Colonies of Hope

Blog written by guest blogger and marine biologist Clare Baranowski

Preserving coral reefs is a growing concern in the Maldives

At Gili Lankanfushi, we are recovering our coral reefs through the Coral lines Project. By growing small fragments of coral on hanging ropes (lines) and then transplanting them to our house reef near One Palm Island, we hope to see regeneration and aim to kick start the health of our house reef.

Our Coral Lines Project started three years ago and currently holds around 7484 coral colonies. We are consistently adding small fragments of coral to the already growing population on 153 lines.

Josie monitoring our 153 coral lines

The vulnerable nature of coral populations mean that they undergo cycles of disturbance and recovery. Our house reef was affected by warmer waters created by the El Nino event in 2016 which bleached much of the corals. Yet against all odds, most fragments in our coral lines nursery survived.  They have also been faced with a Crown of Thorns (coral predators) outbreak this year and have still remained intact.

In some cases, the corals in our lines are no longer present on shallow reefs in the area.

Now, is the perfect time to begin stage two of our coral restoration project by moving coral from our nursery to our house reef.  Transplanting coral is a delicate procedure with a lot of trial and error. We began slowly by creating a test site with a small number of coral colonies to ensure we would not lose healthy coral unnecessarily.

Josie beginning the process

We found a site with conditions not too dissimilar to the nursery. The area had to be flat and solid, with no loose material and space for growth.  It also had to be an area that is easily accessible for monitoring, but nowhere in danger of tampering or accidental damage.  We chose a depth of 8 metres in the middle of house reef drop off where we regularly snorkel. Another major concern was the Crown of Thorns Starfish, so we placed the coral in an area visited regularly by Harvey Edwards, Ocean Paradise Dive Centre manager, who has been removing these starfish from the reef for months.

Clare cutting the coral from the line

The next step was to cut the colonies from the lines in the nursery, and transport them in mesh bags in the water. We decided to use three different Acropora species to begin with as they are fast growing and like a lot of light and a moderate current. Once at the site, we cleaned the area of algae and attached the coral to ensure protection from extreme water movement. We placed them an equal distance apart to allow quick growth and attached the coral using epoxy, which is a clay like cement. We were aware from previous studies that Miliput (epoxy clay) has been seen to kill the part of the coral it is attaching, so we placed small amounts of putty at the base of the coral.

Once a week, for a total of six weeks, we will measure growth and survivorship of the coral.  We hope to replicate the test at different depths and locations to find a suitable site to start a larger restoration project. However, we will hold off on most of the major transplantation until after the monsoon season.

Attaching the colonies using epoxy

Due to the fragility of coral species, our rehabilitation plans are very flexible, and subject to a long monitoring period.  We expect to adapt our approach and long term management to ensure we keep up with the changing environment of the reef. Previous restoration plans have been hindered by external threats, so we are so excited to finally begin this project. We will be producing scientific data along the way which we hope will contribute to current coral reef rehabilitation knowledge.

Although our transplants are working well so far, we will still have many question to answer in the future such as: are the corals on the house reef still reproducing? As these corals survived the last bleaching, will they be more genetically suited to future hostile conditions? The answers to these questions are all just a work in progress and we will have to keep on watching and learning as we replant and monitor these corals over the next few years. As our house reef sustained a lot of mortality and the coral cover is low, we hope that this new project will help to rejuvenate the reef and raise awareness.

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

I am a marine zoologist from the UK who has worked throughout the tropics researching mega fauna and reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. I have experience monitoring and restoring coral and surveying manta, turtle and dolphin populations. I began my career as a science communicator before moving into research and management roles, this is why I incorporate outreach and education into every project I work on and I hope to continue this at Gili Lankanfushi.

MALDIVES DIVING HOLIDAYS

Life beneath the surface in the Maldives is an underwater Disneyland, perfect for dive enthusiasts. The Maldives is renowned as one of the very best diving locations in the world. There’s not only an abundance of reef life here but also spectacular coloured coral and crystal clear water.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Nigel Wade

WHY CHOOSE THE MALDIVES FOR YOUR DIVING HOLIDAY?

The Maldives ticks all of the boxes when it comes to diving holidays. This tropical location boasts visibility levels of up to 40 meters, making it a great destination for advanced divers. However diving in the Maldives is not just for the experienced. The shallow lagoons and channels make it the perfect location to try diving for the very first time. Plus what better destination in the world is there to gain your scuba-diving certifications?

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

The Maldives is also home to protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The presence of currents in this island nation means that open water channels are perfect for drift diving and it’s also possible to swim with gentle ocean giants like manta rays and whale sharks. Don’t forget the Maldives has year round water temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius!

THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR DIVING IN THE MALDIVES

Fortunately, the diving season in the Maldives is open all year round with the calmest conditions from December through to June. As the Maldives is located in the tropics, it is susceptible to both wet and dry seasons. June to November is the south-west monsoon season, bringing with it with overcast and wet conditions, especially in June and July. During these months expect slightly less visibility and different currents, although there is still plenty of marine life on offer, as well as sunny spells. Generally reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side from December to April. Reef sharks, hammerheads and whale sharks are found in the Maldives year round, along with manta rays and sea turtles, you just need to know where to head at the time of year you plan to dive!

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

DIVING OPTIONS

There are a number of diving options when it comes to Maldives. For example at Secret Paradise, value for money diving holidays and tours will be offered that you will remember for a lifetime. Enjoy an all-inclusive guesthouse stay and be transferred by boat to incredible nearby dive sites, the same sites that you would dive from a resort but at half the cost! Our diving holidays are an affordable alternative to a resort stay and also allow you the flexibility of island hopping or if your budget is larger, atoll hopping to benefit from the best dive locations during your time of travel.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

Liveaboards are a popular dive holiday option, allowing you to scour the waters for the ultimate dive spot each day. These days most Liveaboards operate a year round schedule offering 7 night, 10 night and 14 night cruises not only in the central atolls but to the deep south and deep north offering opportunities to discover less dived sites and pristine coral.

SECRET PARADISE DIVING HOLIDAYS

 Secret Paradise, offers six diverse one island based diving packages, all in different atolls allowing you access to what are some of the best dive sites in the world. Our packages include Dharavandhoo, perfect if you want to encounter 100s of manta rays in Baa Atoll, Hulhumale if you need to stay close to the capital, Maafushi, South Male Atoll, Dhigurah home of the whale shark in Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo, the ideal location to spot a hammerhead and Gan in Laamu atoll.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Boutique Beach

Our island hopping itineraries in Male Atoll and Ari Atoll allow you to discover a range of dive sites and marine life whilst at the same time experiencing Maldives local life, tradition and culture, with or without a private dive guide.

DIVE TEAMS

All partners of secret Paradise are PADI affiliated dive centers and are operated by both local and European dive professionals. A personal interest is taken in promoting scuba diving in the Maldives, through education and awareness about the underwater environment here. Their objective is to encourage underwater conservation and safe diving practices

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Nigel Wade

Dives are generally conducted from the beach within an island’s inner reef for beginners or from a local dive boat, a dhoni, for certified divers. Dive sites are chosen daily based on both the weather and current conditions as well as diver ability.

The teams will take you to the best dive spots and willingly introduce you to the characteristics of the underwater world of the Maldives. All offer boat dives, NITROX, night dives and a full range of PADI courses and will always ensure you get the best out of your dive. If you are learning to dive, you can do anything from completing a try dive or just the open water dive section of your PADI Open Water certification to completing the full PADI Open Water certification. Whatever you choose to do you can be assured of fun and safe diving with us and our partners.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Nigel Wade

Secret Paradise Co-Founder, Ruth Franklin a diver herself with over 1500 dives in the Maldives is always happy to share her own diving experiences and is on hand for honest dive advice.

About Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Offering group and private tours or independent travel packages, Secret Paradise holidays are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise generally known as a luxury resort destination.

Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life. We partner NGOs such as Save the Beach and marine charity organisations such as Maldives Whaleshark Research Program to provide opportunities for our guests to learn and support local conservation initiatives.

The benefit of travelling with us is that Secret Paradise guarantees you prompt and efficient personal service. We deliver high standards of service and professionalism and you can rely on Secret Paradise to provide expert local knowledge, clear communication and honest advice.

www.secretparadise.mv

Kuredu, Sea Turtles Heaven

Since 4th November 2016, 74 sea turtles have been registered around Kuredu (Kuredu House Reef/Laoon, Kuredu Express, Kuredu Caves and Kuredu Coral Garden). 58 of those individuals are Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).

The reef around Kuredu houses almost one third of all registered Green sea turtles in the Maldives. Incredible! The island is an important feeding and nesting ground for Green sea turtles.

The Stars:

Audrey (GR459) is a regular in Kuredu Lagoon and often observed enjoying her sea grass meals. This Green turtle is easily identified by its missing left rear flipper. Despite being handicapped, Audrey is in good shape (and has a big appetite)!

Pia (456) is a juvenile Green sea turtle with a shell length of about 40cm. With 20 registered sightings, Pia is the most sighted individual at Kuredu Caves!

Bjoern (GR38) is one of the first identified sea turtles in the Maldives. Also, he is the only male at Kuredu Caves! His impressive size of 70cm in shell length and the long tail gives him away as a male. The length of a sea turtle’s tail tells the sex.

Every sea turtle has a unique scale pattern on the left and right side of its head. This pattern allows for individual identification and population assessments. As part of the “Hurawalhi sea turtle ID project”, every sea turtle sighting is registered. Supporting the project will be rewarded! If you submit right and left side pictures of a newly identified sea turtle, you can name it! Become a sea turtle’s namesake for a kind donation of $50 to the Olive Ridley Project. You will receive a naming certificate and updates whenever your sea turtle gets relighted.

FUN FACT: Green Sea Turtles can hold their breath for over 4 hours.

 

Prodivers is one of the leading dive and watersport operators in the Maldives with currently five 5* PADI dive centres. If you are fancy visiting them please check out their website www.prodivers.com

Kuredu Express – One dive site, endless experiences

A favourite dive site of many guests, Kuredu Express is full of surprises – the varied topography coupled with the ever-changing current conditions mean it’s never the same dive twice. This well-known site is dived by Prodivers Kuredu 3-4 times a week, and during the last 10 years we’ve dived it a whopping 2337 times!

What makes Kuredu Express so alluring?

Currents

The ‘Express’ part of the site’s name comes from the currents that flow here – sometimes fast and furious, sometimes mild and mellow but often quickly changing. The outreef current and channel currents each play their part in how the site is dived, adding to the variety of diving on offer here. Due to the rapid changes in currents, divers can encounter a vast variety of marine life which makes diving on Kuredu Express a special and unique experience. With the right conditions this site can be accessible to most qualified divers.

Topography

It’s a dramatic site with three distinct areas – the sandy channel, the corner with large terraces and the huge overhangs or bays at the start of the outreef.

Sharks!

Famous as having one of the largest shark populations in the Lhaviyani Atoll, with the right conditions the shark action here can be mind blowing, but there’s more to the life on Kuredu Express than just sharks… there’s an enormous quantity of schooling fish, eagle rays, sting rays, napoleon, tuna and, on rare occasions, even hammerhead sharks. Turtles, moray eels, and even leaf fish have been found here too. If it’s the sharks that interest you, learn about them prior to a dive with them during our Maldivian Shark and Ray Diver course, a PADI Distinctive Specialty.

Great photographic opportunities

With a small current divers can take their time exploring the overhangs and getting great shots with blue water background and, when the current is pumping, simply hang on and enjoy the show unfold at the corner as the pelagic photobomb your every shot!

Location

Just 5 minutes from Kuredu jetty – it doesn’t get much more convenient than this.

On 12th April 2017, Laurie Miller, 40 time repeater guest on Kuredu, dived Kuredu Express for the 150th time. He is a passionate diver and his knowledge of marine life is impressive. We asked Laurie to share his views about our beloved Kuredu Express:

What is it about Kuredu Express that fascinates you?

“It’s like doing 3 dives in one. First you have the deep channel with nice overhangs where strong currents present the opportunity to see some of the bigger fish, then you have the outreef where we usually see the big Napoleons and lastly the bays where the fish life is booming.”

What are your most memorable moments on Kuredu Express?

“When the sharks are swimming between the divers. First time I’ve ever seen a Blacktip reef shark was on Express. One of the few places where you will find the Palette Surgeonfish, a.k.a. Blue Tang, a.k.a. Dory. I’ve seen the peacock flounder there as well.”

How would you sum up Kuredu Express?

“It’s a different experience with new challenges every time you do it because of the different currents.”

We left Laurie to enjoy the rest of his 40th stay on Kuredu, in fact he’s still here, enjoying diving free of charge as a special perk for visiting 40 times. Check out our generous Repeater Discount Program and you could follow in Laurie’s footsteps

Sharks, Rays and Turtles – Your PADI Speciality with Prodivers Kuredu

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

Photo by Ray van Eeden

You got to love sharks, rays and turtles! In fact, at Kuredu Prodivers we love our residents so much that we’ve compiled everything we know about them and created two specialty courses that you should put on your must-do list: Maldivian Shark & Ray Distinctive Specialty Course, and Sea Turtle Diver Course. These two courses provide the best way for you to learn more about these incredible animals – and of course see them in their natural environment, at reefs around Kuredu.

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

During the Maldivian Shark and Ray course you will find out more about the incredible sensory system that sharks and rays possess, learn how to identify the different species, determine their gender and understand the mating behaviour, as well as the need for us to preserve and protect the current populations of sharks and rays. The narrow channels, where the currents flow in and out of the atoll and the deep out reefs around Kuredu are the ideal habitat to get encounters with sharks and rays.

Photo by Marek Machinia

Photo by Marek Machinia

For those of you prefer the sleepy headed sea turtles, the Sea Turtle Course will surely be of interest to you, especially since Kuredu is home to the largest known population of Green Sea Turtles in the Maldives. With over 63 identified individuals resident around the island, this makes it the perfect place to enrol in the course. It offers the chance to learn more about how turtles have adapted and evolved through their fight for survival, and you will also learn how to identify the different species and to distinguish whether they are male and female, and how they reproduce. Are you familiar with the famous Kuredu Caves, a.k.a. Turtle Airport? The course is also available to snorkelers.

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

The PADI Maldivian Shark & Ray Distinctive Specialty Course was developed by Prodivers to help increase the awareness about these magnificent creatures. Get in touch with us to find out more about diver qualification requirements for the courses.

Visit www.prodivers.com or drop us an email via info@prodivers.com

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PADI Pioneers: Generating Ocean Warriors in the Maldives

In a quiet corner of a luxury resort in the Maldives you’ll find an PADI Five Star IDC centre quite unlike any other.

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Teaching Maldivians to scuba dive might seem to some like selling coals to Newcastle. Wherever you stand in the Maldives, you’re always barely a stone’s throw from the ocean, and many Maldivians can swim before they can walk. Diving is in the country’s DNA.

It could come as a surprise to some then, that until the mid-2000s, there were only a handful of places offering PADI Instructor Development Courses in the country, with many aspiring instructors actually having to travel to Thailand to complete their certifications.

Founding an Institution

Luckily, this didn’t go unnoticed by Hussain ‘Sendi’ Rasheed, the Maldives’ first and only PADI Course Director and in 2006, he decided to do something about it. Working at the time as the operations manager of Holiday Island Resort & Spa, part of the Villa conglomerate, Sendi approached the company chairman – the Hon. Qasim Ibrahim – and shared his concerns about the lack of educational opportunities for local dive and water sport professionals.

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The conversation would not only change his own life, but would ultimately change the face of diving education in the Maldives. Convinced by the lack of Maldivian educational facilities for divers, Mr Ibrahim asked Sendi to oversee the development of an institution that would change all that. Like Sendi, he wanted to provide a space for Maldivians to become qualified leaders in the diving field. And with that, The Villa Institute of Water Sports and Hospitality was born the same year.

A Place in the Sun

Purpose-built in a quiet corner of Sun Island Resort & Spa (another Villa Hotel), the institute quickly became a hub for young dive and water sports enthusiasts hoping to make a career in the industry. With spacious student and teacher accommodation and modern classrooms overlooking a lagoon that welcomes whale sharks and manta rays to its outer reef, the establishment is enough to make any Course Director drool.

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But what makes the institute really special is what it aims to achieve. Its objective? To equip a new generation of certified PADI Dive Masters and Instructors with the skills needed to become not only leaders in the field of recreational diving tourism but also trailblazers in ecological advocacy.

Expansion and Diversification

Lofty goals to say the least, but within a few short years it has managed to do just that. After a restructuring to become the founding faculty of Villa College, (now the Maldives’ leading private education provider offering courses in everything from marketing to law) and an expansion to include facilities in the capital, the reigns were handed over to Dr. Sham’aa ‘Anna’ Hameed. Under her leadership and the close involvement of Sendi, the institute is well on track to realise its vision.

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Not only does the faculty run multiple PADI Instructor Development Courses throughout the year, it now offers Certificate Three, foundation and even degree courses in marine studies that offer PADI electives as course credit.

Ocean Warriors

These courses provide students with the tools to become innovators in the field of marine studies. As a result, graduating students go on to enter the Maldivian workforce in a number of roles: as dive and water sports instructors of course, but also as researchers, marine biologists, wildlife rangers, even government environmental officials and legislators.

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What started as an initiative of affirmative action to provide quality education and training for locals has now developed into an educational model that is forward thinking on an international level. As such, they are arming a legion of self-titled ‘Ocean Warriors’ with the skills to be the next generation of environmental guardians and leaders in the Maldivian diving industry.

 

About the author: Adele Verdier-Ali is a freelance travel writer and content marketer who has been living in the Maldives for over six years. She’s a certified PADI rescue diver and when she’s not underwater, she writes about Maldivian culture and tourism. You can read more of her thoughts over on www.littlebirdjournal.com

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Full throttle diving in the Maldives!

Underwater scooters can easily spice up your diving adventures at Prodivers! The Lhaviyani Atoll is known for its reef channels or the so called kandus where the water flows in and out of the atoll. At these spots we can see huge congregation and a abundant variety of pelagics that rush to these areas to feed. Here you are able to see a lots of marine life such as grey reef sharks, eagle rays, napoleons, tunas and barracudas – gathering in large numbers!

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The main advantage of underwater scooters is that they take away the effort of fin kicking to these big fish hot spots, as well as the effort of staying there. In fact, the best big fish action takes place when currents are strong and flowing in the right direction. So with a scooter you are the luckiest diver out there.

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DCIM100GOPROGOPR1947.

Besides increasing your chances of seeing squadrons of eagle rays and dozens of reef sharks on the channel’s edge, scooter diving is also incredible fun. With a bit of practice you can quickly be ready to fly past the reefs yourself and enjoy seeing these great areas! All of our Instructors are PADI DPV Instructors so you can do your PADI Scooter Specialty at any time you wish with Prodivers!

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It is very common the first thing divers say after ascend from their scooter dive, that this was the best dive of their life. What may sound to you as a slight overstatement is very likely the same reaction you will have after your first scooter dive. Chances are that you will experience an overwhelming feeling of joy and have a huge grin on your face once you tried it the first time! Come and join our scooter dives!

www.prodivers.com

 

 

5 PADI Pro Tips: How to Deal with Nervous Students

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The first breaths underwater are always very exciting for first-time divers, and usually the fascination for this new underwater world is much bigger than any fears. Sometimes, however, there are some new divers who are very nervous about learning to dive, and need to be treated very carefully by their PADI Instructor.

Follow these 5 tips on working with nervous divers to help alleviate their fears and encourage them to succeed in the best possible way.

#1 – Talk to your students about their fears

If you notice that one of your students is very anxious, then you should talk to them about their fears and concerns. Ask them questions to help identify what and where the problem is, and explain to them objectively, using facts and reassurance, about why there is no need to be scared.

#2 – Explain all of the exercises in detail in your briefing

As a PADI Pro you’ve already learned to describe and explain all the skills, exercises and dives which you’re performing with other divers or students.

If you have one or more anxious divers in your group, you should extend your briefings and deal with the concerns of the divers. Prepare your group and let them know what could be the challenges during the exercises or dives you’ll do together – and tell them how to deal with them in the best way.

#3 – Position anxious students correctly

If you’re doing underwater skills with students, or guiding a dive for a group of divers, then make sure that any nervous members of the group are always very close to you.

While training for skills in larger groups, any nervous divers should never sit completely at the end of the row. If possible, they should always have another diver on either side.
Make sure you begin the practice of diving skills with a more confident diver – not with someone who is already anxious. This reduces the nervousness when one sees that another diver masters the skill without any problems.

If you’re guiding a group with an anxious diver, you should offer them to dive directly behind you. Form a buddy team, and give them the safety and attention they need to build confidence underwater.

#4 – Reduce the distance between nervous divers

As a PADI Pro you’ll already know that you need to stay close to your diving students to have complete control over them. However, if you have a very nervous student in your group you should pay special attention to stay as close as possible to them in particular. This makes it possible for you to intervene at any time, and gives them a feeling of safety and security.

#5 – Give anxious students frequent commendation

After each training session, you should highlight one thing in every debriefing that all diving students have done particularly well – that’s what we call positive reinforcement.
With anxious divers in your group you can expand this positive reinforcement even more and give them extra commendation for things they have mastered. With this additional positivity and praise, you’ll push the self-confidence of anxious divers, which in turn will help to relieve their nervousness and boost their confidence in the water.

Extra Tip: Work in small groups with more time – if possible!

Where possible, work in groups of max. two divers, and plan more time for your course from the beginning – this should be helpful for anxious divers who will feel less pressured by others’ progress. In a smaller group, you can respond even more effectively to the problems and concerns of each student.


christian_huboThis article was written by guest blogger, Christian Hubo. A PADI diving instructor, Christian has enjoyed over 4,000 dives whilst travelling around the world. Above the surface, he’s hiked thousands of kilometers across the natural world. Christian is a freelance web and media designer, underwater photographer, social media and marketing consultant and freelance author. His magazine articles and blog, Feel4Nature, inspires people to follow an independent, individual and eco-conscious lifestyle.

What is it really like to be an Examiner?

What’s it like to be a PADI Examiner? Guest blogger Adele Verdier-Ali shadows Maldives Regional Manager Matt Wenger as he conducts a two-day Instructor Examination at the Villa College Marine Faculty campus at Sun Island Resort & Spa Maldives to find out…

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Photo by Ahmed Shan

“Coffee,” croaks Matt as he finally joins me for breakfast at the sprawling beachside restaurant of Sun Island Resort & Spa, “I need coffee.”

Bleary eyed and less than his usual chipper self, Matt doesn’t look so good. I signal the waiter who hurries to pour him a cup. Having stayed up answering work emails until the small hours of the night, Matt explains, a zealous native bird calling in the dawn outside his window ensured that he was awake at four. It’s the first morning of the IE, and we both know it’s going to be a long day.

He takes a sip of his coffee, grimaces and pushes it away, “Ugh, I can’t drink that.”

It’s a bad start. And a grouchy examiner is not what the candidates need. Because while many Course Directors might joke that ‘IE’ really means ‘It’s Easy’, I was getting the feeling that this time (for Matt at least) it might just stand for ‘It’s Exhausting’

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No comments, photo by A. Verdier-Ali

No Rest for the Wicked

Having flown in the night before from Male’, the country’s chaotic capital, Matt had wasted no time. After a quick sit down with the head of the Villa College Marine Faculty Dean Shamaa ‘Anna’ Hameed and the Maldives’ only PADI Course Director Hussein ‘Sendi’ Rasheed to clarify the two-day itinerary, he’d jumped straight into the orientation. The candidates, six Maldivian guys, were initially nervous. As I sat at the back of the classroom at the beachside campus, the atmosphere was strained, no one spoke much, and the apprehension was palpable.

Over the next 45 minutes however, Matt achieved something impressive. Not only does he manage to put people at ease, to get people talking and asking questions but at the same time he somehow manages to keep people on their toes. His natural warmth made the candidates feel relaxed, but there was an undeniable boundary. This is PADI, he seemed to imply, and we don’t mess around.

 

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After the Orientation, photo by A. Verdier-Ali

Good coffee + good weather = good start

So back to our search for coffee. We head to the resort’s in-house dive centre in search of a more palatable caffeine fix. The walk to the centre, located at the end of a long wooden jetty at the edge of the island’s house reef, goes some way to raise Matt’s spirits. We spot several juvenile black tip reef sharks glide under the walkway, and the weather, at least, is being good to us. After several stormy weeks, the skies have cleared. The island stretches far into the distance and heaves with palm trees, bobbing above the shore. The lagoon that encircles it is completely flat; conditions are perfect.

“It doesn’t get much better than this, does it?” Matt remarks, as he pauses for a moment to take in the view.

Luckily, the dive centre has an espresso machine. As he sips his liquid breakfast, candidates bustle around him readying their gear.

“Right,” Matt says clapping his hands together, “let’s do this!”

Sun, Sea and Slates

With gear assembled, Matt leads a short briefing to explain what’s going to happen over the course of the morning. The candidates would first perform the Confined Water skills in the lagoon. Then head to the drop off for Open Water Teaching presentations and the Rescue Demonstration. Energy levels seem high but there’s not much talking. It’s go time.

I snorkel a short distance from the candidates and marvel at their efficiency. It’s clear that these guys belong in the water. I creep up to peer over Matt’s shoulder at his slates, hoping to see their scores. But instead there’s a series of letters. It’s a code which he explains in whispers. I realise that a lot of the candidates are getting straight 5s.

Every now and then, Matt turns around, nods his head and purses his lips and if to say “These guys are good!”.

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Sneak peek…… A. Verdier-Ali

 

The candidates’ English is fluent and confident and their briefings are simple and clear. They complete their tasks in swift succession and I’m surprised when it’s already time for them to head to the drop off for part two.

As I’m not in dive gear, I hang back and enjoy the reef. Two adult black tip reef sharks swim by, then a hawksbill turtle and a sting ray. Shoals of filter-feeding mackerel swerve and lunge by.

I head back to the jetty and await the candidates return. After quite some time, I can see them performing the rescue scenarios but it’s obvious that the energy has changed. They’re visibly tired and their adrenaline is no longer seeing them through. Shoulders sag as they exit the water and I worry that someone might have stuffed up.

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Rescue Demonstrations, photo by A. Verdier-Ali

Another quick briefing. Matt gives short precise feedback to justify the lower scores, and there are a few, but overall everyone passes.

 

The Physics of Failing and Failing at Physics

It’s lunch and then the two theory exams. As the candidates sit in silence I take the opportunity to explore the campus surroundings. The building, which was purpose-built in 2006 to train local dive and water sports professionals, sits on the western shore of the island. As well as providing accommodation facilities for the students and teachers, it’s home to two classrooms and an office. The small beach outside is glorious and I snap a few pics of a heron in the shallows, wading amongst juvenile black tips and a cluster of sting rays.

The candidates exit the classroom. All have passed the Standard Exam but three have failed in physics in the Theory Exam. They’d have to resit in the morning.

This dampens the mood of the group who, I observe, function as fish out of the water as well as in it. They move as a shoal, with the whole group affected by the misfortune of an individual. And with that the first day draws to a close.

A Second Chance

It’s late by the time I wander down from my room the next day and join Anna and Sendi by the beach. Usually chatty, they’re sitting in silence. The guys were resitting their exams – another fail and they’d not pass the IE.

And then they appear, three silhouettes against the morning sun. Anna stands up, and the three young men all smile. They’d all passed this time and there is a collective sigh of relief. The Knowledge Development Teaching presentations go by without a glitch and as the candidates exit the classroom the campus rebounds with their whoops and hollers. It was over! As the candidates all dive into the sea it’s as though they are different people. Their reserve melts in the water and they are suddenly animated, laughing and jubilant. It’s only then that I realise just how focussed, just how tense they’d been over the last 24 hours.

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Sharing the good news with family and friends, photo by A. Verdier-Ali

Matt, I notice, stays on the beach, and watches from the distance. From what I can see, he is still in examiner mode, and feels his job isn’t over until he leaves the island. But he does not escape being raised on the candidates shoulders a little later after awarding them their completion certificates. The candidates’ joy is infectious, even emotional to see, especially as they call their parents to share the good news.

The main thing I learn from him is this:

The key to a good IE? Decent coffee.

 

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About the author: Adele Verdier-Ali is a freelance travel writer and content marketer who has been living in the Maldives for over six years. She’s a certified PADI rescue diver and when she’s not underwater, she writes about Maldivian culture and tourism. You can read more of her thoughts over on www.littlebirdjournal.com

 

5 Tips for Pros: How to Maintain Your Scuba Gear Properly

dive-equipment

As a PADI Professional, your scuba gear is exposed to heavy use – much more than the average recreational diver. Three or five dives a day teaching students or guiding certified divers will quickly leave their mark, and you’ll notice your diving equipment ageing much quicker than usual.

Of course, you can help to counteract this wear and tear with proper maintenance of your dive equipment, allowing you to get the best results from your gear despite the high strain.

Above all you shouldn’t forget that you always have a role model function as a PADI Pro, and your scuba gear in particular should always be exemplary: clean, well maintained and fully functional. This way you show your students and other divers that you’re a conscientious diving professional, and demonstrate the importance of well-maintained diving gear.

Here are 5 tips on properly caring for your scuba equipment:

#1 – Rinse your diving equipment thoroughly after every dive

It doesn’t matter if you’re diving in fresh or salt water; clean your scuba gear with clean water after every dive. This will help to remove dirt and other contaminants like micro-organisms or stinging particles from coral or jellyfish. It also helps to prevent the unwanted formation of salt crystal build-up after open water dives in the ocean.

#2 – Dry your diving equipment after every dive

neoprene-careSure, it can difficult as a PADI Pro to do this if you use your diving equipment multiple times during the day. But in between your dives, try to dry out your gear as well as you can. When dive gear is kept damp (especially when stored), bacteria or fungi can quickly develop and spread, which not only damages your diving equipment but can also trigger infections and irritations to your skin.

To dry your scuba gear hang it up outside, ideally in a dry and breezy place but not directly in blazing sunshine. Sunlight can cause faster ageing of materials and can make neoprene and rubber parts brittle.

scuba-equipment#3 – Check any moving parts regularly for dirt and defects

At least once a day, you should make sure that all moving parts on your diving equipment (such as buckles on your BCD, inflator buttons, regulator purge buttons etc.) are clean and working properly. That way you’ll be reassured that there are no dirt, sand or salt crystals stuck in your diving gear that might cause a malfunction during a dive.

#4 – Deep-clean and maintain your diving equipment on a regular basis

In addition to rinsing your kit with clean fresh water after each dive, you should also wash your gear thoroughly at least once a week with a special cleaner designed for dive equipment. This applies not only for neoprene suits, but also for your BCD.

scuba-gear#5 – Store your diving equipment properly

Between dives – and especially if you’re taking some time away from teaching – you should ensure that your gear is stored properly to avoid damage and deformation of the material. Make sure it’s completely dry before packing it away (see #2), don’t stand your fins on the blade-end (as they’ll bend out of shape), and ensure the glass in your diving mask is protected from being scratched.

In addition to these 5 tips, you should always be very careful when carrying and using your diving equipment. Strong impact can easily damage your gear, especially the small components in your BCD and regulator.

PADI’s Equipment Specialist Touch is a great tool to help refresh your memory on maintenance techniques, even as a PADI Professional. It’s also a valuable teaching aid to use with your students to help them learn the importance of caring for their scuba equipment.


christian_huboThis article was written by guest blogger, Christian Hubo. A PADI diving instructor, Christian has enjoyed over 4,000 dives whilst travelling around the world. Above the surface, he’s hiked thousands of kilometers across the natural world. Christian is a freelance web and media designer, underwater photographer, social media and marketing consultant and freelance author. His magazine articles and blog, Feel4Nature, inspires people to follow an independent, individual and eco-conscious lifestyle.