How Eco is your clean house – Update

The great cleaning experiment continues!

This month has been a very productive one, and productive in a way that makes me feel very wholesome. I got set to work on researching and making my own cleaning products and was really happy with the results. Not only do I now have a clean house, but I also feel extra good for doing it with products that aren’t going to leach into our water systems and harm aquatic life. I made an all purpose cleaner with lime, vinegar and baking soda, and also a duster with vinegar that had been soaked with lemons for 2 weeks.

 

The good

Making cleaning products is ridiculously cheap. I large bottle of white vinegar was about 300THB, that was the most expensive thing, baking soda was about 40thb and also the container I used for soaking lemons in vinegar was only 40THB. I even bought some limes (there weren’t lemons) for 16THB, less than 50p!! Also it really worked! Our gas hob has never been so clean! So it works, it’s cheap and it is better for the environment… what’s not to like?!

Before the clean. Please don't judge!After the clean

The bad

Getting some of the products here was tough. You can get castile soap delivered to the island but the costs, although not huge, were considerably higher than the other ingredients. Also, to get them delivered you need a Thai bank account, something I don’t have at the moment. For those reasons, I decided to cope without it for now. The shopping list for my next visa run is getting longer and longer! There was a point when my house smelled like a salad. The first cleaner I made with just a little lime juice was quite vinegar-y, but it really worked so I can forgive it and experiment further with using essential oils to add a nicer scent. The lemons soaked in white vinegar did smell a little bit like one of the bars I used to run on a Monday morning, but again, not unpleasant.

 

All in all I’m really happy with the results and it wasn’t difficult to do these 2 very basic cleaners. I’m going to carry on trying out different cleaners and maybe even making my own cosmetics… Watch this space!!

Master Divers Retail

Are you a brand junkie? Or maybe you are one of those people who likes to collect practical/wearable souvenirs from your holidays and dive trips? If so you are in the right place, as we have a whole range of Master Divers branded items to suit all budgets, activities and climates! Dry bags to keep your valuables safe, cooler jackets to keep your water chilled, USB devices to store all of your important info, logbooks, reusable cloth shopping bags, baseball caps, mask straps, rash vests, board shorts, a whole array of different t-shirts and even some jumpers and hoodies for back in colder climates!

Check out some of our stock items below, modelled by the fabulous Hayley, Kiri and Kevin! Be sure to get your Master Divers memorabilia while you are here!

 

Assorted MD Retail Modelled by Kiri & Hayley
Assorted MD Retail Modelled by Kiri & Hayley
Kevin Also Makes a Fine Model!
Kevin Also Makes a Fine Model!
Trident Vest & Master Divers Deluxe Logbook
Trident Vest & Master Divers Deluxe Logbook
Hoody and Eco Reusable Bag
Hoody and Eco Reusable Bag
Looking Good Hayley!
Looking Good Hayley!

 

Already left? No problem, just let us know what you want, in what colour and size and we can get a shipment quote for you! 🙂

The environmental cleaning project

How clean is your Eco House, and how Eco is

your clean house?

While I’ve been recovering from a broken arm I have been getting several Eco presentations and quizzes ready for when I’m back in the water. There are a few reoccurring themes to my presentations. One is that globally are using too much plastic; I think we all know that. Another is that our corals are suffering; something all divers want to stop. The reasons this is happening and ways to stop are too numerous for one blog, so tried to think of what I could do.

 

I had an epiphany! I’m going to trial making and using my own eco cleaning products. Life gave me lemons, so I’m going to make cleaning products from them- lemonade seems way too complicated. This means no single use plastic from bottles of surface cleaner, and also eradicating chemicals getting into our water system. I wish I could say that not cleaning my house for a while was building up to this, but sadly it’s been a mixture of having only one fully functional arm and being lazy. I should also state that the epiphany was probably brought on by noticing the dust build up under my bed. My mother would be ashamed.

When life gives you lemons

Eco cleaning product list

I set about this morning creating my shopping list (which is surprisingly small) so that I can make an all-purpose cleaner, a heavy duty scrub and a dust cleaner.

 

  • Mason Jar
  • Lemons
  • Lemon oil
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Borax

 

Part of this experiment is going to be whether or not I can get all of these things on Koh Tao, and I specifically chose recipes that have the more simple ingredients. FYI Lazada does not stock liquid Castille soap, but thank goodness for google so that I knew what it actually was! I’m dubious about being able to get borax, a natural laundry booster (sodium tetraborate for the pedants), but there is only one way to find out.

The laboratory is open

Next month I not only hope to have a clean house, but also to tell you the best and worst of my experiment. Time to get scrubbing!

How to care for your underwater camera on a daily basis!

Master Divers underwater photographer, Rob Kelly provides his top tips on his daily camera care routine!

So today we were due the weekly dive report from the 1st to the 7th September 2017. Unfortunately, I have had a dilemma and my underwater camera needed some TLC, should we say plus, a lot has been going on which means I have been out of the water.

Having a faulty vacuum bulkhead on your camera housing is not always a bad thing…

For me, it meant the opportunity to spend more time with one of the most inspiring people in my Pro-diving career. The IDC Staff course with Gaz Lyden and hosted by Master Divers, gave me the chance to sit back and watch his trade craft. A holistic and genuinely person-centered approach to help candidates become the best instructors they can be.

Instructor Rob with Course Director, Gaz for IDC Staff Instructor Training

Unfortunately, without my camera I’ve been unable to continue with the weekly dive reports, showing the wonderful marine life to be seen whilst scuba diving Koh Tao.  Instead I have decided to write a little about camera housing care and maintenance; hopefully, I can help any of you interested in underwater photography, to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made. So I’ve written a brief summary of my day focusing on camera care.

I’ve heard the saying many times that if you dive long enough with an underwater camera; it’s not a case of IF you have a leak but WHEN.  I decided that I wanted to try really hard not to make this come true!  So here’s my setup and care routine.

Start: 1 hour before boat time.
  • Remove batteries from chargers and put in strobes, camera and lights.
  • Check function i.e. do they turn on.
  • Remove Housing from freshwater soak tank, dry and open.
  • Check main housing O-ring for debris i.e. dust and especially hairs, clean and re-grease if necessary.
  • Insert camera with SD card into housing.
  • Seal housing and remove air with vacuum pump.
  • Check camera function: focus, flash trigger, card reading and full battery charge.
  • Pack components into protective case.

Green is good to go Blue is vacuum pump now Red light means fail or failing Strobe arms, floats and the important camera housing

On the boat:
  • Assemble camera and floats/ strobes and arms.  Check vacuum is still holding.
  • Check all camera functions again; once you’re in the water; IT’S TOO LATE to remedy.
  • Brief groups on underwater shots, not to follow me, and that their guide or instructor is in charge.
  • Pre-dive scuba checks.
  • Jump
  • Boat crew pass the camera, final vacuum check and dive!
Water exits:
  • Pass equipment up, wash and/ or soak the camera if these facilities are available.
  • Check all camera functions.  Remedy if necessary; including batteries, SD cards.
  • Switch everything off and make sure there’s enough charge for dive 2.
After diving, I tend to head home and once there, I will:
  • Unpack everything and remove batteries from cameras, strobes and lights for charging.
  • Check and vacuum seal empty camera housing for soaking in fresh water (this helps to dissolve any salt crystals that have built up during the day)
  • Different types of diving present different cleaning issues.
  • A day in shallow bays with fine sand usually means a good deal of sand along the outer edge of the main housing O-Ring.
  • This O-Ring would then need to be removed, cleaned and re greased before soaking.  (less is more when it comes to the silicon grease used; enough to lightly coat the ring is enough)
  • For me a soak can be anywhere from 2 Hours to overnight.
  • Rinse and repeat!

My Camera Housing Extra equipment for wide and macro photography!

Just a quick word about my housing.  It didn’t leak whilst diving but I did find a small amount of water in the empty housing after an overnight soak.  To be fair, there had been some warning signs; I was having to tighten the vacuum bulkhead more and more to maintain a seal.  In fact, this part has been slightly redesigned since I first bought it, so whilst it’s having it’s annual service this month; this part will be replaced with the updated version.

I learned early on that routine and systematic checking is very much the way to go regarding underwater camera maintenance.  I found out the hard way that if you don’t check camera functions, or haven’t switched on your flash trigger or even put a battery in the wrong way round; during a dive is far too late to remedy the problem.  To be honest, it’s pretty easy to replace batteries the wrong way at 05:30 and before my first coffee!  It’s also a really simple to fix if I check everything before leaving home.

I hope this helps but if you have any underwater imaging related questions, I can be contacted on my Facebook page Ocean Secrets and I’m always happy to help where I can.  It’s also worth mentioning that you absolutely do not have to be a scuba diver to take underwater photos.  Whilst snorkeling around Koh Tao, it is possible to see and record some pretty amazing sights!

Shallow Reef whilst snorkeling in Koh Tao Turtle whilst snorkeling in Koh Tao

We’ll be back soon for some more awesome dive site reports so watch this space guys!

 

 

 

My very first Beach clean up as Master Divers ‘Eco Warrior’

112 kg’s collected in Koh Tao, Thailand

On Monday 4th September, Master Divers had a very successful beach clean-up, the first one to be organised by myself, Hayley Pearce, as part of my new eco role.

Beach Clean up in Koh Tao, Thailand

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous, would I be the only one there, and along with donning a broken arm, I wouldn’t have got very far!

I needn’t have been so worried. I was lucky to have, Master Divers Course Director Gaz, with his three new Instructor Development Course (IDC) students Kevin, Henry and Kaarin. Our Underwater Photographer, Rob Kelly, lay down the camera for the morning, along with Instructors and PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainers, Josh, Thomas and Graham, freelance Instructor, Dan, our Divemaster Katie, our four Divemaster Candidates, Charlotte, Rob, Mantie and Sam, and a couple of very generous ladies that had seen our sign near the coconut monkey and decided to join. Sorry for anyone missed off the photo!

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

If you’ve been on Koh Tao, recently, you’ll know how hot it’s been and this morning was no exception. It was great that so many people came to give their own time so that we can give a little back to Koh Tao, especially for those that were teaching or taking courses straight after- it got pretty sweaty towards the end!

Everyone did an awesome job and we managed to collect 112 kg of rubbish and recycling from the beach at Mae Haad, and from the road outside Master Divers. This is a huge amount! I’m so grateful to everyone that was involved, it’s never a pleasant task picking up other people’s litter, but we had fun as we did it and it’s safe to say we were all proud of our achievement.

Thanks again fellow Eco-Warriors. You guys rock!

2017 – WhaleShark Central!

Happy International Whale Shark Day!

In light of today being about celebrating and raising awareness of the whale shark,  the majestic gentle giant of the ocean, we wanted to share some of our exceptional encounters with you and answer some frequently asked questions we get about whale sharks. This year we obtained some amazing footage with these gentle giants, not only whilst diving in Koh Tao, Thailand, but also on snorkeling trips and just from relaxing on our own dive boat!

Scuba Diving in Koh Tao with a whale sharkWhale Shark selfie from the Master Divers scuba diving boat

The dive sites they frequent are usually the deeper dive sites such as Chumphon Pinnacle, South West and Sail Rock. The main time to see a whale shark in Koh Tao is March / April / May and then November / December, however this is not guaranteed and sightings can be rare. This year, however we have experienced heavy whale shark traffic, with dive trips seeing whale sharks, at multiple dive sites – even at sites closer to the island, such as, Twins and White Rock.  It’s amazing to see people’s reactions, under the water, and when getting back from the dive, if they’ve had a lucky encounter with this graceful animal and 2017 in Koh Tao, has certainly been ‘Whale Shark Central!’

Here are the regular questions we receive about whale sharks?

Where can you find whale sharks?
Whale sharks are found in tropical oceans in areas like the Maldives, Thailand, Philippines and Mexico.

What do they feed on?
They feed mainly on plankton, schooling fish, and squid, which they strain from the water as they swim, with their mouths and specialized teeth. They are the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate and pose absolutely no threat to people, but they are still being hunted for their highly prized fins and meat.

Whale Shark Cruising in Koh Tao Thailand Whale Shark in the shallows with diver in Koh Tao Thailan

What kind of species is the whale shark? 
It’s actually the largest living species of shark! They can grow to approx 12 meters in length, on average but their teeth are only 6 millimeters long.

Are they unique to one another? 
Yes, each individual whale shark, has their own unique pattern, a bit like a zebra with it’s stripes or a human with our fingerprints. This allows conservation experts to identify and track them in order for us to learn more about how they live.

Whale ahark and cleaner fish, Koh Tao, Thailand Whale shark with divers

Are they a threatened species?
Yes! Whale sharks are currently considered endangered, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to over fishing and serious ocean pollution. They are a slow swimming fish, due their size and prefer shallow water of around 50 metres, which of course also puts them under threat of boat collisions and fishing nets. They also breed slowly which makes them extremely vulnerable to over fishing and the shark fin industry.

Can I do something to help? 
Yes! Shark Guardian, a conservation charity who dedicate themselves full time to shark conservation projects and Deepblu, an online community for scuba divers and freedivers, are looking for people to help, join them as Whale Shark Guardians, in order to help spread awareness and protect this amazing fish! You can find out more by visiting the ‘Whale Shark Guardian’ page here. Just think how cool that would be on your Facebook profile… Occupation: ‘Whale Shark Guardian!’

Happy International Whale Shark Day!

 

PADI Womens Dive Day 2017 (July 15th)

What a great day we had this year for PADI Womens Day 2017, not only were the girls out in force but the boys put aside their masculinity and embraced the celebrations for the afternoon!

How did Master Divers celebrate? We got our dresses on and went diving of course! Amazed looks were plentiful as Divemaster, Brian, Instructors ,Tony and Josh and Photographer, Rob all walked down the beach to the boat in a variety of coloured dresses and a pink wig, which Tony pulled off beautifully! They even went diving in them. The water was that clear on the day, you could see Tony coming back to the boat by looking out for the little pink dot underwater.

Instructors Tony and Josh with students

The lovely ladies on the boat that day were Giselle, or as we call her, Gigi. Gigi is one of our Divemasters, which is your first step to entering the professional world of scuba diving. This also allows you to work, in the scuba diving industry, anywhere in the world, but there was only one beautiful tropical island and dive center that beckoned for Gigi…Yes, you’ve guessed it, Koh Tao and Master Divers.

Divemaster Gigi, Koh Tao Scuba Diving

And then there was Hayley. Hayley, is a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI), with specialties in Deep, Wreck, Search and Recovery, Enriched Air Nitrox (EANX) and O2 provider. Hayley actually did her Instructor Development Course with us and our Course Director, Gaz Lydon. She loved it that much, plus we loved her, so she stayed. Hayley is now not just an instructor but also our ‘ECO Warrior Queen‘. Read her blog, ‘Introducing Me‘ to find out more.

Hayley Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

Whilst the boat was busy out diving, the rest of the team were organising for the night time activities and signing up more divers for the next day. There is a big female team at Master Divers, which became obvious that day in the office, and believe it or not this is not everyone…10 points if you can also spot the intruder!

The Ladies team at Master Divers

The celebrations rolled into the evening with food platters and cocktails for everyone at our cafe bar Coconut Monkey, and yes, the dresses stayed on…personally I think the boys secretly enjoyed it!

Men in drag

So, we celebrated in style, but why have PADI Womens Dive Day each year? Its simple really, to encourage more women to take up scuba diving, whether that be as a profession or just for fun. Scuba Diving, for a long time, has been a mainly male based activity, however this is changing. Each year the number of women who participate in scuba diving is increasing.  Cathy Evans, PADI guest blogger, and founder of Girls that Scuba, recently wrote ‘Since PADI’s first Womens Dive Day in 2014 there has been a 2.2% increase in female certifications for PADI recreational courses, from 37.2% to 39.4%’ it’s not just courses that are increasing either, we’re rocking it in other areas to. Cathy’s blog ‘The Rise and Rise of Female Scuba Divers‘ showcases some of the most influential women in diving today. Girl Power!

A week through the eyes of a Scuba diving photographer!

After a hiatus, we are going to resume the weekly dive reports here at Master Divers. We’d really like to share with you some of the amazing marine life that we get to see on a daily basis diving on Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand and what goes on underwater through the eyes of a professional photographer; namely me, Rob Kelly. We’re even showcasing video’s so you don’t miss out on anything! Watch out for the first installment next week which details what to expect when diving in Koh Tao, Koh Tao’s dive site conditions and the marine life we see. For now here’s a little something about me and what I’ve experienced this week as Master Divers photographer.

First of all, a little bit about me: I’m a PADI specialty instructor, I first dived 25 years ago on the Great Barrier Reef. Since then I’ve dived in tropical and very cold water and most things in between. I’m trained on the open circuit scuba systems that the vast majority of our divers use and also the Hollis Explorer semi-closed rebreather. In short, I’m a diver with fairly broad experience and I have specifically chosen Master Divers as my home.

Master Divers Photographer Rob Kelly

This week, we have experienced some lovely conditions at the various dive sites we have visited. One thing to note about us is that we have 2 boats, meaning that we are able to cater to both experienced divers and anyone who is seeking a first experience and training for the underwater world. With up to 5 trips a day with each boat, the variety of sites we are able to offer is fairly extensive, and the office team are always happy to try to accommodate requests. I had the pleasure of shooting PADI Open Water courses, with 2 of our full time instructors; Jason, a PADI Master Instructor, and Rafa, a PADI Staff Instructor. What I noticed is how these professionals made excellent judgement calls on what we in diving call ‘close control’- When you are learning with us, your dive professional is at all times there for your safety and comfort.

The 2 shots I’m referring to involve the mask removal skill. Jason was working with a student who clearly had a high level of comfort with this skill, he still maintains physical contact and therefore control and his choice was entirely appropriate for that situation. Rafa had a customer wearing contact lenses, slightly less comfortable with this skill; his position is closer and in addition to holding the BC D, also holds his fingers in front the student’s regulator. This is textbook control.

PADI Open Water Mask Removal Skill PADI Open Water Mask Removal Skill

Among the beautiful marine life we saw were a very relaxed Star Puffer Fish, a lovely Banded Sea Krait, the gorgeous Nudibranch ((Risbecia Trioni) and a Flatworm that I’ve not yet managed to identify.

Diving in Koh Tao, PufferFish Sea Snake Nudi Branch in Koh Tao Flatworm not yet identified

All of the shots of divers and marine life are by me Rob Kelly @ Ocean Secrets Underwater Photography. If  you’d like to look at this cool underwater world, I can certainly help. See you next week!

World Oceans Day 2017

June 8th 2017 was a day of annual oceanic celebration… it was WORLD OCEANS DAY! This is an international day to appreciate and care for our beautiful blue planet and help educate others and spread awareness of how vital our oceans truly are.

Prep Talk on the Master Divers Boat

Here at Master Divers, we need little excuse to arrange Marine Conservation Events, and so World Oceans Day was scheduled for a great day of conservation clean ups, ocean education and ‘fin’tastic fun! We began our day bright and early at 6.45 am for the morning boat that took our group of Eco Warriors around to Laem Thien, our Adopted Dive Site. Here we coordinated a beach clean up at the abandoned resort where ocean debris and trash is often brought in by eastern winds collecting a huge 55 KG in only an hour!! Leaving the beach clean and clear, we then continued to clean up the surrounding area underwater with a Dive Against Debris.

Beach and Ocean Clean

The afternoon commenced with our oceanic take on traditional Olympic games, which we renamed a Fin-lympics! The rules were explained as buddy teams joined to compete with much laughter and hilarity.

Olympic Games but with Fins!

Some of our favourites were: the coconut shot put, the egg and spoon fin relay, the swim float paddle relay, a fin tug of war, and finally a double points relay combining all previous games!! It didn’t matter who won (… I did ;)), but that everyone enjoyed taking part, even if a few blisters were caused by sandy fins.

Boarding Relay Race

After a well-deserved break and dinner, the team regrouped for an Eco Pub Quiz in the Coconut Monkey. Re-establishing teams, and reigniting a competitive edge, our Eco Warriors battles through 5 rounds of informative Eco Questions to see who knew most about our ocean planet and its inhabitants.

The Big Fin Olympics Finish

Not only was June 8th special as World Oceans Day, but it was also our wonderful Divemaster Brians Birthday!! Therefore the day and quiz ended with a special Birthday Boy Brian Bonus Round followed by further celebrations in Sairee.

Thank you to everyone who came and made World Oceans Day such a fun success and such a day to remember! J

Earth Day 2017

 

A year ago, Master Divers helped coordinate the hugely popular and wonderfully successful Koh Tao Earth Day 2016. This event invited our beautiful island community together to participate in a day of land and underwater clean ups for the benefit of our environment. So this year, alongside the collective support of our local government and island residents… we decided to do it all over again!!

Earth Day falls on the 22nd of April. It is a day to focus on the beautiful blue planet we live on alongside all other species who inhabit it. So much fantastic life relies on the environment and fragile eco-systems to survive; however, unfortunately, our planet and our environment is changing and is evident of deteriorating due to human actions.

17973543_1391681760890035_1722533729654699638_o

Our oceans have less fish than ever before. The climate is changing. Ocean temperatures are rising alongside ocean sea levels. New technologies such as fracking and drilling techniques are damaging the environment in unprecedented ways with unpredictable outcomes. More and more habitats are being destroyed for land and/or resources, causing more animals to become endangered and extinct. The health of our planet Earth is indisputably in decline.

Fortunately, there are some great organisations and great initiatives combatting the destruction of our environment, and many more countries and governments introducing environmentally friendly laws and regulations than ever before. Everyone can make a difference, and that is exactly what we aimed to do for the second year running! Earth Day 2017 was our event as a community to get together and help protect and preserve our island home, whilst simultaneously raising awareness and educating other island travellers on environmental issues. Now whilst there are many ways to help our environment, we decided to focus on plastic (more specifically Single-Use Plastics) as they have an immediate and everlasting negative effect on our environment and oceans.

PlasticSea

Plastic never goes away. It is possible that every piece of plastic EVER produced is still on our planet in some form. Plastic production has increased 20 fold in the last 50 years and production continues to increase. 50% of all plastic production is merely single-use plastic such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws; designed and used for a short term convenience before being discarded (did you know 100 billion plastic bags are made every year? That’s 1 million every minute!). The majority of this plastic is sent as waste to landfill where it will stay and pollute the earth forever. However, a huge amount is discarded into our environment and oceans. Over 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans every year; there are currently 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans; and plastic will soon outweigh fish by 2050. This is a huge problem!

This year, we arranged an island wide land based clean up with over 250 volunteers where we removed 1,600 KG of trash and waste from the island, half of which was made from potentially recyclable materials. We then sent our 17 different boats to all our local dive sites who removed a further 500 KG from the ocean. This data was sent to Project AWARE for research and statistics on ocean trash. All participants and our island community along with government representatives all celebrated the days achievement with a huge party at The Hacienda with food stalls, game stalls, drinks and a generously donated raffle.

KTED2

This year, the money raised is being put towards starting an island recycling centre to reduce the amount of waste we produce and to further responsibly manage the plastic, glass, and metal waste here on Koh Tao. We are encouraging dive centres on the island and other businesses to commit to reducing their single-waste plastics by becoming plastic free themselves. We hope this will spark a change of attitude on Koh Tao which alongside the support of the local government will allow us to ban certain single-use plastics in the future.

If you have not yet signed our petition to ban single-use plastic bags and reduce plastics on the island, please do so here!!