Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Medical clearance & diving

Often in our busy lives, we can take for granted our health or indeed ignore minor ailments when we should perhaps treat them. Therefore it will come as no surprise that often certified divers don't think about their fitness or health before they dive or if they have had a period of time out of the water.
General health & fitness are particularly important when diving due to currents, hot or cold weather, the physiological changes our bodies experience under pressure and of course general swimming and endurance from a dive.

We often experience divers who hold an Advanced or Rescue diver certification who struggle to swim even 20m on the surface with their equipment or to swim through a mild current. The impact of lack of fitness could not only endanger your life but also that of your buddy or other divers by leading to panic or the inability to control or manage the situation you are in.

Anyone taking a course or beginner dive is requested to complete a medical questionnaire prior to any in water activity. The medical clearly states that if there are any YES answers, then a doctor's certificate must be obtained before the course/dive can commence. The questions cover a range of medical problems from frequent migraines to asthma to heart conditions. Only a dive doctor can review your medical history and advise whether any present problems are compatible with diving or whether indeed you are not able to dive because there is too high a risk.

So even as a certified diver, if your circumstances have changed or there has been an illness/surgery/medical problem, go and get yourself checked by a dive doctor to ensure you really are still fit to dive and that you are in the right shape to manage the conditions of the dive you are planning to attend. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Buddy Separation

One of the important things you learn when you complete your Open Water course is about separation and emergency procedures should you find yourself missing from your buddy or your group.

Separation can and does occur due to many possible reasons such as currents, poor visibility, poor formation of the group and even taking photos can cause one buddy to get left behind.

After reading another story yesterday about 2 divers who were rescued some 8km away from their boat and dive site, it reminds you to reinforce the buddy separation rule and clearly communicate this between your buddy teams before EVERY dive. 

However, it is amazing how many people do not know what this rule is or what they should do in this event, despite being taught about it when they learned to dive. Certified divers who maybe just dive recreationally once a year on holiday perhaps forget about some key safety procedures, instead relying on or assuming their dive guide will take care of them.

So remember, Buddy Separation:

1. Look around in the area you last saw your buddy for 1 minute. Do a full 360 degree look around you as well as upwards and downwards, look for bubbles, fin flashes etc. Use a tank banger if necessary. 

2. Deploy your surface marker buoy and slowly ascend to the surface, watching out for boats as per a standard ascent. You do not do a safety stop. 

3. At the surface, hopefully your buddy is there also or joins you shortly afterwards.

Remember always inflate your BCD's at the surface, use surface marker buoys and whistles to attract attention. And ensure you go over your plan before every dive!

Come and dive with us and we will ensure you stay safe no matter whether you are learning to dive or doing a dive or snorkel tour.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Diving Insurance

Sometimes we get asked whether it is important to have insurance when going Scuba diving. Basically this is coverage for rescue, medial and transportation expenses in case of any diving incidents.

Most travel insurance policies do cover divers for recreational diving up to the limit of their certification level but sometimes people don't even have travel insurance in place, which is quite scary!

So is going diving without any insurance in place risky? Diving overall is a very safe sport but you can never rule out every risk out there. So diving without insurance is a bit like driving a car without insurance, there are always outside influences despite how careful you are or how well you stick to limits and rules.

Diving insurance is very cheap and easy to obtain and most allow you to select what options/expenses you wish to cover. So why leave it, if you are a casual diver mostly on holiday, then simply ensure you have a travel insurance policy in place that covers you for recreational diving in the destination where you are going on holiday. Or if you are a more seasoned diver, then we highly recommend DAN for all diver insurance. DAN also have a great advice channel for any worries or questions.

As members of the SSS recompression chamber network, The Dive Academy automatically qualify for coverage of up to 75% of costs for our customers or staff should they need recompression treatment.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Lose weight with diving?

It might be that you don't have time or the motivation for the gym or the thought of running on a treadmill for 30 minutes fills you with dread. So why not dive instead? It's fun, you meet people AND you burn calories!

We should all obviously be fit and healthy before we go diving to help reduce any risks of decompression sickness and ensure our fitness is up to the demands that there can be sometimes, such as current or surface swims. However as a general rule scuba diving and freediving really can help you burn calories.

It's all to do with how your body tries to regulate its temperature when underwater and the majority of the calories are burned during this process. Even a small change in water temperature, that you might not even notice on land will be significant enough for your body to work harder and burn calories!

PADI has done quite a bit of research in this area and the average dive in tropical water, the same as in Koh Samui will burn around 300-500 calories per dive. So rather than worry about the gym or pounding the streets jogging, a much easier, carefree way would be to become a Scuba Diver or Freediver or try and incorporate diving into your weekend time if you're already a certified diver! And if you get involved with the local teams to load and unload the boats then you'll get an additional workout with a bit of weight lifting thrown in!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Trip Advisor & Social Media Reviews

Nowadays most people have heard of Trip Advisor and many use it as a tool to make choices and help them decide what hotel to book, what excursion to go on and in our case, what dive centre to go diving with.

When there is a wide choice, tools like Trip Advisor can help provide people with more information with reviews from other customers with first hand experience. We all know that these tools should be non-biased and be solely about a genuine experience with objective feedback. Most reviews do fall into this category and therefore genuine reviewers also understand that sometimes Trip Advisor is used as a platform for people to vent and moan because 'it rained' or 'they didn't like Thai food' or 'the visibility wasn't as good as they were expecting'. These factors may not be the fault of the business, rather incidental things that then affect the business by receiving a less than favourable review. We do understand that sometimes things are not 100% perfect and small mistakes can be made and we genuinely do our best to provide the best possible experience and if we really have made a boo boo, we will do what we can to make up for it.

After all, we would all like to go diving anywhere in the world and experience flat seas, beautiful sunny days, 30m visibility with dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays, sea lions, sharks, sea horses etc on every dive!! But sadly life isn't like that and when nature is involved, no matter how hard you try to provide the best experience possible, sometimes people will still be disappointed or you will not live up to their expectations.

So, The Dive Academy has achieved a great reputation in 13 years and maintains a 100% safety record and after 7.5 years of establishing a good presence on Trip Advisor, we have amassed over 760 reviews, with 750 being excellent or very good and have retained the Certificate of Excellence award for the last 5 years. As a small business we have worked work very hard to achieve these ratings and of course will continue to strive to do so for all our new and returning customers.

However, since the end of February 2018, we have seen our ranking position of #3 in Scuba & Snorkeling activities on Samui slide to #9 or #14 depending on what search criteria you use on Trip Advisor. This is not as a result of any negative reviews or indeed other competitors soaring ahead of us, this is solely to do with Trip Advisor changing their internal algorithms that drive the ranking scores. Upon looking at the owners forum, this has affected thousands of businesses around the world where they have seen their hard work destroyed overnight and rankings are now seemingly completely arbitrary. Despite thousands of complaints about this problem, Trip Advisor (who do not have any telephone or email support service) are doing nothing to address the issue. Whilst Trip Advisor (like Google and other leading internet service companies) do not publicise the workings of their algorithms, they are maintaining that rankings are driven by the Quality, Quantity and Recency of reviews.

As a small example, this year we have so far received 30 x 5* reviews, 2 x 4* reviews and 1 x 2* review. Yet companies with only 2 x 5* reviews in the same period or only 150 reviews in total are now ranked higher than us. So clearly the Quality/Quantity/Recency factors no longer apply!

Whilst this impacts our business, this also means that consumers are seeing a false representation as well. People use Trip Advisor expecting there to be a complete non-bias and accurate reflection when seeing a ranking and now this just cannot be trusted which is a real shame for all businesses and consumers around the world. One other thing we have also learned is that no matter how good a diving business may appear on Trip Advisor, it doesn't tell you whether they are actually operating legally and whether their staff have work permits and therefore insurance. A very important factor in diving.

We would be interested to hear how you make your choices and how much Trip Advisor influences your decisions? And if you haven't previously left a review for The Dive Academy, we would really appreciate it, if you would like to write one!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Want to dive but you may as well be a bat?

Like me, you may have been born with or developed short sightedness, meaning you need glasses to go about your every day life. Some people may think that this prevents them from diving because they don't feel comfortable wearing contact lenses or are even not sure if it is suitable to wear contact lenses.

Well, firstly lets put paid to the myth about contact lenses. There is absolutely no problem wearing lenses whilst diving and if you need to complete any mask clearing exercises on a course or indeed just need to clear your mask whilst diving, you can just close your eyes and after a couple of blinks you won't feel a thing - the lenses do not pop out!!

Alternatively and here's a great solution for everyone, you can buy masks with prescription lenses. There are specific style masks that are designed to have the lenses changed for a prescription, usually coming in -1.0 increments. This way you can be absolutely sure you will be able to see the magnificent underwater world wherever you go; with the added bonus of knowing the mask fits you perfectly!

Here at The Dive Academy, we have 5 prescription masks available for rent with varying degrees of dipoter. Ask us about the rental and purchase options and don't let poor eyesight prevent you from diving!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Diving improves your well being

How often do you feel stressed from work, or from time to time have low self-esteem or just feel minor aches & pains?

There are very few places where you can feel weightlessness, peace, happiness, joy and awesome encounters up close with nature; all in one experience. Scuba diving is a great way to travel and immerse yourself in different cultures, meeting new people and trying new things and whilst doing so, gives you that feel good factor and sense of well being.

Dropping below the surface takes us away from talking, noise, technology, stresses and problems. We just have to breath, relax and blow bubbles! Whilst watching everything that passes us by. Diving can give you time to think or just switch off. We are in the moment, just tuned in to ourselves and the environment. It is like a therapy.

If you're learning to dive for the first time, there is a sense of achievement in accomplishing something special, boosting confidence and self esteem at the same time. Or you may already be a diver and are having a 'fat' day or just an off day and once underwater, the sense of freedom and fun just takes those feelings away.

So what more reasons do you need to get wet and come diving???

Monday, January 29, 2018

To Pee or not to Pee

As divers, you may have heard of the expression "there are 2 types of diver, those who pee in their wetsuit and those who lie about it"!! So what should you do??

Drinking a lot of water before and after diving will help keep you hydrated and is also important to reduce any possible risks of DCS. On Midnight Blue, we are always offering water and drinks to customers to encourage hydration. However the downside is obviously the need to pee. When you are then in or under water there is a physiological response from the cooler temperature and increased pressure that causes your body to think it needs to pee.

Sooooo, should you pee when you're diving or snorkeling then YES! Just when you get up to the surface undo your wetsuit and let some salt water inside to sluice around or rinse off with a fresh water shower. It's nothing to be ashamed about and you definitely shouldn't hold on to it! Drinking lots of water will help to dilute the urine and reduce any smell anyway, so when you're with The Dive Academy just keep asking for more drinks and its a win situation for everyone!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Great deals on flights to Thailand

Right now is a beautiful time to come to Koh Samui, Thailand. Here on the east coast we are out of our monsoon season and into blue skies, calm seas and lots of great marine life to see. For those in Northern Europe there are some airlines who are offering special deals on flights to Thailand right now, so why not have a look and get away from the cold and dreary weather and come and divesnorkel and freedive with us or enjoy the wonders of Angthong Marine Park! Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Emirates all currently have special offers available and Emirates even have a partnership with Bangkok Airways to make your connection to Samui seamless. Come and see The Dive Academy soon!

Angthong Marine Park

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!