New dive centre opens in Gordon’s Bay
Indigo Scuba, a new, one-stop diving centre, has opened in Gordon’s Bay just outside Cape Town. Owned and run by experienced Cape Town scuba divers, Deon and Kate Jonker, Indigo Scuba offers courses of all levels, has a well-stocked dive shop and runs dive charters to the best dive sites of False Bay. They also have a dive club and arrange trips to the Red Sea.
The centre is open seven days a week and full and part-time classes are held weekly. Deon has been an instructor for over ten years and ensures that Indigo Scuba’s courses are professionally run, fun and stress free.
Indigo Scuba has a fully equipped 8m dive boat and well-maintained rental gear for divers without their own equipment. Dive charters to False Bay’s top dive sites run every Saturday and Sunday and more frequently during the holidays.
Cylinder Safety Rack (CSR)
This is a unique invention that considers both the safety and convenience aspect of diving. The Cylinder Safety Rack (CSR), a Dang-a-Lang product, has been designed to transport cylinders safely without causing damage to the interior of your vehicle, or to stack cylinders neatly in storage and to make it easier to carry them around to and from dive sites.
Made out of a durable and strong polyethylene material, the product has been moulded to take the shape of any cylindrical form. Furthermore, non-slip ridges and industrial strength safety webbing and fasteners have been added so that the cylinder will not slide out of the rack during transport. To stop the unit from sliding around in the vehicle, rubber stops have been placed on the bottom feet.
The CSR straps have been designed to carry the cylinder with the product, making the laborious task of carrying cylinders a breeze.
In order to facilitate storage, the CSR has interlocking clips on the sides with pins on the top to allow stacking while using minimal space.
The recommended retail for the CSR is R595, which makes it affordable for most divers and thus an investment worth considering if you own a dive cylinder. Dive schools and charters could also consider this as an option to store cylinders and to include it as an extra service when hiring cylinders to customers.
For more information, contact Simon van Helsdingen on 079-523-0416 or email
Scuba Adventures to sponsor Project Bull shark
As part of its commitment to conservation and marine education, Scuba Adventures Dive Charters has agreed to sponsor the ongoing Project Bull shark research programme at Ponta do Ouro.
Ryan Daly and Justin Blake, the two scientists involved in this project, will be based in Scuba Adventures Dive Camp and make use of its charter facilities and boats to collect data for their PhD dissertations on Bull sharks.
This study on Zambezi (Bull) sharks will attempt to fill in the huge gaps of knowledge that currently exist regarding the life and biology of these sharks in general.
Pinnacles was chosen as the main study site due to its accessibility and the relatively high numbers of sharks that frequent the reef in summer, along with the diving conditions that make it ideal to encounter and study these sharks using the least invasive methods possible. This research will try to ascertain the following: Why do these sharks frequent this reef every summer? Why does this reef attract and sustain relatively high numbers of these sharks? What do these sharks feed on when they are on the Pinnacles in summer and how do their diets change in winter? How much of their time is spent on the Pinnacles and where else do these sharks go within the area in summer? Where do these sharks go in winter? Lastly, and most importantly, which aspects of this ecosystem are critical to maintain the healthy population of sharks within the region?
New dive centre in Olivedale
50 Bar Scuba describe themselves as ‘new, bright and fresh’ and that’s the impression you get when walking into their dive centre. The retail centre is spacious and bright, stocking a wide range of gear and accessories, including Mares, Scubapro and Cressi. “Before we decided to change our hobby into a business, we had been in and out of dive shops both locally and abroad, and in an industry offering much the same, it surprised us that many were small and dark and regretfully showed little interest in us once they realised we were not buying courses. Using those experiences we tried to model ourselves to be anything but that. Everyone is welcome and we pride ourselves in offering personal attention, normally with coffee or tea on hand, for divers and soon-to-be divers, who stay and chat,” the owners say.
As a PADI dive centre, 50bar Scuba offers a full range of courses, but again with a touch of personality. “We teach diving, regardless of the course, to smaller groups where personal attention is guaranteed and no one is lost in the mix.” They also offer a full range of other diving essentials, from gear hire and service to an active dive club with regular travel to both local and international destinations. For more information, call 011-704-7274. 50bar Scuba can be found on the corner of President Fouche Drive and Olive Road in Olivedale.
Noise Pollution - Is it making fish deaf?
Marine Biology - Distance learning Course
Delve deeper from the comfort of your own homeThe intriguing science of the seas is now available from the comfort of your home computer. Delve Deeper – a new distance learning course from Newcastle University – enables students to explore the world of marine biology without having to commit to a full-time course.
The course was developed in response to demand from visitors to dive shows over the past few years, and is aimed at over 18-year-olds with an interest in marine biology, such as divers, sea-anglers and surfers. It will be delivered over the internet, but also includes a five-day residential field course at the Dove Marine Laboratory in Cullercoats, Northumberland. Lecturer Dr Jane Delany explained: “The course is designed for people who wish to know more about the biology and ecology of the intriguing marine organisms they have encountered or heard about. It will be a wonderful opportunity to delve deeper into this fascinating world.” The course will explore various marine environments: coastal seas, open ocean, tropical and polar seas, and will take students through the life cycles and behaviour of the organisms that inhabit them.
A further module will look at human impact on the oceans, and how we can all embrace a sustainable approach to its conservation. Each module will introduce current ideas and theories in marine biology, and key researchers who work in the field. “The residential module will be a chance to meet other students, experience ‘hands-on’ marine biology and also visit the beautiful Northumbrian coast,” added Dr Delany. “Practical exercises on the rocky shore will allow students to meet some of the species they have learned about.” Learning materials for the course will be delivered over the internet in a virtual learning environment.
Saving the sea's 'Gentle Giants'
By Matthew D. Potenski, SRI Shark BiologistLook out into the blue or green waters of the ocean, and know that whether they appear tempestuous or tranquil, a war is being perpetrated in their depths. This campaign has the dual distinction of being both one of the most one-sided conflicts ever to occur, and yet is virtually invisible to our everyday lives. The battle I speak of is the systematic eradication of sharks from our oceans by the practices of modern day fishing. Sharks seem to still inspire fear in most people despite almost three decades passing since Jaws was seen in our theaters. On average, only five or six people die from shark attacks every year, yet is estimated that at current rates of harvest, humans are killing just over 100 million sharks per year – that’s 100 000 000.
The war on sharks is primarily due to demand for their fins, which when boiled down form a stringy, gelatinous mass that is included in a bowl of soup. The fin adds no flavour, just texture to basic chicken or pork stock, and can sell for $100-$150 USD per bowl in Asian restaurants. Ordering and eating the soup is a status symbol – the equivalent of having a Ferrari in the driveway. I find it sad that we may effectively eliminate the top predators in the ocean simply to appease our sense of vanity. The most alarming issue is the fact that an ocean without sharks will be an ailing, dying ocean. Sharks are integral elements to a healthy balance in all ocean ecosystems and serve important regulatory roles in a diversity of habitats. The ultimate casualty of a war on sharks will be the oceans themselves.
This thought, grim, as it may be, is on my mind every morning when I wake up. I put on my suit and go to work. However, in my case, it’s not a three piece suit with a shirt and tie to match, but a suit of the bathing variety. I am a shark biologist and bear witness to the frontlines of the war on sharks. I have studied sharks for almost a decade now and I have seem many things, ranging from repulsive displays of sharks being bloodily butchered on a beach to the grace and beauty of a Whale shark suddenly appearing and taking my breath away. Good or bad, each experience steels my resolve to do all that is in my power to end the war on sharks, stop the senseless killing and aid the oceans to continue to support their cornucopia of life.
Whale sharks are one of nature’s true masterpieces. To me, experiencing their sheer size, mesmerising spots and gentle demeanour is captivating beyond comparison. They feed on microscopic plankton and have almost nothing in common with the stereotypical ‘maneater’ of human imagination. Yet even an animal as docile and unassuming as the Whale shark is a victim of the war on sharks. Whale sharks are still hunted in several parts of the world, and their massive fins command small fortunes in Asian fish markets. The largest fish in the ocean is reduced by man for his amusement to a garish display of materialism – served hot by the bowl. I believe the Whale shark is truly an animal to rally around – if we cannot save the largest fish in the sea, then what chance do lesser known fish, invertebrates and microscopic sea creatures stand?
To effectively defend Whale sharks from slaughter, their biology and behaviour needs to be known and incorporated into any conservation plan. This is a bit of a stumbling block, as our knowledge of them is highly incomplete, with even basic life history parameters remaining blank spaces on a fact sheet. The Shark Research Institute (SRI – www.sharks.org) based in the United States, has started a multinational study of Whale sharks to help fill in the gaps. Biologists use direct observation, placard identification tags, photographic spot-pattern identification, and satellite telemetry tag technology to determine Whale shark population size, structure and movement patterns. SRI played a part in a major Whale shark conservation victory – the placement of Whale sharks on Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) treaty. While this placement requires countries that harvest Whale sharks to provide documentation of their landings, an upgrade to Appendix I would ban all international trade in Whale shark parts.
In order to get the desired upgrade, hard data will need to be presented at CITES, including an estimate of population numbers for Whale sharks. Censusing Whale sharks is a daunting task but is not out of reach. SRI researchers have studied Whale shark distribution and abundance patterns in the Indian Ocean since 1993. They have placed visual ID tags on over 200 Whale sharks from areas off South Africa, Mozambique and the Seychelles. Aerial studies along the coast of South Africa from 1993 to 2001 documented an 83% decline in Whale sharks. Last year, SRI decided to rededicate efforts to the Indian Ocean, specifically a newly discovered Whale shark aggregation site at Mafia Island, Tanzania.
A network of Whale shark researchers in the Indian Ocean is being established to collaborate and compare data so that a better large scale picture for the species across the entire ocean basin can be seen. In addition to work in Tanzania, Whale shark researchers in the Red Sea, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, the Seychelles, Madagascar, the Maldives, India and Australia are joining forces to try and characterise the population and movements of the sharks.
How you can helpNow any diver with a camera can help research efforts by taking a photograph of the side of a Whale shark and uploading it to Ecocean at www.ecocean.com.
As a reward for uploading a Whale shark picture, Ecocean will keep you up to date on the status of your Whale shark via email. Once the image is spot mapped and added to the database, you will be informed whether you have sighted a shark already in the database or added a new individual. Thereafter, if there are additional sightings of the same Whale shark, you will again be notified by email of the date and location ‘your’ shark was seen again. You will also be aiding researchers as they have access to the database. Stopping the war on sharks will not be easy, but armed with additional knowledge and public support it can be accomplished. As long as sharks are being killed, I will be in the trenches and looking for reinforcements to aid in the battle for salvation of the most captivating animals I have been fortunate enough to encounter.
De Hoop Marine Protected Area launches new compliance and research boat
De Hoop MPA staff testing out their new patrol and research boat, the Carcharadon. One of the largest and oldest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in South Africa, De Hoop, recently launched its new and very first patrol and research boat – the Carcharadon.
The boat, a 7,6m semi-rigid inflatable with two 90hp four stroke engines, was kindly donated by WWF-SA, Honda Marine SA and Falcon Inflatables, who built and designed the boat. The boat has been specifically built to enable compliance control and biodiversity monitoring and research. It is also equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including radar. In addition to normal MPA duties, the vessel will also be available as a search and rescue craft assisting the NSRI.
Nestled in the rugged southern Cape coastline near Cape Agulhas, De Hoop MPA is known as an important sanctuary for numerous line fish species, apex predators and for breeding Southern right whales which religiously visit the 48km pristine coastline each year.
Although the MPA was declared in 1986, it is only in recent years that the MPA (part of the greater De Hoop Nature Reserve), has been receiving more focused management through capacity building and training initiatives that have been taking place to ensure that De Hoop does not become just another ‘Paper Park’. The management of the reserve, apart from being skilled in research, monitoring and compliance control, has training in advanced first aid and commercial diving and they are currently qualified with 40 nautical mile skippers’ licenses.
The team at De Hoop has had many successes in the management of the MPA in the past without a boat, but now with the new boat, a piece of equipment that is a must for any MPA, the team can only achieve more success stories in the areas of compliance, monitoring and research. It is hoped that these success stories will be shared with other marine conservation enthusiasts across the country.
Dive guides - discovering the truth
By Johan BoshoffAfter we published the article last year on dive guides there were a number of readers, instructors and Dive Masters who were not too happy. I still stand by every word that I wrote. I don’t think that the divers understand what is going on or they are too stubborn to adhere to the law. To shed some light on this problem Mark Bernardis from Sea Fever organised a meeting at Lalamanzi in Umkomaas with all the important people. James Seymour, General Manager of Tourism Information, Uveshnee Ragavan, Provincial Registrar, Captain Edmon Freemantle, SAPS Umkomaas and even the prosecutor were all present. What was the outcome? The law is in black and white – it is there and we can’t change it.
It doesn’t matter what you are. If you are a doctor, a Dive Master or a television presenter, if you accompany any person who is travelling within or visiting the country, and provide them with information, then you need to be a tour guide.
What exactly is a tour guide? According to the law, the term ‘tour guide’ refers to any person who, for a reward, whether it be monetary or otherwise, accompanies any person who travels within or visits the country, and who furnishes such person with information or comment with regard to any matter. So what is the difference between a tour guide and a Dive Master?
There is a huge difference. A Dive Master is an international qualification which has nothing to do with the tourism laws of South Africa. Furthermore, Dive Masters or instructors cannot act as a legal tour guide if they are not registered as such in this country.
Nowhere in any Dive Master or instructor manual will it teach you to become a tour guide. This is what the PADI website has to say on the subject; “Working closely with a PADI Instructor, in this programme a Dive Master will expand their dive knowledge and hone their skills to the professional level. PADI Dive Master training develops your leadership abilities, qualifying you to supervise dive activities and assist instructors with student divers. During the PADI Dive Master programme, you will learn dive leadership skills through both classroom and independent study. You complete water skills and stamina exercises, as well as training exercises that stretch your ability to organise and solve problems. You put this knowledge into action through an internship or series of practical training exercises”.
Tour guides and Dive Masters are therefore not the same thing.
The difference between a tour guide and an underwater guide?A tour guide is a person that meets the above prerequisites and that is registered as a tour guide in South Africa. An underwater guide on the other hand is any person that is a tour guide who then specialises in underwater tours. This means that to become an underwater guide you first have to be a registered tour guide.
How do you become a tour guide?There are hundreds of companies countrywide where you can get the necessary training to register as a Nature or a Culture guide.
How do you become an underwater guide?First you have to register as a tour guide at your local tourism office. The government is currently working on the new standards to specialise in the underwater environment. While they are looking at the new standards, the only person in the country that can train underwater guides is Andy Cobb.
What happens when the new standards come out?The aim is for the new standards and different training organisations to all be on the same page. This means that if you have registered as a tour guide and you have the Dive Master qualification, it will count as a credit if you want to register as an underwater guide.
What is a tour operator?The term ‘tour operator’ means any person who carries on the business of providing tours of any description, using their own or other operators approved vehicles, aircraft and other facilities. Put simply, if you have a dive charter or a booking agent and you use tour guides or persons that act like tour guides you need to register as a tour operator.
What is the government trying to achieve?The government wants to ensure that the industry upholds certain levels of professionalism and that there are no fly-by-night companies and tour guides. They want to make sure that all tour guides build tourism in the country, not break it down.
But after everyone has had their say, there will still be divers who ask how their international dive master qualification cannot legally qualify them as a dive guide in South Africa. That’s where the state prosecutor stood up and had the final say. “I have to prosecute any person that is breaking the law. If the law says that you have to be a tour guide I will prosecute you in court if you break that law. If something happens to one of your clients and you are not a tour guide, it will be very difficult for you to prove that you were not doing the job of a tour guide.”
The final word on the subject? Get your qualifications or face the consequences.
Taking the rebreather further
By Johan BoshoffAfter I wrote the article on rebreathers last year I was hooked. As I mentioned then, I had a desire to take this machine deeper and further – I had to see how it operated in the technical market.
I have been technical diving from the late 1990s, and one thing that I know is that it is expensive – too expensive to do technical dives every week. That is before even mentioning the amount of work that goes into the planning and then the mixing of the gas. As an example, for a 100m dive you need two bottom mixes that are filled with Trimix – I normally use two 15 litre cylinders. With the right mixes in my bottom cylinders it can cost between R600 and R900, and the on top of that, you need a travel mix to take you down to the bottom gas. The better option here is also to have Trimix, with the cylinder costing between R300 and R500. Furthermore, you then need two deco mixes which can also cost you between R300 and R500.
Then the next thing is the filling of all these cylinders. The filling of a group of diver’s cylinders can take a whole day, sometime longer. On every dive you will use almost all the mixes in your cylinders, and after every dive you have to refill them. The cost of just the gasses for one of these dives can range from between R1 000 to R2 000. Carrying all these cylinders down to the water before every dive and back up after the dive is a whole other story.
After I completed my recreational training on the rebreather I had to clock up enough hours to do the technical side. Once I had achieved this, I contacted Don Shirley and told him that I was ready. I started my training at Komati Springs (Badgat) where my eyes were truly opened. After that we visited Adventure Mania in Sodwana to do some serious diving with the rebreather in the ocean. Again, what I saw I could not believe. Even then I was still a little sceptical, so Don decided to take me to Boesmansgat where I could get my final answer.
Walking down that mountain for more than a hundred metres with my rebreather, I thought that I was going to have a heart attack. If that wasn’t bad enough I then had to go back to the top again to get my two back-up cylinders. What made these trips bearable was the fact that I knew that I would not have to do it again. On normal open circuit dives, before every dive you have to carry all your cylinders down, and after every dive, you need to carry them up again to get them refilled. With this machine, all that I had to do was fill two 2 litre cylinders. With the amount of gas that we already had in the two back-up cylinders at the bottom we could dive for a week.
The trick with a rebreather is to simply fill your two 2 litre cylinders with the necessary mixes. The back-up cylinders are only for an emergency. So, on every dive, you will only use the small cylinders and the back-ups will be kept for the next dive. You don’t have to fill all your cylinders after every dive and the best part of all is that a 100m dive will cost you less than R200. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter it you dive 5m or 300m, your gas consumption will always be the same. With this machine you can go where open circuit can’t and do the dives that you want to, not what your equipment allows you to.