Our First IDC on Bunaken, Indonesia

An unexpected phone call that brought me an adventure; yep, this is how the story begins…and probably how I will have to end.

Working as a Platinum Course Director for Dive-Careers is the most fantastic job you could think of. We travel the world to teach people how to teach people how to blow bubbles underwater, yes, that’s it! We offer courses in Thailand (Koh Tao), India (Pondicherry and Andaman Islands), Philippines (Bohol and El Nido), Sri Lanka (Hikkaduwa and Trincomale), Sicily, South Africa (Durban) and this year we started in Indonesia where we will be offering IDCs in multiple locations such as Bunaken, Lembongan and Bali.

This is where is where my story begins: Indonesia!

bunaken by the pool 3

On the 12th of February, 7pm, I received a phone call informing me that there was a last minute change in our plans due to passport issues (yes…things like that can easily happen when traveling the world!!). This is what I heard on the phone: “Marie, you need to leave Koh Tao in 2 hours, get on a boat, get on a plane and make it fast as you have to be in a bit more then 24 hours in classroom, in BUNAKEN, Indonesia, for an IDC”!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH (That was my reaction!)

It had to be done, despite the fact that I had to leave behind important people (and you know who you are!).

With some good help of someone who was trying to make me chilling a bit (let’s be honest…I was stressing a bit!), we got the ticket booked, I grabbed my suitcase and off I went.

Never thought that one day I would be running in an airport with Mark Soworka. Thank god he got in good shape the last few months!

Koh Tao – Surrathani – Bangkok – Jakarta – Manado – Taxi to the Marina and boom, 24 hours later, the staff from Two Fish Divers were waiting for me. The last step of the trip was to board their transfer boat. Direction: Bunaken!

buanken conf 2

Didn’t really know what to expect for our first IDC in Indonesia, but I know now that it went way beyond my expectations.

buanken pool 3

I’ve been welcomed and introduced to the Two Fish Divers efficiency right on arrival. It’s like being at home where even Mama cooks for you 3 times a day, where you walk 2 seconds from your bungalow to either jump in the pool or to the café to grab a nice cold Bintang. No need to go outside of the place, you got it all right in the front of your eyes.

buanken lunch

But hey! I wasn’t there for the food and the cold beer (even though, it was also very nice! Haha!), I was there for an IDC, which is why 1 hour after my arrival, I was jumping in the pool with the candidates for a Skill Circuit.

Right there, the laugh started and I knew that it was going to be a very nice 2 weeks ahead of me with great company.

buanken on the boat 2

IDC Candidates coming from Belgium, England, France, Indonesia and USA and two members of the Two Fish Divers Team coming from England and New Zealand joined us for their Staff Instructor Course.

If we add the French Canadian on top of that (!!), we were representing 7 countries. But the nationalities don’t really matter do they?!? Most importantly, the vibe was at it’s best.

Time in the classroom, in the pool and in Open Water was the plan. Our schedule looks the same everywhere we teach, offering a consistency and high quality level of training, but can I add something?! The WATER and the DIVING here were unbelievable! After our 1st presentation, I was hoping so much that the candidates would have enough air left so that we could go on a dive. And thank god, they did!!

First presentation was at “Rowi”, perfect for muck diving. We even heard whales during the dive, only problem is that the whale has a name: Bryce, the Staff Instructor.

Second presentation was at Lekwan 3…and the drop off right behind us was really tempting! How could we have not fly in the blue after the great presentation of the candidates.

Oh, and we heard “Bryce the whale” again!

For the third presentation at…I can’t remember the name…was as spectacular as the rest. Simply magic to have to evaluate in these waters.

Of course we did spend time in the pool in between as well…and I can’t think of one single presentation during which we didn’t crack up!

bunake pool 2

Classroom?! Yes of course, but it was all about discussion, interaction, sharing experiences and knowledge in between 8 fabulous people (I am counting my self in!).

We always hear as Course Directors, the candidates say that the IDC was an absolutely amazing experience.  This even includes the days they definitely wish their CD slept in and didn’t show up!!!). Our first IDC in Indonesia proved this once more.

It is intense, yes, but it is also the occasion for such a good time.

For us, the Course Directors, every IDC is a simple reminder that what we are doing, is fantastic. At the end of the program, when the candidates are standing holding their diplomas, same as they did in Bunaken, you can imagine the feeling!

bunaken efri

Adding to this brilliant time, the Two Fish Divers team has been exceptional. Perfect resort with a relaxed, tranquil and happy atmosphere, with the local staff playing guitar and singing! All services for the guest are being done at a top quality level. Really cool to see such well organized dive resort.

I wish I could have done a “Two Fish Run” by visiting more of their locations (They also have dive facilities LEMBEH, MANADO, NUSA LEMBONGAN, BALI AND SOUTH LOMBOK), but it will be for next time! At least I had the chance to visit Lembeh where we went with the candidates once the IDC was done to complete their Specialty Instructor training. Deep, Wreck, Nitrox, Night, Drift, O2 provider, Photography and AWARE Fish ID was on the menu.

Amazing experience again and this, because of the Two Fish Divers spirit! The diving? What can I say when we see 5 Pygmy Sea Horses on the first dive on one single little piece of 30cm of Coral!

I can’t wait to back for more! Maybe I should mistakenly (like the “oups” type of mistake!) drop water on a certain passport?! Haha!

No, but seriously, today, new PADI Instructors are walking in different streets of Indonesia with their heads up. Today, there is a Course Director on her way back to Koh Tao, Thailand, with a very proud feeling. You guys will be amazing and we are looking forward to work with you.

Yep, an unexpected phone call that brought me an adventure!

buanken classroom 2

A massive thank you to Two Fish Divers team. Thanks to you new Instructors and thanks to you too both Staff Instructors! Absolutely amazing time and we will have more!

The guys must have had a great time an dMaire did an excellent job despite the last minute change, judging by the SubaTribe reviews:

Great IDC in Bunaken

“Marie gave us the best preparation for not only the Instructor Exam but also for the carreer of a diving instructor. The whole two weeks have been well organized, efficient but also full of fun… i can only recommend to go through this great experience 🙂

Next IDCs in Indonesia:”

Fantastic experience, CD and course!

“I signed up for my IDCS course with Dive Careers and Two Fish Bunaken – what a great experience and a fantastic location! The classroom, pool and dive centre was really convenient as it’s all contained in the resort. Loads of support from the whole Dive Careers team, not just our awesome CD, Marie-Lise Roux. The whole two weeks was great fun, both me and the other IDCS were able to get involved with the candidates and we are able to add our experiences while at the same time learning some great new skills. Recommended!” DD

Informative. Helpful. Fun

“Had a great time and learned lots. Really felt supported and like I was important…even though I know you do this constantly and teach 4 million people. The IE was a breeze after all the thorough preparation”. Roya

 

Well structured and fun IDC

“The IDC was really well structured and taught. It was also great fun! Highly recommended! 100% passed” Simon

 

Two Fish LEMBONGAN

-From the 28th of April until the 12 of May 2016

-From 15th until 29th of September 2016

 

Two Fish BALI

-10th until 24th of July

-23rd of October until 6th of November

 

Contact us for more information.

All the best!

Marie

marie@dive-careers.com

Platinum CD 639725

Laura Becoming an Instructor on Koh Tao

Another day, another dive… another day of pinching myself to see if this is all some crazy dream!
Arriving in Koh Tao 6 months ago I couldn’t have dreamed that by now I’d be a fully fledged PADI instructor embarking on my MSDT internship. This is me living the dream with my first open water student!

The buzz of getting someone from zero to diver is awesome! Beginning the practical aspect of my MSDT was great thanks to Jesper who let me observe him so I could fine tune my academics and see a master at work, learnt some of his famous dive jokes too… shamefully I now use them with my students!

Working with the DMTs on their workshops has been a blast. Andrea Warren, once my Divemaster Trainer, has shown me the ropes and I now feel confident taking the team out on my own. A great bunch of people who love diving just as much as I do! Here’s some of the gang after their snorkeling and skin diving workshop. Led by me!

laura blog ie

When I contacted Dive-Careers about coming to do the Divemaster course I thought it sounded too good to be true… I can dive as much as I want? I can assist instructors if and when I feel like it? I can come to any lectures or workshops when it suits me? What?… there had to be a catch… nope, it was for real and I ended up extending my trip because I was having so much fun and my diving was getting better and better.

Four months down the line I was ready for another challenge, I heard Mark Soworka was back in town for the IDC so I went for it! The course was busy and exciting. Most days we laughed til we cried, our team was awesome. Here we are celebrating, having smashed our instructor exams.

laura blog pool idc

The logical next step for me was to begin my MSDT Internship so that I could continue diving with Buddha View, attend lectures and specialty workshops with Bas van Riemsdyk and Marie-Lise Roux and ultimately increase my employability by being able to teach specialties. So far it’s been awesome, combining freelancing and learning with the full support of the Dive-Careers and Buddha View teams. Absolutely living the dream and loving every minute!

The Whale Shark and the Dive Industry

Whale sharks and their importance to PADI Dive Professionals

As a PADI Course Director I am fortunate enough to dive and work in many areas frequented by whale sharks.  Diving with such a wonderfully gentle, yet large, fish remains an incredible attraction and draws large numbers to dive sites known to have frequent whale shark encounters.  That popularity has highlighted the plight of the whale shark, but also places increasing pressure on dwindling populations.  As dive professionals we have the responsibility, and also the possibility to promote whale shark conservation.  This article will review basic whale shark ecology and the importance of whale sharks to the Philippine and Koh Tao, Thailand dive industries.

Whale Sharks , Rhincodon typus, can reach a length of 13 meters and a weight of more than 21.5 tonnes. It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the family, Rhincodontidae, which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the classChondrichthyes. The species originated approximately 60 million years ago.

Its range is generally restricted to about ±30° latitude. It is capable of diving to depths of at least 1,286 meters and is migratory.Dive-Careers.com conduct instructor training programmes in both Bohol and El Nido, Palawan, Philippines as well as Koh Tao, Thailand. Just like I am travelling around from instructor development course to IDC, there is evidence to suggest the same group of whale sharks migrates throughout Asia.  This highlights the importance of an international effort to help with whale shark protection

Shark Whaleshark front

During our Sierra Madre/Infinite Blue IDCs (PADI Dive Instructor courses) on Bohol, Philippines , Dr. Alessandro Ponzo conducts a seminar for us on the research his organisation, Large Marine Vertebrates, is conducting on whale sharks in the Philippines.  Dr Ponzo has set up research stations in both Oslob and Leite to further investigate the impact tourism is having on whale shark populations.  He presents a fascinating seminar packed with wonderful information about the little understood life cycle and behaviour of whale sharks.  From Dr Ponzos seminar we get a strong appreciation for the imminent danger whale sharks face through short term exploitation.  Dr Ponzo points out that in 1997, the last year of legal whale shark fishing in the Bohol Sea, 700 Whale sharks were fished.  The population at present in the Philippines stands at around 350 sharks.  With a return to uncontrolled fishing in Philippines, we could see the total annihilation of Philippine whale shark populations in less than a year.

The Philippine whale shark population also faces the threat of unregulated tourism in such areas as Oslob where whale shark feeding is used to attract large numbers of tourists.  Whale Sharks feed on macro-algae, plankton, krill, and small vertebrates. They also feed on small fish and the clouds of eggs and sperm during mass spawning of fish shoals. The many rows of vestigial teeth play no role in feeding. Feeding occurs either by ram filtration, in which the animal opens its mouth and swims forward, pushing water and food into the mouth, as highlighted by the movements of the sharks around around divers at such dive sites like Chumporn Pinnacle off Koh Tao, Thailand, or by active suction feeding, in which the animal opens and closes its mouth, sucking in volumes of water that are then expelled through the gills. In both cases, the filter pads serve to separate food from water.  Whale sharks migrate to feed and possibly to breed.  Feeding by locals in such areas as Oslob, where the fisherman are catching krill to keep whale sharks in the local area and draw tourists, are clearly affecting eating patterns and migratory routes.  Our whale shark seminar during the Sierra Madre IDCs, Bohol, Philippines are aimed at highlighting this problem and encouraging our IDC candidates to participate as volunteers on the research programmes Dr Ponzo is running at both Oslob and Leite.  Jaki and Brett from Sierra Madre / Infiinte Blue Divers are actively campaigning on Bohol against supporting such areas as Oslob with dive tourism.  Sadly many dive centers continue to send divers for this orchestrated and harmful whale shark experience.

Shark Whaleshark from below

Neither mating nor pupping of whale sharks has ever been observed.

The capture of a female pregnant with 300 pups indicates that whale sharks are ovo-viviparous. The eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 40 to 60 centimetres long. There is evidence that the pups are not all born at once, but rather that the female retains sperm from one mating and produces a steady stream of pups over a prolonged period. It is believed that they reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and the life span is an estimated 70 to 100 years. This long life span, late sexual maturity and relatively low birth rates make whale shark conservation difficult.

In 2009 at Pilar, Philippines, marine scientists discovered what is believed to be the smallest living specimen of the whale shark. The young shark measured only 38 centimetres. Recently, similar sized specimens were found off the coast of India.  Little is known about the early life cycle of whale sharks.  It is believed that they disappear into the great ocean depths until they reach adolescence.  The spotted markings of a whale shark are useful for camouflage of a bottom dweller, similar to a carpet shark, so, it is assumed these markings are important to the protection of young whale sharks dwelling on the bottom at great depths.

Shark Whaleshark side 2
Koh Tao. Thailand remains a very popular destination to see adolescent whale sharks. There are frequent sightings of whale sharks in March to April and again September to October, with occasional sightings throughout the year.   It remains one of the best chances of diving with whale sharks of any dive destination in Asia.  Popular dive destinations need strict codes of behaviour defining diver interactions with the marine environment.  During our Divemaster and Instructor Progammes with Buddha View PADI IDC Resort on Koh Tao, we conduct a Marine Resource Management seminar helping dive professionals develop knowledge about the marine environment and a code of practice to impart to their future divers. We encourage the following general guidelines, promoted by The Shark Trust, the Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management, and PADI Project AWARE Foundation be followed for both their own safety and for the safety of the sharks.
Code of Conduct for Swimmers and Divers

* Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase a whale shark
* Do not restrict normal movement or behavior of the shark
* Maintain a minimum distance of 3 meters from the head and 4 meters from the tail (caudal fin) of the whale shark
* No flash photography
* Do not use diver propulsion vehicles near a whale shark

Save Koh Tao Association are also encouraging the recording of sightings off Koh Tao, as you can see on

http://www.marineconservationkohtao.com/index.php?view=article&catid=37%3Aunderwater-life&id=51%3Awhaleshark-sightings&tmpl=component&print=1&page=&option=com_content&Itemid=57

listing recent whale shark encounters off the coast of Koh Tao, Thailand.

In 1998, the Philippines banned all fishing, selling, importing and exporting of whale sharks for commercial purposes, then Thailand in 2000, followed by India in May 2001, and Taiwan in May 2007. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species; however, they continue to be hunted in parts of Asia, such as Taiwan and the Philippines. The population numbers are unknown and the species is considered vulnerable by the IUCN. It is listed, along with 6 other species of shark, under the CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks.  As dive professionals we are in a unique position to highlight, through education, the plight of whale sharks and the importance of their conservation to the general public.  We hope through our Marine Resource Management seminars at our IDC and divemaster programmes  throughout Asia and promoting such research projects and volunteer work as that done by Large Marine Vertebrates in the Philippines, we are making, if only small, at least a positive change to the perception of our marine environment and an appreciation for the continued existence of whale sharks.

Shark Whaleshark away

For more information about our dive professional and environmental programmes in Phillipines or Koh Tao, Thailand please contact me on mark@dive-careers.com
All photographs courtesy of Adrian Kaye, Buddha View, Koh Tao, Thailand. We offer photography and videography courses through Buddha View.  Contact if interested in getting some great footage of whalesharks.