Friday, December 31, 2010

The year 2010; A flashback

The year 2010; A flashback

A busy diving and teaching year has passed!

I spread my wings earlier this year and am now teaching PADI IDC's with 5* PADI IDC Centers and PADI 5* IDD Resorts around Thailand; on Koh Samui with The Dive Academy, on Koh Phangan with Haad Yao Divers, on Koh Lanta with Scubafish and Blue Planet Divers and in Kao Lak with Similan Diving Safaris and Sea Dragon. Next year I'm also scheduling an IDC on the small island of Malapascua in the Philippines, home of the Thresher sharks.

Great diving was done at various locations and wreck diving trips to Pattaya were on the schedule with an absolute highlight during the exploratory wreck dive trip into the Gulf but also other wrecks were dived, the Boonsung in Kao Lak and the Inch Cape 2 in the United Arab Emirates!
Another fantastic highlight were the Manta Ray encounters at Hin Daeng and Hin Muang in December. This was easily the best diving experience this year and it's great to still enjoy some fun dives besides getting wet whilst teaching all the time!

Back to the teaching side than, with great pride I received for the Platinum Course Director rating, the 4th consecutive time in a row, since PADI Asia Pacific introduced this rating. Less than 49 PADI Course Directors worldwide receive this award.

On the IDC front it was really busy with 12 IDC's being conducted by me! That's the highest number of IDC's taught by me during one calender year.
The total number of IDC candidates reached 27 this year, the lowest number of candidates since I became a PADI Course Director in March 2003. Maybe a reflection on the worldwide economical state, the strong Thai Baht plus the social unrest earlier this year in Bangkok.

The IDC's were fun though and the initial pass rate of all my candidates during the PADI IE's was 100% this year! For the first time I conducted IDC's outside of Koh Samui and the honor for this went to Koh Phangan with Joep and Aldo. Koh Lanta followed with two IDC's, one in October/November and one in December and in-between I also conducted an IDC in Kao Lak.
I also had candidates for the first time participate in a Phuket PADI IE.

PADI IE in Phuket, December 2010

Furthermore I had 5 PADI Instructors complete their IDC Staff rating, well done to Preben, Thomas, Dijana, Ami and Philip. As if this wasn't enough, plenty of IDC Staff instructors helped me staff some IDC's this year and two have sent in their applications for becoming PADI Course Directors. Good luck to Richard and Jeffree.

On the EFR Instructor course front I certified 16 Instructors this year and I took a step back during the end of the year when Richard certified some of my EFRI students. Well done and thanks to Richard for helping out and I hope you enjoyed getting the experience.

On the Specialty front it was busy, but most of the certifications were handled by various Staff Instructors who're looking for their continual education certifications, so that one day they can apply for their own PADI Course Director rating, Paul, James and Richard were handling some of these certifications, leaving me some Emergency Oxygen Provider and Gas blender certifications. Thanks for the help guys and I hope you enjoyed the experience.

On the Specialty Instructor front it was different cookies though and I certified Instructors in 108 Instructor Specialties. Nitrox and Digital Underwater Photography were the most popular ones but Deep and Wreck also proofed to be favorites.

This year I taught an Open Water Diver course to my sisters son and her husbands son. This was fun and I'm looking forward to see them back soon and get some more diving done with them.

I participated in two major clean ups on Chaweng Beach , one was the Dive for Earth Day in April and the other one was the yearly Project Aware Beach & Underwater clean up. Great fun and interesting to see what can be found off Chaweng's beach. This remains one of my fave dive spots on Koh Samui!

My new look website was launched earlier this year, still with the same URL; You can also join my IDC Group on Facebook, don't be shy and spread the word!

Check my Samui info and weather blog for a review of the 2010 highlights.

Thanks to everybody who took courses with me, who worked together with me and put up with me! Looking forward seeing you in the 2011!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

Christmas Tree in a white land scape

Just at the end of boxing day, hope you all enjoyed this Christmas.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A visit to Dubai's Aquariums

A visit to Dubai's Aquariums

Whilst in Dubai, one of the attractions I can highly recommend you to visit are the two Aquariums the city hosts, one in the Dubai Mall which is the largest shopping mall in the world at the time being and one in the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah which is currently probably one of the most expensive hotels in the world.

The Dubai Mall Aquarium, which is massive

It's developed and operated by Oceanis Australia Group, officially earned the Guinness World Record for the world's "Largest Acrylic Panel" (32.88 m wide × 8.3 m high × 750 mm thick and weighing 245,614 kg). The acrylic viewing panel is larger than Japan's Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (22.5 m wide × 8.2 m high and 600 mm thick). Its 750 mm thick acrylic viewing panel can withstand pressure of 10 million litres of water used in the aquarium, but its transparency gives visitors clear views of over 33,000 marine animals on display. In February 2010, a leak in the aquarium caused a partial evacuation and brief shutdown of a portion of the mall. The ten million liter aquarium tank is the largest suspended aquarium in the world
The Mall adopted an International Standard of Ethics and Animal Welfare Policy in its development and operation.

The Atlantis Aquarium

After having a look at the immense Mall Aquarium, we went to visit the Atlantis Hotel Aquarium which looked even larger and bigger to me! It hosted tons of fish, including Eagle Rays, various shark and ray species and was an impressive sight to view. This Aquarium holds 11 million liters of water!

An eagle ray at Atlantis Aquarium

The throne for the ruler of the oceans and seas at the Atlantis Hotel

Visits to these two aquariums are highly recommended and a dive at the Dubai Mall is possible, diving at the Atlantis is apparently only possible for hotel residents at very high prices.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

United Arab Emirates diving

United Arab Emirates diving

Yesterday I went diving with my friends Imad and Sunil in Fujairah, one of the 7 emirates in the UAE. We went to Khor Fakkan and dived the Inch Cape 2 and Dibba Rok.

Batfish, locally named Imad!

The Inch Cape 2 is a small but very nice wreck with a max depth of around 20 meters, ideal for what we were planning, Sunil's final wreck dive for the Wreck dive Instructor specialty.

Inside the Inch Cape 2

The wreck can be penetrated through the bow and there's plenty of fish on and around the wreck, including various Moray Eels.

Moray Eel on the Inch Cape 2

During the trip over to the wreck dive site, we spotted at least 4 turtles on the surface.

Lobster at Dibba Rock

The second dive of the day was at Dibba Rock, which had a very strong current when we dived it so we had a lovely drift dive. A turtle, moray eels and some big lobsters were seen. Sometimes this is a also a good location to spot black tip reef sharks, but we didn't encounter any yesterday.

Imad, Sunil and myself after the dives on the boat

A great seafood lunch was enjoyed after the dives. With thanks at Alla at Blue Planet Diving for providing the facilities.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Camille's new cooperation with Seadragon in Kao Lak

Camille's new cooperation with Seadragon in Kao Lak

The newest addition to a slowly growing list of excellent PADI 5* IDC Centers that PADI award winning Platinum Course Director Camille is working with. Camille is proud to introduce Kao Lak's longest standing PADI 5* IDC center Seadragon to his new partnership.

After Camille's successful cooperation with Similan Diving Safaris, also in Kao Lak, this is a great opportunity to widen the opportunities on the Kao Lak IDC market.

The next IDC in Kao Lak is scheduled to start 11th April 2011 with a PADI IE scheduled in Kao Lak between 23rd and 25th April 2011.
A second IDC in Kao Lak for next year is scheduled between 4th and 16th December 2011 with a PADI IE in Kao Lak between 16th and 18th December 2011.

Seadragon has a dedicated IDC classroom and a pool on the promises.

See here for Camille's full 2011 IDC schedule.

The first IDC in Kao Lak that Camille conducted earlier this year, went very successful and both candidates passed their PADI IE with flying colors.

Come and join me for an IDC in Kao Lak, feel free to contact me regarding prices, schedules and any other questions you may have regarding my IDC's in general and specifically in Kao Lak.


Monday, December 13, 2010

PADI IE IN Phuket successfully completed

PADI IE IN Phuket successfully completed

Yesterday around 2pm it was all official, my 2 students from the November Kao Lak IDC, Julia and Suzanne and my 3 students from the December Koh Lanta IDC, Maja, Emma and Craig all had passed the PADI IE in Phuket and were now the newest PADI Instructors on the block, or actually around the world for a while.

Discussing the assignments

All 5 had hooked up before the start of the PADI IE, Julia and Suzanne had come down to Koh Lanta to join the candidates in Lanta and refresh some of their skills.

Setting up gear before the confined water dive

It was the first time that I had candidates in a Phuket IE but all went well and my 5 candidates did very well, with almost straight 5's all over the show!

The Scubafish clan from Koh Lanta, from left to right; Craig, Maja, Tim the PADI Examiner, Camille and Emma! Well done ya'all!

The Similan Diving Safaris clan from Kao Lak, from left to right; Julia, Tim the PADI examiner, Camille and Suzanne. Great job girls, well done!

All together, from left to right, one big happy family at Chalong pier in Phuket from left to right; Craig, Maja, Emma, Tim the PADI Examiner, Julia, Suzanne, Camille and Jim, also PADI examiner.

With this result I managed a 100% score for all of this years candidates that participated in one of IDC's during 2010! Well done guys and girls, to all of you!

My next IDC starts 6th January on Koh Samui, get in touch if you're interested in participating!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Manta Rays at Hin Daeng, 3rd dive of the day, the madness continued

Manta Rays at Hin Daeng, 3rd dive of the day, the madness continued

So here we are for the 3rd dive of the day, at a new location; Hin Daeng, after having already witnessed two dives at the neighboring Hin Muang with Manta's sticking with us for pretty much the whole dive, as you can see in this and this post. This dive we weren't expecting anything and I would've been very happy with an octopus out in the open. How wrong we were! Within minutes the first Manta showed up and during the whole dive there was one and sometimes two Mantas floating around! They were weaving in and out of view the full 69 minutes that our dive lasted.

Close up

Especially this footage I really enjoyed, I shot two videos during the safety stop when one and at some stage two Mantas just hung out in the current for 25 to 20 minutes, at times just barely not touching us! You could use your macro settings for some of the shots ;-)

Classic shot

Belly view

Cruising by

Manta dance

This one day we had a very unique experience which made these 3 dives one of my most exciting dives ever, with Mantas during all 3 dives hanging around during the whole dive.
Awesome! It's absolutely amazing to see and witness the grace these animals move through the water. If you're a diver, I can only hope for you to be able to witness Manta Ray's during one of your dives.

Hope you enjoyed this little series of Manta pictures, my next update will be from the Phuket IE!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

EFR Instructor course in Koh Lanta December 2010, box ticked!

EFR Instructor course in Koh Lanta December 2010, box ticked!

Yes indeed, all is done for this Koh Lanta IDC and the EFR Instructor course is also in the can now. Everything is ready for the PADI IE starting tomorrow in Phuket.

Left to right, Maja, Camille, Emma and Craig

Stay tuned for more information and updates of their Phuket adventures over the coming days.


Manta Rays at Hin Muang, 2nd dive, from Koh Lanta, Thailand

Manta Rays at Hin Muang, 2nd dive, from Koh Lanta, Thailand

After our first Manta Ray dive at Hin Muang, we weren't counting on another appearance, but we we royally served with a second show by two Manta's, again, pretty much during the whole dive they stayed with us.

Enjoy the pictures and the video.


Manta Ray chilling

Close up

What a beauty



Tomorrow I'll post some pictures and a video from the third dive at Hin Daeng, with more Manta's!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Manta Rays at Hin Muang from Koh Lanta, Thailand

Manta Rays at Hin Muang from Koh Lanta, Thailand

Today was my second visit to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang and it turned out to be a memorable one! After having completed the recent IDC in Koh Lanta, we had a well reserved day off today and we all decided to hop on the boat to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang with thanks to Saffron at Scubafish for having us! The main reason for going to these dive sites is the possibility of seeing big fish, specifically Manta Rays! They had been seen the previous six consecutive days, so our hopes were high!

Within seconds of the first dive of the day, there were Manta Rays and my Manta Cherry was popped, at last! It was also the seventh consecutive day of Manta sightings at this dive site!

After my initial excitement and a very nice start of the dive, the Manta's kept coming back during the whole dive, which we stretched to 64 minutes. It's a whole different experience to dive with Manta's and it's amazing how graceful they move.

Everybody in the water and on the boat was having a blast and I couldn't believe my luck when at one moment two manta's were gliding through the water together. After surfacing from the first dive, many people were snorkeling on top of the Manta's and they reported 3 Manta's at the same time.

Close up of one of the Manta's

Stealth gliding

Note the two sucker fish on each side of his head, freeloaders!

A fantastic day it was and two more dives were to follow and I will post pictures and videos of each of the second dive at Hin Muang and the Hin Daeng dive we did today, so stay tuned.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The December 2010 IDC on Koh Lanta is done and over with!

The December 2010 IDC on Koh Lanta is done and over with!

Today Maja, Emma and Craig finished the current December 2010 version of the IDC in conjunction with Scubafish. It was hard work but we're all glad to have it done and over with and tomorrow is a day off diving around Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, hopefully with Manta's!

Theory exams, during the OWSI part of this IDC, with as special guests Julia and Suzanne from the recent Kao Lak IDC, refreshing some skills and knowledge.

There were more classroom presentation by me and Phil, who was staffing this IDC but also more presentations by the candidates, like Emma in this picture during a Project Aware presentation.

Confined- and Open Water presentations were presented and this picture sees Phil during a CESA confined water workshop.

It was all hard work but tomorrow it will hopefully all be hard play at Hin Daeng and Hin Muang and after that it's completing the EFR Instructor course and off to Phuket for a PADI IE.

Stay tuned, more updates are coming. The next IDC will be starting 6th January 2011 on Koh Samui!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Halfway for the December PADI IDC on Koh Lanta

Halfway for the December PADI IDC on Koh Lanta

Maja, Emma and Craig are halfway their IDC on Koh Lanta right now. Phil is staffing this course, so we have a nice group together and Suzanne and Julia who just completed their IDC in Kao Lak last week, have arrived on Koh Lanta today and will join us for bits and pieces of this IDC to refresh and/or sharpen their skills.

It was the usual mix that we did, classroom presentation by Phil and me, knowledge presentations by the candidates and confined- and open water presentations. Above sees Craig in action during confined water.

Craig screwing around with the sand screw

During my IDC's I include always various workshops, during Knowledge development about comfortable and safe descents and ascents but also workshops about control, amongst others. In confined water there are workshops on control (positioning), CESA, rescue skills from the Rescue diver course and knot tying amongst others.

Emma setting up the descent/ascent line

In open water I include more workshops, amongst others on how to set up a decent/ascent line, Adventures in Diving and Rescue diver course workshops like knot tying and handling lift bags, how to rig and lift them and about control and execution of a CESA.

Maja working the lift bag

Today we went to Koh Haa and we also practiced rescue exercise # 7, in fairly choppy weather. It was a good thing we practiced the pocket mask variation first and the mouth to mouth variation in quieter water!

Knot tying, does it really involve rabbits?

During one of our dives we also welcomed a spotted marbled sting ray who was accompanied by a rather large Cobia.

A busy day, especially including an 800 meter snorkel but we got a lot done. Well done, great job!

Keep your eyes posted for more updates.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Specialty of the month December 2010; Search & Recovery

Specialty of the month December 2010; Search & Recovery

Everybody lost something at some stage, although it may be even more frustrating if you lose something in the water. It will be a lot more difficult to recover, right? Well, maybe not if you are a diver and have participated in a Search & Recovery specialty course.

Some items found at Chaweng Beach

The rewards may be great and it's also an exciting activity. I teach a lot of Search & Recovery courses on Chaweng Beach and we tend to find a lot of lost things. Over the years I found plenty of snorkel- and diving masks, clothes, shoes, jet ski parts(!), bottles, sunglasses, golf balls etc, you name it!
Lots of fun and as an added bonus a clean up action at the same moment!

Sometimes it's unbelievable and also sad to see what gets washed up there.

Anybody up for a fin?

This specialty teaches you to tie some knots, which can come in handy when you need to attach a lost and found object to a lift bag, you also learn how to use said lift bag and on top of that you further your knowledge on search patterns.

All in all, lots of fun and no wonder to me that I teach so many of this specialty!

Come and see me and I show you Chaweng beaches treasures.