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Diving with…Andrea Agarwal, Thresher Shark Divers, Malapascua, Philippines

Asia DTA Team

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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?

Andrea Agarwal

What is the name of your business?

Thresher Shark Divers

What is your role within the business?

Owner/Managing Director/Marketing and Reservations

How long has the business operated for?

15 years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

20 years, PADI Master Instructor

What is your favorite type of diving?

Muck diving. And of course, sharks!

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Thresher sharks!  Malapascua is the only place in the world where you can have up-close and personal sightings of this magnificent creature every day!

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

My favourite dive site is Gato Island.  Whilst I adore the sharks, I love my macro more and I originally settled in Malapascua because there is so much macro at every dive site.  But Gato outshines them all and has a superb variety. When I arrived on Malapascua in 2003,  I coined the phrase, “You come for the sharks, but leave remembering Gato,” and we still use that today.

You can see assorted seahorse including pygmies, so many species of nudis, crustaceans of all sorts, several frogfish species, and so much more.  And it’s not just macro.  There are beautiful soft corals, as well as bigger stuff like the mesmerising mating cuttlefish that I could spend all dive watching, and Gato’s famous tunnel under the island, often with whitetip sharks inside! If not, you will definitely see whitetips hiding under rocks and you can get very close up as they open and close their mouths ominously! (Don’t worry, they’re only breathing!)

What types of diving are available in your location?

Sharks and large rays; wrecks and reefs; wall dives and muck dives; beautiful coral gardens, mating mandarin fish, and amazing macro.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I adore working in an industry where you exist to make people happy and make their dreams come true.  There is nothing I love more than hearing that someone has had the most amazing holiday of their life! And when diving, there is nothing better than finding some new weird and wonderful creature I’ve never seen before.  For example, I’m still on the search for that elusive Bobbitt Worm, and I’m hopeful I will find it one day! They simply have to be in Malapscuan waters!

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Oooh, so difficult to choose!!!

I think I’d have to go for the aforementioned cuttlefish (although you might get a different answer tomorrow!). They are so intelligent, so beautiful to watch, especially when they are flashing  full colours when mating, and with enough patience, once they get used to you, you can even play with them (no touching of course!)

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

We saw a tiger shark this week for the first time ever at Monad Shoal, the thresher shark site! Hoping it will be the first of many sightings!!!

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

That’s a toughie as there are many! The main issues have been ongoing for forever, and include things like waste management and marine protection. Although I’ve tried, it’s impossible to do anything meaningful without government help.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Yes, we always have been. We were one of the first dive shops on Malapscua, and since I first arrived, I’ve pioneered marine protection initiatives. Off the top of my head, among other things, I wrote and implemented the rules for diving with the sharks, have organised removal of hundreds of thousands of crown of thorns during two separate infestations (not a problem now thankfully), and tried to implement a program, funded by business donations, to install litter bins and employ locals to keep the island clean.

For these larger scale issues, it’s an uphill struggle, especially with increasing tourism, and it requires governmental help to succeed… Some things are easier to control – of course we do regular clean-ups, we always insist on proper dive practices to protect the environment, we have a very strict no gloves/no touching policy etc. etc.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I wish there was a way to weed out the cowboys. I hate hearing stories of bad experiences with bad dive shops who cut corners to save a buck, or lazy Instructors and DMs who just can’t be bothered and end up giving divers frightening experiences. I’ve always run Thresher Shark Divers with a strong motto of “Safety and quality first”, and in that order. Our reputation reflects that and I’m very proud of my team for always supporting me in this, and upholding my values.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

“Safety and quality first”!!!

Joking aside, this is our other tag line-

“You want big fish? We got big fish!

You want macro? We got macro!

You want wrecks? We got wrecks?

You want it all? We got it all!

Malapascua Island – your one-stop dive spot!”

I wrote that not long after we opened, because I did and still do believe it with a passion.  I settled on Malapascua because of the tremendous variety of diving – the dive sites are spread out in all directions, with all kinds of oceanic influence, and it means they mostly have very different kinds of diving.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

www.thresherdivers.com

dive@thresherdivers.com

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Save on NEW Emperor Harmoni

Asia DTA Team

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The launch of Emperor Harmoni – Emperor Divers’ brand-new liveaboard in Indonesia – is just a few weeks away with the finishing touches currently taking place. And, to welcome her to their fleet, Emperor have put together an offer as magnificent as the boat herself.

Anyone booking a trip on Harmoni for 2022 or 2023 will receive a 25% discount if they book and confirm before October 1st 2022.

That means the first guests on board can not only explore and dive the Indonesian waters in the finest of style but do so at an incredible price. And sailing on Harmoni really is fine.

She is a 24-berth, traditional Indonesian phinisi-style vessel which has been bespoke made using a combination of Emperor’s vast experience of liveaboards and the expertise of legendary Indonesian boat builder Pak Haji.

Constructed almost entirely by hand using Sulawesi ironwood, Harmoni has been designed specifically to offer the finest diving experiences possible in spacious surroundings of the very highest standard.

The beautifully-finished cabins all have en-suite bathrooms and air conditioning while the deck areas offer plenty of comfortable places to sit and maybe even enjoy a relaxing massage. The dining area is spacious and serves the high-quality food and drink you would expect from an Emperor Divers holiday.

The first trip leaves on September 16th and will cruise from Bali, taking in the wonderful scenery of Moyo Island, Sumbawa and Sangean Volcano before finally reaching Komodo National Park. 

The offer is valid on new bookings only and discount is not to be combined with group free places or any other discount or promotion.

Email reservations@emperordivers.com to confirm pricing and availability or speak personally to the Emperor Divers’ reservation team to find out more.

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Reef-World launches Green Fins Japan!

Asia DTA Team

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The Reef-World Foundation, the Onna Village Diving Association, the local government, and Oceana are delighted to announce that Japan is now the 14th country globally to implement the Green Fins initiative – a UN Environment Programme initiative. Onna Village in Okinawa is the first Japanese tourist destination to adopt Green Fins environmental standards to reduce the threats associated with diving and snorkelling on the marine environment.

Green Fins is piloted in Onna Village, Okinawa prefecture, an area renowned for its marine sports and has been working to protect its reefs for many years. Green Fins is implemented as part of the national Sustainable Development Goals project, which aims to manage and illustrate to the local industry how sustainable tourism can play a role in reef conservation. The economic benefits of the reefs benefit not only the fisheries industry but also the tourism industry as it has rocketed in recent decades.

If the project is successful – proving the value of sustainable tourism – the model has the potential to be escalated to a national level. A wide rollout would allow Reef-World to focus on uptake and expansion into other marine tourism and biodiversity hotspots across Japan. Green Fins implementation in Japan would provide practical solutions to many of the common problems faced in the area. It would also help to promote high standards for diving in the country. Improving the quality of the diving industry through Green Fins would demonstrate the added value of Onna Village’s tourism product. This, in turn, will encourage tourists to spend more time and money diving in the region.

Following a week of training by Reef-World (23 to 28 May 2022), Japan now has a national Green Fins team comprised of four fully certified Green Fins Assessors and two Green Fins Coordinators from Oceana and the local government. They will be responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and certifying dive and snorkel operators to become Green Fins members in the country. This involves providing training about the ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions to these threats and Green Fins’ environmental standards to dive and snorkel operators. Green Fins membership will help marine tourism operators improve their sustainability and prove they are working hard to follow environmental best practices as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

James Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We are really excited to finally introduce Green Fins in Japan. We have been planning this for almost three years, but the travel restrictions related to the pandemic hindered progress. The diving industry in Okinawa and the marine life upon which it has been built is so unique, it must be preserved for generations to come. The Okinawa diving community is very passionate about protecting their marine environment, and Green Fins has given them an opportunity to collectively work to reduce their environmental impact and pursue exemplary environmental standards.”

Diving and snorkelling related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or plastic debris and the effects of climate change. Based on robust individual assessments, the Green Fins initiative helps identify and mitigate these risks by providing environmental consultation and support to dive and snorkel operators. Through Green Fins implementation in Japan, Reef-World aims to reduce negative environmental impacts in the region by reaching 10 marine tourism operators, training 50 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practices among 10,000 tourists in the first year.

Yuta Kawamoto, CEO of Oceana, said: “Green Fins will help to unify all the conservation efforts in Okinawa by applying the guidelines in many areas and raising tourists awareness. We hope this will increase the sustainable value in the diving industry and in turn increase the diving standards in the country.”

Green Fins is a UN Environment Programme initiative, internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.

To date, four dive operators in Onna Village have joined the global network of 600+ trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Benthos Divers, Okinawa Diving Center, Arch Angel and Pink Marlin Club. There has also been significant interest from other operators, even those that are not located in Onna Village, for Green Fins training and assessment.

Suika Tsumita from Oceana said: “Green Fins serve as an important tool for local diving communities to move towards a more sustainable use of their dive sites; so that they can maintain their scenic beauty and biological richness to provide livelihoods for many generations to come.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or  www.greenfins.net/countries/japan. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up for Green Fins can find the membership application form at: www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.

Dive and snorkel operators in Japan interested in signing up to be Green Fins members can contact the Green Fins Japan team at japan@greenfins.net.

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