Sunday, December 27, 2015

A new PADI Sidemount Diver & Instructor

After recently completing his IDC Staff Instructor Course with The Dive Academy Gavin wanted to continue his training and signed up to complete the Recreational Sidemount Diver Specialty Course.

Sidemount is a new way of diving where you use either one or two tanks attached to your side as opposed to having one tank placed on your back. There are many benefits to diving on Sidemount such as additional air when you dive on two tanks. You still only get to use two tanks over two dives the same as with diving with a BCD, but if you plan your Gas Management correctly (it's not difficult even Gavin managed it!) you get to use more of the 400 bar available (2 x 200 bar per tank). For people with back problems or other physical ailments that may effect them using a normal BCD, Sidemount could also be a real benefit as the weight of the tanks is no longer placed on your back but distributed along your side. Another huge benefit is that the harness required to dive with sidemounted tanks only weighs around 5 kilos so takes up much less of your baggage allowance when you are travelling than a conventional BCD. And lastly Sidemount Diving looks and is super cool and is a small introduction into technical diving for those that might be interested on extending your limits and experience further.

After a short session to go through the theory that Gavin had learned and to familiarise him with the new equipment he would be using we went to our purpose built for diving 3.5m deep swimming pool to practise with the new gear and to learn new ways to conduct some of the skills you learn when you become a diver such as what to do when you are out of air and general bouyancy skills. Your bouyancy is very different diving with the tanks on your side and even for experienced divers takes a bit of getting used to. The deep pool was perfect for practising and gave plenty of opportunity to perfect the skills.

The course was also a good for our Course Director Paul, who was teaching Gavin, as it gave him the opportunity to get familiar with the new Sidemount equipment we have recently bought and to work out the best configurations and placement of the various clips, straps and other things that are different from using a BCD. Both Paul and Gavin found that the placement of the crouch strap required for Sidemount systems was self explanatory!!

Next on to the open water dives where, under Paul's supervision, Gavin had to again conduct the few skills required to complete the course as well as taking the time to swim around and become familiar with the new equipment and techniques required for diving Sidemount. The first two dives were completed at Sail Rock which was perfect for Gavin to learn a new way of diving which he managed to do with no problems whatsoever and was very comfortable from the beginning. Second day, due to adverse weather, we went to Koh Ma which isn't somewhere we would usually go to complete courses but as it turned out it was perfect for Paul and Gavin to swim around and have a nice easy dive and still managed to find a few nice things to see. Today Gavin was diving on a single sidemounted tank to get familiar with the techniques for this too - Sidemount allows you to dive with both single and doouble tanks so it was good practise for Gavin to try both ways.

Then it was Gavin's turn to play at being Instructor and having already given a classroom presentation on using Sidemount he was ready to lead the way in open water. After a full briefing of the skills and how to use the equipment Gavin and Paul then completed a nice relaxed dive where Gavin now set Paul the task of completing the skills required and successfully spotted the (deliberate!!) mistakes Paul made while completing the skills.

As well as the many benefits of learning to dive on Sidemount it is a great course to both learn and to teach and both Paul and Gavin had a lot of fun during the course.

If you are a diver looking to try something different or are an instructor looking to add something new to your CV think about Sidemount and contact us at The Dive Academy and we can give you the information you need on one of PADI's newest and exciting specialty diver courses.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jelly fish whilst diving

There has been some concern of late about jelly fish in and around the waters of Samui and the areas we dive at Koh Tao and Sail Rock.

Over the last few months there has been an increase in small jellyfish being seen as well as box jelly fish. The small jellies, whilst irritating and will provide a mild sting, they are not harmful to us. We just need to be mindful that we are diving in their ocean and by wearing exposure protection and looking all around us whilst we are diving, we should be able to avoid them. If there are too many for comfort, then a simple change of dive site is always an option.

Box Jellyfish however can provide a very painful sting and in some instances/species be fatal to humans and therefore should be avoided. There have been a couple of incidents around Samui where people have been swimming in the ocean at night, unaware of what might be under the water. You will find signs outside most hotels and along beaches now highlighting what to do and what to avoid whilst enjoying the sea as well as what you should do should you experience a sting.

We have been sighting the Box Jellyfish at a variety of dive sites now and at varying depths. Usually on their own, they can be spotted fairly easily with a rectangular shaped body with a transparent almost bluish tinge and long, yellowish tentacles and they move quite quickly as that is how they hunt their prey. Their main predator are turtles as they are immune to the sting, so without turtles around in our waters, we will always have these creatures.

So what should you do to avoid being stung:
- Wear exposure protection whilst diving & snorkeling. If necessary wear a long sleeve tshirt or rash vest under your wet suit and even tights! They may not look sexy but will help if you are worried.
- Be particularly careful when you are entering and exiting the water. As soon as you get in, use your mask to check the water below you
- When diving and swimming at the surface, preferably swim face down rather than on your back so you can see below you
- Continually look around you, to the left, right, up and below not just forward. This is good practice anyway and ensures you always know what is around you
- Ensure there is vinegar and lots of it to hand. Wash the affected area with salt water only and remove any tentacles with a gloved hand or tweezers and then apply vinegar to the area. On the boat we have spray guns loaded with vinegar which ensures the liquid can be applied to the affected area more adequately.

We are including this information in all our dive and snorkel briefings to ensure every customer is aware, just the same as we would for a Trigger fish! but feel free to ask us if you have any questions.

Not all jelly fish are stingers or something to be concerned about. Over the last few days we have had the pleasure of seeing Rhizostome jellyfish at a few dive sites. They have a solid consistency and have no tentacles. These jellies are actually edible and can be found dried and being sold in some parts of the world and butterfly fish and banner fish are a bit partial to them too! They're fantastic to watch and often have small fish swimming inside them. Us humans are also not sensitive to their sting!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our new facilities!

It's been an exciting few months at The Dive Academy as we have created a new concept of dive centre on Samui and created larger premises for us to provide better facilities to our customers.

We now have 2 training rooms - 1 for non-professional courses and 1 for IDC's. These training rooms have been fitted out to create a comfortable learning environment for every student, with flat screen TV's, whiteboards, prescriptive lesson guides and the all important refreshments! And with lots of information clearly available about Project Aware, photos of our exciting marine life, our offers and discounts for students and what your next training step might be, the training rooms are no longer dull and boring!
At the front of the dive centre, we have a large office area with sofas to sit on whilst drinking coffee and reading a diving magazine or desks to sit at and discuss with our staff the diving or snorkeling options available, what tours and courses we have going on and what might suit you and your friends/family best.

Then there is our retail area. With a fully stocked dedicated area of swimming, snorkeling and diving equipment as well as our own range of t-shirts, jackets, caps, dive guides and log books, we are sure you will find everything you need and in various colours and sizes too! We offer both Aqualung and Mares equipment for diving and Suunto is our chosen supplier of dive computers.

Our piece de resistance is our new, purpose built, 3.5m deep swimming pool. Located behind the dive centre, you do not have to go very far to begin your pool training. After changing into your swim wear in our restrooms, you are ready to hop straight into the pool. We have a large seating area outside as well, should you have family or friends who wish to watch and wait for you. The pool is 10m x 8m and there is no other such facility for diving training on Samui. And we are truly unique as no other dive centre has all their facilities located in one place, so you can relax and enjoy your training without being ferried around to different places.

So where are we? After 10 years being located at the Bandara resort, don't worry we are not leaving, we will still have a booking office there on the beach so as to service guests and repeat customers who love staying at Bandara. Midnight Blue will also still maintain it's mooring off the beach there as well. The new dive centre is located on the main ring road in Bophut, 200m from Bandara and opposite the Anantara hotel and the entrance to Fisherman's Village. So located close to all the great hotels and amenities on Bophut beach and of course Midnight Blue's departure point.

We will be creating a video soon to share with you and give you a feeling of actually being here! but in the meantime, please take a look and let us know what you think!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

September Highlights at The Dive Academy

It can sometimes be a challenging thought process before writing a blog about what will be interesting to our we have some exciting news to share with you all about our new dive centre that we have been shaping over the last 2 months. More details will follow in a couple of weeks once we are fully open so we don't want to spoil all the news but here is a little taster for now.....

So after 10 years of the The Dive Academy being located at the Bandara resort & spa in Bophut, we have really outgrown the space we have there and it was time to find new premises for us. So just 200m along the road in the centre of Bophut, we have our new purpose built Dive Centre.

This is a huge space where we now have a double fronted office for bookings and browsing our retail section for any diving, snorkeling or swimming items you may need. Step further inside and we have 2 large, air conditioned training rooms - one for IDC's and one for non-professional courses and behind that is our equipment room which comfortably now houses our 30+ sets of equipment as well as affording us space for maintenance and repairs.

The most exciting news is our purpose built 3.5m deep swimming pool on site. There is no other diving training pool on Samui like it and will enable us to simulate real diving in a relaxed, training environment for all courses

We will still be located on the beach at the Bandara but this will now be a booking office only and just where Midnight Blue will be moored. So everything is still in close proximity!

This month, we had a couple of whale shark sightings at Sail Rock which was great after such a long absence but visibility has been great with lots of fish around everywhere and conditions for diving and snorkeling just perfect. So for anyone who might be thinking it's low season, now is a great time to come to Koh Samui as the weather is great, calm seas and lots of fab things to see underwater - and not many people!!

Paul has been busy with some Instructor Specialities which is a great way for an Instructor to broaden their experience and be able to teach a variety of options to their customers. We have now also added Sidemount and Self-Reliant diver to our available Specialities for both divers & Instructors. On Samui this is something that is exclusively only offered at The Dive Academy.

Our littlest team members Monkey & Tiger are growing and poo'ing like you wouldn't believe! Now about 4 months old, they are venturing out into the wider office space, causing havoc as they go! We hope Ninja is not going to be too put out once they meet! Soon we'll be offering child minding services as well ;)

Watch out for the next Dive Centre installment coming soon......

Thursday, September 3, 2015

August Highlights at The Dive Academy

So it's been a funny month has August! Overall a good month for The Dive Academy and diving on Koh Samui and it kicked off to a very busy start! Despite various businesses around Samui feeling that tourist numbers were down this high season, fortunately we still saw many people wanting to blow bubbles! The weather, as is typical in high season (Noi always says "have big wave have customer, no wave no customer!), has been problematic at times, forcing cancelled trips on a few occasions due to rough seas. But safety is our number 1 priority as is the comfort of our customers so sometimes we have to give in to the weather.

We have a new Captain who joined our team this month. Rit has been working on diving speedboats on Samui for over 10 years and is very well known and liked and has exceptional customer service skills. He is a great asset to The Dive Academy and we're really pleased he has joined the team to take care of Midnight Blue! Sadly he is a Liverpool supporter but you can't have everything!

August has been a month of Specialities with many people requesting Nitrox courses as well as Peak Performance Buoyancy, Navigation and Deep Diver. There are always options in the PADI education system to learn new skills and develop additional skills without necessarily taking the next level course up. So if you don't feel ready to go to the next level, maybe just broaden your skills instead?
Very soon we will be adding Self-Reliant Diver & Sidemount to the Specialities we will be offering!

Otherwise we have had another high number of entry level courses being accomplished including many new Discover Scuba Divers. One thing many customers request is for underwater photographs so that they have a memory of their first experience and whole day out on the boat with us. We totally understand this desire and why not, it is a memorable experience! But as a PADI 5 * dive centre, we do take PADI standards very seriously and it is simply not allowed for an Instructor to be taking photos whilst they are taking Discover Scuba participants.  The safety of the customer - who has never been underwater before - is paramount and if the Instructor is busy taking photos then they are not concentrating on you! Whilst it is easy to take photographs, we believe your life and reducing all possible risks are more important and whilst you may find other dive schools offering you photos (often for free to entice you), please do consider this and what this could mean. We will always try and ensure there is another instructor available to take some snaps of you or why not consider hiring one of our compact underwater cameras or Go-Pro with selfie stick so you can take photos yourself!

Also follow our Facebook page where we have regular posts and photo's of what's going on.

See you next month!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

July highlights at The Dive Academy

The first week of July saw the return of Paul & Claire from their annual holiday in the UK and the first day back to work was straight in to high season and the follow on from a very busy June. With European school holidays taking place in July/August, it is a very busy time of year on Samui and usually the weather is fantastic, with calm seas and great visibility. Unfortunately July was a mixed bag of weather with quite a few storms around and some bumpy sea conditions but it's good to say that the visibility has been largely unaffected.

There's been any, many black tip reef shark sightings at a variety of dive sites and even 2 guitar sharks were spotted out at Shark Island. We've had the odd turtle, lots of puffer fish, blue spotted sting rays and also a new sea horse out at Mango Bay.

PADI Reactivate (Scuba Refresher) is really taking off and we've had many people refreshing their theory and in-water skills. Reactivate is a downloadable product to review the theory aspects of diving beforehand and then in-water there are 5 core skills to practise plus any additional elements that the individual feels they would like to review. It's a great way to get back in the water after a prolonged period of inactivity.

The PADI Open Water course is still the most popular PADI course and July was no exception. The Touch & e-Learning products are also proving very popular, with many people choosing to complete the theory for their course before they leave home.  July also saw many Open Water referrals, from people not wanting to go in the cold UK waters, instead preferring the water waters of The Gulf of Thailand to complete their Open Water dives!

On the 18th July it was PADI Women's Dive Day. This was a sponsored event around the world to try and get more ladies diving. Currently only 38% of the diving population is female! So come on ladies, what's stopping you!

On the Pro side of The Dive Academy, the July IDC produced 2 more new Instructors following a successful IE that was completed on Koh Tao. Well done Stephanie and Ekin, we look forward to working for you and in fact Stephanie has already completed her first Open Water course!

Eric also entered the professional diving world by becoming a PADI Divemaster. After 4 weeks of a variety of assessments, skill circuits and workshops and finishing with a snorkel test whilst wearing (very reluctantly) a dress and tiara, Eric made the grade and became a Pro.

Last but not least, Timea our new permanent Office Manager joined The Dive Academy family. Timea is a PADI and SSI Instructor and has Dive Centre management experience already, having come over to Samui from Koh Tao where she was Office Manager for a German dive centre there. Come and say hi to Timea in English, German or Hungarian!

A snapshot of July in pictures:

                                         A Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips
                                         Black tip reef shark
                                         2 wart slugs having a love in
                                         Setting up equipment for the Open Water course
                                         2 happy families all now Open Water certified
                                         Eric teaching Serena different knots!
                Gib who completed her Advanced Open Water course and Eric before he became a DM
              Eric during his snorkel test, looking less than impressed about his outfit - Dan on the other                   hand.....look at those legs!
                                         July IDC Confined Water presentations
                             2 new happy Instructors with their equally happy Course Director!

Monday, July 13, 2015

PADI Women's Dive Day 18th July



Did you know that currently only about 38% of scuba divers are female?  It’s time to change that statistic!  The dive industry is becoming more “female-friendly” every day, with gear that is especially designed to fit females, dive trips that make scuba a fun activity for the entire family and much more!


Why don't you come and join us and see what all the fuss is about? Whether you're already a certified diver, a long suffering girlfriend or wife of your diving partner, or a daughter or sister who is excited to try Scuba. 


At The Dive Academy, we have several female staff and our cats are also female! From the 18th-25th July, we are offering all females 500 baht off any dive tour, experience day or course when quoting the PADI Women's Dive Day event. You will also receive a free PADI bag* as a gift.

Come on be a DIVA Diver!!


You can contact us at [email protected]

*whilst stocks last

Monday, June 8, 2015

May highlights

May is usually a quieter time on Samui but last month customers just kept on coming, so we remained pretty busy at The Dive Academy! The weather has stayed hot and mostly dry as well, with only one stormy weekend and a few evenings of rain.

We have been seeing lots of juveniles around lately which is great news and shows that the reefs around Koh Samui are generally healthy. The kind of youngsters we've been seeing are: Black tip Reef sharks, Needlefish, Angel fish, Bat fish, Fusiliers and Barracuda. Unfortunately though, we are having to watch a couple of the shallower reefs as there are signs of coral bleaching. The water temperature is now 31c and with the many tourists visiting these waters wearing lots of suntan lotion, the coral does get affected. So please remember, if you are putting sun cream on, apply it 30-45 minutes before entering the water, so that it soaks into your skin as opposed to going into the ocean!

There were also some big fish sightings last month!! A few times at Sail Rock and a couple at Chumphon Pinnacle and Southwest Pinnacle. We love Whale Sharks!

Paul & Claire headed over to Koh Tao for a couple of days last month to meet up with other PADI Staff Instructors, Course Directors and PADI Examiners for an Instructor Development Update and also a Risk Management seminar. A number of topics were covered including an outline of diving accident statistics in Thailand. One of the discussions and workshops was to how best to lead and manage Discover Scuba Divers safely given they are taking their first breaths underwater and have never dived before or had any prior training and therefore carry the highest risk factor. So a DSD workshop was carried out in the pool looking at the various methods for leading these types of customer around a dive site.  One of the questions we often get asked is "can you take photographs of us". It is against PADI standards for an Instructor to be taking photographs with DSD's. As safety is our top priority at The Dive Academy and we pride ourself in our 100% safety record and care for our customers, we do have to turn down such requests to take photographs. Whilst we recognise that other dive centres do offer this, we will do our utmost to take photographs with an additional Instructor present but only if we can do so without compromising your safety!

We are building a new and more experienced team at The Dive Academy right now to reflect our ever growing customer base and also our dedication to building great new divers and Instructors. Welcome to Michelle, Serena & Dan and have a look at our About Us page for more information about them.

See you next month!