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Touchdown – Belugas arrive en-route to world’s first whale sanctuary

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SEA LIFE Trust is happy to confirm the safe arrival of two beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, after a 6,000 mile journey from China to Iceland

Two former captive whales, Little Grey and Little White, have safely touched down in Iceland following a 6,000 mile flight from China. The pair now face the final stage of their journey by truck and ferry to the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales.

The SEA LIFE Trust has confirmed that Little Grey and Little White have arrived at Keflavik Airport (Iceland’s International Airport) after having successfully completed the first leg of their landmark journey. The flight, sponsored by Cargolux Airlines Intl, landed locally this afternoon. The whales will now continue onto their new home, a large sanctuary in a natural bay on Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland.

The two belugas were transported in custom-made slings designed to their exact physical requirements, and were then placed in tailored containers. After a lorry trip from Changfeng Ocean World to Shanghai Pu Dong airport, the whales were loaded onto a specially branded Cargolux freighter. The procedure was successful and the aircraft departed Shanghai.

Little Grey and Little White were monitored by their care teams to ensure they remained safe and comfortable throughout the 11.30-12-hour flight. A Cargolux engineer and a team of global veterinary experts with experience in transporting marine mammals were also on board, to guarantee the whale’s  welfare, whilst ensuring flight safety requirements were upheld.

Andy Bool, Head of SEA LIFE Trust, said: “We’re absolutely delighted Little Grey and Little White have safely touched down in Iceland. This is a complex but inspiring project and we’ve been working with the whales for months helping to prepare them for travelling to their new home.

We’ll continue to carefully monitor the whales but we’re pleased with their overall progress and welfare checks, which have been taking place throughout the relocation. The co-ordination of this project has been down to so many people and we’re extremely grateful for all their hard work, and are thrilled this epic journey has gone as planned.”

The 747-400ERF freighter plane was welcomed onto the tarmac with a ceremonial water salute from two fire trucks firing a water arc over the plane, in celebration of Iceland’s newest residents’ safe arrival.

Little Grey and Little White will now be transferred on board two lorries from Keflavik Airport before catching a ferry to Heimaey – off the south coast of Iceland. Once they arrive on the island, they will be placed in their dedicated sanctuary quarantine care pool for monitoring and resting after their epic journey. They will then move to their new home in the secluded open-water bay.

Richard Forson, Cargolux President and Chief Executive Officer, added: “We are delighted that Little Grey and Little White enjoyed a seamless journey onboard our Cargolux aircraft. The success of this undertaking is the reflection of the dedication and commitment of teams across all of our organisations who worked tirelessly to make this happen.

This epic relocation required complex logistical efforts, and we are proud to have been part of this incredible journey. We hope that Little Grey and Little White rapidly adapt to their new home and that their story will serve as a precedent for other cetaceans held in captivity.”

Created in partnership with global marine wildlife charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary is one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and protection in decades and the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans.

Cathy Williamson, Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s End Captivity Programme Policy Manager concluded: “Having been originally involved in discussions about a sanctuary with SEA LIFE 20 years ago, and having helped with this beluga whale project from the beginning, WDC is naturally very excited to be part of the welcoming committee for Little White and Little Grey as they touch down in Iceland. 

The world’s first whale sanctuary represents a pathway to the end of the keeping of whales and dolphins confined for entertainment. We are proud to be a partner of this important project that will improve welfare for these belugas, and show the world that there is an alternative to whale and dolphin captivity.”

The sheltered bay will be the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales in what is a ground-breaking global marine welfare project. The bay, which measures approximately 32,000 sqm with a depth of up to 10m has been chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wilder habitat for these amazing whales to call home.

For more information about the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary, visit www.sealifetrust.org.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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New website: UK Dive Adventures now online!

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The UK and Ireland offer an outstanding variety of diving… being completely surrounded by water has distinct advantages! Yes, the water is a little chilly compared to some more exotic destinations but with the correct equipment and training, there’s a multitude of treasures to explore that you really don’t want to miss.

An incredible 24,000km of coastline… not to mention the large number of inland lakes, quarries and waterways await UK divers wanting to adventure underwater.

UK waters are justifiably renowned for wreck diving and many thousands of years of fascinating history lie under the surface. Scapa Flow off Orkney, Scotland is the pinnacle for wreck divers here and considered one of the top wreck sites worldwide. But there’s a vast range of attractions for those with a lust for rust… and not just seafaring vessels in coastal waters. There’s numerous buses and aircraft to explore at the popular inland sites, and now the world’s first scuba diving escape rooms to experience.

UK and Irish marine life is also incredibly diverse and includes some fascinating and truly magnificent wildlife. From encounters with huge basking sharks and hypnotic blue sharks, to underwater playtime with grey seals, there is so much to see here. Crustaceans of all sizes, seahorses, soft corals, tompot blennies, nudibranchs…. And a myriad of different habitats and underwater topography… crags, rocks, seagrass meadows, swim-throughs, cave systems, sandy plateaus, kelp forests and much, much more to explore. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the joy of diving in the UK and Ireland.

So, welcome to UK Dive Adventures… a fantastic new online resource full of scuba diving news, blogs, travel features and deals, plus outstanding underwater photography exclusively about the dive destinations in all corners of the UK and Ireland; brought to you by the expert Scubaverse Media and Dive Travel Adventures team.

We’ve still got a couple of tweaks to make but we couldn’t wait to share our UK Dive Adventures with you. Drop us a line at contact@scubaverse.com or via our Dive Travel Adventures Facebook and Instagram. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Dive Training Blogs

Jump into… Guided Dives

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Just passed your Open Water course and not sure what’s next? Of course your diver training will have prepared you for diving out with your buddy, but it’s sometimes a daunting thought. Just like when you passed your driving test… remember that first time behind the wheel when the instructor was not there? I totally get it! 

When I first started diving, ALL of my training was done in quarries. Not that there is anything wrong with quarries… I mean, I own the best one in the world! Only joking, other quarry owners… they’re all good in their own way. But, there is nothing like diving in the sea. The thought of literally jumping into the unknown, a place where you cannot purchase the map at the front desk, or know where you need to go down to see the boat and that resident sturgeon. You have the opportunity to potentially see any of the 170,000 marine creatures that the UK is home to and possibly an area that nobody else in the world has dived. That sense of adventure is what we all, as divers, long for. 

With that in mind, I totally get that the flip side of this is scary: being a brand new diver, or a diver with no sea experience, and that’s fine. We all need a hand to start out somewhere. I was not that lucky; the people that I dived around with, all dived at the same time and place each week, and so when I started up alone, I began exploring the UK waters. Learning what times were the best to dive, what spring and neaps meant, where the best entry and exit points would be… and it took a lot of work to become competent in this type of planning. And still does each year that we check out new sites!

That’s the reason that I have made sure that we keep our theme of small, guided dives. Little Viv is coded for a lot more divers than the 4 that we take, but it’s all about that personal touch of being able to take divers to an area that they are all comfortable with, whether they are new or experienced, and guide them to the best locations to witness North Wales at it’s best. The guided dive aspect is one of the main things I love about our centres and probably always will be. Opening up new sites to divers where they don’t have to feel like it is impossible and giving them a helping hand to witness some of the most stunning sites under the UK waters. That’s what it’s all about.

So, if you haven’t done so yet, and I am not just saying this as an upsell for my own business… Wherever you are in the UK, make sure you put at least 1 sea diving location on your tick list for 2022. You will definitely not want to turn back!


Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com

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Competitions

A very popular liveaboard, Emperor Superior offers fantastic diving in comfortable surroundings. Her experienced crew make this one of the best for divers in the Red Sea.

WAS £1155pp / NOW from just £895 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 25kgs 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
  • Airport transfers

Booking deadline: Subject to availability. Limited spaces available.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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