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Coronavirus outbreak causes last minute travel changes – a warning to travelling divers!

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Travelling divers are being urged to double check the latest travel advice for their destination or risk being unable to travel.

British divers Nigel Cass and Caroline Albrecht were on the way to a trip of a lifetime diving the wartime wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon when they were told they were unable to board their United Airlines flight from Manila to Chuuk (Truk TKK via Guam). Despite checking travel advice numerous times before travel and receiving no notification of any issues, Nigel and Caroline were victims of a Public Health Emergency Declaration that had come into force in the Federated States of Micronesia whilst they overnighted in Manila in the Philippines.

Standing at the check-in desk, a couple of hours before boarding, the couple were handed a letter signed by the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, declaring that anyone travelling from a country with confirmed cases of coronavirus would need to spend 14 days in a country with NO confirmed cases of the virus before they would be allowed to enter the FSM. The government directive had come into place on 31st January 2020.

Due to the fact that Nigel and Caroline had originally departed from the UK and were now in the Philippines, both countries having declared coronavirus cases, they were now ineligible to travel onwards to Chuuk, unless they were prepared to quarantine themselves in Guam for 14 days.

After a frantic series of phone calls and emails, it emerged that staff at the Blue Lagoon Resort in Chuuk, where the couple were heading, were unaware of the situation themselves and were actually only told of the government directive by the FSM Health Department whilst waiting at the airport to receive their guests.

Nigel says that United Airlines staff at Manila were incredibly helpful and offered to refund their flight tickets on the spot so that they could make alternative plans. United Airlines also arranged a second overnight in Manila at their cost.

Fortunately, Nigel’s many years of experience in the dive industry helped the couple salvage what was an upsetting and potentially disastrous holiday. Remembering what a fantastic trip he had to Atlantis Philippines on a FAM trip a couple of years previously, Nigel set about contacting Atlantis’ Andy Pope who stepped in and saved the day.

“When I was sitting in our hastily booked hotel room I wondered how I could salvage a holiday out of the wreckage of our Truk trip,” says Nigel.  “I remembered Andy and Atlantis from a FAM trip I took. I had always wanted to take Caroline there to experience it and I thought it’s worth asking the question. Andy was there in our hour of need and he and all the staff at Atlantis have been so wonderful and gone way beyond the call of duty. Within 10 hours of our holiday going up in flames thanks to coronavirus, we were on our way to Atlantis Puerto Galera. Amazing!”

Nigel and Caroline are now enjoying their ‘new’ holiday in the Philippines.

“We are blown away by the quality of the diving here and Caroline doesn’t know where to focus her camera first! We have a Penthouse Suite at Atlantis Puerto Galera for six nights, followed by a further six nights at Atlantis Dumaguete. Plus transfers all arranged by Atlantis. We can’t thank Andy and the Atlantis team enough for saving our holiday. Truk will still be there when coronavirus is long gone!”

British people can check the latest travel advice at www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus.

All travellers should check with their airline, travel company, port authorities or local health authorities prior to travel as the situation is developing all the time.

Nigel and Caroline are staying at Atlantis Philippines.

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Breaking News: Captain charged in Conception boat fire tragedy

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According to reports in the international press today, it has been announced that the Captain of the dive boat Conception, which was completely destroyed by fire last year, resulting in the tragic loss of 34 passengers and crew, has been charged with 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter. 

The Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan was among five crew members to escape the blaze on board Conception, a dive boat operated by Truth Aquatics, which took place in the early hours of 2 September 2019 whilst the boat was moored offshore, close to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California.

The BBC reports that Mr Boylan has not publicly commented on the charges, and is expected to surrender to the authorities at a later date. According to the BBC, each charge of seaman’s manslaughter carries up to 10 years in federal prison.

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Crossover to NAUI for FREE!

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As a boost to help the diving industry, NAUI are still offering a FREE Instructor cross-over course together with five free certifications to all Instructors. This can include Open Water, Advance, Rescue, Nitrox and various other specialities and can be mixed and matched so all five do not necessarily need to be for the same certification.

NAUI have also frozen the membership fees for 2021 for instructors crossing over or restarting.

NAUI’s Southern UK Rep Simon Lodge says: “Throughout this year, the diving industry has severely suffered so as a result, to help kickstart the diving industry NAUI will not be charging membership fees 2020/2021 to any new instructors.” 

Founded in 1960, NAUI Worldwide is one of the scuba industry’s largest not-for-profit agencies whose purpose is to enable people to enjoy underwater activities as safely as possible by providing the highest quality practical education, and to actively promote the preservation and protection of the world’s underwater environments. As a pioneer in diving education, NAUI has developed many of the programs and concepts accepted throughout the diving industry. NAUI: A Higher Standard!

For more details please contact Simon Lodge (Southern UK Rep) on simon@europe.naui.org or Craig Warner (Northern UK Rep) on cwarner@europe.naui.org.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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