Dive Against Debris featuring Dive Master Interns

Starting our new professional divers on the right foot

There are many things that are important to the staff at Master Divers; great customer service, high PADI standards and our beloved shop animals. Up the top of the list is moulding excellent professionals at Dive Master and Instructor level, and our commitment to conservation. This month we were able to marry the two.

New DMC Niko cleaning up at Laem Thian

Throughout training our dive masters are encouraged to get involved with beach cleans, dive site clean ups, conservation events and to be ambassadors for good environmental practices. On this occasion we had our dive master interns organise a dive against debris from start to finish. They were responsible for the advertising, organising sign up and paperwork, briefing the Dive Against Debris, collecting the trash, organising other participants and collating the data.

Some serious lift bag action by Conservation Instructor Hayley

Our achievements

Everyone worked hard on the day, despite rain to start and rough seas on the way home, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone involved. A big shout out to our interns that worked so hard for the day to run smoothly. We collected a grand total of 146 kilos of trash!! 41kg from the beach (which Moritz bravely transported back via kayak) and 105kg from the sea. Largely made up from 2 huge tyres found in the coral.

Our team of Instructors, Dive Masters, Dive Master Interns and volunteers

Mother nature was very kind to us and we got a lovely visit from a black tip reef shark that was unusually interested in us. In fact the life we saw on the dive and snorkel was amazing! A baby Titan Triggerfish, possibly the cutest thing in the world (but camera shy), black tip sharks, scribbled filefish, and unicorn fish to name a few!

black tip

A welcome visit from a gorgeous black tip

If you would like to know more about Master Divers conservation efforts, or our professional training, please get in touch today! We are holding weekly beach cleans near the shop on Tuesday morning, monthly free of charge dive against debris, and have regular conservation presentations, films and eco related quiz nights.

Master Divers Zero Plastic week

The challenge

Last week (4th-11th June) saw the whole Master Divers team take on the Zero Plastic challenge and it was tough! All of us made a real effort to look at our habits and record how we got on so that we might be able to make changes in our own lives, and try to push for bigger changes that will be driven by traders, producers, supermarkets and governments. I have to offer up a big thanks to the team for getting on board with the challenge and taking the time out of their busy schedules to note and take pictures of their efforts. Everyone agreed that when we really started looking, plastic was everywhere!

 

The things we couldn’t change

There were a couple of areas that came up as ‘repeat offenders’ where we found it difficult to make any habitual changes in order to cut out the plastic. One of these was with dairy products- milk, yoghurt and butter packets in restaurants. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the island where you can get milk in a glass bottle! Sadly, I’m old enough to remember the milk delivery days so know that this is definitely how it used to work!

The other was with takeaways. Of course, we could cook at home but it’s not possible for all of us, I have an outdoor kitchen with one gas ring, so when it’s raining I’m pretty limited. Also after a long day diving, eating in a restaurant is a bit much and we want the comfort of our own home and to finally finish that episode of Netflix that we keep falling asleep to! Plastic bags were the big issue, with plastic forks sometimes being ‘hidden’ in card food containers, and sauces being individually put into smaller bags. It takes changes on both sides for us to make sure we are taking Tupperware to the restaurant when we order, or for places like Enjoy in Mae Haad that give you your takeaway in Tupperware and you get your ‘deposit’ back when you take it back.

There is also a massive lack of savoury snacks that aren’t in plastic. There is a no plastic shop where we can get nuts and cereals, but it’s expensive and therefore too easy to reach for a bag of crisps/chips or nuts all wrapped in plastic. Another thing that will need to come from producers and retailers for us to change. The same applies to toiletries and feminine hygiene. There are alternatives out there but they aren’t easily accessible on the island and the cost is higher.

 

Above shows where we struggled to reduce plastic

The things we changed

On the plus side we all made great efforts to change things and had some great successes. Refusing plastic bags and straws was the easiest thing to do, and at Master Divers we have made great efforts to change our local restaurants to switch to reusable straws. Still more work to be done though! We were also able to reduce and for some eradicate plastic water bottles. A real challenge on an island without safe drinking water. We used glass water bottles and water refill stations based around the island to stay hydrated. Although more of each would definitely help!

There was also a massive change in people taking their own containers for takeaways, refusing chopsticks in plastic wrappers, and making different choices at meal times to not use plastic.  Everyone tried really hard and we all saw how tough it was to have a completely plastic free day. This is definitely going to be an ongoing project for us all as we have had our eyes open to how much plastic we are going through on a daily basis.

Water delivery on Koh Tao

 

It doesn’t have to be zero plastic week for you to try it out. Take some time to look at your options and try and go plastic free!

Master Divers Life Contest – Blog Guidelines

With our Master Divers Life contest drawing to a close for entry forms and video submissions on June the 1st and 2nd respectively, it’s nearly time to announce our finalists – and we couldn’t be more excited! We’ll be reaching out to our top 10 in the first week of June, and we’ll officially announce the line up on June 8th once everyone has confirmed their availability to travel and commence their training – so keep an eye on your emails!

live-on-koh-tao

First of all to those who are lucky enough to make the final cut and be named one of our top 10 contestants, then congratulations! That takes you one big leap closer and just a blog away from perhaps being the lucky winner who gets to join us on Koh Tao and live the dream by becoming a PADI Instructor with us here on Koh Tao – and snag yourself a full set of top of the range Aqua Lung equipment along the way! In case you need a little reminder as to exactly what you win and the value of all the prizes, you can check out a breakdown on our Master Divers Life prizes page.  Excited much?! You should be!

win-padi-career-on-koh-tao

So….how do you make an impression with your blog? As with your video compilation, we are really looking to get a feel for you as a person and get a sense of your passion for the marine environment. As a dive centre so heavily focused on conservation, the only stipulation is that your blog should focus on a conservation topic that you have been involved in, would like to be involved in or that is close to your heart….so plenty scope there I’m sure you’ll agree! From your videos we’ve already seen a whole array of personalities and passions, so we are excited to see what you have to say about your chosen topic in writing!

Master Divers Life

We’ll be publishing the blog of each of the 10 finalists on our facebook page prior to announcing the winner, so if you want to send some pictures and videos to embed in your blog please do feel free to add them as attachments and let us know what you’d like the title/captions to be.

 

BLOG GUIDELINES & RULES

The minimum word count is 700 words, but your blog should be no longer than 3000 words.

All blogs should be original work, with no copied text taken from other sources.

All completed blogs, along with any images or video files should be sent to marketing@master-divers.com by June 15th.

Please do not include any images or videos that you do not own or have permission to share.

Win your Master Divers Life

 

So…it’s time to get your blog on and start writing! The winner will be announced on July the 4th…and IT COULD BE YOU!

We cant wait to read what you all come up with. Good luck to you all!

 

When environment means community as well

Keeping it local

The environment is really important to us, it’s our job, our life and also our community as well. Here on Koh Tao we are really lucky to have a group of like minded individuals that are all doing their best to make changes in habits to preserve the planet, dive in a safe and environmentally friendly way and also look after wildlife and animals a bit closer to home.

 

We are not alone at Master Divers having a menagerie of animals that we all adore. Anyone that has visited Koh Tao has seen the dive shop pets, the dogs piggy backing scooter drivers and the cats lazing on the spirit houses outside homes.

Meet our crew below!

Fatty, Greedy, Sandy and Sky

 

It’s because we love them so much that we wanted to show our support to the Koh Tao Noistar foundation animal clinic, and this morning went for a visit to donate 5000 baht raised from selling off unused equipment and a variety of eco presentations and evenings. They do such an important job on the island looking after our 4 legged family members. We would be lost without them and wanted to show our appreciation.

 

Donating 5000 Baht to the Koh Tao Animal rescue

 

From everyone at Master Divers past and present, thank you. Thank you for keeping our animals healthy and being such an important part of our Koh Tao community.

 

Master Divers Commitment to the Environment

If you’ve already visited Master Divers, or have been following us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or reading our blogs for a while, you will have noticed we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.

As ambassadors for our underwater world and also Koh Tao in general, we are passionate about doing everything we can to minimise the environmental impact we have, as well as implement programmes, policies and events to educate others too. This is something that we are incredibly passionate about – and its not just paying lip service with us, when it comes to environmental awareness, we’re the real deal!

Beach Clean up in Koh Tao, Thailand

Thankfully, we are not the only business on Koh Tao that is becoming more environmentally aware. We do, however, offer a lot more than the bare minimum when it comes to doing our bit. Some other dive centres get together once a month for a clean up day. Every little helps, so this is a great initiative, but we believe more than 1 clean up a month between half a dozen businesses is required to really make any impact.

So….What does Master Divers Do Differently?

We employ a full time Eco instructor, Hayley, who organises weekly beach and roadside clean ups for staff and guests to help remove garbage that has washed ashore, and prevent any further trash from being taken by the sea.  Having just a few people volunteer an hour of their time to spend cleaning up the beachfront or road area makes a huge difference. This year, we plan on weighing and tracking how much trash we collect, so we can keep a tally of how much trash we’ve removed.

Beach and Ocean Clean

Hayley also works with the Koh Tao local government and local businesses to educate and encourage others to be more environmentally friendly in their practices – for example how to reduce plastic bags in local stores, and looking at solutions to reduce plastic waste from cups and straws in bars and restaurants too.

We run regular snorkeling and scuba diving clean ups at various dive sites (depending on which are the most in need), and have championed the abandoned beach of Laem Thien as our responsibility too.

Environmental-Policies-Master-Divers

We have environmental policies in the shop and onboard our boats. We do try to educate those outside the island as well as our own customers and those who live here.

We’ve written several blog posts on the topic on environmental initiatives, such as the ‘top 10’ things to reduce your plastic waste, and how to make natural household cleaning products to reduce your chemical waste.

The emblem for the no-plastic movement on Koh Tao

We sell reusable straws as well as reusable drinking bottles and cloth shopping bags and encourage our guests to reduce their usage of plastic – and single use plastic in particular.

We are heavily into recycling. In the corner of the reception area, there is a custom made collection bin in which our customers – and even passrs by – can dispose of their recyclable goods (water bottles, batteries, aluminum cans, and paper or cardboard products).

Master Divers sells eco-straws as an alternative to the single-use variety that are often used in restaurants

We offer Marine Conservation Packages and Marine Conservation Adventure Dives with our courses, which provide customers with a deeper insight into the issues that face the ocean environment. This includes a presentation evening and a marine conservation dive.

We run Coral watch dives to monitor and report on the health of our reefs, and also report into the DMCR (Department of Marine and Coastal resources) on any sightings of any species of rare/endangered/protected marine life that our divers or staff spot.

Coral-Watch Framed

We have created and deployed structures which have increased the scope and size of artificial reefs.

We sell natural and environmentally friendly sun screen and mosquito spray.

Sunscreen is important for skin health

We have strict no feeding and no touching policy for all of our dive and snorkel trips, and display codes of conduct for interactions with marine life at the dive centre and on our vessels – and ensure this is covered in our boat and dive briefings.

We are an official Shark Guardian Dive centre, and run regular events and presentations to educate divers, other tourists and local residents on how they can do more to protect marine life.

Be a Whale Shark Guardian

We don’t throw any waste into the ocean. Even biodegradable waste like leftover fruit gets brought back to last and disposed of properly (we use it for compost!).

Our smaller boat is 100% no smoking to eliminate accidental littering. There is a designated smoking area on the bigger boat, and while our customers are welcome to smoke on the larger of our vessels, you wont find our staff smoking on either of our boats.

We are heavily involved in local government meetings on conservation policies. We are committee members in planning the annual Save Koh Tao Festival, organise special events for all Ocean Days, and we are one of the founders and main organisers of Koh Tao Earth day.

Earth-Day-2017-framed

We have a free water refill station, so our customers don’t need to buy plastic bottles every time they need a drink. We are also an official refill station for Trash Hero bottles. So anyone who has one of the metal trash hero reusable bottles can come in and refill for free!

We have reusable cups and mugs both in the dive centre and out on the boats. In the dive centre we also have reusable plates and tupperware containers our customers can use on their lunch breaks so they don’t need to get any food in plastic bags or in single use containers.

Koh-Tao-Eco-Bottle

We use environmentally friendly cleaning solutions so as not to add chemicals to the water supply. We flush our toilets with salt water which preserves the sometimes scarce ground water supplies.

We ensure that both sides of every piece of paper is used, and old/discarded paper is used for scrap/to do lists etc.

We offer PADI eLearning (online), PADI Touch (app based) and digital manuals, all of which replace the need for physical books. This not only offers divers convenience but also saves on the paper used to create the book

PADI-digi-materials

We try to reuse or re purpose everything we can – even the most obscure things can have a second life. Right now for example, we are saving up all of our old fins, and hope to be able to build an artificial structure with them, or even fashion them into slates to make a roof for a shelter at our local animal clinic!

You can read more about our environmental activities by looking at the environmental category on the blog.

The Eco-conscious Island of Koh Tao

 

Exciting news….Koh Tao could soon be known as one of the most eco-conscious destination of South East Asia! Many businesses, including most dive shops, are working together to try and ban single-use plastic items on Koh Tao, including plastic straws and plastic bags. On top of this, efforts are being made to install a recycling program for businesses to have their recyclable goods picked up rather than throwing them in with their everyday rubbish. This was all made possible by Koh Tao’s inhabitants having an eco-conscious mind set and the determination to fight for change.

Koh Tao is full of postcard worthy beauty
Koh Tao is full of postcard-worthy beauty, such as Koh Nang Yuan.

 

The term ‘eco-conscious’ is floated around a fair amount in the media these days, but what does the term really mean?

An eco-conscious individual or business has a way of thinking where they look at how their actions and choices impact the natural world. Dubbed eco-warriors, these people/companies are both very aware of the threats faced by our fragile world, and also work to reduce and ultimately eliminate their impact on those threats. Where plastic is concerned, this largely revolves around ‘The Three Rs’… Reducing  plastic use, Re-using any plastic that is used, and Recycling whenever possible.

Here on Koh Tao, with diving being the primary activity that draws tourists to the island, many inhabitants are already far too aware of the global plastic problem, ans its impacts on our oceans and marine life, and have been puching for changes for some time now.

As an island, there has already been some success in previous years. Just over 4 years ago the local government banned the use of styrofoam boxes, which were commonly used as takeaway containers from restaurants. This milestone showed that the community was willing to make sacrifices when alternatives are present, and when it was in the best interest of the island. Once a few people come around to a more sustainable way of living, it soon catches on, and now we have several key figures in the municipality on board, including the Mayor of Koh Tao! He understands that the island’s natural beauty (both above and below the ocean’s surface) is one of the main reason people choose to spend their vacation here, so it is worth making rulings to help protect it.

The emblem for the no-plastic movement on Koh Tao
Emblem of the no-plastic movement on Koh Tao

 

The latest introduction to Koh Tao to reduce and eliminate plastic waste is the sale of reusable straws (paper, metal and bamboo), with the hope that if the alternatives are available, single-use plastic straws will be phased out entirely.

So, first it was styrofoam, now plastic straws and the next step will be to remove plastic bags from our little island paradise. Its a huge goal, but with enough people involved and the right mindset, we’re not alone in pushing for change and committing to making it happen!

So, what can you do to help?

In short, the best thing you can possibly do is STOP USING PLASTIC as much as possible in your day to day life! And especially single use plastic. The great news is that alternatives are already available. Master Divers is proud to be a vendor of paper, bamboo and metal straws, and our retail section is well stocked with reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bags, meaning you’ll have no need for plastic bottle or cups, plastic straws or plastic bags. And the best bit? You get to take them all home and spread the word!

Please do join us in considering the environment, and not just in Koh Tao. It does not take much effort to live with less plastic in your life, it just takes a little more planning and forethought, but the results are well worth it!

If you’d like to know more about environmental initiatives and events on Koh Tao, feel free to follow us on Facebook or drop us an email 🙂

 

Master Divers Marine Conservation Packages

 

As divers, we enjoy the thrill of experiencing a different environment, interacting with its inhabitants, and simply enjoying the beauty of the underwater world. Unfortunately, this environment that we care for so dearly is in danger of being damaged beyond repair. I think Sir David Attenborough said it best when he stated: “being in touch with the natural world is crucial”. This connection is vital; without a connection to the natural world, what motivation do people have to help try and save it? Here at Master Divers, we pride ourselves on our passion for conservation, with our eco instructors specializing in information related to the ocean, its inhabitants, and the threats that the ocean faces. Come and see how that knowledge is passed on through one of our marine conservation package courses!

“What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet”- Sir David Attenborough.

It is a common belief that this revolution to help save the planet and its oceans starts through education. Learning about the aquatic environment, how it relates to humans, and what we as individuals can do to help is vital. At Master Divers, all instructors try to nurture an interest in the natural world and try to share this passion with our guests. In taking a course here, you will be able to learn more about the marine environment and how we, as divers, can work to protect it. We care deeply about our environment and work hard to do what we can, not only to mitigate our impact but help preserve and nurture what we have.  So we developed our Marine Conservation Packages for the dual purpose of helping our oceans, and also to help you, our divers, become more environmentally aware and active.

Marine Conservation Packages are available on both PADI Open Water, and PADI Advanced Open Water courses, and a conservation dive is included as standard in all of our professional level courses, as we believe ALL dive professionals need to have a base understanding of environmental issues so they can better educate their students.  What this means is that in addition to receiving the regular high-level instruction and materials, you will also receive the following:

 -Re-usable Master Divers Shopping Bag

-Reusable Water Bottle

-Project AWARE Dive against debris bag

-Conservation evening

-Conservation dive

Items from the green packages: re-usable shopping bag, Project AWARE dive against debris bag, and re-usable water bottle
Items from the green packages: re-usable shopping bag, Project AWARE dive against debris bag, and re-usable water bottle

 If you are not taking a course with us and still want to get involved, fear not, you can join us on a conservation dive and presentation for just 1500THB!

For the conservation evening and presentation, you get a meal supplied by the amazing Coconut Monkey beach cafe, which specializes in delicious and healthy meals. Your eco instructor will give a presentation on an ocean-related theme that is connected to the conservation dive you will be doing. Topics of these presentations are basically anything ocean related, but marine debris (plastics), pollution, and coral bleaching are personal favorites of mine. In my opinion, raising awareness of the risks that our coral reefs face is the first step to resolving these issues,  and are incredibly important subjects for all divers to learn about.

Coral Watch Divers Adi & Agnes from December 2017
Coral Watch Divers Adi & Agnes 

 

If this has peaked your interest, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email and book yourself a slot for a conservation dive, or add it to your existing dive course booking.

 

 

A Year in Pictures – 2017

2017 has been a busy year for us here Master Divers, but we wanted to pick out a few highlights. So rather than bore you with a bunch of wordiness, let’s review them in pictures….

It was a rough start to the year, with storms and flooding in January

January Storms 2017

However, it never takes long for Koh Tao to bounce back, and very quickly our blue skies returned 🙂

Beach-blue-skies-framed

Along with our amazing sun sets!

Koh-Tao-Sunset-framed

It has been an epic year for Whale Shark sightings. With over 90 different whale sharks identified in the gulf of Thailand this year, more of our divers than ever before were treated to diving with these beautifies. Fingers crossed 2018 is just as full of big fishy goodness!

whaleshark-sail-rock

 

Because of this, we’ve run many more trips to Sail Rock than in previous years, and plan to continue to do so in 2018.

SAIL-ROCK-framed

We continued to grow and develop our conservation efforts. Our marine conservation packages are proving very popular, and once again we were heavily involved in the organisation of Earth Day.

Earth-Day-2017-framed

We have started selling paper, bamboo and plastic straws in a bid to rid the island of single use plastic straws.

Say-No-Straw-framed

It’s been a particularly great year for growth in pro level courses here at Master Divers. Our Divemaster courses are also in high demand, so much so that we have completely restructured our training programme to ensure we continue to provide the most thorough and comprehensive pro level training available.

DMC-theory-session-framed

The IDC classroom has also been in frequent use, with many more new PADI Instructors joining our ranks following training form our PADI Course Director Gaz Lyden. Many of our IDC candidates have continued to specialty training courses and completed their MSDT, and right now we are working on a new instructor internship programme that we’ll roll out in the new year.

Gaz-IDC-framed

We closed the year with a contest to win for an Aqualung i200 dive computer, and there will be more competitions and giveaways coming soon.

Aqualung-cpu-framed

There are some pretty big things on the horizon for us here in the coming year, so watch this space, and we hope to see you all on Koh Tao in 2018! In the meantime we’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year 🙂

 

 

Come Eco Dive in Koh Tao, Thailand

Environmentally friendly diving with Master

Divers

Here at Master Divers we are passionate about our environment, both underwater and above it! It’s safe to say that all scuba divers feel the same way as we all want to preserve our coral and marine life so that we can continue diving and seeing exciting new sites. At Master Divers we have several ways that we continue to care for the environment.

 

Beach and Dive site clean ups

We regularly hold beach and dive site clean ups to remove any debris. It’s not uncommon for us to have the occasional storm on Koh Tao and with that we can see rubbish being brought in by the waves. This is often in the form of plastic bottles, straws, lighters and glass, and on dive sites we can find netting caught on coral. We gather together like-minded divers to collect unwanted trash and record our findings with Project Aware.

112kgs of rubbish and recyclable's collected by Master Divers in Koh Tao, Thailand

Monitoring coral health

A healthy reef means diverse and plentiful marine life, so monitoring and recording our coral health is incredibly important. Coral Watch allows us to record coral health by noting colour, an easy task for any diver that has a slate and a torch! On Koh Tao we have the benefit of being able to go to dive sites that have a range of soft, branching, boulder and plate coral that means we can take a range of data and submit to Coral Watch for review.

White-eyed Moray Eel at Koh Tao dive site, Twins

Eco events

At Master divers we like to get involved in a variety of eco events, from our yearly Earth Day celebrations to regular eco presentations and quiz nights. It’s important that we continue to educate ourselves and the wider dive community on environmental issues and what we can do to help. We have recently had presentations on deforestation, turtles and got involved with Shark Guardian’s ‘Shark week’ putting on events for kids and adults for a week dedicated to learning about preserving some of our favourite marine life.

Gigi-with-whale-shark-Koh-Tao

If you love diving, love marine life, and have a passion for preserving our environment, come and join master divers for awesome diving with a focus on our environment.

Is your factor 50 a factor in coral bleaching?

We’re protecting our skin, but what about our reefs?

Globally we are all now well-educated on the harmful impact of the sun’s rays on our skin, but does everyone know that many sunscreens are harmful to our reefs?

It’s estimated that 6,000 to 14,000 tons of sunscreen gets into our oceans every year and that tiny amounts of the ‘wrong kind’ can cause damage to coral and young fish. There are 2 different kinds of sunscreens; physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays and generally contain Zinc oxide, whereas chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays and contain a variety of ingredients that can include Oxybenzone. It’s this chemical that is harming our marine life.

Sunscreen is important for skin health

It has been proven that Oxybenzone disrupts reproduction and growth, and can leave young coral deformed. It can also exacerbate coral bleaching where the coral rejects the organisms that give them their colour. It also has a harmful impact on fish larvae and embryos, which is unsurprising as current research shows that there is a higher concentration of sunscreen chemicals within fish, than in the water they live in.

The stark contrast of healthy and bleached coral

So what can we do?

It’s all about choices and reading the label. There are a lot of great companies that have organic sunscreen products, but really all you need to do is avoid Oxybenzone. Another good tip is to make sure you get a lotion that needs to be rubbed in as spray sunscreens tend to get into sand and be washed straight into the sea. The other option is to cover up and stay in the shade, that can be tough for us instructors (we have all had the burn from teaching an open water or rescue course!) but we can combat that by wearing rash guards and head protection so that there is less exposed that needs to have sunscreen applied.

We need to stay safe from the sun’s harmful rays, let’s do that while considering the health of our coral and marine life.