Marine Parks in Cyprus

Marine Parks in Cyprus

Marine Parks In Cyprus

Marine Parks In Cyprus Will Only Regenerate Fish Stocks if they are Enforced by the Authorities

Marine parks in Cyprus are becoming an integral part of the effort to increase fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea.  This is great news; fish stocks have been rapidly declining over the last two decades as the human demand for seafood steadily increases. Stocks are so worryingly low due to overfishing that there is a risk that fish populations will suffer a reduced ability to reproduce if no action is taken. Meta-analysis of 9 species of fish by Greek Scientists in 2014 will be  used as the key species indicative to fish populations as a whole. These species include cod, red mullet, anchovy and sardines.

 

The plan to tackle this problem started two years ago in 2013.  Funded by the Cyprus Dive Centre Association, the Department of Fisheries and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, four  large fishing vessels and a multitude of reef poles will be installed around the Cypriot coastline, creating a total of 5 Marine parks over 12 square kilometers. Three artificial reefs in the form of purposefully sunk wrecks have already taken place. The Liberty, Nemesis III and Kyrenia wrecks are all happy at the bottom of the sea already. Fish and other aquatic species are already colonizing them. They are  all beautiful dives and are all at Scuba Monkey’s doorstep, so why don’t you book onto the next trip and see for yourselves?

 

Fishing bans will be enforced by the fishery department and local law enforcement. This sounds good on paper, but myself and the majority of dive centers in cyprus believe that 12 square kilometers of protected waters will not be sufficient for fish stocks to regenerate. An island-wide fishing ban is hoped for. Fishermen will not be happy, but surely fish stocks for the future have to be considered. Is it not better to ban fishing completely for a while, allowing fish to repopulate this corner of the Mediterranean that we call home? I think so. Whether the Cypriot fisheries department will take further action is hoped for.

 

Another problem of marine parks is the enforcement side. Will local law enforcement actually actively penalize those found fishing? Will these penalties be harsh enough to successfully deter fishermen? I live in Agias Triada,  my apartment is on the coast and I am inside the supposed marine park.  Every morning I have coffee on my balcony and every morning I see fishermen on the rocks and fishing boats on the water. The marine police have an office less than a nautical mile away.  I have never seen a police boat enforcing the fishing ban. This is worrying to say the least.

 

Marine parks only work if they are enforced. On one hand the positive side is that marine parks are being set out.  This means the Cypriots are making a move in the right direction. It marks a much needed paradigm shift in at least the minds of the local people. With a little brute force and a lot of cash penalties the re-population of fish stocks is an achievable goal. This would benefit not only the aquatic life,  but the nation’s economy too.  Cyprus offers one of the longest diving seasons of Europe.  Our seas never drop below 16 degrees Celsius and the visibility is fantastic due to the lack of plankton in the Med. The Cyprus Tourism organisation’s dream of creating a diving destination of excellence would be more achievable if there was more to see under the surface.  I am dubious but hopeful that over time the 5 marine parks will improve our dive sites and give us more to see.  The tourists, divers and fish are all crossing their fingers and fins in the hope that the marine parks will be policed and protected.

Marine Parks in Cyprus

One of the Signs Placed on the Coastline clearly Displays the Marine Parks in Cyprus. Now Fishermen Need to Respect Them and Police Need to Enforce Them

 

 

Spotting Sea Turtles in Cyprus

Sea Turtles in Cyprus

 

Turtles

Turtles are gorgeous creatures; large yet graceful, slow yet fast . Photo Credit: Royce Hatch

In this month of September we Scuba Monkeys have been enjoying the beautiful sightings of turtles on the majority of our dives. They are gorgeous creatures; large yet graceful, slow yet fast when they want to be. Turtles in the Mediterranean are slightly different to those found in the Atlantic. Their populations were established quite recently in the big scheme of things – just after the last glacial period – and the somewhat closed system of the Med means that they have evolved with small differences compared to other turtles in other oceans.

 

So why do we see so many in the month of September? Quite simply, it is because it is nesting season and they are all making their way to their favorite nesting areas. I wanted to share my passion for turtles in this week’s blog. I hope you love them as much as i do!

 

 

 

Turtles

Nesting distribution of green turtles in the Mediterranean.

The two most common species found in the Mediterranean Sea are the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Both species may be found in the Mediterranean, but each choose to nest in different regions.  Loggerhead Turtles nest on beaches all over the Mediterranean Basin, but the Green turtle is much more selective. 99% of them nest in Turkey and Cyprus. This narrow geographical region has been experiencing higher and higher levels of tourism over the last 20 years. Tourism is  continually increasing from year to year, posing higher and higher threats to their precious nesting beaches.

 

The green turtle is on the critically endangered list according to the International World Conservation Union and their protection is urgent. So what are the largest threats to the green turtle? What can we do to help?

 

 

Threats To Green Turtles:

 

Low hatch rate:

Green turtles take 30 years to reach maturity. 30 years before they are ready to breed. Only females will come ashore to lay eggs, generally in the area where they were born. They nest several times during a nesting season every 2-4 years over the course of their lifetime. Egg incubation, emergence of eggs and the descent of hatchlings to the sea are all declining, meaning that less and less turtles reach breeding age. This is a big problem.

 

Tourism:

The impact of tourism is astounding. It affects so many areas of the green turtle’s’ life cycle that it is hardly surprising that their numbers are declining so dramatically.

  • Turtles

    Stationary lights confuse turtles

    Stationary lights confuse hatchlings, mistaking them for the moon they often miss the water and head towards a streetlight instead.

 

 

 

 

  • Moving Lights: Scare females away
  • Sunbeds: These form physical barriers on the beach that block hatchlings from being able to successfully navigate to the sea.
  • Nest collapse: People walk over the nest chambers causing them to collapse.
  • Turtles

    Watersports Scare turtles

    Watersports: Collisions are often fatal, and at the very least scare turtles away from the beaches they are  desperately heading for

 

 

 

  • Turtles

    Tourists driving on turtle beaches are the surest way to collapse any nests there

    Driving on beaches: Quad bikes and buggies are everywhere, they are a “must have’ for most tourists in Cyprus and the off road thrill  is encouraged. Tourists driving on turtle beaches are the surest way to collapse any nests there,  and at the very least terrify any females wishing to lay eggs there.

 

 

 

 

Pollution

Turtles

Don’t make turtles eat your rubbish – Put it in the bin!

The Mediterranean Sea is mostly a closed one. Pollutants rapidly build up and affect the ecosystem. The list of domestic waste is seemingly endless. 1-3 tonnes of waste per mile of coastline was estimated after a French beach cleanup in 1997. Cyprus is no different. the amount of waste that I observe in the oceans is increasing at an alarming rate. Plastic bags resemble jellyfish – the juvenile turtles favorite snack – and these are lethal for them to ingest. Be AWARE and make every dive a “Dive Against Debris” by picking up rubbish while you dive. The turtles with thank you!

 

 

 

 

Natural Habitat Changes

Turtles

Turtles feel the effects of beach erosion

The world’s shape and form is continuously evolving. Coastlines change; the slope and angle of beaches are always in a state of transition. This is natural in the big scheme of things and there is little to do. Global warming however has an interesting affect on green turtles. As reptiles, they rely on the temperature of the sand in which the eggs incubate to determine the gender of the hatchling in a nest. Typically, the eggs in the lower, cooler, part of the nest will become males, while the eggs in the upper, warmer, part of the nest will become females. With increasing nest temperatures, scientists predict that there will be more female than male hatchlings, creating a significant threat to genetic diversity

 

 

 

Fishing:

Turtles

Green turtles often get caught in nets and then drown as they are unable to get to the surface to breathe

Bycatch is when one species is caught by a fisherman unintentionally. Green turtles often get caught in nets and then drown as they are unable to get to the surface to breathe. Fishery laws state that any turtle that is found alive in a net should be returned to the sea. An average of 500 turtles are caught in nets in  Turkey and Cyprus alone. 90% are alive when they are caught….but i know from first hand experience that most Cypriot  fisherman hate turtles, they “destroy their precious nets” and so they are in the habit of killing them before throwing them overboard. It is heartbreaking. It is totally unnecessary. It makes me emotional just to write this.  

500 turtles as bycatch is a huge number. Studies have shown that 339-369 green turtles nest every year in Cyprus. The lowest number of nests recorded was 135 and the highest was 461 (Margaritoulis et al., 2003).It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.Sea turtle hatchlings eat a variety of prey including things like molluscs and crustaceans, hydrozoans, sargassum seaweed, jellyfish, and fish eggs. Unfortunately, hatchlings also mistake garbage and objects like tar balls as food and ingest them.

 

Turtles: Nesting beaches in Cyprus

 

  1. Lara Bay
  2. Toxefra Bay
  3. Agia Napa (until 1977) Tourism made nesting impossible
  4. Karpaz Peninsula

 

What can you do to help?

The Society of Protection of Turtles (SPOT) in North Cyprus is a non-profit organisation. They have been dedicated to the protection of sea turtles in Cyprus and Turkey since 1992. They help sea turtle populations increase their numbers through education, protection and hands on help from staff and volunteers.

 

Turtles

SPOT staff and volunteers help increase the number of surviving adults for the future

 

Left to their own devices, only 1 sea turtle hatchling out of a 1000 eggs will actually make it from their nest to the sea, and then they need 30 years to get to breeding age themselves. SPOT staff and volunteers help increase the number of surviving adults for the future in a number of ways:

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Nest Screening: Nests will be relocated to a safer area if they are at risk from beach erosion
  2. Monitoring nests at night
  3. Measuring turtles,  geo-tagging and data trackers attached to some
  4. Nest temperature monitoring
  5. Nests protected from predators (dogs etc:)
  6. Educating tourists and locals
  7. Working with the fisheries departments
  8. Hatchling release: This is a big public event. Participants can name and release a single hatchling into the world to help it on its way.

 

It is hoped that these measures will protect future numbers of sea turtles in Cyprus. You can visit the center yourself and join in, every hand and  mind that is touched will benefit this species’ survival. Every turtle makes our sea richer, every hatchling released stands a better chance to return to the same beach to lay its own eggs one day. You never know – if you take your child to the SPOT center this holiday, the turtle they release could be the turtle that lays its eggs for your grandchildren to release in 30 years time.

 

Wouldn’t that be special?

 

Underwater Photography: Tips and Tricks

Underwater Photography: Tips and Tricks

 

Underwater photography

The PADI Underwater Photography Course is for you if you are addicted to scuba and addicted to taking photographs.

Scuba diving is beautiful and so it is only natural to want to capture this beauty with a camera. Underwater photography is similar to photography on land – but there are some differences. You need to know and understand these differences in order to get the most out of taking photographs beneath the waves. The PADI Underwater Photography Course is for you if you are addicted to scuba and addicted to taking photographs.

Before you get started however, make sure that your scuba diving skills are up to scratch. Buoyancy control is paramount to being able to take photos safely underwater. Dont worry if they are not however – the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Speciality Course will take care of everything and you photos will be that much sharper because of it.

 

 

 

Important Underwater Photography Facts

 

Underwater Photography

Underwater Photography: How depth determines colour

Water absorbs light in the order of the spectrum. Red is the first to go, then orange, yellow, green and so on. Scuba divers can add a strobe (external flash) to counteract this effect.

Water also reduces contrast and sharpness. Photos should be taken within a meter of the subject (the closer the better)

Sunlight steals colour: Always make sure you have the sun behind you.

 

 


 

Underwater Photography Definitions

 

  • Strobe or flash: A source of full spectrum light (essential for UW Photographs)
  • Internal Flash: The flash that come with most cameras. Dont be surprised if you experience “backscatter” on most of your shots.
  • Underwater Housing: This keeps your camera dry and usable underwater
  • O-ring – a rubber ring that creates a waterproof seal.
  • Wide angle: Gives you a large field of vision
  • Ambient Light: The available surrounding light. This diminishes the deeper you go
  • Backscatter:  specks, spots or blotches that appear in your underwater photos due to light from your flash reflecting off particles, sand or plankton in the water.This looks like dust on the lense, but it’s not, it is just particles in the water. Use a strobe instead.
  • White Balance:  A setting on cameras telling the camera’s processor how to interpret the pixel values it records when taking a photograph.

     

    Underwater Photography

    Read your Camera’s Manual

    Advice for first time Underwater Photographers

  • Use a flash for anything further than 1 meter. Set it to forced flash and not on the default auto flash setting. This will add colour to your shots, otherwise they will all look a little too blue.
  • Use Macro mode for anything close up (2-60cm) , or your shots will be mostly out of focus.
  • Use auto-white balance when using an internal flash, this again reduces the blue tinge from your images. If you are not using the flash then learn the manual white balance settings for your particular make of camera. Read Your manual!
  • Try to fill the frame: get as close as you can at eye level with your subject.  The closer you are, the better your color, contrast and sharpness will be

 

  • Try using the half focus option to cut down focusing problems. Simply press the shutter button half way, allowing the camera to focus before pressing it fully to take your shot.

 

Until you have more practice concentrate on 2 types of underwater shot:

 

  1. Close-up shots in macro mode, forced flash, auto-white balance, spot-focus, with the subject no more than 5-6 centimeters  away
  2. Scenic shots a couple of meters away, macro mode off, flash off, custom white balance in shallow, sunny water


Need more tips and tricks?


Sign up today for your PADI Underwater Photography Course!

Scuba Diver Training: Your Official PADI Identification Photograph

Scuba Diver Training: Your Official PADI Identification Photograph

Scuba Diver Training

P.I.C = Your Positive Identification Card Displays Your Official PADI Photo

Scuba diver training is fun. You learn new skills that gives you access to 70% of this planet that was previously inaccessible to you. Its challenging and rewarding, but in order to become a certified diver you have to pose for your official PADI identification photograph for your PIC (positive identification card).

Why am I writing about taking a photograph I hear you ask? It’s no big deal – Facebook and Instagram are full of them. Why is a diving photograph so different?

Thats what i thought. At least, that is what I thought before I became a PADI instructor.

At the end of your scuba diver training, after all the knowledge has been absorbed, the skills mastered and the open water dives are complete – we get to fill in your PIC online information. A photograph is mandatory and the application is sent to PADI directly for processing. I ask guests to stand in front of a white wall and take a head and shoulders shot.  Perhaps it is the era that has evolved due to social media such as Facebook – but this process takes longer and longer.

Why?

Because each guest wants the photo taken again and again.

Scuba Diver Training

Countless guests wants their photo taken again and again.

“Please Please take another one!”

“My hair looks like I’ve been electrocuted!”

“My tan is uneven!

These are but a few pleadings that I hear after scuba diver training is complete – on certification days. I oblige everyone – I edit out small blemishes with Photoshop, I want my students to be happy.

Is this necessary? Maybe not, but the customer is always right.

Scuba diving training  is fun. It is a sport. It is an activity where we are outside most of the

time, either in the sun or underwater with a mask attached to our faces. The mask strap sits just above the ears and goes round the head. The salt water combined with this strap moves our hair around and it may even get tangled a few times. It may also leave a tan line on your forehead and under your nose ( i have a permanent mask mark)! It makes us look like a scuba diver. It makes us look like we are athletic people who do crazy fun activities and not a perfect model for an Hawaiian Tropic sun lotion advert.

 

Scuba Diver Training

Why should our identification not show this joy as well as hair that is a little out of place?

After our scuba diver training we are thrilled to have completed our course. Why should our identification not show this joy as well as hair that is a little out of place? “Diving hair” is not perfect. “diving hair” looks a bit out of disheveled. “Diving hair” is awesome. Wear it with pride! Smile your biggest smile and let the joy of scuba diving shine through your eyes and into the camera lens. It shows how much fun you have had. It shows your success. It shows you in your evolved form as a PADI Scuba Diver!!

 

 

 

Scuba Diver Training

Your P.I.C Photo should show the fun of Scuba Diver Training. It is not a selfie!

Why I love the new PADI Open Water Course

Why I love the new PADI Open Water Course

 

I have been a PADI instructor for 10 years now. I have taught countless PADI Open Water courses and have helped facilitate the transition of  hundreds of land dwellers into ocean enthusiasts. I have watched/listened/ danced to the open water video more times than I care to remember, and I know every line of the script. It’s a great course, but as with anything, change is inevitable and the new PADI Open Water Course is absolutely amazing. It has taken a tried and true syllabus to a whole new level…expanding some topics and eliminating others.

 

16641792742_a0be878773_oSo what’s new?

 

Lots!

 

New Open Water Video

The new course has a brand new video. Gordo (the rather large gentlemen in the Hawaiian shirt and ridiculous frog mask) has disappeared. No longer do we have to cringe at his attempt at humor when he walks off the peer, flopping into the ocean.  I have to be honest – I don’t miss him!

 

What else do I love about the new video? The narrators are more interesting.  The underwater footage is brighter, clearer and sharper. I observe my students as they watch and it definitely holds their attention more than the last one . Their increased thirst for the relayed information is evident in their eyes. They “lean in” during countless particularly interesting sections,  not wanting to miss a word. That is lovely to see, and it makes the instructor’s job so much easier

and way more fun.

 

New Confined Water Skills and Sequence.

 

Confined water training is the first step for most students to the underwater world. As with the old course, it eases students into all the fundamentals of diving gently. Skills progress fluidly from one to another and students respond extremely well, mastering each skill .

So whats new?

PADI Open Water Course = New Skills:

 

Loose cylinder Band

I have lost count of how many times I have seen and assisted a diver who has encountered a cylinder band that has become loose, threatening to detach itself from the BCD. This new skill has been introduced to give students the knowledge and experience to deal with such a problem should they ever encounter it.

I adore this skill, it is practical and necessary and it is a very welcome addition to the PADI Open Water course.

Air Management

PADI Open Water Course

The New PADI Open Water Course Enforces Student Air Monitoring

The old course encouraged students to monitor their air gauge frequently. In my experience however, I found that most students waited for the instructor to prompt them during their training, not making it a habit. The new Open Water course encourages students to keep monitoring air supply by informing them that you, the instructor, would be asking them to make an estimated “guess” at any time. Students have to signal their air supply within 20 bar in order reach this skill’s  performance requirement.

 

At first, I was doubtful of this skill. As an instructor with ten years experience, I expected students to have the same instructor dependance as on the old course.  I am happy to say that I was totally wrong. The simple fact that students are expecting this test at any time make them check their air constantly. All students that I have taught so far have “guessed” their air supply within the 20 bar requirement – many are spot on, which is amazingly wonderful.

 

Trim Check

PADI Open Water Course

The Trim Check Ensures Optimal Positioning for Scuba Diving

The old course contained a weight check, as does the new one. This ensures that the student has the correct weight for their dive and keeps them comfortably in control throughout their training. The new PADI Open Water Course goes one step further. The Trim Check not only ensures that the diver is sufficiently weighted , but also checks that the weight is distributed in the optimal location on their bodies. This is not only more comfortable, but it allows them to quickly adapt to the ideal horizontal position in the water. Great.

 

Mini Dive

The sequencing of the skills in confined water have shifted a little..Confined Water Dive 5 now incorporates a “mini dive” into the final training session. This simulated dive focuses on students planning and executing their own dive in confined water. Students have to plan their dive, from entry and exit techniques, weight/trim checks, decent and protecting the “sensitive” pool bottom.  Students are also given up to three simulated “problems” during this mini dive, to see how they respond. I love this addition because it better prepares the divers in training for their upcoming open water dives. Excellent!

 

PADI Skill Practice Slate

Student slate PADI open water

The PADI Skill Practice Slate is a Great Tool

This is my absolute favorite new addition to the PADI Open Water Course. Students are given a slate with each skill that will be taught and assessed in the pool. Next to each skill is a “happy face” or “worried face” box. Students are encouraged to check either emoticon to inform the instructor of how comfortable they are with each skill. I love it because when asked face to face, students are often embarrassed to say that they would like to spend a little more time with a skill that they have found a little challenging. This informal checklist gives them the freedom to tell you, the instructor, how they feel, free from embarrassment. This slate can then be photocopied and added to their student record file for future reference.

 

 

 

 

PADI Open water Training Dives

 

PADI Open Water Course

The 4 open water training dives puts into practice the skills learnt in the swimming pool

The 4 open water training dives, as before, puts into practice the skills learnt in the swimming pool. During the first open water dive, the old course was skill free. This allowed students to experience the underwater world without assessment. The new PADI Open Water Course now has skills on the first dive. Not many, but a few. I like this because we are, after all, in training aren’t we? The new course has skills on the first three open water dives, and the biggest change is found in Open Water Dive Four. This dive is, like in the pool, focuses on getting the student to plan and execute a dive themselves within their buddy pairs. Students feel excited to be able to do this. I love this addition because I feel that it gives the student confidence that they are ready to become a certified diver. It better prepares them to be “released into the wild” – and they are more relaxed and comfortable to then rent some equipment and go for a dive without a dive professional. It a truly welcome addition. .

 

I love the new PADI Open Water Course. The changes are evidence of PADI’s dedication to diver training. PADI are constantly asking questions via student questionnaires and responses are recorded and analyzed. Instructor feedback at PADI member forums and the three  head offices around the world are always open to hearing from their professional members. The new course is evidence of their dedication. The changes are the result of years of feedback from students, divers and professionals.

 

It just goes to show why 80% of the world’s divers are PADI trained. I love being a part of this huge, happy family – don’t you? 🙂

Why don’t you sign up for the next PADI Open Water Course with Scuba Monkey?

Click here!!

What are Lionfish Doing in Cyprus?

What are Lionfish Doing in Cyprus?

 

Lionfish

Lionfish have distinctive brown or maroon, and white stripes or bands covering the head and body

 

Scientific name: Pterois volitans/miles

 

Common name: lionfish

 

 

 

 

Last week Scuba Monkey finally encountered the lionfish which have been seen at the Cliffs dive site at Konnos point. The lionfish (also known as the turkeyfish, tigerfish, dragonfish, scorpionfish, and butterfly cod) is a poisonous spikey fish They are beautiful creatures, but they are new to the area so I thought I would explore why they have decided to visit our Cypriot coastlines. Reports from every oceanography paper that I have read surprised me. They report that the lionfish are invading Mediterranean waters,  and are highly detrimental to existing ecosystems.

lionfish

Three lionfish have made their home at the CLIFFS DIVE SITE

Why?

Why indeed.

Lionfish

The chances of accidental or deliberate release of lionfish from aquariums are quite high

There are two reasons for this rather beautiful, albeit unwelcome guest in Cyprus. Lionfish are native to the Red Sea, and one reason that they could be making their way into the Mediterranean is the connection of these two seas via the Suez Canal. Another reason is the fact that the Mediterranean sea has a high number of major cities along its coastline. Aquarium keeping is common practice in developed countries and therefore the chances of accidental or deliberate release of lionfish are quite high. I know for a fact that my local vet has a fish tank, and it used to home four lionfish. It now has only one, but the receptionist either won’t tell me what happened to them or doesn’t know. Either way – I find it interesting that there are three lionfish who seem quite good friends at the Cliffs dive site (they are always in the same little cave at around 15 meters)!

 

The risk of a  lionfish infestation in the Mediterranean is a hard one to gauge however, as there is lack of information in relation to  Mediterranean sea conditions. Hydrodynamics, ocean climate and bathymetry (the underwater equivalent of topography or depth data of the sea bed) information is hugely lacking compared to the the knowledge we have of other marine regions like the Atlantic ocean. Studies are being carried out as we speak as there are more and more sightings of lionfish in Mediterranean waters every day.

 

But Hang on a minute.  I LOVE lionfish! Their unmistakable red and white stripes, their peacock like  fins and large eyes make them one of the most beautiful fish I have encountered. Why then, do all the studies call their presence in the Mediterranean an “invasion”?

 

Lionfish predator

Groupers are one of the lionfish’s natural predators

Well, as the lionfish are non native to the region they have few natural predators.  They themselves eat huge amounts of molluscs,small fish and invertebrates.  The lionfish catches it’s prey by hiding in a crevice in the rock or coral and then ambushing it as it swims past.The lionfish then corners it’s prey with it’s large fins before swallowing it whole.The lionfish is prey to few predators due to the large size of the lionfish and the fact that the appearance of the lionfish is intimidating to other animals. The spikes that protrude from the body of the lionfish contain venom that lionfish uses to defend itself if it is being pursued.Sharks are among some of their natural predators…. But shark populations are plummeting in the Med just as they are in all oceanic regions of the world. The Cyprus fisheries department have reported however that groupers are fast filling the gap in the food chain and are believed to feed on lionfish.

Phew!

Thats a relief!

This means that we can enjoy these beautiful creatures guilt free!! Wherever they came from, be it  a fish tank or from the Red Sea, why don’t you come and have a look at these gorgeous aquatic animals on our next Cliffs Dive? You wont regret it!

 

5 Reasons Why Scuba Diving is Good for Your Health.

5 Reasons Why Scuba Diving is Good for Your Health.

Scuba Diving and health

Scuba divers can feel and see the health benefits of going underwater

The reasons why we scuba dive are personal. We each want something different out of that blue stuff and we become certified divers in order to pursue this pleasure. We all know it’s fun, but is diving healthy? Does it improve our well-being? Does it improve our state of mind?

You bet it does!

Lets take a closer look at all the health benefits of scuba diving shall we?

 

 Scuba Diving Health Benefit # 1: Controlled Breathing

 

My yoga guru and life long dive buddy Michelle Finaly doing yoga in her scuba diving boots!

Scuba Diving brings about a tranquil state of mind that every yoga instructor knows too well

We are taught from day one to breathe slowly and deeply while scuba diving. It makes the air in our tanks last longer resulting in longer dive times. Breathing slowly and deeply not only protects our lungs but health-wise it is great for our whole system. It increases lung capacity, strengthens the respiratory system, balances the nervous system and drains mucus. Calm, slow breathing relaxes us too – it brings about a tranquil state of mind that every yoga instructor knows too well. Calm breathing is proven to promote a positive attitude and can even prevent depression. That must be the reason why every instructor i have ever met is bursting with infectious energy!

Deep breathing also increases our oxygen intake and this is great! According to world-renowned doctor and naturopath Paul Pitchford, of all nutrients, oxygen is the most essential and necessary for all normal physiological functions. Increased oxygen levels in the body raises energy levels, stimulates circulation, benefits heart and lung function and improves mental capacities. When there is sufficient oxygen in the body the need for intoxicants and stimulants diminishes.

Great news fellow divers!

 

Scuba Diving Health Benefit # 2: Physical fitness

 

Scuba diving is healthy

Any form of exercise improves cardiovascular performance

Diving is great exercise. The diving itself maintains general fitness and stamina because exercising in the water is extremely effective due to the natural resistance of water against our bodies when we move through it. Each flip of the fin is building your leg muscles, and yet it feels almost effortless. This is why aqua-aerobics is so great – and diving is way more fun! It has been scientifically proven that any form of exercise improves cardiovascular performance. This translates into a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and circulatory problems in general.

Pre-dive preparation and post-dive habits are also extremely good for us. Lifting tanks, lifting weight belts and walking in equipment are all great ways of toning your muscles. Divers look lean – and they always have a dazzling smile on their faces! Now we know why.

 

Scuba Diving Health Benefit # 3: Traveling to warmer climates

 

Scuba Diving is Healthy

Dive travel is great – and sunshine gives us a healthy dose of vitamin D

Diving is much more fun when it’s warm. I am what we call a W.I.M.P – a warm, intelligent, marine person! Dive travel is great – and sunshine gives us a healthy dose of vitamin D (always use sunscreen to avoid sunburn though). Vitamin D makes us smile. Traveling makes us richer too – meeting new people and diving in new places is highly rewarding and this feel good factor is very good for our overall health. Travelling and holidaying in general, means simply taking a break from work and the usual strains of life which reduces stress. Dive travel abroad also means you are likely to meet fun people from all over the world with whom you have a common interest. Have you ever noticed how people tend to be happier and friendlier in a warm climate?

 

Scuba Diving Health Benefit # 4. Interacting with marine life

 

Scuba diving is healthy

Exposure to blue light has a calming, soothing effect and normalizes high blood pressure

The pure pleasure, wonder and awe of interacting with and being up close to amazing marine creatures produces a feeling of increased well-being. This feeling is heightened when we have an encounter with a species we feel a certain attraction to, or particular respect for, such as sharks or sea turtles. This produces within our nervous systems similar positive feelings as when we lavish affection on our cherished pets.
And what about the effects of watching the different rainbow colours of reef fish? It has been proven that colour has an effect on humans too. When we are exposed to a particular colour it has a profound affect on our moods and emotions. It has been found that looking at bright intense colours, like those of fish, generally has an uplifting effect. It has also been found that exposure to blue light has a calming, soothing effect and normalises high blood pressure. The colour red on the light spectrum is filtered out by water within a few metres of depth producing a calming, mainly blue colour in the underwater environment.

 

Scuba Diving Health Benefit # 5: The feel good factor

 

Scuba Diving is healthy

Scuba diving delivers a high dose of the feel good factor

The feel good factor is the joy you feel when you are on your way to a new dive site; full of anticipation for our what you are about to see and experience. Smiling faces mirror what you yourself feel and that feeling of togetherness is a very special feeling. Divers may arrive at the dive center one by one, but as soon as they pile into the dive truck they become a unit. It is a beautiful thing.

 

 

So there you have it: 5 reasons why scuba diving can be exhilarating, awe-inspiring, relaxing, calming, rejuvenating, fun and above all good for you! Your time spent underwater can be so fascinating that you become absorbed by the world around you, you relax and your worries just melt away. Scuba diving, when done right, really can be good for you!

Why I love being a PADI instructor.

Why I love being a PADI instructor.

PADI Instructor

A PADI Instructor Changes Lives and it is Utterly Addictive

I have been a PADI instructor for a decade as of 2015. Why do I love it? Why can I not even imagine to do anything else? What is so addictive about teaching people how to blow bubbles anyway?

 

Diving has always been a way of life for me; my father did it and lived it, and now so do I. I live on the beautiful island of Cyprus. I have taught here for the last ten years in the summer months and traveled to far distant lands in the winters to teach there too. I love everything about scuba diving; the way of life, the people i meet, the lives i change, the aquatic realm.  You can encounter most of these things as a recreational diver – so what changes when you take your passion turn it into a career? You become a pivotal point in countless people’s lives – that’s what.

 

You change lives. That is what makes being a PADI instructor so utterly addictive – for me anyhow.

 

 

 

PADI Instructor shows a lucky family a turtle

Discover Scuba Diving Program Participants are in Awe of the Underwater world

The majority of Scuba Monkey guests are absolute beginners. They have never even thought about diving before and suddenly they are totally immersed into another world. They are breathing underwater for the very first time and you are there to witness their wonder. They are taking part in the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Program and their lives will never be the same again. I love being a PADI instructor because I get to be someones first – time and time again, day after day – and that is a very , very  special thing. I will be remembered by each cautious Scuba Monkey as they place their face past the surface of the water, past what has been a barrier to them up until this moment. I watch their eyes as they start to relax. I watch their eyes as their brain accepts the new experience of being able to breathe underwater. I love watching this transformation. It is seductive and I will never have enough. As I gradually guide them through each step of the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Program I see them go from a surface dweller to an Ocean Explorer. Each kick of each  fin propels them further and further down the big blue rabbit hole that us seasoned divers know too well. Nervous breathing and big eyes are replaced by a tranquil thirst for more. By the time the dive is over they are bursting with excitement. Their joy is everywhere. It is in their smiles. It is in their desperation when they ask “when can we go again”? I always smile and reassure them – “as soon as you want!”.

 

PADI instructor

I Love Being a PADI instructor – Just look how amazed this new diver is!

I love being a PADI instructor for many other reasons. Perhaps I will share them with you in another blog….but for now – this is why I love teaching SCUBA!

 

Female voice: Diving Divas (Part 2)

In part one of this diving divas piece we explored some misconceptions associated with females and diving. Lets explore some more subtle differences between the sexes shall we? Who makes the better student? Who makes the better diver? Who makes the better instructor? Women or Men?

Diving Students:

Females and diving

Generally I have found female students listen more attentively

I have been teaching for ten years now, and I have found that there is a distinction between male and female students. Better is not a word that I enjoy, for both have their own merits and weaknesses. Generally I have found female students listen more attentively. Girls think everything through whereas guys like to figure things out on their own. Some guys also think that they know more than their instructor, especially if they are female and younger than them – regardless of how many thousands of dives she has logged. That can be a bit frustrating.
Another thing that affects the quality of the student is the reason why they want to become a certified scuba diver in the first place. Unfortunately I have met far too many women who sign up for the open water course because their boyfriend wants them to. It is a great idea to share the passion for scuba diving with a loved one, but don’t push too hard. A student who does not enroll of their own accord will be unenthusiastic about the whole learning process, and interrelationship pressure will only make the situation worse, regardless of gender. . Girls, who start diving to try something out of the ordinary, get more excited about taking the big step than those who simply take the class to be with their boyfriends.

Certified Divers:

Diving

Girls get more excited about their success

Once certified I have found that girls get more excited about their success. They are so proud to become a certified open water diver that they are bursting with their experiences. Guys like to maintain more of a “stiff upper lip” and treat their certificate like a license to drive a car. This probably comes from the fact that women are in the minority when it comes to certifications; it is a rarer feet, and therefore something to dance about. Go ahead ladies– dance away, you have earned it!!
I have also noticed that women like to plan more, mapping out their dive more thoroughly than men who prefer to just get stuck in and figure it out as they go. As a PADI instructor, I try to instill the importance of “plan your dive, dive your plan” but once I release my students into the wild it is up to them.

Men are generally more competitive than women. Diving is not a team sport, but it is not an individual one either. We dive as a team, a unit that will hopefully end the dive together if all goes to plan. One area that male divers love to compare is air consumption, and I’m sorry lads, but we ladies will beat you every time. We are smaller, have lower muscle mass and are more efficient at our carbon dioxide elimination = we breathe less and our cylinders will last us longer. Does this make us better? That is a matter of opinion. I may take longer to get to the dive site than Johnny Bravo, but I can stay in the water and enjoy a much longer dive. I know what I would choose if I had the option. How about you?

The buddy system is our safety net. Sorry guys, but again, in my experience I think Gals make the better buddy. When girls agree to dive together they actually do stay together. They frequently check on each other in ways that are sadly lacking in male dive buddies. The “macho” gene kicks in and two blokes who agree to dive together may as well be saying “lets dive in the same ocean”, leaving too much of a distance between them to be safe in an out-of-air emergency.

Diving Instructors:

Diving

The increase in female instructors makes me happy

The increase in female divers makes me happy. The increase in female instructors makes me happier. I find women instructors to typically be more patient and attentive to students than male instructors. They have the ability to “put themselves in the students’ shoes”. Women who may have been scared themselves during their own open water course remember the fear and can better relate to a new divers apprehension. This opens more of a dialog that enriches the learning experience and makes the instructor more approachable. These are great plusses in my book.

So there you have it. The ratios are improving, we girls are growing in numbers in the scuba world and it is great. I hope this article does not offend, for this was not my intention. I simply wanted to talk about my experiences as a female diver in a male diver’s world. Our voices may resonate at a slightly higher pitch, but we deserve to be heard because diving is so delicious!

The Female Voice: Diving Divas (Part 1)

Diving divas

Only 25% of the world’s divers are women

Scuba Diving is still a considered a “manly” activity. Today 75% of the world’s divers are men.  However, this three to one ratio is a vast improvement to the eight to one split that we saw ten years ago. This year  the PADI Women’s Dive Day is on the  18 July, encouraging more diving divas to get involved. So what has changed? Why are more women taking the plunge? How do woman measure up in the big underwater scheme of things? Do women or men make the better student? Who makes the better instructor? What other misconceptions are being debunked in the world of SCUBA? Let’s explore this topic together shall we?

“Manly” sports are usually associated with those requiring a lot of strength, physical exertion and lust for danger. Scuba diving is still considered an “extreme” sport, especially in insurance policy terms because it involves going into an environment that we were not born for. After all – we lack gills and cannot breathe underwater without the use of SCUBA.

I grew up in a diving household. My father was a BSAC instructor with a compressor in the garage and our house always had at least one of his friends there; either for a tank fill or a friendly chat about that weekends diving treats. My mother was a classic “80’s Mom” – with permed curls and an addiction to throwing curry-night dinner parties. She was never interested in scuba diving. All of my father’s diving buddies were men, with the exception of one dare-devil lady called Tina Austin who looked absolutely amazing in her luminous neon wetsuit and matching BCD. Yes, back then, you were considered unusual if you were a girl who loved scuba diving. Luckily, my father encouraged me to be unusual and he fed my curiosity when it came to loving the ocean.

Debunking Diving Misconceptions.

 

I have heard countless statements regarding why men are suited for diving and women are not. Most are ridiculous. None are based on fact and are usually the opinion of those who lack the information or experience to actually make an informed comment one way or another. Well, I’m a diver. I also wear a bra. These two facts about me should not be mutually exclusive.

Ridiculous Statement # 1

Scuba Diving equipment is “heavy” and females are the weaker of the species. Lifting a scuba cylinder should never be attempted by a woman, you will hurt yourself.

Diving is weightless

Diving equipment is only heavy whilst out of the water

Rubbish. It may be heavy, but technique is key. Use your legs and not your back when lifting equipment. Gear up in buddy pairs – the buddy system is there for a reason. I have been lifting tanks since before I was old enough to qualify for a gym membership. I may not be as fast as my male counterpart at loading a dive truck, but I get the job done and who cares if I take an extra five minutes to do it anyhow? In my experience females think through the whole order of unloading naturally, and take more care to ensure the truck is loaded in a systematic way that aids the natural flow of pre-dive preparation. Another thing that non-divers fail to realize is the fact that scuba equipment is only heavy whilst out of the water. It becomes weightless as soon as you get deeper than your belly button, or as soon as you jump off the boat.

Irregardless of this, dive gear has evolved with the market, and the increased numbers of female divers has led to the development of equipment designed with females in mind. BCD’s for women can now distribute the weight of your equipment onto parts of our bodies that are better able to carry a load: i.e. our child bearing hips. My Aqualung jacket is now as comfortable as a warm hug, filled with a lightweight gel that molds my gear to my body. Beautiful.

Ridiculous statement #2

Scuba Diving is dangerous – girls shouldn’t take risks.

Female Diving Divas

Scuba diving safety has nothing to do with gender

Statistics show that recreational scuba diving is about as safe as swimming. As with all things, there are potential risks, but this is why divers require training and certification. Like driving a car, diving is pretty safe if you follow the rules and practice common sense. To put it into perspective, driving yourself to the dive center is the most dangerous element to your day. Statistically champagne corks, vending machines and bathtubs pose more of a threat to your safety than scuba diving.

So when someone asks me “how safe is scuba diving?” I reply by asking them “How responsible is the scuba diver?”

In my experience as an instructor females are more cautious, think through possible problems more and commonly practice safer diving habits than their male counterparts. Most scuba diving fatalities claim the lives of the ignorant, the reckless and the irresponsible: it has nothing to do with gender.

Ridiculous statement #3

You will get eaten by a shark if you dive with a period: they will smell the blood

Diving

Human blood is simply not appealing to sharks

Most people think sharks are mindless man eaters. Thank you Steven Spielberg.  Nothing is further from the truth. Actually humans are the one thing in the ocean that should really be feared, we are the deadliest predator.

As for diving with sharks while “having the painters in” – there is no increased risk. Human blood is simply not appealing to sharks. Ralph S. Collier, a shark behavior expert who has been documenting shark attacks since 1963 claims that our terrestrial blood simply does not invoke the same reaction as the blood from a sea otter for example. They will not go into a feeding frenzy and eat you, so don’t worry, dive happy ladies

Ridiculous statement #4

Divers are not sexy. Diving makes you ugly.

diving is sexy

That smile? You have to earn it. You have to dive it.

All of our curves and “in and out bits” are covered in a heavy layer of neoprene. Woman can’t be sexy in scuba – and women have to be sexy at all times for the sake of the survival of the human race. Pull the other one. Female divers are full of passion, enthusiasm and endorphins. There is nothing sexier than that in my book.

As for diving making you ugly, I’m pretty sure that Mother Nature is more influential on your looks than salt water and an increased exposure to the sun. Ok, so hair that is sticking out at all angles looks a bit odd, as does that mascara that is covering half your face in a perfect mask outline, but You have to dive it. Who cares if you don’t look like you just climbed out of the latest fashion magazine? Everyone knows they have been photoshopped to death anyway, those photos are not real – that awesome turtle you just saw is.

Ridiculous statement #5

Women do not have a technical mind, how can they dive if they can’t even read a map?

Tech Diving Diva

Women make great technical divers

This is so sexist and terribly untrue. Scuba diving has been brought to the recreational masses, not just to those who can pee standing up. The top minds of the world are primarily men for the same reason that diving is regarded as a male sport. Sheer prejudice. Luckily the balance in all walks of life are becoming fairer, and even more traditional cultures are realizing the potential of utilizing both sexes. Diving is also becoming more equal. I cannot wait for the day when there is a perfect 50/50 split in the scuba diving world.

 

 

 

 

So there you go. Five ridiculous statements answered. Have you, sister diver, heard any other hideous over generalized statements that you would like to share with me? I’m always up for a giggle.