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 the name of your business?
Dive Ninja Expeditions
What is your role within the business?
I juggle a few roles, but I guess that comes with running any business. Technically my job title is Founder/ Team leader, but my time is normally spent leading expeditions, teaching courses, or scouting & exploring new locations to bring our guests to.
How long has the business operated for?
We officially opened our doors in May 2017.
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
I’ve been in diving for about a decade now and done around 6000+ dives at last estimate. I’m a Tec Trimix Instructor and Full Cave Diver, as well as a laundry list of other certifications & qualifications. I’m a bit of a big nerd (laughs).
What is your favorite type of diving?
I love diving with big animals, exploring new areas, and going for the more adventurous, off the grid, types of diving. The kind of dives that take you to obscure places in search of some type of special encounter that leaves you screaming through your regulator in excitement when it happens. That’s the kind of experiences I live for and what would become the basis for creating Dive Ninja Expeditions.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
To start, Dive Ninja Expeditions takes a different approach to dive tourism. We focus on creating unique high-quality experiences and specialized tours & expeditions that aim to bridge the gap between tourism, marine science, and conservation. To give you an example, we’re really big on building citizen science trips with local marine biologists that allow our guests to not only learn about the local area but also contribute to actual research activities that play a vital part in helping to understand and protect our oceans.
We lead daily tours and multi-day expeditions all over Baja California Sur, Mexico from our Ninja HQ in Cabo San Lucas. Plus, throughout the year we also lead trips to different locations around the world to check out some of the best diving our planet has to offer. We also have an extensive list of courses and workshops on offer that span scuba diving, technical diving, freediving, photography and conservation.
One of the things we hear a lot from our guests is that diving with us feels like diving with old friends. I’d like to say this could be attributed to our high percentage of repeat guests, but it’s actually something we also hear a lot of from first time guests. I think it’s because we see our guests more like family instead of customers. One big Ninja Family that shares a passion for the ocean.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
It’s really hard to narrow down just one (laughs). Baja really has so much to offer throughout the year. But I think if I had to pick just one favorite it would be diving with the mobula rays. Every year starting in the late spring Munk’s Devil Rays begin to create gigantic schools around the coasts of Baja California Sur. The aggregations are one of the largest of any ray species in the world. It’s such an incredible experience. If you’ve seen BBC’s Blue Planet, you know what I’m talking out. They launch from the ocean splashing back into the sea. But not just 1 or 2…we’re talking hundreds.
It sounds like popcorn. But that’s only the appetizer, imagine ducking under the surface and swimming alongside thousands of these devil rays that have formed a school 20 meters high and are so densely packed together that it blocks the sunlight from reaching below them. Seeing them slowly soar through the ocean in unison is unlike anything on earth. It is truly breath-taking.
What types of diving are available in your location?
Cabo San Lucas and the Baja offer a pretty wide variety of diving that can accommodate everyone from beginners to seasoned experts, as well as great spots for freediving and technical diving too. We have relaxed shallow sites, steep sheer face walls, offshore sea mounts, marine parks, pinnacles, big schools of fish, sea lions, large pelagics, multiple species of sharks & whales, a bit of macro diving, and even a few wrecks. But I think what makes Baja so special is the unique expeditions to see the different migrations that happen throughout the year; such as the Mobula Ray aggregations, Striped Marlin hunting giant bait balls, as well as multiple shark & whale migrations throughout the year.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
I think most people would say I have a dream job. I get to spend my days in the water exploring, looking for new areas to dive and new incredible encounters to have. But for me, the most rewarding part is seeing the work we do inspire others to get involved in conservation. When our guests tell us how they ditched disposable plastics after diving with us, or started volunteering, or advocating for sharks in their hometown it makes my love for what we do grow even more.
I’d also have to say one of my favorite parts of the job is being able collaborate with & meet so many passionate scientists and conservationists. They are such an inspiration. Humans like Regi Domingo, David Valencia, Frida Lara, Marta Palacios, Sarah Richard, Pete Rodriguez Arana, Dr Robert Rubin, Mauricio Hoyas, and the list just goes on and on. These are incredible people doing remarkable things for our oceans. I truly feel blessed that we can partner with them. And it makes me feel great that as a business we can work with them to give back by helping to facilitate research and conservation projects that aid in protecting & understanding our oceans.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
I have always had this fascination with octopus. I find them incredibly interesting on so many levels. Whether it’s their amazing camouflage abilities, their intelligence & curiosity, or even just their almost alien looking appearance. I could honestly just spend entire dives hanging out with them.
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
There is always a bunch of stuff brewing at the Ninja HQ! Right now, we are getting ready to release the dates for our 2020 Mobula Ray Expedition season. We’ve also been focused on launching our new conservation arm of the company — Dive Ninja Ocean Warriors. Plus, we are currently scouting a few new locations in Baja for some potential, new expeditions. I can’t say too much about them right now as it’s a ninja secret. But I will say that if it all comes together it could be a game changer for diving in Mexico and North America.
We’ve also got a super cool project coming up in French Polynesia for 2020 that we are working on with Girls That Scuba founder Sarah Richard, Nakawe Project founder Regina Domingo, and incredible photographer, Alex Kydd. We’ll be releasing the full details this August. I’m definitely excited for this one. There’s a bunch of other stuff too but I got to keep some of our ninja secrets for now!
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
One of the big issues we are following right now is the spike in grey whale deaths this year. There’s been over 80 reported so far this season alone and no one really understands why. These curious giants are one of my favorite reasons for living in Baja. We share some of the most incredible up-close interactions with them here in the winter. So, it’s really sad and worries me that so many of them are dying on their migration back north.
We are also quite concerned about shark fishing in Baja, especially the fishing of protected or more vulnerable species such as the Mako. Organizations such as Nakawe Project are fighting hard for them and working with the local fishing communities to help change this, but there is still a long way to go. As a shop we are working on projects that aim to create alternative revenue streams for local fishermen through eco-tourism in hopes of showing them that sharks & rays are worth much more money alive.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
Dive Ninjas is one of those rare centers that actually had environmental work as one of the core pillars in our business model from the start. We’ve built the company to be different than the average dive center and one of the ways we do this is by focusing our efforts on creating true eco-tourism platforms that aim to bridge the gap between tourism, science, and conservation. For example, the majority of our trips and expeditions include some form of citizen science and/or conservation aspects. We regularly invite marine biologists and researchers to be part of our expeditions to give presentations or create discussions, while also allowing the guests the chance to take part in actual research activities.
We’ve also worked with environmental consultants from the start to see how we can minimize our impact on the environment in all facets of the business. But it goes beyond this for us, our entire team is very passionate about the environment and our oceans. Every day we try to educate and inspire our guests to get involved and take action. It’s something we at Team Ninja are dedicated to and I wholeheartedly believe that we can ignite change from.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
I feel there is a growing rift in the industry between the old and new ways of thinking in the industry that is starting to become a chasm. I don’t think it is going to change anytime soon, although I hope it does. But in the last few years we’ve seen this positive change in the industry and in the population in general. We see so many more people interested in science and protecting our oceans and planet. We see a big shift in what divers want too. They want something more than just paying for a quick jump in the water. They want experiences that have substance. They want to learn. They want to give back. And this is incredibly beautiful.
But on the other hand, I still hear stories from female students of how they were laughed at when they asked about wanting to try their hand at learning technical diving because they were ‘too small’ or ‘too weak’. Plus, we still see many tour operators blatantly raping our oceans for profit. I would love to see more in the industry truly working towards protecting our oceans and not just using it as a marketing campaign. And I’d love to see less of this archaic thinking towards females in the industry. So, I believe that if more and more newer shops like us try to set the bar a little higher then maybe others will be inspired to follow suit.
What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
Baja is a land of contrasts. We have cactus filled deserts with barren rocky mountains reaching from star filled skies down to meet bright blue waters which are known to host more migratory marine species than anywhere else in the world. Cousteau nicknamed this region ‘the world’s aquarium’ because of the abundance and variety of life found here. It is a spectacular area where the mighty Pacific Ocean meets the beautiful Sea of Cortez. Yet much of the peninsula is untouched and just begging to be explored.
That’s where Dive Ninja Expeditions comes in. Whether it’s chasing huge bait balls & striped marlin 20 miles off shore or gliding along with thousands of mobula rays or just taking a relaxing wall dive in the Cabo San Lucas Marine Park our team can deliver the adventure you are looking for. And along the way we can teach you about the incredible animals and ecosystem that make Baja so special. Or even help you take an active part in giving something back to protect our oceans and further our understanding of them. Whether it’s to one of the more well-known areas or one of our secret ninja spots, we can show you a side of Baja that no other operator can. But best of all you can count on that it’s always done in a safe and conservation minded way.
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Check out our website to see all the trips, tours, expeditions and courses we have on offer. But I definitely recommend following us on Instagram & Facebook because that is where all the latest news and upcoming trips are released first.
Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao
Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.
Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important
Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.
To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.
Understanding the Pole Spear
In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.
A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.
How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly
When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:
- Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
- Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
- Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
- Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
- Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
- Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
- Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
- Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
- Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
- Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.
In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting
While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:
- Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
- Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
- Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
- Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
- Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.
Consult Local Lionfish Experts
Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.
These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.
Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure
Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.
Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.
SCUBAPRO Free Octopus Promotion 2023
Free Octopus with every purchase of a SCUBAPRO regulator system
Just in time for the festive season, divers can save money again with the FREE OCTOPUS winter promotion! Until December 31st SCUBAPRO offers one of the two new Octopus models S270 or R105 for free with every purchase of a regulator system!
The S270 OCTOPUS is free with purchase of a MK25 EVO/D420 or MK19 EVO/D420, MK25 EVO/S620Ti or MK19 EVO/ S620Ti in INT or DIN versions. A R105 OCTOPUS is free with purchase of a MK25 EVO/S600 or MK17 EVO/S600, or MK25 EVO/G260 or MK19 EVO/G260 or MK19 EVO BT or MK25 EVO BT/ G260 CARBON BT in INT or DIN versions.
SCUBAPRO offers a 30-year first owner warranty on all regulators, with a revision period of two years or 100 dives. All SCUBAPRO regulators are of course certified according to the new European test standard EN250-2014.
Available at participating SCUBAPRO dealers. Promotion may not be available in all regions.
Find an authorized SCUBAPRO Dealer at scubapro.com.
More information available here: SCUBAPRO Free Octopus Promotion 2023
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