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Marine Science and Snorkeling Galore at the Baa Atoll Manta Festival 2018

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Manta Trust, Four Seasons Resorts, Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Baa Atoll and Dharavandhoo Council host the first Baa Manta Festival joined by 1000
visitors and school students.

The first ever Baa Atoll Manta Festival took place on Saturday 24 November 2018 on B. Dharavandhoo, located in the Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve, and was a great success. Marine-themed stalls, competitions, performances, snorkeling sessions and academic presentations were enjoyed by around 1000 visitors, including 11 local schools.

Guest of honour, former president Mr Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) gave a thought provoking speech on the importance of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Baa Atoll and sustainable development in the Maldives and enjoyed visiting the stalls. During the inspirational opening ceremony speeches were also given by the current Environment Minister Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan, Managing Director of the Baa Atoll Conservation Fund, Mr Abdulla Shibau, the President of the Baa Atoll Council, Mr Mabrook Naseer, and Vice President of Baa Atoll Dharavandhoo Council Mr Ali Shafeeg.

Photo credit: Simon Hilbourne @ Manta Trust

Twenty-two marine-themed stalls included creative and fun games designed to educate students about manta rays and marine issues such as turtle poaching, by-catch and plastic pollution, including 5 from local schools. Seven environmental organisations – Manta Trust, Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve, Environmental Protection Agency, Olive Ridley Project, Atoll Marine Centre, Parley and Four Seasons Marine Savers participated, showcasing their important marine conservation work around the Maldives and how students can get involved in safeguarding their environment. Over 200 students took part in a stall treasure hunt, filling a stamp book with stamps from every stall after learning something new and then printing their own recycled, reusable bags with marine creatures and messages.

Photo: Simon Hilbourne @ Manta Trust

Students and visitors learnt about manta rays, coral reefs and environmental protection in motivational presentations from environmental organisations and guest speaker Zoona Naseem, the first female Maldivian PADI Course Director and an avid diver. Zoona’s talk reflected the inspirational message of the event, to get more females into water-based activities across the Maldives.

Photography, art and sculpture competitions were entered by over 100 people. Winners were invited to receive their prizes from Mr Nasheed on stage, which included manta snorkeling field trips and luxury dive products donated by the sponsors. Seven schools created their own life-size manta ray sculptures from recycled materials, based on real manta rays from the Manta Trust research database. Visitors engaged in a treasure hunt to find all the different manta rays and learn something new about their unique characteristics. Kendhoo School won the sculpture competition with an impressive 16 x 13ft sculpture of the spottiest manta in the Maldives – Mr Spotty.

As the sun set on the picturesque event, 200 students came together to create a huge manta ray on the beach. The event culminated in evening performances from local artist Shiuz, sponsored by Aveyla Maldives, as well as Dharavandhoo Boduberu band, enjoyed by many community members with dancing and singing as well as Mr Nasheed and his delegates.

The festival was sponsored by 12 luxury tourist resorts in Baa Atoll – Four Seasons, Vakkaru, Coco Palm, Kihaa Maldives, Anantara Kihavah, Royal Island, Milaidhoo, Reethi Beach, Finolhu, Amilla Fushi, Dusit Thani and Soneva Fushi, as well as Manta Reisen, Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve and Baa Atoll Conservation Fund – with additional support given by local guesthouses and dive centres.

As part of the festival initiative, these sponsors donated 222 sets of Cressi snorkeling equipment to 14 schools in Baa and Raa, also providing snorkeling lessons for over 100 students. Snorkeling lessons continued at the festival, with over 200 student participants witnessing the beauty of the Dharavandhoo reef, many for the very first time. Equipment was provided by Four Seasons and generous snorkeling guide support provided by the resort sponsors and Manta Trust. Festival organisers and Mr Nasheed’s team were especially heartened to witness female Maldivians engaging with the ocean due to this initiative.

Photo: Simon Hilbourne @ Manta Trust

The Baa Atoll Manta Festival was a huge success with the greatest achievement being getting so many young Maldivians engaged with the ocean, helping to achieve our dream of creating a generation of ocean guardians through this initiative and inspiring young women to engage with the ocean. The partners will continue to work towards this goal throughout the year and look forward to an even bigger and better event in 2019,” says Flossy Barraud of the Manta Trust.

Learn more about the organisations involved here:
• Manta Trust: www.mantatrust.org
• Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: www.broffice.gov.mv
• Baa Atoll Council: www.baa.gov.mv
• Baa Atoll Manta Festival social medial: www.facebook.com/BaaMantaFest

Dive Training Blogs

My Dive Buddies Episode 1: Alejandro Dutto’s Best Wreck Dives! (Watch Video)

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My Dive Buddies Episode 1: Alejandro Dutto’s Best Wreck Dives!

The first in a new series, where I invite my local scuba diving buddies into the Dive Locker for a beer and a chat! This week I’m chatting with Alejandro Dutto, Co-Founder of the International Scuba Divers Club and Publisher of the digital scuba magazine ‘Trim.’ I know Alejandro is a man after my own heart. Before covid hit, we dived South Florida wrecks together frequently and I’m looking forward to getting back in the water with him.

But for now, I’m happy to have a beer with him and talk about our top three favourite South Florida Wreck Dives. Alejandro also talks about the challenges of filming at technical diving depths and about his new Spanish language dive magazine.

Please follow Alejandro’s channels here:

Thanks everyone! D.S.D.O James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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Wining and Diving – California

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The Wining and Diving series sees Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown embark on a tour to tickle the taste buds as well as to discover amazing dive sites in wine-making regions around the world. Some of the best wines are influenced by sea breezes and a coastal climate, allowing two of Nick and Caroline’s passions to be combined into one epic journey.

**Please note, Nick and Caroline are not encouraging drinking before diving! The two activities are kept well apart on each of these trips.


California has over 1000 miles of coastline to explore and it also has over 1000 wineries so it is a perfect destination for Wining and Diving! It has always been a dream of ours to tour this rugged coast that makes for an epic road trip. Our trip, done over two separate visits, would take us from Fort Bragg in the north to San Diego in the south, along over 700 miles of one of the best coastal roads in the world. We flew into San Francisco, picked up a convertible Mustang, stuffed our diving and camera gear into every available space and headed north to start the wine tasting part of this trip.

Our first stop was to a vineyard whose wine we knew and loved already – Joseph Swan located in the Russian River Valley. They make a Zinfandel that could make you weep and so we wanted to visit the taste more of their wines that do not make it to the UK market. The drive through Russian River was worth the trip alone, with giant redwoods lining the winding road, sun shining, roof down, it was perfect. We also dropped into what must be one of the most eco-friendly vineyards in the world, Inman Family Wines. Organic and solar-powered, sustainability is key. Their Endless Crush Rose is a delight for a warm day on the terrace.

Whilst the sun was shining, the wind was also blowing and so our thoughts of diving in the north were put on hold. Instead, we visited glass beach in Fort Bragg, where over many years, glass tipped onto the beach has worn down to make smooth, multi-coloured, pebbles. A beautiful site, made from what was once rubbish dumped on the beach.

Further south, in Monterey, we reached the crossover point for our trip, as we moved away from wine tasting and into diving. We had one more vineyard we wanted to visit, again one we knew from drinking with friends in our back garden, Wrath Wines. They have tasting rooms in the delightful town of Carmel just a short drive from where we would be diving the next day. They wines are rich, full of flavour and their Pinot Noir is the best we have ever sampled.

Diving the Pacific Ocean in California has always been a dream, and so we had spent many happy hours on the internet researching the best dives and we made a list of the dives we wanted to fit in. Our first was Point Lobos in Carmel by the Sea. We were welcomed to this picturesque bay by a couple of Sea Otters floating on the surface, seemingly sunbathing. Our guide, Phil, had warned us that while the sea was flat calm, the winds had made visibility less than perfect. “You should have been here last week” he said, “when we had 20 feeding Humpback Whales by the boat at the end of the dive!” Our dive saw us swim through the giant kelp, explore anemone-covered boulders and be followed by a mischievous harbor seal. It was a pretty good start.

Heading further south we stopped in Ventura to do a day trip to Anacapa Island. A rugged volcanic island a couple of hours offshore. On the boat ride over to the island we saw whales, orcas and dolphins, as we skimmed across a flat calm ocean. On the dive we marvelled at the life covering every inch of the seabed and loved the bright orange Garibaldi fish who would face up to the camera as you approached.

We continued down to Long Beach, near Los Angeles, where we dived under a working oil rig, covered in marine life. We were joined by a playful young sea lion who zoomed around the small group of divers for over an hour. We also headed out to Catalina Island to dive the kelp forest and to look for the huge Black Sea Bass that the area is famous for. Diving in Giant Kelp is a wonderful experience akin to walking through a rain forest, the fronds towering above you and block out most of the sunlight in the denser patches, and letting dramatic cathedral light through making for a very atmospheric dive.

Our final stop was near San Diego, in the beautiful town of La Jolla. The coast here is home to a colony of sea lions that seem perfectly at ease sharing their home with locals and visitor alike. You can snorkel and dive here and we did both to enjoy these enigmatic creatures from both the surface and at depth. We also snorkeled with Leopard Sharks and turtles.

California offers the traveller so much. The coastal road is stunning, with forests lining one side and the vast ocean stretching out to the horizon on the other. The cities are vibrant with excellent nightlife; great food, drink and entertainment. The vineyards have some of the finest wines anywhere in the world and the diving offers some of the very best cold-water experiences we have had. Is there anything better than Wining and Diving in California?


Links

  • For more information about Frogfish Photography click here.
  • For information about visiting California click here.

Dive Centres

Sundiver International, Long Beach

Ventura Dive

Vineyards

Joseph Swan

Inman Family Wines

Wrath Wines

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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