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!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why have we cancelled our tours?

Koh Samui is a tropical island with all year round diving, however like anywhere in the world, we do experience bad weather from time to time, which in our line of business means this can affect us being able to dive or take the boat out.

We will always be honest with our customers and if we and our Captain feel that rough sea conditions as a result of strong wind, means that safety will be compromised, we will cancel our tours. We understand when you are on holiday this can be disappointing but your safety and enjoyment is our top priority. 

After all, a very bumpy journey that takes twice as long as normal, make you sea sick and scared and then you get to the dive site to find the visibility is 2m, is not what you have paid for nor is enjoyable!

This week's stormy weather that has created 3m waves out at sea and sadly claimed the lives of some tourists in a speedboat accident with another company, has prompted us to write this article. Many customers upon having their tour cancelled have either questioned us or requested us to provide them with details of another company who may be going out - the sea is the same sea!!! It can be very deceiving when the sun is shining and the sea in your hotel's sheltered bay is nice and calm but this does not represent reality in open sea unfortunately.

We can not emphasise enough that the reason we cancel our tours is through no reason other than as a responsible company looking out for your safety and enjoyment. Please, please stay safe and if any operator who you have booked a tour with involving a boat tells you they are cancelling due to poor conditions, take their advice and relax in the spa or by the pool instead!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

13th April Songkran!

Sawadee Pee Mai (Happy Thai New Year) to all our Thai staff and friends, we hope you have a great day today!

Otherwise known as Songkran, this is the biggest water festival you will experience in Thailand where Thai's splash/throw water on friends and family as a way of seeking good fortune and pay homage to Buddha. Over the years this has turned into a little more than splashing and now tourists come from all over the world to experience this time of year and it normally involves buckets of water as well as water guns and hoses! So if you don't want to get wet, stay at home or at your resort!

Don't get too drunk boys, we have a boat tomorrow!!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Dive Academy on Tour 2016: Galapagos Islands

As an amazing surprise 50th birthday present for me (Paul), Claire secretly organised a once in a lifetime trip to one of the top diving destinations in the world - Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands are a bunch of remote volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean around 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador and considered one of the world's foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing. It's isolated and rugged terrain shelters a diversity of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else in the world. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and his observation of Galapagos' species later inspired his theory of evolution.

From Thailand the journey was long and required a one week stopover in L.A. on the way!! From L.A there was another flight to Quito in Ecuador and a one night stopover then a short flight to San Christobel, the capital of the Galapagos islands. And there onto our home for the next seven days a liveaboard boat called the Galapagos Master.....

Being in such an isolated location we knew there would be no communication with the outside world as we were told in advance that there would be no wifi available around the islands which meant we well and truly would be leaving The Dive Academy in the capable hands of our staff.

The Galapagos is famous for it's beautiful scenery, diverse land wildlife and obviously the reason we went there was for the Galapagos Marine Reserve's reputation as one of the best diving destinations in the world.

We had an amazing time and some of the sights and experiences we had are something never to be forgotten and we wanted to share them! Obviously we have hundreds of photos and have just selected a few so as not to bore anybody reading the blog. Taking the photos, particularly the underwater ones was at times challenging - the rule in the Galapagos National Park is that you are not allowed to get closer than 2m from the animals so close up's of the land animals were quite difficult and underwater the visibility wasn't the best so getting great shots was also very hard. Don't look at the quality of the picture but the beauty of the creature!!

Scenery: the route of our trip took us through many of the 18 main islands of the Marine Reserve so we got to see some of the most beautiful scenery the islands have to offer. Most of the islands are uninhabited and there is no access to them but there are some which we were able to go onto to see the amazing wildlife.

Darwin Island

The world famous Darwin's Arch

Wolf Island

A calm sheltered bay in Wolf Island to spend the night

Big waves breaking onto the islands

Land Wildlife: as I mentioned above the Galapagos Islands are known for the amazing diversity of species both in the water and on land. We were able to go onto a couple of the islands to see some of the rare and amazing wildlife, some of which can only be found on these desolate islands and nowhere else.

A lonely, solitary Galapagos Penguin

Prehistoric looking Land Iguana

Male Frigate Bird with it's fantastic red sac which it puffs out to attract a mate

Blue footed Booby (I'm not making it up!!)

A young 80 ish year old Tortoise

A huge 100-120 year old Tortoise - I thought I was old at 50!!

Sea Lions: around the Galapagos Islands Sea Lions are the most common creature you see. We first encountered them as soon as we got off the plane lazing around in the harbour in San Christobel, a couple even cheekily boarding boats moored in the bay for extra peace and quiet. Nearly every island we visited Sea Lions were spotted either playing around in the surf or laying on the rocks sleeping in the sun. Because of their lazy nature taking pictures of Sea Lions was much easier than any of the other creatures we came across so we have quite a few to choose from!! Sea Lions are amazing creatures with many of the same characteristics of your family dog except they tend to smell a lot worse.

 Diving: being used to warm water and easy diving, we found the diving at the Galapagos Islands a nice challenge of our dive skills. Fortunately there was nothing too difficult for us to deal with but the minimum temperature of 22 degrees when we are used to temperatures around 29 degrees was something new to deal with!! And with currents so strong that you had to hook on with a reef hook and hang on for dear life to stay in one place, the diving was a much different pace than we are used to in the chilled, relaxed waters around Koh Samui!! But we lived to tell the tale.

The Galapagos is known for it's abundance of large Pelagics and unusual creatures and if you are looking for the kind of diving where you potter around looking for Nudibranch's and small stuff or looking to see schools of fish and lots of variety then Galapagos probably isn't the place to go! However the marine life you do experience is the kind you never forget. Hanging on to a line in ripping currents isn't the best of fun until 150 Hammerhead Sharks swim past and overhead; swimming along in 22 degree water (especially in 1mm neoprene shorts - balls of steel turned to shriveled grapes very quickly!!) isn't a great feeling until a Sea Lion swims up to you and starts doing somersaults in front of you and copies what you do when you start doing somersaults and twists too; floating around in poor viz in the blue (more like grey) isn't too interesting until a Mola Mola swims past; and being thrown around in shallow cold water isn't an amazing way to spend your time until you look around and see lots of prehistoric looking Marine Iguanas; doing a safety stop at the end of a dive with loads of Hammerhead Sharks and a pod of Dolphins swims by: experiences and encounters never to be forgotten.

Darwin's Arch and Landslide, which are found at Darwin Island and Wolf Island respectively, are the two main dive sites where you get to see the Hammerhead Sharks and we completed 8 dives at the two sites - more than you would normally do at two sites but when you are surrounded by hundreds of Hammerheads on each dive why wouldn't you want to repeat the experience time and again? Each of the other dive sites we visited had fantastic things to see and as the Marine Reserve is strictly monitored we were usually the only boat and divers on the dive site - there are only 6 liveaboard boats allowed in the Reserve and the authorities organise a strict schedule to make sure there are limited numbers of divers on a dive site at any time.

Some of the photos and videos might not be the best quality as conditions weren't always favourable for good photography - poor viz and hanging on to a line attached to a reef hook with one hand while trying to take pictures of the sharks swimming overhead with the other isn't always easy. But you will be able to enjoy many of the fantastic memories we have taken away from the trip.

Claire prepared for the cold

Claire hooked in and hanging on

Braving the cold as you do as a rough, tough diving Instructor!!

A school of Snapper

Turtle swimming out a cave as we were swimming in


Ugly beautiful!

Smiling for the camera

Eagle Ray cruising by

Eagle Rays passing overhead - check out the hair and bubbles blowing in the current

White Tip Reef Shark

Galapagos Shark

Dolphin cruising by on the safety stop

Close enough to the Dolphin to hitch a ride

Mola Mola (above & video below)

Sea Lion diving down to join us and a Fur Seal coming by to say hello in the video below

Marine Iguanas!

And finally lots of Hammerheads!!

The boat, crew and dive buddies: the boat we found ourselves on for the week was called the Galapagos Master and it was like being in a 4 Star Hotel: fantastic food cooked by the onboard chef, Soloman the amazing steward to take care of you through breakfast, lunch, dinner and anytime in between, a fantastic boat crew to help you with anything you needed and two great dive guides to show you everything underwater. If there is a boat that travels the Galapagos Islands that gives a better experience than the Galapagos Master then it must be very special.

The Galapagos Master

Being stuck on a boat for a week with strangers can sometimes be a bit difficult if you find yourself with people you can't connect with or just don't get on with. We were incredibly lucky on this trip as we spent the week with a great bunch of people that all got on really well and actually even liked each other!! It was a pleasure to dive with a group of divers from different parts of the globe: there were Japanese, American, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Tawainese / American, Austrailian, Peruvian (I think apologies if I'm wrong) and obviously the token English divers and along with the Ecuadorian dive guides it made a for a great mix of nationalities, personalities and experiences. Thanks guys it was great fun!

Happy to see the Hammerheads!

And lastly thanks to my amazing dive buddy in life Claire for planning such a special trip for my 50th birthday (and your 41st) - it is a trip never to be forgotten with experiences and creatures I will remember for a long, long time!