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.

CoralWatch at Master Divers

CoralWatch is a non-profit organization founded by coral biologists from the University of Queensland. Their lives revolve around working to protect corals, which lead them to create a platform where the general public can join students, scientists, and divers to enter data on coral bleaching from sites all around the world; and so CoralWatch was born back in 2002. Since then, in association with Project Aware, CoralWatch has become a worldwide tool that scientists can draw data from, with more than 1,000 CoralWatch participating operations actively collecting coral health data. This ability for the scientists to have a pool of free data to use in their studies is very useful and appreciated by all. It also gives the public an effective avenue for them to pursue a passion and help try and save the aquatic world you love so dearly!

 

Coral-Watch Framed

 

What is coral bleaching?

That leads us to the question: What are corals and how do they become bleached? Well, corals are living organisms that live in a colony as polyps. Related to Cnidarians (Jellyfish), they are sessile (non-moving) organisms that are attached to the same substrate their entire lives, and actually add to this substrate by excreting limestone deposits as they grow. Within their tissues lives an algae called Zooxanthellae, to which the coral forms a mutualistic, symbiotic relationship. What this means is that the coral polyp provides protection for the algae, which in turn uses photosynthesis to produce oxygen and glucose (sugar) for the coral polyp to use. Nutrients are efficiently cycled between the two symbionts (algae + coral), which benefit each individual greatly as tropical waters are relatively nutrient poor in comparison to more temperate, cooler waters.

Now the act of coral bleaching occurs when the coral becomes stressed due to sustained warmer-than-usual sea temperatures. Once stressed, the coral pushes the algae from its tissues, which causes the bleached white appearance (a before and after picture is shown below). However, this isn’t an immediate death sentence for the coral! The algae can be brought back into the coral’s tissues, but only if the water temperature drops back to a level where the coral isn’t stressed. It’s a common misconception that the white corals are dead, but if the word is able to be spread that there is still a chance for the corals to recover, then all hope isn’t lost!

 

Coral Watch dives at Master Divers

On a breezy Halloween morning, a group of Dive Master candidates and green package guests joined Hayley and I on two CoralWatch dives at Twin Pinnacles and White Rock. Both sites are known for the brilliant coral diversity and often excellent conditions, and boy did they not disappoint! With visibility pushing 30 meters at Twins and 25 meters at White Rock, locating the various species of coral to sample was a breeze. After all was said and done, 4 separate surveys were conducted (2 at each site) by our eco-warriors, providing important data for the CoralWatch team to use in their future studies. An excellent day all round for the team, who had smiles on their faces from start to finish!

 

Coral Bleaching: Before and After
Coral Bleaching: Before and After

 

How can you get involved?

If this kind of eco-related activity interests you, contact master divers at conseration@master-divers.com and inquire about when the next eco dive is scheduled! We try to schedule them once a month, but will add more upon request! As a team, we all feel it is our responsibility to help try and protect the environment that we call “our office”.  For more information on CoralWatch, visit their website at www.coralwatch.org

The team: Ian, Kevin, Andy, Agnes, Ben, Andy, Gaspar, and Andy
The team: Ian, Kevin, Andy, Agnes, Ben, Andy, Gaspar, and Andy

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.

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!!

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!

Shark Myths Debunked

Sharks really are misunderstood!

Sharks are some of the most fantastic, magnificent and important creatures in our oceans. They have been vital to oceanic health for over 400 million years and have barely changed in the last 150 million due to their near perfect predator evolution. However, sharks are also some of the most misunderstood animals on our beautiful blue planet and have been feared and hunted because of this misconception. Shark populations have been decimated in the last 50 years due to this irrational fear, and the increasing demand for shark fin soup.

Whale shark in Koh Tao waters

Therefore in an attempt to re image the shark, here are 5 shark myths debunked and explained!

Sharks are dangerous and eat people.

This is a huge misconception as 97% of all sharks (500 species) actually pose NO threat to human beings. The other 3% neither hunt nor prey upon humans. There are only 5-10 shark related deaths a year, whereas falling coconuts kill 150 people, and cows kill 20 people annually in the US alone. Statistically, you’re 2,000 more likely to be killed by lightening than a shark. Additionally, 90% of shark attack victims survive their wounds showing that sharks only bite out of defense or curiosity, no with intent to kill.

shark-death-stats

Can sharks really smell a single drop of blood from miles away?

No. The shark olfactory sensory system is highly sensitive, especially to amino acids and plasmas associated with their prey. However if sharks were ‘over sensitive’ to these particles, this would cause an over stimulation affect that would confuse the shark. The oceans have so many different chemicals, partials and hormones floating through them that sharks wouldn’t be able to isolate and utilize any single smell. Imagine having incredibly acute hearing, and attempting to hold a conversation in a crowded area, the over stimulation would make it very difficult to listen or follow any single voice.

Sharks are immune to cancer and diseases, and can pass on this strength and immunity through ingestion of shark meat or specifically shark fin.

NO. This is a huge myth passed down through Chinese tradition, relying on the idea that shark power can be consumed. This ancient ideology has caused an explosion in the demand for shark fin soup, which causes the death of over 100 million sharks every year (12,000 an hour). However, shark fin has absolutely no nutritional value and no taste, the soup is instead flavoured by chicken/pork broth. In fact, the texture of the flavourless fin can be substituted unknowingly for stringy mushrooms meaning there is no need for the inhumane practice of shark fishing and finning. Furthermore, sharks are being found with more cancers and diseases than ever before due to increased ocean pollution and contamination.

Shark fin soup, a delicacy, apparently!

In the extremely unlikely event of a shark attack, should you punch it in the nose?

This is also a myth. Although the shark nose tip has sensitive electromagnetic and water pressure sensors, the effectiveness of a punch to this area would be greatly reduced by the density of water. An aimed punch would do very little and is merely sticking your fist closer to the sharks’ mouth. A preferred defensive method would be to attack the vulnerable eyes.

Do sharks need to constantly swim to breathe?

This statement is somewhat true. Sharks do indeed need a constant flow of water over their gills to diffuse oxygen into the blood stream and remove carbon dioxide. However, this can be accomplished in a few ways. Some sharks have evolved strong cheek muscles to push water to and through the gills allowing them to breathe whilst resting or stationary. Other sharks have developed intuitive behaviors to rest at areas of water movement allows them to breathe whilst also resting (aquarium sharks have adapted to sit by the water pumps). However, if a sharks fins are removed by finning, they cannot control their movement or breathing and so bleed to death or suffocate.

shark fins out to dry

Unfortunately, sharks are feared and hunted because of these myths and misconceptions, and their absence is having a serious impact on our oceans. You can help them by educating others and spreading awareness, as only together can we protect this fascinating species.

Help protect the shark!

Shark drowning due to having fins cut off

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!

Introducing Me! Master Divers New Eco Warrior!

This week I have started the process of taking over from Josh Stephenson as Master Divers resident eco warrior, a tough act to follow! I’ll be taking over organising beach and dive site clean ups, running eco presentations, quizzes and movie nights, and getting involved in island and international eco projects. I know my parents will be proud and will remember me as a precocious teenager declaring that if their new car didn’t have a catalytic converter, I wouldn’t get in it! They told me then that I couldn’t save the world and this is my chance to prove them wrong!

Hayley becoming the Eco Warrior she is today

From those well intended beginnings I have gone on to travel and scuba dive around the world. I have seen how stunning our oceans and the aquatic life within them are, and I want to keep it that way. I’m hoping that during my time in this role I can educate other divers on what is happening to our environment as well as inspiring non-divers to think differently about conservation and what can be done. We’re all in it together!

Scuba Diving Instructor, Hayley with elephants

I first dived with Master Divers in Koh Tao, Thailand  in 2013 and knew that I would one day come back. I’m really lucky to have done my pro training here and land a dream job! We will miss Mr Koh Tao, he has set such a fantastic example in this role and has made the job much easier for me, but there’s a new eco-queen in town now; long may I reign!!

Hayley Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand