Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Aid for Japan

Malta has been really lovely all week. The sea is flat calm, and the sky’s been almost cloud free. It’s been getting warmer now we are in spring, or hotter if you’re from further north like me and are not used to the heat!

If you’re watching the news at the moment, wherever you are in the world, I imagine you will have been hearing a lot about the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. Some of Anne’s family live in Tokyo, so we’ve been trying to offer some support to Japan through this very sad time.

Anne Japan and Fran took some time out from diving to go to a charity fund raising event in front of Valetta gate that started on the 25th March and will be running until the 3rd of April. The fund raiser was set up by the Japan Malta Friendship Association. They are connected with Japan’s Red Cross. The funds provided will be distributed to evacuee camps to support their supplies.

The people there for the event and those just passing through were very generous with their donations so the message that Japan needs help seems to have really hit home here in Malta. The children even got involved helping out collecting donations...

This coming Sunday, besides being at Valetta gate, there will also be a fund raiser by the fish market at Marsaxlokk, in case any of you are visiting Malta and want to give a donation. I’m sure all those connected with Japan in some way will greatly appreciate it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Things you wish you knew before hand . . .

When I first came to Malta last year I quickly learnt that, like when you visit any new place, there are some things you wish you had been aware of that I imagine none of the guide books tell you. So I have come up with some advice for those first timers!

It’s a bit quiet today at Divewise. A lot of the staff are feeling under the weather. Viv is off with a bad cold and Jack’s taken the day off with her, though the amount of times I’ve rung her with questions and the fact there are builders upstairs I imagine she’s not getting that much rest.

Tip #1– Choose an apartment where possible it is not near a building that is under construction or you will be woken up by loud building noises at 6am. If you’re staying in a hotel you’ll be fine but won't hurt to ask if there is any building work going on nearby.....if you like a peaceful morning

Nev is also off with a “cold” although he had a rather dodgy bowl of cereal the other morning which might have been the real reason......

Tip #2– always check the sell by date on food in the supermarkets as we have found the odd packet of biscuits or bag of crisps that has expired but this can happen anywhere even in your local store.....bit disappointing when you find they are stale

When I was last here I lived out in Birkirkara – it’s about a 3.5km walk to St Julians. First I got a taxi home because I didn’t know the way.

Tip #3 – Use the buses. They may have been built in Leyland and occasionally break down but they are very cheap and good fun.

So I tried getting the bus home.

Tip #4 – The locals love to help you with directions so don't be afraid to ask - they will tell you to go straight, straight then left or right but remember to ask if it is the first or second left/right as they tend to leave that important detail out...... and makes me smile. As a general rule all buses go to Valletta, so if you’re not sure where to go head to Valletta then catch a bus from there which is the main terminus

Tip #5 – When waiting for a bus that is going somewhere a bit off the standard tourist routes, don’t sit there until you get stuck in the mental dilemma that I once had like .... "ok I’ve been here two hours now, if I get up and leave a bus will come" ... eventually I left and had to chase the bus to the next stop and there are some epic hills in Malta.

Tip #6 – Don’t always trust the church clocks – one of the two can be wrong. The Maltese do it deliberately so the devil doesn’t come to mass.

Tip #7 – The local beer is called Cisk. To avoid sounding like an idiot and having the barman stare at you with a confused expression while you act out drinking a pint – it’s pronounced Chisk.

Tip #8 – Wear sun cream. Even when you’ve been here for months. You don’t know where and when you’ll end up falling asleep and the sun is exceptionally strong here.....

Tip #9 - Drive like you don’t know how to and you’ll fit right in. But drive SLOWLY when the road is wet.

Tip #10 - Take care using Zebra Crossings as the traffic doesn't always stop so tread cautiously!

and the most important tip of all .....

Come diving with Divewise!

There’s probably more but these are the ones that I wish someone had told me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Instructor Development Course - challenging, stressful, exhausting ..... and fun!

When I was searching through the photos the other day I found a selection of pictures from past Instructor Development courses (IDC's). Some of you will have already sat an IDC. Some of you may currently be considering it. Some of you may never sit one in your life. But if you are thinking of ever becoming an instructor – it’s got to be done.

Difficult and stressful as it is, a lot of Instructors will tell you looking back they actually enjoyed it.

So what do you do during the IDC?

The IDC is 2 weeks of training, so essentially Nev is given a group of soon to be instuctors that he can use as his own personal audiance for his never ending bad jokes!

Nev and audience pre joke ...

Nev and audience post joke .....

At least Nev enjoyed the joke!

Get something wrong and you could end up looking like this .....

But don't worry there are always Staff Instructors on hand to look things up for you ...

Dont worry you're not in the classroom the whole time. You spend time in the pool and sea learning to deal with problems .....

You will find yourself in some awkward positions at first .....

And Alan may dispair ......

But after a few sessions, feedback and fine tuning ....

you start to look like a professional ....

Once those two weeks are over theres no time to relax, It's straight on the the two day Instructor Examination.

Which I will cover in a later blog. . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Marine Life in Malta

Malta has its own special niche in the diving industry in that it is has very varied topography crammed into one very small area.

Malta is well known for its wreck diving such as the Um el Faroud and the Maori, two wrecks you're almost guarenteed to dive if you come diving with us.

But it is less well known for its marine life. The wrecks act as an artificial reef to attract all sorts of wildlife. So I thought I’d share photos with you of some of the marine life we’ve seen around here recently.

Loads of fish tend to congregate around wrecks:

Mullet can be found on the shallow reefs, like on our house reef

as well as peacock wrasse

and flying gurnards

Theres squid

Grouper and fire worms can be found on the reef but prefer to hang out in wrecks and caves

a word to the wise ... these worms may look wierd but they certainly know how to protect themselves

There are Fan worms

Jellyfish. This one called the Mauve stinger has become very common around malta displacing the Cigar jellyfish that used to be common but is rarely seen now. This shift in dominant species is possibly as a result of sea temperature rise, the university is currently investigating things like this with the spot the jellyfish project.

Cuttle fish. On shallow reefs it is possible to come across juvenile cuttlefish hanging out on sand patches nearby posidonia. I was lucky to see one last october.

Scorpion Fish. These are hard to spot but once you've seen one you'll start seeing them all over rocks and wrecks. There are some large ones down at Beaufighter, if you want to see these up close and personal you'll need your deep speciality.

Theres lots of Morey eels about.

Often accompanied by cleaner shrimp.

Theres some brittle stars about among other species of starfish.

Plenty of Octopus if you know where to look.

And if your extra lucky you might just see one of Nev's seahorses ......

The Rescue Course - Why people shouldn't stop at Advanced

Bit of a more serious blog today. We have a Rescue course on at the moment which is brilliant news. The Rescue course doesn’t seem to be as popular as the Open water course and the Advanced course. Many divers seem to opt for specialities over doing a rescue course so they can dive deeper, penetrate wrecks, increase their no deco time, explore dive sites at night which gives them the opportunity to see some crazy creatures you don’t get to see during the day, improve their buoyancy, ect.

These courses obviously benefit the diver by allowing access to a greater range of dive sites and so improve their diving experience. This probably makes specialities more popular because of the personal benefits they bring to the individual.

A rescue course doesn’t do that directly. Rescue course are designed to make divers more aware of others and their safety. It may seem like the rescue course does not benefit the individual unless it is their buddy, or another diver, that has taken the time to do this course and so knows what to do when something goes wrong.

However the skills they learn on the rescue course do actually benefit the individual as well, though few divers realise this until they have taken the course. The course makes you aware of the types of things that can go wrong, the more familiar you are with what causes problems on a dive the greater your ability to anticipate these problems in a given situation, often even before you have got in the water.

Think back to when you have encountered a problem on a dive. Assuming that you have, if you think about it properly you will probably realise that your instructor or Dive master pay a lot of attention to how you have put on your equipment, how the equipment fits, the weather conditions and how you feel and behave before a dive.

They do this because what starts off as a small inconvenience can quickly escalate into a much bigger problem if it is not dealt with straight away and then the problem can be a lot more difficult to solve. Certified rescue divers also do this but it’s often not as obvious to divers with the advanced or open water diver level, I know because I never noticed until I did my rescue course.

So the course does benefit you as an individual as you can spot potential problems and either solve them straight away or plan a solution to deal with them if they happen. If every diver stopped their training at the Advanced level then the chance that there will be someone available who knows how to respond to a diver emergency gets slimmer and slimmer. Divers shouldn’t depend on someone else to take the rescue course for them, they should take the rescue course to make themselves a more responsible diver and even if others do not take the course you may find that your good habits may start to be adopted by other divers around you especially if you give a reason for what your doing.

After all safety is the bottom line when it comes to diving. If you don’t feel safe you won’t enjoy the dive.