Rolex Scholar blog: PADI IDC, and diving the wild Atlantic way

This year's Our World-Underwater Rolex Scholar, Felix Butschek, fills us in on what he's been up to.

After completing my final exams for my Marine Science degree mid-May, I spent my first two weeks of the Scholarship year at Waterworld Diving Centre, County Kerry, Ireland. There, I received the best imaginable support from Course Director Sandra Fitzgibbon and her team to learn how to teach diving. The course started out with a number of classes on the theory of teaching, how to make the learning experience progressive and make the material relevant to learning divers as well as how to connect with students. Because we were only a handful of instructor candidates, the learning environment was very intimate and interactive, with Sandra helping each of us to resolve any difficulties.

Already on the second day, we were thrown into the deep end and gave our first knowledge development presentation. Practising presentations was good fun, even though it required overcoming some initial stage fright. After this classroom practise session we had a chance to learn from IDC Staff Instructor Aaron Bryne how to best demonstrate skills in the pool. From there, we were gradually given more responsibility in preparing and teaching first confined and then open water classes to our fellow candidates, receiving immediate and useful feedback on our progress. The course did not only deliver on how to effectively teach student divers, but also focused on how to adapt teaching to the temperate marine environment of Ireland and the UK, with particular focus on safety. Sandra and her team prepared us extremely well for the exam, so that all of us passed without any difficulty. The main lessons I have taken home with me from my two weeks at Waterworld are the importance of class control and safety in training situations, how to have fun with trainees and the enthusiasm for PADI's diver training that the team at Waterworld has passed on to me.

After the successful completion of the exams, Sandra invited me to stay a little longer and go out for two dives at the Maharee Islands. I welcomed this opportunity after the intense days of focusing on demonstrating and assessing skills. The visibility, scenery and wildlife on these dives were magnificent and left me with a feeling of awe. The hospitality I experienced at Waterworld Diving Centre, the fantastic training and diving was a wonderful start to my Scholarship year. I am so grateful to Rich Somerset, PADI's Instructor Development Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, PADI itself and Sandra Fitzgibbon for this great experience and helping me to make this big step towards a professional diving career.

I left County Kerry to dive two more places on the Wild Atlantic Way, Doolin in County Claire on the west coast and Kinsale in County Cork on the south coast of Ireland. At Doolin, Darren - who completed the instructor course and exam with me - and I jumped into the water from the shore and went looking for Dusty, a bottlenose dolphin that's frequently sighted in Doolin Harbour. Darren knew the area well from his time as a Divemaster at Dive Academy in Lahinch, but unfortunately we did not meet Dusty the Dolphin. Apparently, a few divers scared her off earlier in the season by playing with her until she got annoyed with human company - dolphins are wild animals after all.

At my final stop in County Cork, Graham and Anne Ferguson from Ocean Addicts welcomed me to their ex-Navy tender berthed in Kinsale Harbour. From there, we went out to some fantastic dive sites on their RIB. The diving, yet again, was phenomenal, and with the Nauticam macro wet-lens, I made some first attempts at capturing the small wildlife of our temperate seas. Nudibranchs, soft coral and tompot blennies were just some of the beautiful aquatic life on our dives. The number of mermaid's purses was astonishing, if you are in Southern Ireland this month for some diving, you may already see young dogfish in the purse.

The recreational diving along the Wild Atlantic Way were a perfect example of why it isn't necessary to fly to far-away destinations for good diving. When I was boarding the ferry back to the UK and reflecting upon my experiences in Ireland, I felt that this was only a see-you-soon rather than a farewell to all the extraordinary people who have influenced this first dive trip of my Scholarship year.

For more information on the scholarship, visit

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