Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thank you!

2007 has been Beqa Adventure Divers' most amazing year yet.

Despite the political upheavals and the discouraging -and unneccessary- travel advisory warnings and after a frightening dip in dive bookings in early January, the year started with a bang as we were named Fiji's Best Dive Operator, a wonderful surprise and a great honor. Like last year's glowing report by the Lonely Planet, the AON Awards are not based on often questionable self-promotion but are instead a true peer review by other local Tourism Operators.

On the Conservation front, we were finally able to expand the protected area of Shark Reef Marine Reserve by signing on yet another local community, the huge village of Deuba with their enormous fishing grounds. We've named the resulting 30-mile protected coastline the Fiji Shark Corridor and are very confident that it comprises most of the territories of our smaller Reef Sharks and Bull Sharks, but probably also those of our resident Tiger Sharks.

And, to my utter surprise and delight, we're likely to post our first ever small profit!
This despite having decided to secure our uncompromising quality standards by replacing our 3-year old engines and most of our dive gear, hiring a high-profile Dive Instructor and paying out a whopping 15 grand in bonuses to our loyal, incomparable BAD boys and girls.
Also, Village payments are likely to top $ 35,000.-, more than double last year's.

That all was only possible thanks to you, our loyal customers!
Along with scores of diving VIPs, more than 3,000 intrepid sharkaholics braved the doomsday scenarios and their very own personal Angst to pay a vist to our toothy friends and thus make a valuable contribution to Shark Conservation.
Thank you so much for that!

Many of you then took the time to post your experience on the web, often a funny and exhilarating read, let alone fabulous footage and photos.
Did I find a single complaint? Of course not!
Here's a small selection of what's out there, well worth having a peek at:

- Personal reports:
. Kevin Baldacchino
. Sam and Andy
. "Blue Legend"
. Tom Huck (......!)
. Darren Frost and Kerry Stephens
. "adiver69"
. Greg Davis
. Minna and Justin
. Michael Patrick O'Neill
. "Home or Away"
. Aidan and Danni
. Emma + Mark

- Group Reports:
. Shark Diving International
. Academic Treks

- Reviews:
. Dive Site Directory
. Dive the World

- Articles:
. Underwater Australasia
. XRay Magazine
. The Independent
. NZ Herald

- Research
. Brunnschweiler, Earle

- Images (just one of many many many....)
. Pterantula

I wish you a prosperous and adventure-filled 2008!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Suits for The Shark Dive Team

As I'm sure you can all imagine; the daily rigours of diving take their toll on scuba gear; none more so than wetsuits. You pull them, yank the zippers, stretch them and generally they get manhandled to a degree that they eventually give up. When one's foot passes through the knee pad, you definitely know it's time for replacement.

Having heard great reviews from guests about Pinnacle Aquatics line of suits, Andrew headed over to check them out whilst at DEMA earlier this year. It did not take long to be convinced about the suits and the order was placed for new dive team suits and new rental suits.

The crew are now decked out in the 5mm Merino Elastiprene and the rental fleet of suits is now made up of the 5/4mm Merino Fusion suits. If you are looking at reducing your travel bag weight; rest assured that a complete line of top-notch rental gear is available in a range of sizes. Maybe you are considering a Pinnacle suit but want to try one out; just ask one of the crew and they'll be more than happy to set you up with one next time you go diving with us.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Must Buy!

I did not realize it then - but that red cruise ship sinking in Antarctica on November 23 had previously been the Lindblad Explorer.

That's the ship where I first met Ron and Valerie Taylor 30 years ago.
There was Bengt Danielsson from the Kon Tiki, big Mike McDowell was the Cruise Director, Jeremiah Sullivan was in charge of diving and Ron would take down a fat american lady to dive on (!) the anchor chain, where she would spend a grand total of 20 minutes happily snapping away at passing fish. She had just bought herself a new underwater housing and was complaining that the strobe, a brand-new, state-of-the-art Oceanic 2001, wasn't working.
Ron, then at the very top of his game, smiled his ever patient, humble smile and asked: "Did you switch it on?"
Of course she hadn't.

I adored Ron. Of course, like everybody else, I fell in love with Valerie.
I did my first wreck dive on the Coolidge, barely escaped a tribal war in Kiriwina, bought a trolling lure on Tikopia, got stitched up by a sword seller in Suva and later harrassed by the gay manager of Fiji's Mana Island Resort.
A memorable trip. Still beats me why I ever went back to Fiji.

Valerie then cooked me the first of her delicious dinners in their lovely home in Sydney (the last one being when she and Brenda Adkison torched my kitchen in Pacific Harbour) and we've been best friends ever since. They are the most wonderful, humble, loving people ever.
Ron and Val have been involved in the Fiji Shark Project ever since we discussed its outline on the back deck of Pelagian during the 2002 Voyage of Discovery, one of many memorable expeditions we've since done together.
I owe them my first lessons in underwater photography ("get close") and videography ("aim and press the red button"), thousands of insights into shark behaviour ("tiger sharks are sweet") and our very best marketing endorsement.

But above all, I owe them my first introduction to the wonderful world of the Shark.
Their epic movie "Blue Water White Death" showcases some of the most dramatic, jaw-dropping shark footage ever filmed, never to be repeated again. It has been finally released on DVD after having been lost in CBS' vaults for several decennia.

A must buy!

Ron and Valerie will be with us in February for the running of the Bulls.