Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

This blog has several parts, next week read about general tourist information……

Tourist Information

Unlike most destinations, don’t expect to find a tourist information centre that will provide answers to all your questions. There is an Information Desk within the arrival area of the airport who are happy to point you in the right direction, assist you if you need to contact your accommodation provider and provide you an information booklet. They are not there, however, to organise accommodation, excursions or transfers. Once you arrive at your hotel, guesthouse or resort they will be able to offer advice on excursions and activities or check out Trip Advisor for local operators providing these services.

 

Transferring from the airport

Unlike other International Airports don’t expect to be able to hail a taxi as there is no taxi rank. If you have booked with a hotel, guesthouse or resort and provided them with your flight arrival details it is usual for them to send a representative to meet with you.

To reach Male independently you can choose to take the Airport Express Speedboat, the charge is MRF30 or US$2 for a one way transfer per person, leaving every 15 minutes. Or the airport public ferry, charge MRF10 or US$1 per person one way, leaving every 10 minutes. Both leave from the jetty opposite the Domestic Terminal. When you arrive in Male, just a 10 minute public ferry ride, you will be able to hail a taxi from the ferry terminal to your destination, guesthouse or hotel. A one stop drop regardless of distance is 25MVR plus an additional 5MVR per item of luggage.

To reach Hulhumale independently you can either enquire as to if a guesthouse vehicle has room on their return journey, the charge would usually be around US$10 one way or take the public bus. The airport bus departs every 30 minutes from the airport and Hulhumale on a 24 hour timetable. On the hour and on the half hour except on Fridays during Friday Prayer when there are no busses between the hours of 11:30 and 13:30. The charge is 20MVR per person one way and it is a journey of 15 minutes. Luggage is accepted and stored in the luggage compartment. At the airport the bus stop is located outside of the International departure area to the left of the food court as you face the ocean.In Hulhumale the bus stop is at the T Junction of Nirolhumagu and Huvandhumaa Higun.

Due to the location of the airport terminal it is not possible to walk to Hulhumale.

If you are transferring on to an island outside of the immediate capital area it is likely that transfer arrangements offered will include speedboat or for islands further afield a domestic flight. These methods will add a minimum of $25 per person one way dependent on distance and if the service is scheduled. Note the Maldives covers a distance of 500KM north to south. If you have done your homework it is possible to take a local ferry to many central atoll islands. These local ferries depart from one of a number of jetties in the capital Male so ensure you have allowed time to cross to the capital and locate the correct jetty.

Business Hours

It is important to know that the Maldives follows a business week from Sunday to Thursday.  Most places are closed on a Friday until after Friday prayer. No public ferries operate on a Friday with the exception of those operating in the capital area between Male, Hulhumale and Villingili. These ferries also stop operation between 11:30 and 13:30 for Friday prayer.

The shops in the Maldives open at different times in the morning but usually before 09:00. Most shops close for prayer times for an interval of 15 minutes. The latest time for the shops to close business is 22:00 and cafes and restaurants 23:00.

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

 

Crown of Thorns Eradication

As the corals of the Maldives are already vulnerable our understanding and removal efforts of the crown of thorns starfish is paramount to the health of our reef.

Everyday Gili Lankanfushi has sightings of the voracious crown-of-thorns starfish (COT) Acanthaster planci. Native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region and the largest species of starfish (Asteroidea), they are generally seen at depths of up to 30 metres. However, they have also been known to travel between Atolls at great depths of around 200m. There are four species of COT, but it is A. planci which is responsible for coral mortality in the Northern Indian Ocean and the coral triangle. COTS are corallivores and during optimal conditions can grow to over half a meter in diameter and have more than 30 arms.

Crown of Thorns

Generally COTS can be considered a keystone species because they can maintain healthy coral reef diversity by primarily feeding on fast growing corals, such as staghorn and plate (Acropora sp.) and enable the slower massive corals to establish and develop. When coral coverage is low, often resulting from COT outbreaks, COTS will eat PoritesMontipora, sponges, algae and encrusting organisms. One COT can consume all the coral in a 6 to 10m square radius annually, so the impact on an already vulnerable reef is catastrophic. The feeding behaviour is dependent on population density, water motion and species composition. COTS are covered in venomous spines coated with saponin which causes irritation and pain at a puncture wound. The spines are long, sharp and lowered to avoid drag.

Fossil evidence suggests that COTS developed millions of years ago. However, COT outbreaks have only occurred in the last 60 to 70 years and with increasing frequency and intensity. The first recorded outbreak occurred in the 1950s in the Ryukyu Islands off Japan. Combined with anthropogenic threats and other stresses outbreaks are greatly detrimental to coral reef survival and the fish associated with the reef.

Crown of Thorns destruction: 1 – healthy coral, 2 – freshly killed coral, 3 – recently killed portion colonised by algae and bacteria, 4 – long dead coral

COT outbreaks in the Maldives are relatively recent; the first recorded outbreak was in the 1970’s, the second in the 1990’s. Currently we are experiencing an outbreak which started in 2013. It began in North Male Atoll and has spread through to Ari Atoll, Baa Atoll, Lhaviyani Atoll, South Male Atoll and large densities have recently been documented in Shaviyani Atoll.

Outbreaks result for a variety of reasons. Firstly, when there is an excess of nutrients entering the water as a consequence of runoff from sewage, fertiliser and other island practices. The resulting eutrophication leads to increased plankton for the COT larvae and decreased juvenile mortality. Secondly, loss of COT predators; napoleon wrasse, lined worm, harlequin shrimp, starry puffer fish, titan and yellow margin triggerfish and triton’s trumpet (red and spangled emperor and parrotfish have been known to feed off young COTS before they have spines).

COT being predated upon by Triton’s Trumpet.

Loss of predators occurs due to overfishing for the souvenir trade, bycatch and habitat destruction. This leads to a drop in already low predation pressure and results in a COT population surge. Finally, COTS have excellent adaptations as they are resilient organisms with an selected life history (high growth rate, typically exploit less crowded ecological niches and produce many off spring). COT females can produce 65 million eggs annually between October to February. The eggs are released into the water column and are fertilized by clouds of sperm from nearby males. After fertilisation larvae are in their planktonic form and remain that way for weeks. After settling on the sea floor and developing into their adult form they develop their spines and start feeding off coral. This process can take around a year. COTS are most vulnerable before their spines are developed. Additionally, they can survive between 6 to 9 months without food, and body parts lost due to stress or predation can regenerate within 6 months.

Short and long term methods are being established around the world to minimise the effects of current outbreaks and to help prevent future outbreaks. The marine biology team at Gili Lankanfushi is focused on the removal of COTS. Our primary aim is removing these creatures from the overwater villas and jetty’s. Guests and hosts report sightings of COTS, and our team of marine biologists will remove them by injecting them with vinegar. This method is labour intensive and is carried out as regularly as possible by both the Marine Biology team and the Dive Centre.

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

 

To eat or not to eat

As our understanding of the ocean grows, more people want to know where their food is coming from and how it landed on their plate. 

Global fisheries have been under pressure in recent decades due to the technological advancement of fishing fleets. We are now able to catch more fish at a faster rate and for some fish populations, this has resulted in dire consequences. They are not able to repopulate at a fast enough rate to combat declining numbers.

International research projects allow us to identify which fish species need special attention and which we can eat within reason.  A movement has come about in recent years to help educate consumers and fishermen about which species should not or should be fished or consumed. With this knowledge, families and business are able to make sustainable choices when they buy their fish.  They can chose to only purchase sustainable fish species that have been sustainably caught.

So what are sustainable fish? They are fish that are caught in a way that the vitality of the species and the environment is not being harmed in the long term.

There are two main factors which determine whether a fishery is sustainable: how healthy the population is and the method of catch. Some fishing methods such as bottom trawling, are very destructive as they plough up the ocean floor, others are indiscriminate and catch more than just the fish species they are targeting.

With fishing being the second largest industry in the Maldives after tourism, it is easy to see why overfishing has started to become a problem here. Fishing has always been a part of Maldivian culture, like President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said: “Fishing is the lifeblood of our nation”, the problem only started to become bigger, as export and tourism started growing

The most unsustainable fish on the market in the Maldives today are Bluefin Tuna, Tropical prawns, Marlin, Sharks, Skates, Rays and Eels. To try to reduce the loss of species in the Maldives, certain laws surrounding catch and fishing techniques have been introduced to enable sustainable fishing. One is the pole and line method, which involves individuals catching tuna with a single line. Many young fishermen have taken up this technique as they have seen their stocks diminish and want to take sustainable action.  One of the most over fished species in the Maldives is Yellowfin Tuna, so by catching the tuna one-by-one, with a pole and line, the number of tuna caught is reduced and other marine life is not being harmed in the process.

The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) supports local communities in the Maldives. Due to the fisheries act of 1987, Maldivian tuna fisheries now follow the pole and line regulations. This fishery is hailed as the most successful MSC certified pole-and-line tuna fishery in the world. At Gili Lankanfushi, we also strive to eat only sustainably caught, sustainable species. We only accept Bonito Tuna, Dogtooth Tuna, White Tuna, Job Fish, Rainbow runner, Jack fish, Trevally, Mackerel, Emperor Fish, Wahoo, Red Snapper and Yellow Snapper from our local fishermen.

So how can you help? You can make a concerted effort to buy sustainable seafood which can be found on the Marine Stewardship Council certified products list, or simply ask for a certificate or proof of the fish you are buying’s origin. You can also spread the word about buying only sustainable fish to as many people as you can.

Just remember:  You have the right to ask your fish supplier or fish monger where your fish came from and how it was caught. If you are not completely satisfied with the answer, do not buy the fish!

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.

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

“Person of the Year”

“Person of the Year” of the Republic of Maldives

Maldives First PADI Course Director Mr.Hussain Rasheed Sendi was named “Person of the Year”  at Maldives Travel Awards People’s Edition by Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tourators (MATATO).

Sendi who is also the Managing Director of Dive Oceanus has been among the active dive industry professionals who have worked hard in training the youth as dive masters and instructors. His contribution to keep the marine industry safe is remarkable while his experience and knowledge to keep the diving industry going ahead by awareness programmes on species and environment have benefited the tourism industry and the nation.

The first event of Maldives Travel Awards People’s Edition has been held on 13th July at Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi in North Male’ Atoll.

Ten Individuals were honored with the title of “Person of the Year” at the special function. MATATO started the Nation’s first travel industry recognition brand in 2012 and succesfully deleivered Maldives Travel Award events in the country and a special edition in Dubai.

In 2017 MATATO has introduced 3 editions of Maldives Travel Awards, recognizing Guesthouses, People’s Edition and the Gala.

 

 

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!

tribe-peak

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.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1947.

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!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1935.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1935.

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

 

 

PADI Pro Member Benefit #4: Social Networks for PADI Pros

Social MediaIn addition to the PADI Pros’ Site and other PADI Member publications (online and print), you can access relevant content from our PADI Professional social media channels.

youtube

The PADI Pro YouTube channel not only provides a number of ‘how-to’ videos to help you make the most of PADI tools and training, it also features a range of promotional videos that you are able to share across your own networks to help boost new diver acquisition and sales.

In addition, the PADI Pros Facebook and PADI Pros Twitter pages will keep you up to date with global and regional news from your local PADI office and Regional Managers, as well as the latest sales offers, webinar sessions and other business, training and marketing tips.

scubaearth_ecardsFinally, ScubaEarth is PADI’s own social platform and has over 200,000 users with this number continuing to grow at a rapid pace. If your business is not taking advantage of this active community yet, head over to www.scubaearth.com and create a free account today. You can connect with your dive crew and customers, promote trips and promotions and showcase equipment brands in the Gear Locker, and view your certifications. Find out more about why you should join this expanding online dive community today.

Remember: renew your 2016 PADI Professional Membership before 31st December 2015 and you’ll be able take advantage of our special renewal offers. Find out more here.

Ready to renew? Click here to renew your membership online, or contact Customer Services by email (customerservices.emea@padi.com) or telephone (+44 (0)117 3007234)

How to use social Media most effectively

Social MediaEveryone has them, everyone knows them – but does everyone know how to use social Media most effectively.

I am now working as a PADI Regional Manager for several years and I saw many Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus – business pages of various diving schools. I also learned that today’s youth is represented on Instagram. So, if you only use Facebook – in the eyes of youth you are “Out”!

Oh dear… I thought … I’m already so old … But you have to be clearly aware that every target group uses different Medias – the diversity is the key to success

There are seven important points which need to be considered:

  • Existing social platforms
  • Which social Media do I use for my diving school
  • Target groups
  • How many times do I write a post
  • Who should write you posts
  • Insights
  • Blogging

Existing social Media platformssocial Media_2

The number of social media platforms is increasing, however, not every Platform is suitable for your business. Below you’ll find the most popular social media of our times.

– Facebook

– Twitter

– Google Plus

– YouTube Channel

– Instagram (only Mobile)

– TripAdvisor

– ScubaEarth

– Snapchat

Social Media_1Which social media do I use for my diving school?

From my experience I can say very clearly that a business without Facebook, Twitter, Youtube Channel and ScubaEarth – has clearly missed the today´s train. You have to be visible and find the customer where he is looking for you. This is called inbound marketing – means to target the potential customer, who is looking for you, will find you. That is why it is so important that your website is always up to date.It does not mean that each platform needs a separate entry. Various social media can be linked with each other. For example, Facebook can be linked to Twitter and vice versa. Then each entry on Facebook will be automatically published on Twitter. Then there is also Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a platform that manages all your social media. This means; you write an article only once and Hootsuite publishes all your messages on your registered social media. The only problem with this is that the contributions are not adapted to the uniqueness of the platform.Very important, especially for resort areas is TripAdvisor. Statistics show that diving schools, which have a TripAdvisor account and also several reviews, are much more frequently contacted by new customers.

Target groupsZielgruppe

Which target group I want to reach with my entries?

How effective are my messages?

Do I reach new customers with my photos?

These are all questions that you need to ask yourself, if you are planning a new post. A post should be interesting and exciting. The visitor of your page has to feel addressed. You want to get to your existing customers, to keep them in touch with you and show them what´s happening in your Dive Center after they leave it. After all you want these customers to come back. You also want to acquire new customers through your social platforms. Attracting and motivating the user is key. Facebook for example, it is not about how many “likes” you have, it is about how many of them are interacting with you on your page. The number of “likes”, “comments” and “shares” improves the chance that future “posts” appear in the news feeds of your “fans”. Non interaction risks that your future “posts” will disappear in the “fans” future news feeds. That is not a good thing…

ZeitaufwandHow many times do I write a post?

I know that the time is a problem – especially during high season. However, you cannot avoid to actively and effectively use your social media during high season. This is the time where you have to promote your business. You have to publish a post, for example, on Instagram and Facebook at least once a day, a blog post would be very good once a week, but by-monthly is also ok. What you want is consistency in your publications. Google, as well as your readers, will immediately notice irregularities. The great thing about social media and blogging is that you can schedule you publications, and therefore write your posts in advance.

Who should write your posts? 12188053_918898418191860_5675352402385959746_o

People are always asking me: “Who should be writing all of these articles?” Delegate your social media needs to a responsible staff member, give them a camera and your login details and tell them to go wild.

Encourage your customers to write on your wall. Animate and activate your clientele, by publishing on your wall they become advocates for your diving school. Motivate them with prices for the most liked article during the season for example.

What is the first thing you do when a customer is walking in your diving school…? Right – you say “hello” and then…? … Then you give him a Tablet in his hand and ask him to log on to their social media platform. Encourage them to like your Facebook business page immediately. It is also very important that you mention that they tag themselves in every picture where they appear.Before your satisfied customer leaves your Dive School, ask them to write you a review on Trip Advisor and / or on the Facebook Business page. It’s amazing how many new customers have been generated by TripAdvisor and Facebook reviews. People read these reviews before they decide where to go!

InsightsInsights

Each platform has a statistic. Use this well! You can read when your “fans” or “followers” read your posts, when they are active on the Internet, where they come from, how many of your visitors are men or women – and a lot more. You can find all of this within the insights. Try to find out what your most successful posts are and according to that you will write your future posts – and measure the success again.

BloggingBlog

A diving school with no blog – is like a VW without a catalyst…! It is absolutely a must have! It does not mean that you need to write a novel, even a small article is ok. But it is important that you blog frequently.It is also important that your blog has social media sharing buttons. This ensures that your blog can be shared by the readers. It is also important that your readers can subscribe to your newsletter or blog. With this they will get an email as soon as you published a new blog. Encourage your customers to share your new blog on their social media platforms.

What are the key points for a successful Blog?

– Update frequently so that the readers are coming back

– Link your Blog with Facebook / Twitter – for automatic feeds

– Use keywords to support you search engine optimization (SEO)

– Link your Blog with your website and vice versa

Your goal should be to keep your existing customers in the loop about what´s going on in your diving school since their experience – after all you want them to come back. By using the right keywords (SEO) to attract new customers, you have the highest chance that your blog will be read and shared by a wider audience. The more interesting your article is – the better. You will generate future clientele.

I hope that this article has opened your eyes a little wider and that you understand the importance of how to use social media most effectively.

If you would like to learn more about social media and Websites, it would make sense to apply for the PADI Business Academy, which is offered in various countries.

Using Instagram to Promote Your Dive Business

instagram-banner-webIf your social media activities are limited to Facebook, consider adding an Instagram account. The popular photo sharing app is easy to use and can help expose your business to a new demographic. Use Instagram to upload recent scuba class photos, your favorite underwater pics or marine life, and save time by automatically publishing your Instagram posts to your Facebook page.

Here are a few more good reasons to try Instagram:

  • Instagram users tend to be younger than the average Facebook user, they are also 25% more likely to earn a high income.
  • Instagram recently hit 300 million active monthly users – surpassing Twitter.
  • The best reason? Instagram will actually show your posts to all your followers (unlike Facebook).

Still not convinced? Check out this article.

Ready to get started?

  1. Sign up for an Instagram account and choose a username that represents your business and is easy for customers to remember, spell and search for.
  2. Add a profile photo (use your logo if possible) and a link to your website. Your profile image will appear as a small circle approx 150 x 150 pixels.
  3. Link your account to Facebook and/or other social networks.
  4. Each time you upload a photo, you’ll have the option to share to Facebook or whatever other social networks you’ve linked. You can also choose not to share on social and the photo will post only to Instagram.

Posting to Instagram

You can take a photo using your device’s camera, or use a picture already saved to your phone. If using a photo from your gallery, remember that Instagram sizes photos to perfect squares. Horizontal (landscape) photos be cropped.

Instagram best practices

Interact! Just like Facebook, you can receive notifications when customers interact with your account. For example, you can receive an alert when:

      • A user likes or comments on one of your photos.
      • A user @mentions you in a comment.
      • When your photo is posted to the Popular page.
      • When your account is tagged in another user’s photo

To receive notifications: click on the Settings wheel while viewing your profile. Scroll down and select Push Notification Settings. You can also edit your Share Settings from the options panel. To change the way you receive notifications from Instagram, exit the app hashtagsand access the Settings location. From there, find Instagram in the Notification Center and configure your app preferences.

Use tags  such as #photooftheday #tbt #scuba #scubadiving. There’s no need to overboard with hastags, two or three are ideal. Tag your best scuba diving images #PADI and you could be our featured photo of the day. See recent favorites at: paditv on Instagram.

Include a location in your post, it can increase engagement by 79%.

Grow your followers
Search hashtags, location and Photos of You to find others’ posts about your business. Attract new followers by liking and commenting on their images.

Add Videos
You can record and post video clips from the Instagram app. To record video, press the camera button and and choose the video recorder option on the right. You can film one long video (or splice several short clips together). To create multiple clips, lift your finger off the record button. If you aren’t happy with a previous clip, delete it by pressing the delete arrow.

Looking for Instagram Inspiration?

If you’ve created your Instagram account but aren’t sure what to post, start following some of these dive shop and dive industry accounts to get ideas.

PADI on InstagramDivers@Sea (Georgia)
Orvil Clark (Oahu)
Dive in Ecuador
Project AWARE
Force E (Florida)
Sidey the Shark (Maldives)
SD Expeditions (San Diego, CA)
PADI

Check out the Instagram for Business blog for examples of how brands use Instagram.

Want more help?
If you’re just starting out in the world of Instagram or want to improve on your existing successes, book onto a PADI Business Academy to learn more about harnessing the power of online marketing, or, speak to your PADI Regional Manager.