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Deptherapy Team mark IYOR 2018 with launch of new environmental project

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A team of UK Armed Forces veterans is launching a project to ‘give back’ to the marine environment that they credit with turning their lives around.

The 30 wounded in service veterans, all suffering from life changing physical and / or mental injuries, are Programme Members of scuba diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy.

The aim of the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project is to raise awareness of the fragility of the world’s oceans and for each Deptherapy Programme Member to make their own practical contribution to environmental protection to help safeguard the future.

The project comes at a time when the world’s attention is increasingly focused on environmental sustainability, the scourge of plastic pollution and the health of the planet. 2018 has been designated the Third International Year of the Reef (IYOR 2018).

Deptherapy Ambassador and trainee Divemaster Ben Lee at Roots Red Sea, Egypt. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev.

Deptherapy Ambassador and former Royal Engineer Ben Lee, who lost both legs and sustained other injuries in an IED explosion in Afghanistan is leading the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project. Ben is currently training to be a Divemaster and recently won the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund ‘Recognising Achievement’ Award.

On his motivation to lead the project, Ben Lee said:

“The Red Sea and Deptherapy changed my life forever. If I could, I would live underwater – the tranquility, the beauty, it just blows your mind. You feel at one with nature.

I want to help teach my son to dive. I want him to enjoy the oceans, but we are killing our seas; global warming, pollution, over fishing and plastic waste are destroying our reefs and our aquatic life.

These are our oceans, and as surely as we fought for our Country, we must now, as that same ‘Band of Brothers,’ fight to save our oceans.  We stood to arms in Afghan or Iraq, we now stand to arms, united in our determination to fight for the future of our oceans.”

Deptherapy’s next dive training programme, which takes place from 17th to 24th May at Roots Red Sea in Egypt, marks the start of the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project.

Tom Dallison, Head of Science at Coral Cay Conservation, will accompany the programme and lead six Deptherapy team members on a coral reef surveying and conservation course. The five day course will develop skills in underwater environmental survey techniques and species identification, in order to prepare the divers for an expedition to Truk Lagoon later this year.

Part of the Roots Red Sea programme and all of the Truk expedition are funded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2016 Libor Fund.

On the Truk expedition in August, the Deptherapy team will independently map the health of the marine life on the wreck of the former Naval Tanker, the Shinkoku Maru, and produce a detailed report of their findings.

Divers from Coral Cay Conservation undertaking a coral reef survey in the Philippines. Photo – Coral Cay Conservation.

Tom Dallison explained more about the project:

“Deptherapy does magnificent work, offering incredible opportunities to injured veterans. I am honoured to have this chance to facilitate their efforts whilst incorporating my own passion into their cause – the conservation of our ocean’s fauna and flora.

Working closely with a team during the Roots expedition, we will, collectively, develop a deep understanding of the marine life in the Red Sea, delving into the ecology and behaviour of marine organisms, whilst focusing on the current impacts faced by coral reefs and the methods used to monitor their health.

By building an affinity to the marine world, Deptherapy will boast six newly trained conservation-advocates for their Truk Lagoon expedition and future programmes.” 

During the Roots trip, all Programme Members will also take part in a ‘Dive Against Debris’ underwater and beach clean up. Several Members have also volunteered to give environmental presentations to the rest of the team.

Long time partner of the Deptherapy charity, PADI are fully supporting the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project. Two of PADI’s Pillars of Change focus on People & Community and Healing & Wellness, making Deptherapy the perfect charity for PADI to support.

Emma Hewitt, PADI Regional Manager UK South & Ireland, explained:

“Deptherapy has demonstrated that by adapting teaching techniques, those with perceived limitations can overcome them and become scuba divers. The PADI Adaptive Techniques program has been designed using these same techniques.

PADI is proud to partner Deptherapy and is committed to helping to bring more troops through their programmes in the years ahead.”

PADI will also be supporting this project through its own Project AWARE® Foundation.

 PADI Regional Manager for Egypt, Ahmed Sayed said:

“When ocean health is combined with the health of those within Deptherapy’s program it is all the more powerful. Project AWARE is grateful for all the support Deptherapy gives. It is fantastic to see two charities working together for the good of so many and I am honoured that Egypt will host the first stage of this project.”

As well as PADI and Coral Cay Conservation, a division of the Lifesigns Group founded by Deptherapy Patron Alistair Cole, the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project has the support of many other key individuals and organisations within the scuba diving community.

Patrons of Deptherapy Paul Rose and Andy Torbet have both pledged their support for the project, whilst David Jones, Founder of environmental organisation Just One Ocean, has come onboard as a Technical Advisor.

On working with Deptherapy and this project, Andy Torbet said:

“In 2018 plastic pollution, especially that in our oceans, seas, rivers and lakes has become front page news. This is great for those of us working on these problems for years. As divers, we have seen the plastic detritus and damage it causes first-hand and often out of sight of those who do not venture beneath the surface of the ocean.

When asked to describe myself, I always say Diver and Ex-Soldier. Deptherapy touches on both these passions as it uses one to help the other. Diving, along with the hard work of the volunteers that run the charity, and those involved in the programmes, have proved miraculous in helping individuals with very serious physical and mental injuries. It is not hyperbole to say it has saved people’s lives.

As the Deptherapy programmes continue to help those with massive, life altering injuries or serious mental health issues, those within the problem are trying to give back to the environment that has helped them – our oceans. The majority of the Deptherapy veterans feel the underwater world saved them, now it’s time for some payback.”

Pledge your support and find out more about the work of Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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Save £500 on Maldives liveaboard – but hurry, there’s only 2 spots left!

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Join The Scuba Place on board the award-winning (Best Liveaboard, Maldives Tourism Awards for 2 consecutive years) Sachika for a week in the sun!

Taking in the very best dive sites of the ‘Best of Central Atolls’ itinerary, including manta cleaning stations, Whaleshark Alley, the Fish Factory and the legendary night dive with hundreds of nurse sharks, this is one trip not to be missed.

To make it even better, they have taken a big chunk of cash off the price to fill the last TWO SPACES (twin or double cabin) on each of the following sailings:

  • Outbound 5 November, return 13 November
  • Outbound 12 November, return 20 November

The Scuba Place team can arrange flights from any major UK airport, and the whole package will be ATOL Protected. Price includes flights, taxes, full board in a twin/double cabin based on 2 sharing, 17 dives with Nitrox included, all soft drinks and meals and snacks. Bar bill is extra and extra dives are available too!

The prices are based on flying with Emirates and include 30kgs of baggage per person.

Don’t miss out – get in touch today! Call 020 3515 9955 to find out more!

Brochure link: https://bit.ly/TSP_Maldives_Nov2021

www.thescubaplace.co.uk


Boat images by Top Class Cruising

Underwater images by Nigel Wade for The Scuba Place

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The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 1 of 2

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In the first of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021…

Travelling during the Covid pandemic has been challenging for some, impossible for most, and missed by all. We have been scanning the rules and regulations daily, and as soon as the UK Government allowed us, we were off!

What was supposed to be a trip to Mexico for a gang of 12 of us, just like most trips over the last 18 months, we were forced to change as the travel rules changed – we have been trying to get to Bonaire for ages, and this became the perfect opportunity – at last!

With our bags packed, negative test results and completed Bonaire health forms in hand – we made an early start for Heathrow, prepared for an 0630 departure. A quick flight and we landed in Amsterdam. As a Dutch Caribbean territory, all flights from the UK to Bonaire on KLM go via Amsterdam. In the airport, we met up with the rest of the gang who had travelled from Birmingham. After a quick layover we took off for Bonaire, where we arrived about 9 hours later. Our health documents were checked at the airport, and we grabbed our bags. It seems odd to have to fly East to then go West, but as we stepped out of the minibus at Buddy Dive Resort, only 10 minutes after leaving the airport, the sunshine and blue sky told us it was worth it!

Our accommodation for the group was made up of two 3-bedroom apartments, a stone’s throw from the water, dive shop, dock and Blennies, the main restaurant and bar. Buddy Dive also has 1- and 2-bedroom apartments along with studios, all comfortably furnished with either a garden or ocean view.

Each 3-bedroom apartment is spread over two floors – but a floor up from ground level. The ‘ground’ floor of each apartment offers a double bedroom (beds can be configured as twins or double in all rooms), a bathroom, lounge with balcony, and a very well-equipped kitchenette. Microwave, toaster, hob, fridge/freezer with ice-maker and enough pots, pans and utensils to satisfy the avid cook! On the upper floor, there are two further double rooms with ensuite bathrooms, both with balconies of their own. Each bedroom is air-conditioned, and the lounge and kitchen have celling fans. All in all, quite perfect for a home away from home for a fortnight!

The rules of group travel say we must unpack (empty bags onto floor or bed), sort kit out (look at dive bag and save it for later), put cameras together (er….NO!) and hit the bar – so being rule-abiding people that we are, this is what we did. Picking up the rental van for our stay would have to wait!

The next morning after breakfast, served in the Ingridients restaurant and right on the water, we attended the Buddy Dive orientation. The staff gave us a quick tour of the dock and resort including the famous drive thru tank shed offering both air and nitrox tanks ready and waiting to be loaded into your vehicle. Check in at the dive centre was easy… we all completed our diver forms online before arrival so with a quick hello we were handed locker keys for our kit storage. Time to head back to the room and get ready for our first dive!! That is why we’re here after all!

As with all trips, the first dive was a check dive, so we climbed down the steps into the water off the dock to go an explore Buddy Dive Reef. Finning over the sandy bottom, past the coral restoration project ‘trees’ and following well laid lines with directional markers we hit the reef after just a minute or two where you can drop to 35+ metres over simply stunning corals. This reef, just like the rest of the sites we dived, is super-healthy and teeming with juvenile fish wherever you look. Moray eels, turtles, octopi and HUGE tarpon on our first dive! What a great start!

The following day we decided it was time to explore the island. We picked up our 6-person minibus from Reception, pulled up to the drive thru tank station and grabbed 12 well filled Nitrox 12l aluminium (A-Clamp – not DIN) cylinders. With our guidebook in hand, off we went driving on the right of course, in search of marine life.

There are over 50 dive sites scattered around the coast of the main island, and even more on the island of Klein Bonaire accessible by boat. We chose a comfortable start by picking dive sites to the South where the entry seems to be a little easier on old knees and hips. We packed up sandwiches we made after a quick shop at the supermarket the day before, along with waters and a few essentials – towels, sunnies and bug spray.

I won’t bore you with every dive site name and description – the guidebook is the tool for that – but it is more than safe to say that we dived, dived and dived again! Every dive gave us far more than we expected, and the marine park surrounding the whole island delivered the goods without fail. Super healthy corals, plentiful marine life, warm and very clear water at 30 degrees made life easy. Parking the van up at the marked dive sites wasn’t difficult, and a few strides across the sand was far simpler than we had expected.

I will say that some sites are a little more challenging to get into the water from – anything more than three or four steps doesn’t float my boat! We adapted our entries for the group – some kitting up in the water, some not, but the rule of thumb quickly became step in up to thigh-depth, inflate bcd, fall flat on your back and paddle out before putting your fins on. Simple! Getting out of the water was pretty much the reverse of the above – stand up when you can, remove fins, and then navigate the rocks and sand channels before you walk up the beach. Nothing that an over-weight, under-tall chap in his mid-50’s with dodgy knees and even dodgier hips couldn’t cope with! (That is me by the way…..no offense to anyone else intended and no animals were harmed in the writing of this either).

We saw stuff – lots of it! Huge tarpon, French and Grey Angelfish, forests of Christmas Tree worms, anemones with Peterson, sexy and cleaner shrimp, clinging crabs, nudibranchs – especially lettuce-leaf slugs, coral-banded shrimp, lobster and so much more. Turtles everywhere, trumpet-fish in unbelievable numbers, and that was generally the story – all in very good visibility too! The corals and huge sponges were stunning with fascinating reef-structures offering all sorts of hidey-holes for critters!

There were some really special sited that we loved, and Salt Pier was one. The Cargill solar salt facility is easily found with its distinctive line of white salt pyramids.Each pyramid, roughly 50-feet high, can contain up to 10,000 metric tons of 99.6 percent pure salt. Even more noteworthy, in addition to the acres of salt ponds, the facility is also home to largest pink flamingo sanctuary in North America. Our very own Chloe has written an in-depth blog about Bonaire and its pure salt so be sure and check it out!

Back to the diving! We were given a hint to drive just past the pier to park where we would find an easy sand entry to the site. We kitted up and finned out through the shallows where we encountered three juvenile hawksbill turtles along with a few smooth pufferfish fighting to feed on patch of sponges, and then made our way under the immense structure of the pier. There are several platforms supporting the conveyor belts that move salt to the container ships and there wasn’t much diver-traffic to contend with. We were amazed by all things weird and wonderful – big scorpion fish hiding under the metal work, angelfish battling for food, schooling fish up above you, and frogfish! Barracuda, Caribbean reef squid, spotted drums, octopus, oh! and more frogfish! Even a flying gurnard in the shallows! What a dive! And as it is shallow, it can be a very long dive too, especially with the 200-210 bar fills the drive-thru often gave us.

Check back for Part Two of this Blog tomorrow!


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1275 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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