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Diving with…Brigitte Gassner, Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

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?

Brigitte Gassner

What is the name of your business?

critters@lembehresort

What is your role within the business?

Dive Center Manager

How long has the business operated for?

The Resort and Dive Center critters@lembeh, started in 2002 as the first Dive resort on Lembeh Island.

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

I have been diving since 1998 and became a Dive Instructor in 2002. Since then I am traveling as a Pro.

What is your favorite type of diving?

It’s definitely Muck Diving. But I love to dive in general, so it is more about the feeling underwater, the freedom and peace. I also like to dive in currents which brings many fish, and soft corals are open and there can be always surprises.

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

Lembeh Strait is one of the best muck dive destinations in the world. Whilst Muck Diving you can see weird critters you might never have seen before. If you like Night diving, then you are in the right place. Night dives in the Strait are spectacular. Besides the Muck Diving, the Strait also has some beautiful walls and reefs with colourful corals.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

Sorry, I cannot say that I have only one favourite dive site, there would be many to name, the strait has over 40 dive sites. Many divers and Photo Pro’s are coming here to see the Hairy Frogfish, Mimic Octopus and other Cephalopods. The best dive site to find them is Rojos. I also like Nudifalls, which is a nice combination with a mini wall with corals and sandy slope.

What types of diving are available in your location?

The majority is Muck Diving but in the Strait and behind Lembeh Island we can dive beautiful reefs with a variety of corals. We also have a wreck from the 2nd World war, which is already covered in sea fans and corals. We also offer Blackwater/Bonfire dives and a Mandarin dive.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

When divers come back from their dive with a big smile and excitement when they finally found critters they have always wished to see.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

All kind of Nudibranchs and the Coconut Octopus – he is a curious and funny creature and always a joy to watch.

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

There are many projects currently running here at critters. We are ramping up our Photo Center by initiating a cooperation of one of the world’s biggest UW photography equipment retailers. With this new development our Photo Center will be able to provide a one of a kind service to our guests.

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

Litter in the oceans. Though the resort is running better than ever before, we do face challenges, which concerns us deeply. The plastic pollution is prevalent in all of our oceans, we all need to work together to turn the tide on plastic pollution. But it is nice to see that Indonesia is slowly improving and local people are more aware and educated about this problem.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Our team started the Lembeh Foundation. We do regularly clean-ups at the beach and dive sites. The Lembeh Foundation is building a waste bank in the nearby village and manages three main programs to support and help local communities to live sustainably within their natural environment.

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

I wish that training organizations and individual dive pros would show more responsibility when training new divers and make them more aware of environmental influence of diving and how important it is to protect the Oceans. Pro Divers should be role models.

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

Lembeh Strait is known as the World’s best Muck Diving Destination. If you wish a day off from diving, you can do a tour to Tangkoko National Park and see black macaques, tarsier, hornbill to name a few, or visit a local market in the Highlands. There is plenty to explore besides diving. critters@lembeh has two in-house Marine Biologists and they are happy to share their knowledge with you. Onsite we also have a full-time Photo Pro who can assist with photo related issues.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

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Komodo National Park found to be Manta Hotspot

Asia DTA Team

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Through a collaborative effort between citizen divers, scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), and Murdoch University, a new study reports a large number of manta rays in the waters of Komodo National Park, Indonesian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, suggesting the area may hold the key to regional recovery of the threatened species.

Reef mantas (Mobula alfredi), which grow up to 5m, tend to reside and feed in shallow, coastal habitats. They also visit ‘cleaning stations’ on coral reefs to have parasites, or dead skin picked off by small fish. Courtship ‘trains’ are also observed adjacent to cleaning stations. In Komodo National Park, manta rays are present year-round, challenging the famous Komodo dragon as the most sought-after megafauna for visitors.

Scientists teamed up with the dive operator community to source identification photographs of manta rays visiting the parks’ waters and submit them to MantaMatcher.org – a crowdsourced online database for mantas and other rays. Most of the photographs came from just four locations from over 20 commonly visited by tourism boats.

I was amazed by how receptive the local dive community was in helping collect much-needed data on these threatened animals,” said lead author Dr. Elitza Germanov. “With their support, we were able to identify over 1,000 individual manta rays from over 4,000 photographs.

People love manta rays—they are one of the most iconic animals in our oceans. The rise of the number of people engaging in SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and the advent of affordable underwater cameras meant that photos and videos taken by the public during their holidays could be used to quickly and affordably scale data collection,” said MMF co-founder and study co-author Dr. Andrea Marshall.

The photographs’ accompanying time and location data is used to construct sighting histories of individual manta rays, which can then be analyzed with statistical movement models. These models predict the likelihood that manta rays are inhabiting or traveling in between specific sites. The study’s results showed that some manta rays moved around the park and others as far as the Nusa Penida MPA (>450 km to the west), but overall, manta rays showed individual preferences for specific sites within the Park.

I found it very interesting how some manta rays appear to prefer spending their time in some sites more than others, even when sites are 5 km apart, which are short distances for manta rays,” said Dr. Elitza Germanov. “This means that manta rays which prefer sites where fishing activities continue to occur or that are more popular with tourism will endure greater impacts.”

Fishing activities have been prohibited in many coastal areas within Komodo NP since 1984, offering some protection to manta rays prior to the 2014 nationwide protection. However, due to illegal fishing activity and manta ray movements into heavily fished waters, manta rays continue to face a number of threats from fisheries. About 5% of Komodo’s manta rays have permanent injuries that are likely the result of encounters with fishing gear.

The popularity of tourism to these sites grew by 34% during the course of the study. An increase in human activity can negatively impact manta rays and their habitats. In 2019, the Komodo National Park Authority introduced limits on the number of boats and people that visit one of the most famous manta sites.

This study shows that the places where tourists commonly observe manta rays are important for the animals to feed, clean, and mate. This means that the Komodo National Park should create measures to limit the disturbance at these sites,” said Mr. Ande Kefi, an employee of the Komodo National Park involved with this study. “I hope that this study will encourage tourism operators to understand the need for the regulations already imposed and increase compliance.”

Despite Indonesia’s history with intensive manta ray fisheries, Komodo National Park still retains large manta ray aggregations that with careful ongoing management and threat reduction will benefit regional manta ray populations. The study highlights that marine protected areas that are large enough to host important manta ray habitats are a beneficial tool for manta ray conservation.

For more information about MMF visit their website here.

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Magic Resorts: ready to welcome you back to the Philippines

Asia DTA Team

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Magic Resorts are finally able to welcome you back to their two renowned dive resorts in the Visayas (Central Philippines), after the Philippines reopened its borders last February after 2 years of pandemic.

Both resorts, Magic Island Dive Resort in Moalboal, Cebu and Magic Oceans Dive Resort in Anda, Bohol, are fully operational and were able to survive the lockdown that lasted for 2 years in the Philippines. When the reopening of the Philippines was announced, both resorts underwent a big renovation and restoration to be able to offer the same quality of service as guests could previously expect.

With the same staff members still in their positions, offering the world-famous Filipino hospitality with their welcoming smiles, Magic Island and Magic Oceans are ready again to offer an unforgettable diving holiday. Dive master Manuel (also known as Mani) and Jason, didn’t lose their eye for detail and can still find the smallest critters around Moalboal and the notorious mating Mandarin Fish on Magic Island’s house reef. Of course, the tasty mocktails after your dives in Magic Oceans will be served by the lovely bar lady Esther, whilst the popular singing chef, is preparing the most delicious food to finish off a perfect holiday. Great diving, great service – that’s the ultimate Magic experience!

Magical diving

All the dive enthusiasts from America and Europe who already took advantage of the reopening of the Philippines and spent their diving holiday at one of the Magic Resorts, have been warmly welcomed, not only by the staff, but also by the marine life around Moalboal and Anda. The first passing Whale Sharks, jumping Thresher Sharks, mating Mandarin Fish and even mating Flamboyant Cuttlefish have been spotted! Everybody is excited to see happy divers again after such a long time.

Entering the Philippines

On February 11, the first day of the reopening, the first hundreds of foreign tourists entered the Philippines. Since then, 100,000 tourists have entered the country to enjoy a tropical holiday, for most of them a long-awaited trip. If you bring your valid passport, return ticket, proof of covid-vaccination, a negative test (PCR/antigen) and an insurance coverage for costs for covid-treatment, you may enter the country. A continuous smooth course of the tourist flow may lead to the lifting of some of the requirements really soon!

Get ready for your unforgettable diving holiday at Magic Resorts and book your holiday with some great opening discounts: email reservations@magicresorts.online for details!

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