My name is Hikaru Hotta, I am 17 years old and I am the Head Boy of the British International School of Ho Chi Minh City. I have been diving since the age of 10 and I have always been fascinated by the underwater world. Diving has offered me a chance to see the world from a whole new perspective. From the 1st of August to the 15th of August 2015, I interned at Rainbow Divers Nha Trang to attain my Master Scuba Diver Certification and to complete data collection for my high school thesis (of which I will go into more depth later). Overall, my two-week stay under Rainbow Divers was extremely valuable work experience and I gained significant insight into the Dive industry. Additionally, spending two weeks away from the family taught me how to live independently but at the same time, strengthened my appreciation for my parents.
As an intern, one of my roles was to wake up at 5AM in the morning to prepare equipment for the dive boat. This involved loading and unloading tanks, wetsuits, BCD’s, fins, masks and emergency oxygen tanks onto and from the truck and dive boat, a task that many members of staff called gym-time.
Another one of my roles was to attend to Japanese customers and to assist them in making reservations and translating messages to them from other members of staff. Other roles included shadowing members of staff, changing SCUBA tanks between dives, briefing snorkelers and even rescuing a snorkeler who had gotten seasick and was resting on the shore.
During my time in Nha Trang, I attained 4 PADI specialties: Underwater Navigation, Search and Recovery, Deep Diver and Digital Underwater Photographer. Underwater navigation was especially useful as I became more aware of how to find my way underwater. It has taught me how to be more self-reliant underwater which really instilled a sense of control. This made me eligible to apply for PADI
Master Scuba Diver, the highest recreational diving rating/certification. I decided to intern at Rainbow Divers to complete data collection for my high school thesis on the topic of Bio-erosion of coral reefs by Sea Urchins in Hon Mun Marine Protected Area. Sea urchins play a vital role in marine ecosystems by grazing on marine algae and preventing algae populations from out- competing coral polyps. However, high populations of sea urchins can cause the degradation of coral reefs as sea urchins have self-sharpening carbon teeth that can erode the calcium carbonate structure of reefs. Bio-erosion and high populations of sea urchins is quite prevalent in areas with high levels of fishing as there are fewer predators such as trigger fish and puffer fish that prey on sea urchins. I performed surveys in Hon Mun Marine Protected Area because despite recent efforts by organisations such as green fins and the establishment of the Marine Protected Area, illegal fishing remains as issue.
I performed 38 transect surveys in total by reeling out a 25m line on the reef substrate and counted the number of sea urchins within 1m of the transect line. I also took quadrat photos of the coral every 5m to calculate coral cover using Coral Point Count Software. I also performed a fish count to find out whether the number of predators and competitors for algae such as parrotfish influences sea urchin populations.
Overall, I found a relatively negative correlation between sea urchin populations and coral cover and significant variations between different dive sites that I conducted the surveys at.
James, one of the instructors at Rainbow Divers who had experience in conducting marine surveys in the Caribbean helped me redesign part of my methodology for greater efficiency in data collection. I would not have been able to complete my survey without his assistance and experience.
My 2 week internship at Rainbow Divers was an extremely valuable experience. The Dive Masters and Instructors at Rainbow Divers were extremely welcoming, befriending me almost immediately. There were extreme pranksters like Collin the photographer and brotherly presences like Shang Hua, the former Chinese Policeman who invited me to extremely spicy hot pot at his apartment and ended up calling me “didi” (little brother in Chinese).
The biggest takeaway from the internship was the fact that people thought I was much older than I was despite having a self-proclaimed baby-face. People talked to me and treated me like an adult. Being a teenager in the final year of high school, I am on the cusp of adulthood, but not quite there yet. There are not many opportunities at home or in school where I am treated entirely like an adult. Through my internship at Rainbow Divers, I have gained a fresh insight into what it means to be an adult and it also made me reflect upon my own personal maturation and independence as I prepare to go off to University in one years time.
I will cherish the Phở I ate for breakfast with the dive team deep within the alleys of Nha Trang and drinking extremely thick and coagulated Vietnamese Coffee at a nearby outdoor café. I will cherish the support I received from all the members of staff and the interesting life advice they offered me.
I would like to thank all members of staff for making my 2 weeks at Nha Trang academic, memorable and exciting. It was a very thought proving 2 weeks that I will never forget. I hope to dive with Rainbow Divers again in the near future.