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Diving with…Simone Gerritsen, Thalassa Dive Resorts, 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?

Simone Gerritsen

What is the name of your business?

Thalassa Dive Resorts Indonesia

What is your role within the business?

I’m the founder and managing owner.

Over the years I became a bit of a mother figure to my team, since no-one can stop calling me ibu (“mother” in Indonesian).

How long has the business operated for?

In 1997 Thalassa started as a dive center embedded within a hotel in North Sulawesi, but in 2013 I got the chance to take over an old resort near Manado. IA couple of years ago, we opened a second resort on the island of Lembeh, which we are super proud of. So in short, Thalassa exists about 8 years in its current incarnation as a dive resort.

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

I did my first dive in 1978 which was quite unusual, because it was exclusively a boys’ club in those days. Being a PADI Course Director, I love to teach diving — especially to the less privileged local kids who want to become dive guides.

What is your favorite type of diving?

Just being in the water and teaching my class of dive guide students. Their ability to be neutrally buoyant is impressive from the get-go, and seeing them grow in their role as guides and divers pleases me no end.

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

North Sulawesi is not really on the radar compared to the more famous travel destinations, so this part of Indonesia is relatively off the beaten track — ideal for travelers who want to get away from it all and experience something different. You will find the Manadonese to be incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in foreigners, to the point of being very shy but delighted to get your attention!

We invest heavily in the local population: ten years ago, we built a junior + senior high school in a nearby village, and we keep the school in operation thanks to generous donations of guests, friends and family, all through a foundation that we set up. The school offers village kids the opportunity to pursue a career in the (diving) tourism industry, and many of our staff are alumni from the school.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

I love the yellow elephant ear sponges in our Manado house reef, because it looks like such an alien landscape. Another favorite of mine is called the Secret Garden, an old reef that’s in pristine condition.

What types of diving are available in your location?

You can do wall dives with an abundance of turtles hanging out among the corals, you can do muck diving, there are sloping sands with spots of coral life, and the pinnacle dive in Bangka is also quite a favorite. We have an interesting shipwreck in front of our Manado house reef and at our Lembeh house reef you can find an old fishing net that’s overgrown with corals.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

Seeing our guests having a great time, and hearing the excitement in their voices after a dive. It never gets old and is a constant reminder of why I chose to become a diver in the first place.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

I’d have to say that the humble sea cucumber is definitely a favorite of mine because they’re such bizarre creatures. Some of their feeding habits tend to be a bit unsettling, but they mean really well…

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

After the long road getting Thalassa Lembeh up and running, I got some room to think about new plans for our resort in Manado, and this resulted in a plan to overhaul our main lounge and restaurant. Next to a lick of fresh paint and a new lighting scheme, we also removed the banisters separating the lounge from the “outside”, so that guests now have a nice view over the swimming pool and the ocean beyond. It really opened up the place and means that our guests have a veritable “garden” to relax in.

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

As in many other parts of the world, floating waste is definitely an issue.  We encourage our guests to pitch in and pick up whatever doesn’t belong on the ocean floor, as do all our guides and students of our school — all the little bits help. The problem is that there’s just not enough education on this subject, so with our community initiatives we want to combat this issue as much as we can.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Absolutely. I try to tackle problems by the root and educate my students about the environment, teaching them about the Atlantic/Pacific garbage patches and organize frequent beach cleanups with them. At the resort, we ask our guests to reuse their towels, we don’t use insecticides on our flora and we grow herbs in our spice garden. Upon arrival, our guests will receive a reusable water bottle which they can take home.

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

Over the past 40 years, the market has changed from an elitist hobby to something you do in addition to other hobbies and sports. Convenience has become a priority for people, with many guests diving only once or twice a year, instead of every weekend. Accessibility to some of the most fantastic dive areas in the world has increased significantly, which is how companies such as Thalassa are able to make their living — people come from all over the world to dive here.

If I could change anything, then I would love to see a higher luggage allowance on airlines, and more international connections.

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

As part of the Coral Triangle, diving in North Sulawesi is quite special. The marine life here shows enormous variety and if you like turtles, the Bunaken National Marine Park is full of them!

Over on the east coast of North Sulawesi, our new resort on Lembeh island is home to some of the most cunningly camouflaged and outrageously strange creatures. Macro photographers will be delighted to be diving with us in Lembeh.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business? 

Our website: http://thalassamanado.com
Follow us: 
facebook.com/ThalassaDiveResorts
Send an email: 
info@thalassamanado.com

Send us a postcard or give us a call!

Thalassa Dive Resorts Manado
Jl. Raya Molas, Kecematan Bunaken
95242 Manado, North-Sulawesi
Indonesia
+62 81243500956

Thalassa Dive Resorts Lembeh
Batulubang Kecematan Lembeh Selatan 95552 Bitung, North Sulawesi
Indonesia
+62 82346864700

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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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