Text by Ariel Chew, Photos by Yusman Suudi (Virtualmalaysia.com)
Zanarita Nasir and Zuzila Zain have jobs that many can only dream about. It’s not every day you come across jobs that allow you to zip about sun drenched islands every so often and being surrounded by enthusiastic kids who think you are the coolest thing after PS3.
The dynamic duo are scuba Diving
instructors. And loving every minute of it.
It wasn’t too long ago when the scuba Diving
world was ruled by men. Over the past couple of decades, the number of women divers has grown from a smattering few to over thirty percent of the current Diving
Still, the fact remains that men outnumber women in the scuba Diving
industry. Zanarita and Zuzila are the only two female Scuba Rangers instructors in Malaysia. To the uninitiated, SSI Scuba Rangers is a fun Diving
programme specially tailored for children between the ages of 8 to 12 years.
For Zanarita and Zuzila, hauling air tanks, helping kids wriggle into their Diving
gear and calming a nervous child underwater is all part of a day’s work. In another life, Zanarita worked as an administrator before she fell hook, line and sinker into the world of scuba Diving
7 years ago. Her face is joyful and tanned as she has been based on Tioman Island
for the past 4 years as a scuba Diving
The gentle and bubbly Zuzila is a gifted artist who paints mostly with acrylic. Her dream was to paint underwater and it came true mid last year after she took up scuba Diving for the first time in her life – and never looked back.
Zanarita and Zuzila
So, when did you take the plunge into the world of scuba Diving? And why?
I just took up scuba Diving
last year and it’s been only a few months since I started being a Scuba Ranger instructor. I guess I did it because I was fascinated with the underwater world and I wanted to take up the challenge as a woman to be a Scuba Ranger instructor.
I’ve been Diving
for 7 years and for the past 4 years, I worked as an Open Water Scuba Instructor and a Scuba Ranger Instructor. Having a career where I can be underwater most of the time is like a dream come true to me. I’ve been based in Tioman Island
for the past few years now and I love the life I’m living. It’s fun!
How did your family react to your decision take up scuba Diving and subsequently to teach children how to scuba dive?
Zanarita: Well. Basically, they freaked out.
Oh yes, my family was worried sick. They would constantly bombard me with “Do you know how dangerous scuba Diving
is?” “You have to be responsible for the child’s life!” You know, stuff like that.
Zanarita: But we stuck to our guns and went ahead with our dreams. And the rest, they say, is history. I’m glad to say that we have their blessings now.
Zuzila: Now that they can see how happy we are, they are ok with it. Thank God.
Did you know?
Women make better shell divers
For the past 1,500 years, the Ama shell divers of Japan and Korea are mostly women. This is because women have better tolerance towards the cold and can dive all year round whereas the men only dive in the summer.
All’s fair game underwater
Men exhibit greater physical strength on land but in a weightless aquatic environment, the difference in strength is less pronounced.
Women demonstrate safer Diving behaviour
In the 1990’s 1 in 10 of the fatalities were women. Back then, there were 1 in 3 women in the overall Diving population, indicating that women are safer divers than men. Even today, females account for only 20% of the deaths. (Source: Diving Medicine)
What’s your take on women instructors vs. men instructors?
Zanarita: Women are more patient. Hands down!
Yes, you do need a lot of patience and empathy when you deal with children. What’s more, Asian women prefer having women instructors to coach them. So by having more women scuba Diving
instructors, more local women will be motivated to take up the sport.
The Scuba Rangers programme are packed with exciting activities to keep the kids engaged
Any challenges thus far?
Oh yes. It’s always challenging to teach people. Kids and their parents are no exception. For instance, we do encounter children who are unwilling to learn scuba Diving
or who have attitude problems. In those cases, we will normally recommend that the parents not force them to take up scuba Diving
Zuzila: The main thing is not to force them beyond what they are willing to do. Else, they will rebel. But for those who take up the Scuba Rangers course, the retention rate is high and they move on to higher levels. Children are also like a blank canvas. They absorb everything easily – both good and bad. They may not understand if an action is dangerous before plunging headlong into it. So we always have to be on guard for that.
What are the differences between teaching kids and adults?
Zuzila: When it comes to kids, we must first get approval from their parents before we can touch them.
Zanarita: Kids are more obedient compared to adults. They are very teachable. At the same time, they can be very unpredictable.
Zuzila: They are also easily distracted. So we have to keep them engaged with a lot of interesting activities, which thankfully is catered to in the Scuba Rangers programme syllabus.
Zanarita: For Scuba Rangers, they can only dive up to a maximum of 5m. And only after completing 5 levels will they be allowed to go dive at the island.
Zuzila: As mentioned before, kids are fast learners. They can learn how to control their buoyancy well on an average of 10 dives or so.
Teaching kids is very rewarding and fun!
I’m sure teaching kids to scuba dive has its rewards. Right?
Zuzila: Definitely. It is so rewarding to see the children becoming mature, learning about teamwork and being responsible because they have a buddy to take care of underwater. Plus they learn the importance of marine conservation in their formative years which is the best time to start.
Some of the reserved and quiet ones literally transformed almost overnight to be more socialable. It really is pretty amazing to see them grow up and knowing that we have a part to play in their development just confirms that we made the right decision to be Scuba Rangers Diving
Any message to women out there who want to take up a career in scuba Diving?
Zuzila: Go for it!
Zanarita: Think positive. You can do it!
About the Scuba Rangers Program
Scuba Rangers is an adult-supervised pool scuba club for kids ages 8 to 12 years conducted by Kids Scuba. The children are taught water survival skills, personal responsibility, and good citizenship.
The scuba ranger qualification program consists of five educational modules and each module is usually completed in one pool session. The first module emphasizes pool safety, personal water responsibility, rescue skills, and snorkelling, with a brief introduction to scuba Diving. Each successive module reviews the safety/responsibility issues and then introduces more scuba training. By the final module, students can generally demonstrate good competency with beginner scuba Diving skills. For more info, head over to www.kidsscuba.com.