Ocean news 2017 in Review – Part 1: The Changing Earth

During 2017, we experienced some highs and lows when it came to ocean-related news. New discoveries mixed with natural disasters of the greatest proportions riddled our timelines throughout the past year, so I figured it would be an interesting topic for a 2-part blog series. With this entry: The Changing Earth, I’m going to discuss the various threats to the oceans and Earth as we know it, with the next installment focusing on the positives that came out of 2017, including exciting new discoveries! So, without further ado, let’s discuss some of the interesting ocean-related events of the past year, starting with the numerous devastating tropical storms….

 

2017: The year of “once in a lifetime” storms! While hurricanes and strong tropical storms are not uncommon events, last year we witnessed some of the strongest storms in history. The Caribbean was hit by not one, but two huge hurricanes back to back in late August. Hurricane Harvey initiated the onslaught on the region, dumping up to 150cm of rain over a 2 day period. This lead to insane flooding causing large scale personal and property loss that is estimated to reach $100 Billion US dollars. Hurricane Maria followed around a month later, which caused the near annihilation of Puerto Rico, whose inhabitants just got their power back within the last month! Unfortunately, these weren’t the only storms of note. A post-tropical cyclone made its way north and hit both Ireland and Great Britain. Stronger-than-usual typhoons were experienced in south-east Asia, and a seldom heard of Medicane occurred in Greece. Have you ever heard of a Medicane? These storms are the Mediterranean equivalent to a tropical storm, much like a cyclone or typhoon. However, since the Mediterranean isn’t big or warm enough to sustain the storm’s energy, it can’t be classified as a tropical storm, despite sharing tropical storm characteristics. Hence the creation of the title “Medicane”.

While this past year was a bad one for storms, it is a sign of where we are going with future years. Thanks to global warming, we can come to expect these types of storms to become part of the norm.

 

Before:After pictures of the damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Before: After pictures of the damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

 

In addition to the storms, 2017 will also be known as the successive year where we documented the further demise of our coral reefs. A mass bleaching event occurred throughout the world in 2016 due to the El Niño weather pattern causing water temperatures on the coral reefs to increase. This initially started back in 2014, however due to the sustained higher-than-usual water temperatures, 2016 was the year we saw the most bleaching and coral die-off. While this isn’t an immediate death sentence for the corals, if the higher-than-usual temperatures are sustained, the corals will become stressed, expel their symbiotic algae with whom they coexist and use as a food collection source, and slowly starve.   All is not lost though! Marine protected areas (MPA’s), coral nurseries, pollution reduction, as well as the discovery of “super corals” have all played a valuable role on helping reefs bounce back after this very trying time period.  These super corals are species that are able to withstand a greater temperature variation than other species of corals, which means that these El Niño events aren’t impacting them nearly as much as the regular corals. Pollution, while down overall, is still a major threat to the health of the oceans. It includes anything from oil spills, fertilizer runoff, and the subject of the year: Plastics!

 

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

 

Plastics, plastics, plastics! It seems like this is a never-ending topic of discussion among environmentalists the past few years and 2017 is no different. The issue has become what most would describe as an epidemic, to the point where scientists have estimated that there is a literal tonne of plastic rubbish located in the oceans from each person on Earth. What’s worse is that the majority of this plastic enters the water through only 10 rivers across the globe. On a slightly brighter note though, scientists discovered that some species of corals actually eat plastics! It appears that the corals enjoy the taste of the plastics, however, scientists have yet to figure out what chemical or component of the plastic makes it so desirable to the coral. Humans are learning something new every day and will hopefully use this newfound knowledge in a positive way! Here at Master Divers, we try to lead the way on Koh Tao, and take every step possible to reduce our plastic consumption. You can read more about Master Divers commitment to the environment on our previous blog post.

Eco Straws

 

Given all that has happened in the past year, it is easy to be sad, but don’t be! Channel that passion into energy to help solve the problem! With the biggest issues all being due to global warming, we can all start with trying to lower our carbon footprints.  This includes carpooling, walking, cycling, or using public transit to get around instead of driving everywhere. Another step you can take is to limit your meat intake. I’m not going to preach to you and say you need to cut out meat 100%, but if you can limit the amount you eat in a given week, it would do the world of good. Forests are cut down in order to make pastures for cattle and create food for other animals raised for human consumption. Finally, I implore you to try and cut down on the amounts of single-use plastic you use. Excellent alternatives to popular single-use plastic items exist, such as metal or bamboo straws and canvas shopping bags. The Earth needs our help if it is to be saved, and only a change in what has become our “norm” will do. Tune in to my next blog post to see what other changes 2017 brought to the world for ocean lovers!

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.

 

 

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

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!!

Spotlight (literally!) on UV Night Diving

 

As some of you may already know, Master Divers is one of the limited number of dive centres in the world that offer UV Night Dives. These offer a truly awesome experience where you will really see the coral reef in a completely different light (again, quite literally!) as it fluoresces and glows!

UV Corals

How does it work we hear you ask? Well, its actually pretty straightforward, and you’ll be pleased to hear that you can wear your regular mask, so no need to worry about ill fitting equipment. We use special dichroic torches which have a blue beam. Unlike normal white light torches which are wide angle, the dichroic torches are very narrow angle beam, creating a spotlight effect on the area of reef you are looking at. Of course, if you dived with just this blue light alone, nothing would glow, and you’d just end up finishing the dive with a massive headache! So to balance this out, we use yellow visors that attach easily onto your regular mask. This filters out the blue wavelength light and allows you to see corals and even some marine life fluoresce!

Among our favourite things to spot under UV light are Scorpion Fish, Moray Eels and mushroom corals – which you can often observe feeding, a spectacular sight!

Moray Eels Under UV Light

Scorpion Fish under UV Light

Want to try it?! The visibility on a UV dive is more limited than a regular night dives, so we do need to be sure of your comfort and buoyancy underwater in general is up to the job. In order to take part in a UV night dive you need to have dived recently through the day, be comfortable with your equipment and buoyancy control and have already taken at least one regular night dive. Spaces are limited for this, so if you are interested please do let us know in advance and be sure to tell us a little about your night dive experiences so far.

UV flouro dives cost 2000thb per person and are inclusive of everything you need including equipment hire, boat fees and guide. Read more about our UV Night Dives.

Photo credit for the scorpion fish and moray eel pic goes to Elisabeth at Oceans below, and Daniel Halmi. You can see more of their awesome underwater images on their intagream pages oceans_below and _diver_dan

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

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!

 

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!