Travel Connections – Scuba Pro Koh Tao

Scuba diving The first time I met Kim van Winkle was in January 2013 – my second time at Sunshine Divers on the little island of Koh Tao, Thailand. I remember sitting ‘on the porch’ and reaching out to the books in the tv cupboard. I knew she had been watching us, just as I had been watching her. As I picked one up, so she approached me, asking who we were. As we had been there before, in a way it felt for us like we were returning home but obviously for her, it was the first time she had seen us.

Her confident, straightforward attitude impressed me, even scared me a little. Her protectiveness towards the dive school good to see. So when we returned in September. Natalie the Course Director took leave and we were left in the care of Kim and this time we got to know her a little better.

At the end of our stay, I thought who better to interview for the Travel Connections aspect of my blog than Kim – am IDC Staff Instructor. A lady I was growing to like.

Scuba Diving Koh Tao

Where were you born, what is your age and where did you live before coming to Koh Tao?

Im 37 years old and born in a little town in the south of Netherlands. We moved to the Caribbean (the island Curacao of the Netherlands Antilles) due to my father’s work and when I was 6 we came back to Holland. So I think that’s where I got the ‘Island live bug’ from ;-). When back in Holland I moved out my parents house when I was 17years old to go to university. I have my MA degree in business marketing communication and my goal was to work in the media/advertising business at a small creative company. And I did! In the end I had the job I wished for during university and worked for this lovely creative promotion and field-marketing agency as a sales executive manager in Amsterdam. I had a great time, lovely & crazy team around me but there was always something deep down wanting more out of life…

And at one day, the right moment was  there: I decided to quit my job, get rid of my house, stuff, everything and move to Koh Tao.

( A little funny detail is that during my first job interview my boss asked me what my personal dream was… and I told him to become a professional diver and live my life on a tropical island working in the dive industry and perhaps develop/manage my own dive school. When I quitted my job, my boss ordered a bottle of bubbling wine to celebrate the fact that I now was going to work on my dream…and here I am! ;-))

I lived my biggest part of my life in Amsterdam and as I feel it that’s my hometown. I sometimes miss it and my friends like crazy, but that’s the downside of being here.

When did you decide to become a Scuba Diver and what influenced you to do so?

Hahaha, this is the best question I believe. The story is that when I did my internship abroad as part of my first study during university I went back to my ‘home island Curacao’. A friend of me got me actually into scuba diving. As we were living on the island for 7months she wanted to do something else then partying and working. So we did. To be honest I wasn’t interested that much but since it was something else I stepped into it. So after lots of fun during the course I became a PADI Open Water diver in 1998!! BAM! And I was addicted. Oh my god what I became so addicted…;-)

As from that moment my holidays were only about scuba diving. I now dived roughly all around the world and since my Open Water I knew, this is what I want to do.

Another funny thing is also that I’m still in contact with my Open Water instructor. We were more a less same age at that time, had the same friends, so we kept in contact. He now lives in Curacao and has his own Dive school. Occasionally we actually refer students to one and another!

What motivated you to keeping working towards your goals. Do you have a long term one in regards to your professional career?

When I was growing up I learned that life is what you make out of it. The lessons through life give you the chance to follow a certain path and it is up to you what turn you sometimes take. I was born in a little town and I knew this is not where I want to get old, because there has to be so much more in the world. I also believe this is a result of me living in a different culture on the island of Curacao at a very young age. So I’m thankful that my parents took that step in those days to move to other side of the world when they had two little kids (I have 1 older brother).

My long term goal in my professional career is to become a Course Director myself and own our own dive school. Bastian (my boyfriend) and I have already our own kind of little business. We have a website called in which we attract the Dutch market to come to Koh Tao, Asia.

Anyway, with we want to bring all the Dutch to Sunshine. In the end we hope that our website becomes so popular that Sunshine is packed with the Dutchies ;-), is the biggest booking site of the island for Europeans to scuba dive in Asia and even better we have our own dive school somewhere in Asia.

Is life what you envisioned it to be?

Life can be tough, beautiful, amazing and has lots to bring!

As long as you believe in yourself and your inner self in what you really want you can achieve anything you want!

I live my dream and my dream only has just begun…

Can you tell me about a typical day in the life of a Scuba Diving Instructor and second in command at a Dive School (I don’t know your official title.)

In high season or low season?!! Hahaha

My official title as a dive instructor is IDC Staff Instructor (and in 3-4 months hope to become Master Instructor!). At Sunshine I’m the lead instructor / assistant manager of Sunshine.

A typical day can be somehow described as follow:

6am alarmclock if I have the am dives. Be at 6.45am at diveshop and make sure all the preparations for the students and logistics are being made. Coffee on the beach with the team and off we go! If no dives then I’ll be at dive shop 8.30am.

Around lunch the boat is back. If on a course then 1,5 hour break and teaching in the afternoon. In the mean time also managing the dive school (as co-pilot of Nat off course ;-)): coaching Divemaster trainees, new instructors (Sunshine is a 5star IDC center which means that there are from time to time new instructors to help around as well) and making sure that customers are happy and if new customers arrive to help them as good as possible. A little treat when the first 5 comes in da clock ;-):a well deserved beer! A big cheers with the staff that we had another great day and if needed answer emails etc. In low season the day ends around 6-7pm and in high season that can be 8-9pm or later depending if customers arriving need help etc.

Scuba Diving Instructor


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