with the instructors and the course.  The diving off Koh Tang, an island 4-5 hours off the mainland, was memorable and it sealed the commitment for me.  I made the decision to invest what little I had in my Divemaster Training course and take that first step in professional diving here in Cambodia.   

I have been in Cambodia for 10 months now and it has been quite an experience.  Working as a PADI Divemaster for Scuba Nation, I have the opportunity to dive the islands off the coast and make a living in a country where I am still rediscovering my roots and family.    

Every day here is a learning experience both as a Divemaster and a Cambodian returnee; the future is one of hope and promise…let’s see what the next 40 years brings me.   

As he gains more experience as a Divemaster, Max plans to continue his PADI Professional Development.  An option for the future is to become a PADI Instructor. 

Planning a trip to Cambodia?  Visit Vicky and Gerard at SCUBA NATION DIVING CENTRE
The first and only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Mobile: +855 (0)12 715 785            Sihanoukville,  Mobile: +855 (0)12 604 680
Email:    Website :  and 

October, 2012 - Diving in Cambodia 

PADI Junior Open Water Divers in Cambodia L to R:  PADI Regional Manager, Johnny Chew; IDC Staff Instructor, Fabrice Germaneau; PADI Divemaster, Daren Beck and PADI Junior Open Water diver, Charles ‘CJ’ Beck.

Continuing what is starting to look like a new tradition for the Beck family, we add our congratulations to Charles Jonathan (CJ to his friends) Beck who completed the PADI Junior Open Water Course in Cambodia with PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centre, Scuba Nation on 15 September 2012.  

At 10 years, 3 days - he became the youngest ever to be certified at this level in Cambodia – not to mention one of the youngest world-wide. You need to be 10 years old to begin this course - so this is an amazing achievement in so short a time. 

The PADI Open Water Course is made up of three parts: knowledge development sessions involving self-study, quizzes and instructor reviews; confined sessions practicing scuba skills in shallow water; and four open water dives in the ocean.  For PADI Junior Open Water students, there is no allowance for their younger age (except a depth and supervision restriction) and the younger students complete exactly the same course as the adults.  

 “The previous youngest Junior Open Water diver to be certified in Cambodia was his sister, Kamryn 2 years ago and we’re sure this gave CJ the spur to try to beat her record.” Scuba Nation’s co-owner, Gerard Leenen explains, “The Becks now have the 2 youngest ever PADI certified male and female divers in Cambodia”.  

“Our PADI IDC Staff Instructor, Fabrice Germaneau was particularly pleased as this continues his “full-set” of the Beck family – as well as Kamryn, he previously certified Mum, Jodi and older sister, Mikaela as Open Water divers and Dad Daren completed his PADI Divemaster course with us last year”. 

As the Scuba Nation staff said of CJ: "He is a great little diver, always smiling and we're really happy to welcome him as the youngest member of the Scuba Nation diving family here in Cambodia"