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Peri-Peri Divers completes first apprenticeship scheme

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Two local fishermen have qualified as Open Water divers in their first steps to joining the dive industry.

In partnership with the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), Peri-Peri Divers in Tofo Beach, Mozambique, is pleased to announce the completion of its first ever local apprenticeship scheme. Two local fishermen have spent three months with the company, undertaking their PADI Open Water qualification and learning about all the workings of a dive school.

While 60% of Mozambicans live close to the ocean and most depend on it for their main source of income, and fish as their main source of protein, fish stocks are rapidly declining. These massive declines are impacting negatively on local communities and are largely the result of unsustainable fishing practices, including artisanal gill net fishing with small mesh size. MMF is working with coastal communities to help change their perception of marine life and to become ambassadors for ocean protection. The first step is to help them take pride in their ocean resources, and to develop more sustainable ways of living. For these two apprentices, who are former gill net fishermen, the programme will open up a potential new career path while also promoting a positive relationship with the ocean.

Steve Counsel, co-owner of Peri-Peri, said: “When Fernando and Carlos started working with us three months ago, they were already able to swim but didn’t speak much English. When they started their Open Water course in April, you could just see the happiness on their face and how delighted they were when they took their first breaths underwater.

After a couple of weeks, they were out in the open sea experiencing scuba diving for the first time and were able to actually see fish in their natural habitat for an extended period,” he continued. “Obviously, this was quite a change from what they’re used to as fishermen – they were so surprised by what was happening underwater. It’s been great to see them realise the beauty of marine life (alive!) and the inspiration this has given them to carry on with their scuba diving journey.

Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength: they finished their Open Water course and the next step is for them to do their deep dive, which they’ll complete when conditions are suitable. Now they both have about 15-16 dives each and are really comfortable in the water. They’ve also been taking English classes with the MMF team and their language skills have massively improved, which has also led to a hugely positive change in their personal interactions with dive centre staff and clients alike. They’ve done really well and it’s been fantastic to see them excel.”

The Marine Megafauna Foundation has been integral to the success of the apprenticeship. The charity’s conservation team came up with the concept and worked with Peri-Peri to develop the programme. They also worked with the local community to identify candidates among the gill net fishermen for the Peri-Peri team to interview and choose the two most suitable for the role. The Apprentices have not only been learning to dive, they have also been trained on all aspects of dive operations, from logistics to diver support. This opportunity has opened up many possibilities. Now the three months are over, the Apprentices will continue to work part-time with Peri Peri and focus the rest of their time on improving their English in preparation for a new career in the dive industry.

Carlos said: “We have learned lots of things during our apprenticeship. As well as diving, we have been taught how to organise equipment and look after the customers – we really enjoy it. My elder brother used to be a fisherman as well and now he is working as a skipper in Ponta d’Ouro. Our family are interested in seeing us continue careers in diving rather than fishing.”

Fernando said: “Before we started diving we thought fish were afraid of people but now we’ve spent more time with them underwater we can see that they like to play with humans. Our first ever dive was really cool. We had been speargun fishing in the past, so we were already good at freediving and our dive instructor, Moises, was really surprised at how confident we were in the water!

We’ve liked almost everything we’ve seen in the ocean: whales, turtles – I like them all,” he continued: “My feelings about fishing are not the same now because I realise that gill nets remove everything from the ocean – even small fish, stones and reef – which is not good. I would like other fishermen to change their minds about using gill nets too and try to find another source of income or use nets that do not have such a small mesh.

Talking about the partnership with MMF, Steve said: “For me, what MMF has done has been very cool. The whole concept and the effort everyone has put in has been great. It’s helped us find two guys that really enjoy diving and, for me as an employer, MMF’s support has made it a lot easier to give these young men the opportunity to get into the industry. There’s obviously still a long way to go but they’ve done exactly what the programme set out to do and it’s been a really good experience both for our two apprentices and for us at Peri-Peri. While they still need to improve their English skills further, we are hoping to be able to offer them positions with us in the New Year.”

Peri-Peri Divers is also about to unveil its newly renovated 5* PADI development centre which is due to open in December 2018. The dive centre will include a 5m deep, 10m wide training pool – which will be the deepest in Mozambique – as well as up-to-date, spacious classrooms, a designated area for cameras and a new Nitrox membrane. In addition, Peri-Peri will also provide kiteboarding lessons, freediving courses and complimentary yoga for clients diving with them. Of course, even in these new surroundings, the Peri-Peri team will still offer a friendly, down-to-earth attitude and personalised, small-group dive service which prioritises safety above all else.

MMF will continue to work with the local community in Tofo and expand to neighboring communities, to help them improve sustainable fishing practices and ocean conservation. Mariana Coelho, MMF’s Mozambique Country Director, said: “We’re so pleased to see how successful this programme has been. Our aim was to open up a new career path for these young fishermen and it’s great to see how well they’ve excelled in their roles as well as the new respect and love for the ocean they’ve developed during their time with Peri-Peri. We wish them all the best in their continued careers.

For more information about the Marine Megafauna Foundation visit their website by clicking here.

For more information about Peri-Peri Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Northern Red Sea Reefs and Wrecks Trip Report, Part 3: The Mighty Thistlegorm

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red sea

Jake Davies boards Ghazala Explorer for an unforgettable Red Sea diving experience…

Overnight, the wind picked up, making the planned morning dive a bit bumpy on the Zodiacs to the drop point on Thomas Reef. There, we would dive along the reef before descending through the canyon and then passing under the arch before ascending the wall with a gentle drift. The site provided great encounters with more pelagic species, including shoals of large barracuda, tuna, and bigeye trevally.

Once back on the boat, it was time to get everything tied down again as we would head back south. This time, with the wind behind us, heading to Ras Mohammed to dive Jackfish Alley for another great gentle drift wall dive before then heading up the coast towards the Gulf of Suez to moor up at the wreck of the Thistlegorm. This being the highlight wreck dive of the trip and for many onboard, including myself, it was the first time diving this iconic wreck. I had heard so much about the wreck from friends, and globally, this is a must on any diver’s list. Fortunately for us, there was only one other boat at the site, which was a rarity. A great briefing was delivered by Ahmed, who provided a detailed background about the wreck’s history along with all the required safety information as the currents and visibility at the site can be variable.

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Kitting up, there was a lot of excitement on deck before entering the water and heading down the shoreline. Descending to the wreck, there was a light northerly current which reduced the visibility, making it feel more like the conditions that can be found off the Welsh coast. At 10m from the bottom, the outline of the wreck appeared as we reached the area of the wreck which had been bombed, as our mooring line was attached to part of the propeller shaft. Arriving on deck, instantly everywhere you looked there were many of the supplies which the ship was carrying, including Bren Carrier tanks and projectiles that instantly stood out.

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We headed around the exterior, taking a look at the large propeller and guns mounted on deck before entering the wreck on the port side to take a look in the holds. It was incredible to see all the trucks, Norton 16H, and BSA motorcycles still perfectly stacked within, providing a real snapshot in time.

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Overall, we had four dives on the Thistlegorm, where for all of the dives we were the only group in the water, and at times, there were just three of us on the whole wreck, which made it even more special, especially knowing that most days the wreck has hundreds of divers. Along with the history of the wreck, there was plenty of marine life on the wreck and around, from big green turtles to batfish, along with shoals of mackerel being hunted by trevally. Some unforgettable dives.

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The final leg of the trip saw us cross back over the Suez Canal to the Gobal Islands where we planned to stay the night and do three dives at the Dolphin House for the potential of sharing the dive with dolphins. The site, which included a channel that was teeming with reef fish, especially large numbers of goatfish that swam in large shoals along the edge of the reef. These were nice relaxing dives to end the week. Unfortunately, the dolphins didn’t show up, which was okay as like all marine life they are difficult to predict and you can’t guarantee what’s going to be seen. With the last dive complete, we headed back to port for the final night where it was time to clean all the kit and pack before the departure flight the next day.

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The whole week from start to finish on Ghazala Explorer was amazing; the boat had all the facilities you need for a comfortable week aboard. The crew were always there to help throughout the day and the chefs providing top quality food which was required after every dive. The itinerary providing some of the best diving with a nice mixture of wreck and reef dives. I would recommend the trip to anyone, whether it’s your first Red Sea liveaboard in the Red Sea or you’re revisiting. Hopefully, it’s not too long before I head back to explore more of the Red Sea onboard Ghazala Explorer.

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To find out more about the Northern Red Sea reef and wrecks itineraries aboard Ghazala Explorer, or to book, contact Scuba Travel now:

Email: dive@scubatravel.com

Tel: +44 (0)1483 411590

www.scubatravel.com

Photos: Jake Davies / Avalon.Red

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Northern Red Sea Reefs and Wrecks Trip Report, Part 2: Wall to Wall Wrecks

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red sea

Jake Davies boards Ghazala Explorer for an unforgettable Red Sea diving experience…

The second day’s diving was a day full of wreck diving at Abu Nuhas, which included the Chrisoula K, Carnatic, and Ghiannis D. The first dive of the day was onto the Chrisoula K, also known as the wreck of tiles. The 98m vessel remains largely intact where she was loaded with tiles which can be seen throughout the hold. The stern sits at 26m and the bow just below the surface. One of the highlights of the wreck is heading inside and seeing the workroom where the machinery used for cutting the tiles are perfectly intact. The bow provided some relaxing scenery as the bright sunlight highlighted the colours of the soft coral reef and the many reef fish.

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Following breakfast, we then headed to the next wreck, which was the Carnatic. The Carnatic is an 89.9m sail steamer vessel that was built in Britain back in 1862. She ran aground on the reef back in 1869 and remains at 27m. At the time, she was carrying a range of items, including 40,000 sterling in gold. An impressive wreck where much of the superstructure remains, and the two large masts lay on the seafloor. The wooden ribs of the hull provide structures for lots of soft corals, and into the stern section, the light beams through, bouncing off the large shoals of glass fish that can be found using the structure as shelter from the larger predators that are found outside of the wreck.

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The final wreck at Abu Nuhas was the Ghiannis D, originally called ‘Shoyo Maru,’ which was 99.5m long and built in Japan back in 1969 before becoming a Greek-registered cargo ship in 1980. The ship then ran aground on the reef on April 19th, 1983, and now sits at the bottom at a depth of 27m. Heading down the line, the stern of the ship remains in good condition compared to the rest of the hull. The highlight of the wreck, though, is heading into the stern section and down the flights of stairs to enter the engine room, which remains in good condition and is definitely worth exploring. After exploring the interior section of the ship, we then headed over to see the rest of the superstructure, where it’s particularly interesting to see the large table corals that have grown at the bow relatively quickly considering the date the ship sank. After surfacing and enjoying some afternoon snacks, we made sure everything was strapped down and secured as we would be heading north and crossing the Gulf of Suez, where the winds were still creating plenty of chop.

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The next morning, it was a short hop to Ras Mohammed Nature Reserve for the next couple of days of diving. The 6am wake-up call came along with the briefing for the first site we would be diving, which was Shark & Yolanda. The low current conditions allowed us to start the dive at Anemone City, where we would drift along the steep, coral-filled wall. These dives involved drifts, as mooring in Ras Mohammed wasn’t allowed to protect the reefs. As a dive site, Shark & Yolanda is well-known and historically had a lot of sharks, but unfortunately not so many in recent years, especially not so early in the season. However, there was always a chance when looking out into the blue.

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The gentle drift took us along the steep walls of the site, with plenty of anemone fish to be seen and a huge variety of corals. It wasn’t long into the dive before we were accompanied by a hawksbill turtle, who drifted with us between the two atolls before parting ways. Between the two reefs, the shallow patch with parts of coral heads surrounded by sand provided the chance to see a few blue-spotted stingrays that were mainly resting underneath the corals and are always a pleasure to see. With this being the morning dive, the early sunlight lit up the walls, providing tranquil moments. Looking out into the blue, there was very little to be seen, but a small shoal of batfish shimmering underneath the sunlight was a moment to capture as we watched them swim by as they watched us.

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Towards the end of the dive, we stopped at the wreck of the Jolanda where the seafloor was scattered with toilets from the containers it was carrying. This provided a unique site to make a safety stop, which was also accompanied by a large barracuda slowly swimming by, along with a hawksbill turtle calmly swimming over the reef as the sun rays danced in the distance.

For the next dive, we headed north to the Strait of Tiran to explore the reefs situated between Tiran Island and Sharm El Sheik, which were named after the British divers who had found them. We started on Jackson before heading to Gordons Reef, where we also did the night dive. All the atolls at these sites provided stunning, bustling coral reefs close to the surface and steep walls to swim along, which always provided the opportunity to keep an eye out for some of the larger species that can be seen in the blue. Midwater around Jackson Reef was filled with red-toothed triggerfish and shoals of banner fish, which at times were so dense that you couldn’t see into the blue. Moments went by peacefully as we enjoyed the slow drift above the reef, watching these shoals swim around under the mid-afternoon sun.

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The night dive at Gordon’s Reef was mainly among the stacks of corals surrounded by sand, which was great to explore under the darkness. After some time circling the corals, we came across what we were really hoping to find, and that was an octopus hunting on the reef. We spent the majority of the dive just watching it crawl among the reef, blending into its changing surroundings through changes in colour and skin texture. It’s always so fascinating and captivating to watch these incredibly intelligent animals, in awe of their ability to carry out these physical changes to perfectly blend into the reef. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the boat to enjoy a well-deserved tasty dinner prepared by the talented chefs onboard.

Check in for the 3rd and final part of this series from Jake tomorrow!

To find out more about the Northern Red Sea reef and wrecks itineraries aboard Ghazala Explorer, or to book, contact Scuba Travel now:

Email: dive@scubatravel.com

Tel: +44 (0)1483 411590

www.scubatravel.com

Photos: Jake Davies / Avalon.Red

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