Saturday, January 13, 2018

Weather and diving

As is normal on a tropical island throughout the year, we can experience tropical storms and showers. Generally this doesn't affect us and a rain shower or thunderstorm is short lived. However particularly around our Monsoon season (November-December) we can experience more severe weather patterns which normally includes strong wind and consequently rough seas. This can then mean that we have to cancel a tour.

We always advise our customers that our decision to cancel any tour is based on safety as that has to be our priority. We follow various maritime websites as well as the Thai Meterological Department. If the TMD issue a weather warning, then we follow it. The same as in any other country in the world, if you ignore this warning then you are risking your customer's safety and your insurance will be invalidated. 

Often we hear comments like "what if we go to a different location to dive", "we had a dive booked with another dive centre and they have cancelled our tour - can we go with you instead", "a snorkel company went out today, so why didn't we". Sometimes, even once explanations are given we still do have customers desperately pleading with us!  

We really understand a cancelled tour can be disappointing for you but hopefully knowing your safety and enjoyment is our priority gives you some perspective. No company wants to turn down business and if we could take you diving and snorkeling we would!! We are being only honest with you and letting you know about conditions that are completely outside of anyone's control. Not being honest with you or indeed not telling you what to expect only leads to upset, frustration and lack of enjoyment. There will always be another company who wants to take the risk and is only concerned about money and not your safety - but that is not The Dive Academy, which is why we have a 100% safety record and many happy customers!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Q1 2017 at The Dive Academy

So it's been a crazy first few months of the year here at The Dive Academy, with several weeks in January and the beginning of April with heavy monsoonal rain and severe flooding around the island. Naturally this was devastating for tourism on the island, not just for us but for all the hotels, restaurants and various other small businesses. Fortunately, the flooding receded and eventually we were back to business as usual! Sometimes you just have to ride it out, after all you can't change the weather no matter how frustrating. But don't believe everything you read in the international papers, it's always best to ask locals or people actually living here for the up to date situation!

Since then we have gone from no boats being able to go out at all to both Midnight's in full operation every day. From trips to the usual places around Koh Tao and to the fabulous Sail Rock, to many Angthong Marine Park tours, private charters and also venturing out to Koh Phangan as well. So a great variety of different tours are available depending on what you are interested in doing and how much time you would like to spend out on the water. Have a look at our tour options and drop us a line if you need more information.

Throughout most of March and pretty much all of April we have had awesome diving conditions, with generally calm seas, great visibility, little current and loads to see. All the juvenile fish are around during these months so you can be diving through schools of what looks like rainfall - it's very pretty! Then we have the baby black tip reef sharks, around 1m in length in schools of around 6-8. They are very shy but relaxed and if you're quiet and don't make too much movement you can spend a long time watching them swim around. The best way to see these is to join one of our VIP snorkel tours, in a small, personalised group with 1 of our Instructors who can show these and other wonderful things.

Now, the big topic of conversation is definitely the Whale Shark action we have been experiencing lately. We generally get sightings all year round across all of our dive sites but this is normally sporadic where we maybe get 1 or 2 sightings in a week and nothing for a few weeks. 2017 has been very different, with many, many sightings and often 2 at a time at a variety of dive sites. Sail Rock so far has had the big fish(s) there every day for the last 3 weeks which is amazing! We must all remember good etiquette around them: NO touching, NO chasing or crowding the fish, NO deliberately stopping it's natural path and NO flash on your camera. These basic things will help everyone enjoy the experience all the more.

If you are one of our customers who had the pleasure of a Whale Shark during your Discover Scuba dive or Open Water course dives, you are VERY lucky!!! Sometimes people clock up hundreds of dives over years and still don't get to see a Whale Shark!

We have also had some rare sightings including Dolphins, large Bumphead Parrotfish and some pseudo 'Orcas'! So lots of activity going on right now in the Gulf of Thailand and a great time to come diving as a beginner or an experienced diver.

At the end of March, we saw Heath one of our long term Senior Instructors leave us. He decided that he wanted to focus on himself a bit more and take some time to enjoy things around the island that we often don't get a chance too because we are all so busy! 1 month after saying goodbye to Heath, he is now back doing some part time work with us as he missed us so much!! We also had a new addition to the team in the form of Marc. Marc was a repeat customer of The Dive Academy for many years and after completing his Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses with us, decided to turn Pro. After becoming an Instructor last year, he has subsequently worked on a part time basis with us and is now a full time employee. So look out for the Scot on the team!

You may have seen our exciting news about the launch of The Freediving Academy. A new addition and service offering, this is a new sport that is really taking off around the world and our Instructor Sophie, who can offer both PADI & AIDA courses is really looking to show our customers something new. Already, we have had some snorkelers keen to give it a try and Scuba Divers wanting to see what the differences are and whether they could be as successful at this sport. Have a look at our new Facebook page to see what all the fuss is about:

When we talk about our team, we generally refer to our Instructors, however we mustn’t forget that we have 2 boat crews and Thai office based staff. So after our boat crew all getting to experience recent Whale Shark sightings (normally whilst cleaning the boat!), Sak our driver was feeling a little left out. So after a pool session to introduce him to Scuba and get him comfortable breathing underwater, out he went for a Discover Scuba Diving experience to Sail Rock! He did a great job and we are all really proud of him as he was a little scared!!

Also this year, saw us move away from the Bandara resort as our secondary location to Peace Resort just a little along the beach. The Dive Academy is now working together with Peace resort to establish combined hotel & diving packages. So watch this space!

The latest news on the IDC front is that Paul has been helping out another dive centre in Bali and has so far completed 2 there this year. Our next IDC's at The Dive Academy are scheduled for June and September, if you are thinking of becoming an Instructor and would also like to get 5 free Specialites!

Lastly, we were awarded another Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor last year, so a big thank you to everyone who has written a fab review about us or told their friends or who come back many times to dive with us! May you continue to enjoy diving and snorkeling with us!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Dive Academy on Tour - Bali March 2017

Recently our Course Director Paul was asked to conduct an IDC in Bali and once the course was finished Claire joined him for a short trip to rejuvenate after their wedding celebrations. While they were in Bali they managed to take in some of the great dive sites.

During the first part of the trip Paul managed to dive at the beautiful wreck of the USAT Liberty in Tulumben. The fantastic World War I wreck begins in the shallows at around 5m and is suitable for all levels of diver with lots of marine life to see from 5m down to 25m.

Both Paul and Claire also managed to dive at Manta Point which is a great dive site where there is a Manta Ray cleaning station located on the nearby island of Nusa Penida . Although the visibility wasn't great it was well worth going there for the chance to dive with 7 Manta Rays.

Another great dive spot Paul managed to visit - Claire was unwell with "Bali Belly" - was Padang Bai, which is a small bay where you take a 5 minute journey in one of the small local boats. First dive at Blue Lagoon was really interesting but particularly nice was the second dive underneath a jetty where there were lots of different and interesting things to see.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

High Season 2016

So it's been a while since our last blog, so we thought we should write with some news! High season has now finished here on Samui although for us at The Dive Academy it has been really busy all year and all the staff have been working extremely hard certifying many new divers, expanding the experience of others and providing a great experience for our fun divers and snorkelers. And with another Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award for 2016, we are very happy!

The weather and diving conditions particularly during September have been awesome, with 20-30m visibility at most dive sites. Sail Rock specifically has been stunning and we've had several Whale Shark sightings both there and at some Koh Tao dive sites, which has been great to see again. Even for some customers who were experiencing their very first breaths underwater they got to see such a very special animal! We also had a very rare sighting at Sail Rock and something never seen before in all our years here - a Sail Fish. Whether he/she was just passing through, we won't know but it was a great sight!

We did have some issues with coral bleaching a couple of months ago at some of the shallower dive sites, due to the very high temperatures we were experiencing and lack of rain but fortunately this didn't last too long and the corals have now recovered which is great news. Sadly there is nothing we can do independently to stop this happening but making everyone aware of the small things they can do such as putting suncream on at least 45 minutes before entering the water, will all help.

As the months of July and August are school holidays for those living in Europe, we have had many children doing Bubblemaker courses and also becoming PADI Seal's! It's great to see so many kids so enthusiastic about learning to dive and becoming early ambassador's for nature and how to care for our underwater world.

We also had a first in 11 years for The Dive Academy, which was teaching 2 young adults from the US to dive, who were both born profoundly deaf. After seeking medical clearance from our island Dive Medic, we proceeded with the classroom training. As you can imagine this took a lot longer than normal as we had to use a lot of writing (on both sides!) to ensure we could really explain the theory. Then we proceeded to the swimming pool for the confined training before taking them out on 2 dives to complete the PADI Scuba Diver course. With any impairment, it really tests our skills as Instructors to be able to adapt the course whilst still meeting performance requirements. Both students were successful and very happy to receive certification cards and Steve did a great job!

On the Pro front, our Course Director Paul had another successful IDC in July with 2 new Instructors hitting the PADI circuit. Tyler is going on to teach university kids in camps over in the US and Andreas decided to become an Instructor whilst he considers a life and career change over in Vietnam. Well done to both candidates who worked extremely hard to achieve their goals. Now Marc who is a regular to Samui and to The Dive Academy, came back and started his Divemaster course at the beginning of September and only has a few more things to practise before he will be able to call himself a Pro. He is then joining on the next IDC, starting on the 25th October. Have a look at the great Pro packages on offer for IDC's and MSDT courses and think about what you could do to be part of such an exciting career and lifestyle.

The last 3 months have also seen some new full time Instructors join the team. Have a look at our About Us page to see their ugly mugs! and decide whether you would like to have a French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, German or Russian speaking Instructor!

So, the best news this high season was the introduction of Midnight Blue II to our team. Just like our 2 engine speedboat, the new fibreglass 3 engine speedboat is purpose built for diving and provides a very comfortable journey when the sea is a little bumpy. 2 boats not only allows us the ability to cater for more customers but also to offer different destinations on the same day. As you would expect Midnight Blue II has the same colour scheme and the 2 boats stand proudly together in Bophut bay.

Let's hope as we now enter low season for the next 2 months, the weather is kind to us! We'll be taking the opportunity to clean the boats up a little and also we have just drained our swimming pool ready to have the bottom tiled. So come and check out our enhanced facilities which are truly the best on the island and have fun with The Dive Academy.

The next high season starting mid-December is only around the corner, so get your bookings in early to avoid disappointment and come and dive or snorkel with us and have some fun over Christmas and the New Year!