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?
What is the name of your business?
What is your role within the business?
Owner/Operator & PADI Course Director, Trimix IT
How long has the business operated for?
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 diving. We 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:
- PADI Open Water through to PADI Rescue
- Technical Diver Training
- 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?
Save £500 on Maldives liveaboard – but hurry, there’s only 2 spots left!
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
Boat images by Top Class Cruising
Underwater images by Nigel Wade for The Scuba Place
The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 1 of 2
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.
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