Saturday, May 16, 2009

may 15th.... Kerstins first whale shark

After more than a year in Seychelles Kerstin Gillray, a Divemaster Intern at Underwater Centre / Dive Seychelles, has finally seen her first whale shark!

All through the 2008 whale shark season Kerstin was on tender-hooks with each dive, hoping to see one of these big spotty fish, but she consistently managed to avoid them... even on the monitoring programme it seemed that where Kerstin was the sharks were not!

But all this came to an end on Friday the 15th of May... Kerstin and instructor Theirry Vandamme had just finished a great dive at Brissare Rocks and Dragons Teeth having seen a school of 35 eagle rays, white tip sharks, groupers and more fusiliers than she could think about counting.

Everyone was back on the boat chatting enthusiastically about the dive when the boat captain Nigel sighted the whale shark.
All discussion stopped and Kerstin barely had time to repeat the whale shark code of conduct before an excited group of divers had donned masks, snorkels and fins and were back in the water for a very special treat!

Even though it was her first ever whale shark, Kerstin did a good job of getting both left and right side photographs for the MCSS photo ID programme and less than two hours later they confirmed that this was a 'new' shark and in fact is the 1240th identified whale shark in the regional database!

But Kerstin didn't care... it was Number One for her!!!

may 5th.... status of Seychelles coral reefs

The 'Status of Coral Reefs of the World, 2008' has just been released by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring network and has some interesting facts and figures about Seychelles coral reefs:

"The Seychelles islands have an estimated 1690 km2 of coral reef, which is about 13.1% of the total coral reef area of the Eastern Africa and the South West Indian Ocean islands."

"In the Seychelles inner islands, corals at the north of Mahé Island and in the Curieuse Marine National Park indicate rapid recovery..... Coral recruitment on the granite based reefs of the inner islands is much better than on the carbonate reefs".

So good news for us here in Seychelles.

A healthy coral reef in Seychelles, photo Andre Nekrasov

may 1st.... specialty ratings for Tony

Instructor Tony Marie-Jeanne has just completed a total of seven PADI specialty instructor qualifications and in addition to the full range of standard PADI courses he is now able to teach:
  • Digital Underwater Photography
  • Search and Recovery
  • Surface Marker Buoy Diver
  • Boat Diver
  • Deep Diver
  • Underwater Navigation
  • Emergency Oxygen Provider

And it wasn't long before he got the opportunity to test his skills with Jan Steinvik (the Big Man from Afghanistan!) who has to be one of the tallest men we have ever had diving with us! However, Tony was pleased to teach him the skills need for the Search and Recovery specialty.

Tony and Jan off on a search and recovery dive

april 28th... Dagmar our new divemaster intern

Dagmar Ehlert became the latest Divemaster Intern at Underwater Centre / Dive Seychelles; Dagmar has been resident in Seychelles for many years diving and doing all of her dive-training with us. Not content with just enjoying her dives she was looking for something a little more challenging and so the Divemaster Course seemed an excellent opportunity.

Dagmar and instructor Theirry Vandamme preparing for a dive

Friday, May 15, 2009

april 2009.... returning divers... new buddies

Both Horst and Wolfgang are frequent visitors to Seychelles from Germany, although they had never met before; this month they were introduced and became firm 'buddies' diving with us over several weeks. They were treated to some lovely diving conditions, with blue skies, calm seas and great visibility and managed to notch up some impressive sightings including a whale shark on their first dive to Shark Bank.
Horst and Wolfgang, confirmed dive-buddies during April.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

april 25th... visiting Polish dive operators

Joanna Magiera and Krzysztof Mann, owners of Divemaster dive centre in Poland were recent visitors to Seychelles and did 10 dives each with the Underwater Centre / Dive Seychelles. During their visit they pretty much covered the top 10 dives sites of Mahe including Shark Bank, Ennerdale wreck, Brissare rocks and Dragons Teeth.

With over 2800 dives Krzysztof was keen to see the offshore dive sites and they did not disappoint with Shark Bank putting on a show with hundreds of yellow snappers and a squadron of eagle rays!

We hope to be seeing Joanna and Krzysztof with some groups in the coming year.

april 22nd 2009 "Earth Day"

Divers with the Underwater Centre / Dive Seychelles have had a long involvement with conservation as the proprietors also founded the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS); this has meant that resident and visiting divers are often involved in various conservation projects.

Recently, the annual “Earth Day” clean up dive had a slightly different focus as a Crown of Thorns starfish (COTs) management programme was in progress and so divers were needed for collection duties. Resident divers from the Marine Parks Authority / Seychelles Centre for Marine Research &Technology, Seychelles Islands Foundation, Seychelles Fishing Authority and Global Vision International joined the staff from MCSS and the Underwater Centre for two concerted control dives in northwest Mahe.

The two dive teams gather for a group photos after the clean-up / crown of thorns dives

The dives were a great success and 21 of the starfish were removed from two popular dive sites; each was measured, weighed and tube feet collected for genetic analysis by the University of Hawaii before disposal.

The starfish were fairly large with an average width of 32.95cm and average weight of 1.5kg which is characteristic of a managed population; small numbers of COTs are a necessary part of coral reef ecosystems as they tend to browse on fast growing corals giving slower growing corals a chance to flourish and thus increase the diversity of the reef.

april 1st 2009...The hunt for the Diamond Bannerfish....'Poisson D'avril'

The Diamond Bannerfish, a seasonal visitor to Seychelles!

April the 1st came quietly to Seychelles but with it news of the return of a fish species found only seasonally in the area, Heniochus cubicus or the Diamond Bannerfish.

Eager to give the day's divers a bit of a challenge the centre team prepared some laminated photos of the fish for inclusion on the pre-dive briefing and the divers were all keen to see if they could add this rare fish to their personal fish-check lists! The divers on this dive were a multi-national crew from Canada, the UK, Germany and South Africa, all keen to be the one to find this elusive species first!

The divers searched diligently on their dive around Grouper Point, an area where the Diamond Bannerfish was supposed to have been seen before, but despite their efforts no-one could find the elusive species.

On returning to the base the Centre team had to come clean and told the crest-fallen divers that the local name for the fish was 'Poisson D'avril' which literally translated from French is April's fish but in its common usage is April Fool!
The adventurous divers after their search for the 'Poisson D'Avril!

The term comes from the 16th Century when Charles IX declared that France would now follow the Gregorian calendar, starting the new year on January 1st instead of April 1st (the Solstice); French legend has it that anyone who didn't follow the calendar were called 'Fools' and were invited to fake parties or had other tricks played upon them. French children continued the tradition of pranking each year by taping a fish to their friends back and when discovered calling out "Poisson D'avril"!

Some think that the fish connection came about as on April 1st the sun is leaving the Zodiac sign of Pisces..... others say its because fish were thought to be dumb and easy to catch (? maybe in the 16th Century!!). Whatever the origin our team of divers were delighted to have been pranked in this way and have a new entry for their log-books if not their fish lists.