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Diving with…Michael Gary Aldridge, Orca Scuba Diving Academy, Essex, UK

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer


What is your name?

Michael Gary Aldridge

What is the name of your business?

Orca Scuba Diving Academy

What is your role within the business?

Owner

How long has the business operated for?

10 Years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

25 Years –  Master Instructor

What is your favourite type of diving?

I would say drift diving.  Drifting along a reef, watching the underwater world go by.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Before I set up Orca, I was working for a local company and realised they were selling courses, not teaching people.  With this in mind, I set up Orca to teach people and not just sell courses.  Right from the onset I decided to concentrate on working with families, in particular young people.  And to that end, we have spent a lot of time nurturing links with local schools, colleges and youth organisations.  I am proud to say we were one of the first centres to be awarded the PADI Youth Approved Training Centre certification accreditation.  We continue to encourage people of all ages to come and dive with us.

 What is your favourite dive in your location and why?

A few years we were approached by one of the teachers we work with in a local school and were asked if we could do a DSD for her sister. This in itself isn’t usual until we found out that the sister had lost the use of her legs and was blind due to terminal cancer, so without hesitation I put together a five man team, which included a videographer, to make sure that she had a great time and was safe and the whole family would have the memory forever.

What types of diving are available in your location?

We have pool diving from 3 – 20 ft, UK lake and coastal and overseas trips through Scuba Travel.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

 Having someone say they can’t do it, then seeing their smile when they achieve something.

What is your favourite underwater creature?

Thresher Shark

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

Shop expansion to have in-house equipment servicing and tank testing, plus the completion of the two classrooms.

As a centre what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

Online retailers selling equipment at an unmatchable price but not training new divers, so just skimming profit off the industry.

Is your centre involved in any environmental work?

Indirectly.  We have trained up a lot of students who have gone to work full time or voluntarily for conservation organisations and this is something we promote in the centre to all students.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkelling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I see the industry as quite strong overall, although it is going through some major changes with new training organisations coming into play.  This can only add to the public awareness of our planet and conservation problems. I would like to see more control over the quality of the diver training worldwide.  We have heard a lot of horror stories from divers who have come into us regarding some resort training.  This goes from a 13 year old having cave and wreck penetration on an Advanced Open Water course, Discover Scuba Diving students being taken to 20 metres or a ratio of four to one to a single dive master in open water.  As well as flagrant standard breaches just to achieve certification levels and take money.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

I come across a lot of people who say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I can’t’ before trying.  So I always say ‘Just have a go, you never know… you might just enjoy it’.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business? (This is where you enter your contact details and any specific details on how our audience can reach you)

Visit the shop at 17 Repton Close, Repton Court, Burnt Mills Estate, Basildon, Essex, SS13 1LN

Visit the website at www.orcascubadivingacademy.co.uk

Send us an email at info@orcascubadivingacademy.co.uk

Call us on 01268 520111 or 07960 140520

You will also find us on facebook, twitter and instagram.

Equipment

Liquid Sports announce NEW colours of Hollis F1 LT Fin now in stock

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Liquid Sports has announced that the NEW Colours of the Hollis F1 LT fin are now in stock at LS warehouse and ready to ship.

Already available in Grey, the NEW White & Yellow Hollis F1 LT fins have the following features:

• Short blade for easier finning in confined spaces
• Angled strap mounts for comfort & a better transition of power
• Spring heel straps with easy-grip heel tab
• Multiple strap mounting positions for a fine tuned fit
• Vented blade reduces stress while accelerating water over blade
• Generous foot pocket

F1 LT Yellow RRP £139.95 – Product code: 214.2207.xx 

F1 LT White RRP £139.95 – Product code: 214.2211.xx 

For more information visit the Liquid Sports website by clicking here.

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News

Diving with…. Luke Inman, Cortez Expeditions

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…

What is your name?

Luke Inman 

What is the name of your business?

Cortez Expeditions

What is your role within the business?

Owner/Operator & PADI Course Director, Trimix IT

How long has the business operated for?

8 Years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

Diving since 1993, Professional Diver since 1996, Instructor Trainer since 2001.

PADI Course Director
PADI Tec Trimix Instructor Trainer
Divers Alert Network (DAN) IT
TDI · IANTD · RAID Technical Instructor
HSE Commercial Diver Part III

What is your favorite type of diving?

All Diving! Love teaching Open Water all the way through to Divemaster and Instructor course, but my absolute favourite is diving with Sea Lions in La Paz. Like jumping into a bath tub with Labrador puppies.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

We have an exclusive adventure boutique, we offer Scuba training from basic open water through to technical divingWe are the only 5 Star PADI IDC Dive Center in La Paz and teach PADI courses to instructor level.
We offer DAN & TDI courses, support for film crews, scientists and CCR divers.

​We are renowned for our expeditions, photo & video workshops. We keep our boat to a maximum of 4 or 6 divers ensuring your experience and interactions are intimate and breath taking.

We have Fourth Element & Apeks equipment in our rental fleet and we include computers.

We pride ourselves is being a sustainability leader. Ensuring no single use plastic is used on our boat and our dive practices have no negative effect on the environment. Read about us on Trip Advisor. Cortez Expeditions are the experts on The Sea of Cortez. With over 20 years of experience living and working in La Paz, Cortez Expeditions are not just the exclusive boutique dive centre, they are the chosen expedition leaders and logistic experts for institutions like The BBC Natural History Unit, Netflix, Disney, National Geographic Society & Television.

In 2018 we provided production support for Netflix “Our Planet”. In 2019 and 2020 Cortez Expeditions completed the safety and logistics for The BBC’s upcoming Planet Earth 3 Series and National Geographic America Series.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

Los Islotes the sea lion colony. This is the main reason many scuba divers visit La Paz. We are proud at Cortez Expeditions to be able to say we “wrote the book on Los Islotes”. Our owner and course director Luke Inman published the award winning book “Los Islotes – The Jewel of Espritu Santo”.

 

Los Islotes is the jewel of the protected area and marine reserve. There are very few locations in the world so close to a big city that allow for wild animal interactions like Los Islotes.

What types of diving are available in your location?

We teach everything from open water to instructor and tec diving with hypoxic trimix. There is something for everyone, but we are most famous for the big stuff…large pelagics that hang out at sea mounts and in open ocean like the mobulas.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

Being a mentor and teacher, I enjoy training all people, giving back to the ocean and to the community. My goal as a teacher is to have students eclipse my achievements. I want students to be better than me.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Can I give you a top five? Sea Lion, Orca, Octopus, Giant Manta, Sea Otter.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

We are in the process of becoming a Career Development Center for PADI and will be offering nitrox  in all our dives and courses.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

Like any tourism business the effect of COVID has reduced us down to 10-20% capacity.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

We don’t like the expression “Eco-Tourism”, too many business use the term and in reality they are simply not eco orientated. We strive to be constantly sustainable in our practices. It is always evolving.

Since our inception 8 years ago, donating our time and resources has become an important part of our strategy to be active in our community. We constantly endeavour to ensure we are improving and ensuring our practices are sustainable.

We decided the best way to enrich our community was to give back doing what we do best. We do diver training very well. We are currently the number one listed PADI dive centre on Trip Advisor, we complete more recreational, technical and professional certification than any other dive centre in La Paz.

Every October we open our Scholarship Program. The program is open to local undergraduate and post graduates in La Paz that need scuba training to complete their Tourism or Scientific Studies.

The application process will be from 1st October to 31 January 2021. With awards being given in First Quarter of 2021.

There are Six Scholarships available for 2021.

The scholarships are as follows:

  1. PADI Open Water through to PADI Rescue
  2. Technical Diver Training
  3. Divemaster Training

We will choose two candidates for each Scholarship (Male and Female)
Applicants must meet the prerequisites to enrol on the respective courses. The other prerequisites are:

  • Be a legal resident of Mexico (Mexican or with legal immigration status)
  • ​Be 18 years old
  • Currently studying at UABCS, CICIMAR, CIBNOR
  • Prove Scuba Diving is essential to their studies – Tourism, Marine Research
  • Be in the final part of studies.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

Where do I start….? LOL that is a big question!

I see the industry is making some good choices in becoming more sustainable, but it is slow.

The industry needs to start being more business-like and pay its staff a living wage.

We strive and ensure all our staff are paid a good wage to make diving a sensible and good option to other careers.

We need to see more women in diving. Women make better divers than men for a number of reasons.

I would like to see every dive agency ensure every student receives a course quality questionnaire. Once the student has completed the quality questionnaire the certification is issued, not before.

Diving is not a volume business, it is service and training based. For some reason many business owners price structure is based on volume. We need to base pricing on our time and effort.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

We have small groups and Sea lions…….

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

www.cortezexpeditions.com

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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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