Saturday, 5 September 2015

Shark Week: Day 6

The penultimate day of Shark Week was a busy one. We had visitors from the Community College in Semporna, reef cleans, beach cleans, coral transplant programmes and an incredible presentation. 

We had staff and interns, along with some volunteers, get stuck into a reef clean. As previously mentioned it is a sad fact that these are necessary but they do make a huge difference. It was inspiring to see that we had customers willing to give up their fun diving, or even days off to aid the reef clean. Between reef cleans we had everyone involved in a beach clean. Again, the sun was shining so it was sweaty work. 

Debris left on beaches or washed into the ocean causes a plethora of problems. Not only is it unsightly, but it threatens many of our much loves marine creatures. Turtles mistakenly consume plastic - this causes blockages in their digestive system. This blockage creates a build up of gas, which ultimately means they are unable to dive down underwater to feed - the turtle then starves to death. And it is not just turtles that are affected. Photos of manta rays surround by garbage have outrages divers across the world. Birds are also being found with stomachs full of plastic. 
The coral transplant project was undertaken in the afternoon. The aim of the programme is to promote coral reef growth. Coral reefs are one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems on the planet. They sustain the life of thousands of species. They are facing serious threats and many species of coral are listed as 'threatened' on the IUCN Red list. Artificial reefs give corals another chance to grow and flourish. We collect fragments of coral that would otherwise die and bring them to our coral nursery. Here they get a second chance and also attract loads of marine life! 

Whilst all this was going on we also had a visit for the Community College in Semporna. Environmental Officer Dave took them on the Fish ID snorkel! He talked them through the various species of fish we commonly see in this area and the ways to identify them. They also helped out with our beach clean. It was a fun filled day all round! 

In the evening we had the return of an old friend - Christian Loader. Christian works for Scubazoo and was here documenting our first ever Shark Week last year. In our busiest presentation yet,  he gave a talk on 'Shooting Sharks - how to take photos of sharks'. He recounted us with stories of the various situations he has been in whilst trying to get some of his stunning photos of sharks, described the methods and camera settings for achieving these shots and the various places across the globe he had been to. There is no doubt that Christian has taken some beautiful pictures over the years and has been privilege to some incredible sightings. He presentation was fascinating for all, the beauty of the photos was clear to everyone. 

The last day of Shark Week is here.... It's going to be a busy day. Keep and eye on the Scuba Junkie Facebook for an update on what happened! 

Facts about Whale Sharks

  • The Whale Shark is the largest fish in the ocean
  • They have been tracked travelling thousands of kilometres 
  • They have 300 tiny teeth in their mouth - but no one knows why seeing as they are filter feeders 
  • The give birth to live young
  • There is very little known about their reproductive behaviour 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Shark Week: Day 5

We are sadly approaching the last few days of our second annual Shark Week. But never fear we still have loads of activities planned. 

We had an amazing turn out for this years FINathon. Staff and customers took on the challenge of swimming around Pulau Mabul. It took them just 3 hours. Some swam the whole way, whilst others took part as a relay. But all came back excited to have been a part of the event although they were all a little sunburnt! All money that was raised during the FINathon goes towards Project Aware. Project Aware focus on two major issues that threaten our oceans: Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris. Of course there are many problems our oceans are facing but these are the two that they have chosen to focus on. Over the years we have developed a close working relationship with Project Aware. Like us, Project Aware believe that the image portrayed of sharks are man eating machines needs to change. It's not too late to sponsor the event Every little helps!

We are hugely grateful to the guests who chose to give up a days diving to be part of and support this event. 

In the evening, whilst many people tended to their burnt calves, we were given a presentation by Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski. Bertie is currently working to Scubazoo - an extremely talented production company based in Sabah. His project is 'Borneo from Below' - an online mini series looks at the wonders of diving in Sabah, but also touches upon the problems that the area faces. Having penned the term 'funservation' they aim to raise awareness of conservation issues in a more light hearted manner. For many of the episodes Bertie and his colleague Will have worked closely with Scuba Junkie. 

There were many subjects that Bertie touched upon. As an photographer he discussed the role that media plays in conservation. A powerful image can generate a lot of publicity, which then allows the photographer to promote the need for conservation. An experience that Bertie himself had been through when his own 'shark selfie' went viral. There is no doubt that there are many ways to approach the often delicate issues in conservation. Social media is constantly growing and the power of its voice increasing. Through their mini-series on Youtube they hope to spread the word of many issues through out Borneo. Check out their episodes on: 

Facts about Leopard Sharks

  • One of the most easily recognisable sharks 
  • It can been seen resting on coral or if you are lucky you can see it swim gracefully through the water
  • It's tail is nearly the same length as it body
  • They are often called 'Zebra Sharks' as they have a striped pattern as juveniles 
  • They are very docile and will allow divers to get very close 
  • They are listed as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Shark Week: Day 4

Day 3 of Shark Week saw one of our environmental officers Dave McCann taking the stage for the evening presentation. His talk was entitled 'Marvellous Rays' and covered a number of fascinating topics, focusing specifically on the species of rays we encounter in the waters of Sabah. For those of you who are familiar with the blogs and Scuba Junkie Facebook, or for those who have been lucky enough to dive in these waters, you will already be well aware of the wide range of rays we are fortunate enough to witness on a regular basis.

In the Sabah waters, divers and snorkellers have regular meetings with blue spotted ribbon tail rays and blue spotted sting rays, but the focus of Dave's presentation was the larger of our ray species. We have been lucky to see Manta Ray, Mobula Rays (commonly known as Devil Rays) and Eagle Rays in and around the Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Pulau Sipadan and Mabul as well as along Sipadan Barrier Reef.

Dave discussed how to differentiate between the two currently described species of Manta: the Giant Manta (Manta Birostris) and the Reef Manta (Manta Alfredi).  It speaks volumes to how little we know about the underwater environment when Dave informed the audience that it was only discovered that there were in fact 2 different species of Manta in 2008. This was one of the largest new species to be described by scientists in many years, and in fact Dr Marshall, who made this initial distinction, may have recently discovered a third species of Manta that she is currently trying to describe. That we know so little about these amazing creatures should inspire us as frequent explorers of the aquatic world to get involved in the conservation of these amazing creatures.

Dave then went on to discuss the spectacular Devil Ray. He stressed that whilst divers are often disappointed to learn that it was not a Manta they saw but a Devil ray, these stunning rays are more than a match for their larger cousins. Ways to distinguish the Devil Ray from the Manta include the position of the mouth - with Devil Rays the mouth is situated on the ventral (underside) of the animal, whereas on the Manta it takes a more anterior (frontal) position. The Manta also possesses a unique pattern of spots on it's ventral surface which can be used much like a fingerprint in order to i

dentify the creature. 

We have been lucky here at Scuba Junkie to witness schools of up to a hundred Devil Rays along the Sipadan Barrier Reef, surely a highlight in any divers career! Both Devil and Manta Rays can school in huge numbers

Dave wrapped up his talk by informing the audience of both the threats that Rays face all around the world, as well as what we as responsible divers and tourists can do to assist these gentle giants. There is a growing market for the gill rakers of the rays as many believe that it has medicinal qualities. By raising awareness of these issues we hope that we can make a change!

Facts about White Tip Reef Sharks:

  • These grey-brown sharks have white tips on their dorsal and tail fins
  • It is a very small slender shark 
  • Typically they are a docile shark, but at night they can become aggressive in their hunting
  • After a gestation period of roughly a year, the female will give birth to 1 to 5 pups. 
  • They reach sexual maturity at just 5 years old 
  • They are listed as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN Red List

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Shark Week: Day 2 & 3

The second day of this special week saw us getting involved in one of our favourite activities: a reef clean! We had staff, interns and guests helping clean up underwater. Marine debris is a problem effecting all of our oceans. Here at Pulau Mabul we make every effort to minimise trash, but unfortunately it is necessary for us to take to the water armed with bags and gloves and remove rubbish. With the patterns of currents we have around the island, debris tends to congregate in certain areas. There is one corner of the island where currents converge pulling debris into that one place. Although its not nice for that dive site, it is good for us! Our dedicated team brought out several bags of debris that we will remove from the island.

Marine debris is a problem for many species of life. Not only do turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish and try to eat them, but also sharks and rays can become entangled and drown. Unfortunately it is not just underwater critters that are effected. Birds are also being found with stomachs full of plastic debris that they have accidentally consumed. Beach and reef cleans are an integral part of conservation and we hope that more and more people will get involved.

We also had staff participating in our coral transplant programme. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse and complex ecosystems on the planet and are essential to an incredible amount of species. Unfortunately these delicate ecosystems are under threat and are facing destruction and damage. We have a coral nursery on our house reef. Fragments of broken and damaged coral are collected from around the island. They are taken to our nursery where we hope they will regain health - flourish and grow. Our coral transplant programme has attracted a wealth of life and we hope that this will continue.

In the evening we had a presentation from the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC). As part of TRACC Steve Oakley and his assistant Sunny are involved in coral reef conservation - which ties in nicely with our days activities. They use volunteers and and visitors to aid the rebuilding of coral reefs. They aim to create solutions. Sunny gave a captivating presentation on sharks. Our customers gained information on threats sharks face.

 Day 3:
As we approach the middle of our second annual Shark Week the resort is still buzzing with excitement and activity. In the evening we let loose with a Pub Quiz and we raised loads of money for shark conservation in the area.

Our onsite Environmental Officer -David McCann was our quiz master for the evening. There were some fantastic prizes on offer. The top prize was the PADI Shark specialty. This course gives the student information on the biology of sharks,  the problems their populations are facing and go through why you have or have no seen sharks whilst diving.

Facts about Thresher Sharks

  • There are 3 known species of Thresher- the Big Eye Thresher, the Palagic Thresher and the Common Thresher 
  • There is thought that there may be a fourth species
  • It's stunning tail is the same length as its body 
  • They are generally a deep living shark, but there are cleaning stations where they can be see at 20m.
  • Sometimes they can be seen breaching the surface
  • Their huge tail is used to hunting. Behaviour has been witnessed of them speeding towards a group of fish, using their large pectoral fins they 'brake' and their tail comes forward and whips their prey - stunning them. 
  • All species of the Thresher are listed as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red list