Meet Gary Eldridge, 42 year old PADI Master Instructor and owner of Hidden Depths Diving in Koh Lanta. Gary loves his Suunto Stinger and thinks shark preservation should be given much more prominence.
Name: Gary Eldridge
Live in: Koh Lanta, Thailand
Working for: Hidden Depths Diving
Diver Qualifications: PADI Master Instructor
When and where did you start diving?
In 1994 I did a try dive while on holiday in the Maldives. It was on a patch of sand in a lagoon with very little to see, but I was hooked. I returned home to the UK, got my friends together and we went out and found a dive centre the day I got back.
Why did you start diving?
I couldn’t work out why the bar at the resort was really busy at night but there was no-one around during the day. I happened to get up early one morning and saw people leave on the dive boats. I knew absolutely nothing about diving. I thought I might as well have a go and see what it’s like and I fell in love with it immediately.
What made you choose to become a dive professional?
After logging 400 dives, with around 250 of those in the UK, I had done all my core PADI qualifications as well as 12 or 13 specialties. I was looking for the next challenge and so when the Course Director at my dive centre suggested to me that I would make a good Divemaster, I decided to give it a go. I did the course in the UK every weekend over the course of two summers – a big commitment but the best decision I ever made. In 2008 I gave up my job as a bank manager to travel the world for a year with the aim of finding work in the dive industry.
Which is your favourite dive site and why?
As I live on Koh Lanta, I dive Koh Haa several times a week and love it – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here! However, if I have to give the best site I have ever dived, it is Lembeh Straits, North Sulewesi. It has the most interesting macro life I’ve ever seen – some of which I still can’t identify!
What has been the most memorable dive of your life and why?
The first time I ever saw manta rays in The Maldives was particularly memorable. There were 14 mantas at a cleaning station within a few metres of us, playing with our bubbles. They were breathtaking.
If you would come back as a marine life form in your next life, what would that be?
A dolphin as they have cheeky grins, are playful and intelligent – just like me!
Who is your dream dive buddy?
Eric Cantona! As a mad Manchester United fan, he’s my hero.
What dive locations are on your dream “bucket list” and why?
Truk Lagoon in Micronesia as I miss wreck diving, and this is the best it gets, and the Ceynotes in Mexico as it looks like it could be a challenging yet amazing experience.
What is on your bedside table right now?
Diver magazine, my Kindle and my dive computer.
What is your favourite piece of diving equipment and why?
Either my Suunto Stinger or my Cressi Big Eye mask. The Stinger is the only piece of dive kit I took travelling with me, and the mask is the most comfortable of the many masks I’ve owned. A good mask makes for easy diving.
If you were to launch a campaign to raise awareness on a specific issue that affects divers, the oceans or marine life, what issue would you target and why?
It would have to be shark conservation. I don’t understand how so many sharks can be killed every day with no thought for the impact on the eco system. They are so important and things need to change to protect them.
Where will you be in 10 years and what will you be doing?
I really enjoy teaching professionals, so ideally I would be in a role where I can continue to instil a passion for diving and conservation. As long as I can work within the diving industry, I’ll be happy.
Gary is an owner/instructor at Hidden Depths Diving, Koh Lanta, Thailand