In 1997 a single swimmer circled Mauritius alone. He was not young, he was supported only by a boat, and it took him 18 days. He did it to prove it could be done.
In 2020, 12 Students from Northfields International School in La Bourdonais Mauritius are planning to swim around the Island in only 8 days, and they are doing it to generate interest in the things that matter to them. Why you ask? Are they crazy? Its 180 km.
Surely their parents won’t allow this, I thought, and I went down to the beach to meet the team and make a video of them on their first day of training. Unbelievably the parents who are all Mauritius residents, applaud their enterprise. It’s being cleverly coached by teachers Murray Botha and Jordan Peek who have planned a support team of canoeists and boats.
Inspired by Murray Botha and Jordan Peek, two teachers at the Northfields School, 12 Students between the ages of 12 and 17 are swimming around Mauritius. Accompanied by 4 x 2-man canoes, a powerful support team and a boat, the swimmers will make the swim in relays, changing swimmers every 30 minutes, and swimming 20 km per day over 9 days.
These Students watch plastic bottles being dumped out of the windows of buses and cars into the streets of Mauritius in their suburbs, and they see them being carried down-stream into the ocean.
They are also deeply concerned about the conservation of Mauritius reefs and about overfishing. They want to draw attention to both land based and marine conservation.
They asked me what conservation issues were faced by the diving industry in Mauritius, and I was happy to oblige.
We have had the most amazing diving for the last 3 years, with spectacular new corals and thriving and abundant fish life. Mauritius wreck diving is world class. Shark diving is superb, with deep walls and Cathedral like canyons where they lazily circle in the washing machine currents.
Now for no apparent reason the turtles have left Turtle Rock, we no longer see huge shoals of tuna and marlin and billfish are no longer around and although the sharks are still plentiful around their normal habitat, we no longer see the baby white tips on the inshore reefs. Trying to find out why, I looked into the Mauritius Ministry of Fisheries website, and was horrified to find recipes on how to clean reef fish so they could safely be eaten.
This list explains which of the reef fish must be treated before being eaten, among them a huge number of rare and endemic reef fish, all caught under license from the Mauritius Government.
One dreadful article explains how to clean and serve a Hawksbill turtle, listed as toxic unless treated, although these endangered turtles are now fully protected under recent legislation.
The legacy of French cuisine seems to be impacting the reefs, although the Island was British for over 150 years. Fortunately, most tourists are well aware of the need to protect reef fish, and most of the resorts are discreetly refusing to serve them.
The pic below shows the fish that can be caught under license in Mauritius- Groupers, Unicorn fish Yellow edged lyre tails, Porcupine fish, wrasses… all reef fish.
Tragically, the Fisheries Ministry does not seem to know the difference between pelagic commercial fish passing through in shoals and territorial reef fish. They also appear to have licensed and registered a shark exporter as seen on their web pages, despite the fact that they have signed an international protocol for the protection of sharks.
When I spoke to the students, each one had a different perspective on the swim, and all of them were completely committed. Illegal fishing with small mesh nets was a huge concern, as we all see this when we walk the beaches early in the morning.
The teams of swimmers and paddlers will stop at various resorts on the lagoons overnight, and The Attitude Hotels Group of resorts, who have a reputation for implementing conservation practices in all their resorts, have volunteered to assist by providing accommodation in their resorts for the swimmers.
The conservation objectives will be presented every 20 km at the overnight stops. Diving centres along the route will meet the teams each evening.
With the uncertainty that oppresses a tropical island diving destination when the world goes into lockdown and planes are grounded, we are all concerned about the impact of the COVID 19 virus on international tourism in Mauritius.
The School Sports Department is planning a comprehensive scuba diving training program in conjunction with local dive centres. The local French school too has been approached by one of the diving centres in the area to allow training of their students.
Euro Divers at Club Med has offered its diving centre for training school Students, and Sun Divers in the West has undertaken to train school Students in the Flic en Flac area..
And taking advantage of the PADI COVID 20% discount on courses, many parents are keen to get their Students diving.
So, the 2020 Mauritius Island Swim is the ideal way to kick-start a new attitude to both conservation and diving in Mauritius.
PADI Teams Up with Wellness Brand Neuro to Drive Ocean Change and Create a Blue State of Mind
Together launching a whale-inspired limited-edition tin to fund ocean conservation
Ocean lovers and wellness enthusiasts can join PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) and Neuro® functional gum and mints in creating positive ocean change.
The two leading lifestyle and purpose-driven brands have united in a shared mission that is born out of the transformational powers of the water and are offering a streamlined way to enhance your wellbeing and that of the ocean. Throughout the year, they will be releasing a collection of two limited edition re-usable Neuro x PADI tins designed to be used with all the bulk Neuro bag products, with 20% of profits donated to PADI AWARE FoundationTMand $100K USD committed to the world’s largest purpose-driven diving organisation’s non-profit charity by the end of 2024.
The first of the co-branded tins that are now available for purchase showcases artwork created by Neuro co-founder Kent Yoshimura, who is also a renowned mural artist and depicts a whale breaching in the ocean.
“The whale is symbolic of how everything is interconnected and small changes can have a huge impact upon our ocean – and all life that calls it home,” explains Yoshimura. “By refilling and using this tin, you’ll cut down on your packaging waste, fuel yourself with clean ingredients to live your best life and do more for all vulnerable marine species.”
“At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and more than 250 million tons of plastic are estimated to pollute our waters by 2025,” says Julie Andersen, PADI’s Senior Director of Brand. “Much of that debris is ingested by all of the ocean’s creatures – including the symbolic megafauna like whales. By creating this campaign, PADI and Neuro have come together to drive change and heal ourselves, our communities, and the ocean – our largest and most important ecosystem on this blue planet, and the very thing responsible for life on earth.”
Uniting Two Purpose-Driven Brands
Founded in 2015 by Yoshimura and his co-founder Ryan Chen on their first dive trip in Catalina, the two college friends and PADI Scuba Divers were looking for a more sustainable way to optimise one’s health and energy – and soon after established Neuro®, a collection of functional gum and mints crafted with a patented formula and clean ingredients to help you do more.
What started as a small start-up conceived on a dive boat, led them to garner international recognition for their appearance on Shark Tank in 2020 – and they have now sold over 90 million pieces of Neuro products.
“Core to our purpose-driven ethos, we want to encourage the world to not only improve their own lives, but the lives of others,” explains Chen. “We understand that being a truly sustainable company is more than just protecting the environment. That is why we prioritise environmental, social, and economic sustainability to ensure Neuro operates in a way that benefits everyone – including the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales that live beneath the surface.”
“Just like Neuro, PADI empowers people to become the best version of themselves when they are in a state of ‘blue mind’, where you become deeply aware of your own personal health’s connection to that of our blue planet’s – realising that your own wellbeing gives you superpowers to make a real difference,” says Andersen. “We are obsessed with creating positive ocean change and transforming lives by making the wonder of the underwater world accessible to all and ensuring that communities and ecosystems live in harmony that mutually support one another. Together, we are magnifying our powers to do more by raising awareness to the issues facing our ocean, while at the same time, providing meaningful ways to take action.”
How the Ocean Healed Neuro Co-Founders
Scuba diving isn’t just a passionate hobby for Neuro co-founders Yoshimura and Chen. It is from this that they experienced the entrepreneurial side-effects of scuba diving, in which the dive trip was a core driver to their business success and personal wellbeing – giving them both their “million-dollar idea” and a renewed sense of purpose and belief that anything is possible.
“It was during this dive trip that we realised the need to have a practical, sustainable, and approachable system that can be shared with fellow divers that provide clean energy during surface intervals,” Yoshimura explains. “When you fall in love with the ocean, you want to spend as much time as possible exploring and protecting it. So, we wanted to create a product that supported this passion and gives you a prolonged state of ‘blue mind’.”
For Chen, earning his PADI Open Water Diver certification also provided him with a pivotal moment in his own healing journey after he had suffered a tragic snowboarding accident that left him partially paralysed. He became certified through the PADI Adaptive Techniques Diving Course and benefited greatly from the physical and mental therapy the sport of scuba diving provides. Soon after, his renewed sense of purpose led him to be named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2019.
“There’s no cooler feeling than taking that first breath underwater,” Chen recalls. “All of a sudden you have this superpower, to breathe underwater and explore. Learning to dive re-ignited my passion for life but also my belief that I too could make a difference in protecting and saving the ocean.”
“Learning to scuba dive unlocks hidden superpowers that are not only empowering – but essential to keep our shared blue planet healthy,” Andersen explains. “As a PADI Scuba Diver, you not only develop a new passion, but you also earn the unique ability to protect what you love, engaging in impactful citizen science with your own two hands. Through a shared mission of instilling hope, connecting with other species, and fueling hands-on conservation, we hope that we can make a better world for all of us.”
“That is why we rebuilt our company mission at PADI to reach every 1 in 10 people on our shared blue planet and inspire them to join us as Ocean Torchbearers to create positive ocean change,” says Andersen. “Our work with Neuro helps us inspire more people to experience, fall in love with, and protect the ocean and all life that calls it home. Together, Neuro and PADI are supporting more people in achieving a state of “blue mind”, in which they realise they too are superheroes that can accelerate and optimise healing: our own, our communities, and our planets.”
Win a Healing Trip of a Lifetime and Become PADI Whale Defenders in Mexico
Note: This competition is only open to residents of the USA
As part of their limited edition re-usable tin launch, PADI and Neuro are offering one lucky winner the ultimate healing trip of a lifetime: the chance to become a PADI Whale Defender in Baja California, Mexico. The prize includes flights, accommodation, the PADI Whale Defender Course, and a whale-watching tour with Dive Ninja Expeditions for two, as well as a collection of Neuro mint and gum products that includes Energy + Focus, Calm + Clarity and Sleep + Recharge.
“Together, we all must heal ourselves before we can heal the planet,” says Andersen. “Neuro and PADI are united in purpose, focused on our holistic wellbeing by healing from within, connecting with like-minded, purpose-driven communities, and joining a movement bigger than yourself to create positive ocean change. Seeing is believing, and an unforgettable, life-altering encounter with a whale will change your life forever, filling you with a drive to protect their – and our – blue world.”
For more information, to purchase the limited edition re-usable tins and to enter this competition, visit padi.neurogum.com/sweepstakes.
Diver Discovering Whale Skeletons Beneath Ice Judged World’s Best Underwater Photograph
An emotive photograph showing a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling sees
Alex Dawson from Sweden named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024. Dawson’s
photograph ‘Whale Bones’ triumphed over 6500 underwater pictures entered by underwater
photographers from around the world.
“Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions,” explains chair of judging
panel Alex Mustard, “as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear
witness to the carcasses. The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great
creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today,
just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way
needs to change to find a balance with nature.”
Whales dominated the winning pictures this year with Spanish photographer Rafael
Fernandez Caballero winning two categories with his revealing photos of these ocean giants:
a close up of a grey whale’s eye and an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing an entire bait
ball, both taken in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico. Fernandez Caballero took ‘Grey
Whale Connection’ while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water
to photograph the curious whale. ‘The End Of A Baitball’ required Fernandez Caballero to dive
down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the whale lunged. “The photo shows
the high speed attack,” he said, “with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines
in one bite — simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”
Lisa Stengel from the United States was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi-mahi catching a sardine, in Mexico. Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment. “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean,” she explained. “The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”
“It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras,”
commented judge Alex Mustard. “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi mahi,
now Lisa has photographed one hunting, action that plays out in the blink of an eye.”
The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Jenny Stock,
was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image “Star
Attraction”, which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked.
Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained “in the dark green depths my torch
picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a
different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I
got really excited.”
In the same contest, Portuguese photographer, Nuno Sá, was named ‘Save Our Seas
Foundation’ Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024, with his photo ‘Saving
Goliath’, taken in Portugal. Sá’s photo shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm
whale. The picture gives us hope that people do care and want to help the oceans, but also
warns us that bigger changes are needed. “The whale had been struck by a ship and its fate
was sealed,” explains Sá. “An estimated 20,000 whales are killed every year, and many more
injured, after being struck by ships-and few people even realise that it happens.”
More winning images can be found at www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com.
About Underwater Photographer of the Year
Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools, and attracts entries from all around the world. The contest has 13 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. The winners were announced in an award ceremony in Mayfair, London, hosted by The Crown Estate. This year’s UPY judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Dr Alexander Mustard MBE.
Header image: Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 winner Alex Dawson
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