The Life Aquatic: Scuba Diving in St Martin

The Life Aquatic: Scuba Diving in St Martin

My 9-5 by Scuba Diving Instructor, Sally Davies

From England to Egypt to St Martin, New York native Sally Davies has been exploring the oceans of the world as a certified diving instructor for 10 years. As owner and operator of Octopus Diving with her husband Chris, she spends her days taking groups to explore the world under the sea.

“My parents bought me an open water certification for my 23rd birthday, while I was studying for my Masters Degree in Coastal Zone Conservation in England. That’s where I had my first dive—the water was murky, cold and horrible, and I loved every second of it. I was hooked. After that, I was diving constantly all over the world, rarely coming up for air.

chrissally_WPI went on a diving vacation to Egypt, where I met my husband and business partner, Chris. He was my Divemaster—I guess fate aligned perfectly with my passion. We went to Indonesia and dove there for a while, and eventually ended up in St Martin and fell in love with it. So much so that six years ago we purchased Octopus Diving. Since then, a new diver has come on board: we have a two-year-old-son Kieran, so our current challenge is balancing the business and chasing around our active little one.

I don’t need an alarm clock to start my typical workday when I have Kieran—I consider him my natural wake up call! First things first, I make a cup of coffee for myself, and whip up porridge for him, and then I’m off to work. My commute is all of five seconds—much easer than it would have been had I stayed in my hometown of New York. Living on site allows me to simply step outside and right onto the dock with our three boats to start prepping for the day. Out of my five staff, one of them will start loading up the equipment and we thoroughly check every detail. You’d be surprised how much special care goes into keeping every piece of equipment in perfect condition.

“When you’re diving everything moves in slow motion and you see life from a different angle”

By 8am we’re off, and all the menial tasks of business dissolve the moment I touch the water. The best way to describe the sensation is that it’s like flying. It’s an experience unlike any other. When you’re diving everything moves in slow motion and you see life from a different angle; we never take the opportunity in our everyday life to really observe, but underwater, that’s all you’re doing—observing, breathing and moving in slow motion. Plus it’s an equal playing field under there, whether you’re a 5’10 football star or ballerina, you’re all in this new territory together. It’s an eye-opening alternate universe that everyone should experience.

We normally take two different groups out in the morning, so by 11am I’ll have spent two hours underwater. Diving makes you hungry! I’ll grab something to eat as soon as soon as I’m back on dry land, usually a ham and cheese sandwich from this delicious French bakery nearby, Crousti. As the afternoon rolls in, I take care of all sorts of administrative tasks, all the while chasing Kieran around the garden. Chris and I work like a relay team, we switch up who will be out on the boat and who’s in the office.

“We like go for a walk on the beach and watch the sunset—No matter how long you’ve lived here, the sunset never gets old”

By the time 5 O’Clock rolls around, we’ve been on four dives and our staff has slowly trickled home too. Now it’s time to take advantage of St Martin. We like go for a walk on the beach and watch the sunset—no matter how long you’ve lived here, the sunset never gets old. Chris and I usually finish off the night by having a cocktail in the garden while we watch the waves lap onto shore. Needless to say, it’s a nice way to unwind after a hard day’s work.

As we near our six-year anniversary here, we reflect on the many memorable experiences we’ve shared with people. I’ve done about 4,000 dives to date. I remember the friendly dispositions of the vacationers I meet everyday. I remember pulling uncertain divers out of panicked states, and I remember the many expressions of awe as divers see the underwater world for the first time. I recall the many times I—like instructors all over the world—hear that I have “beautiful eyes” because I’ve learned to be so expressive underwater.

But my most vivid memory isn’t about a surprising coral discovery, or diving in a new place. It’s when Chris and I had a free moment for the first time since we became owners of Octopus Diving. Without hesitation, we hopped on the boat and went out to Turtle Reef—just minutes away from the shop, and I’ve seen it a million times. But the realization that I had everything right at my fingertips—from the Caribbean in my backyard to my  own equipment, and the best diving partner I could ask for—was a feeling of liberation that I’ll never forget.”
To try diving with Sally, talk to your concierge.

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Photograph: Michelle de Villiers /Octopus Diving ​
Colleen McNamara