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New portfolio of our last AFC 2013

Nudey calendar raises money for charity projects

The male Divemasters and Instructors of Blue Planet Divers showed a lot of courage by posing naked for a nudey calendar to raise funds for two local charities, Children of the Forest and Lanta Animal Welfare.

Both Children of the Forest and Lanta Animal Welfare are close to the heart of Mellisa Bunyan, co-owner of Blue Planet Divers, who came up with the idea for the calendar. She decided that both should benefit equally once the project took on a life of its own.

She credits Lanta Animal Welfare with doing wonderful work in providing treatment for injured animals who would have to leave the island for medical attention otherwise, while Children of the Forest bring Burmese children to Ko Lanta on holidays every year.

“Lanta Animal Welfare have done an incredible amount of work to reduce the numbers of packs of stray dogs on the island. They have provided a place where injured animals can be taken to, instead of having to make a two hour trip to Krabi.”

Based on the Thai-Burmese border, Children of the Forest provide facilities, education and shelter for children at risk who have crossed into Thailand from Burma. Melissa explains the work of the project:

“If it wasn’t for Children of the Forest, these children would have no rights, no schooling and no-one to look after them, and this charity has a close bond with companies on Koh Lanta because they bring these children on holidays to the island every year. Many of these children have never even seen the ocean before they come to Ko Lanta and a lot of the businesses here on Lanta help them out with free accommodation during their stay on the island.

I think the reason why so many of our guys were willing to support this unusual project was because they were aware that all funds raised would go to these two very worth charities.”

Ko Lanta’s most unusual 2011 calendar is on sale in bars and restaurants throughout the island and over the internet from www.blueplanetdivers.net

Male Pin-Up Dive Calendar

Blue Planet Calendar

In the beginning of the year, Divemasters and Instructors of Blue Planet Divers on Ko Lanta came up with an unusual and novel way of raising funds for two local charities. The male members of staff at Blue Planet Divers agreed to get their kit off for the camera and pose naked for a calendar which is set to become a huge hit among visitors and residents of the laid-back island.

Thankfully, the modesty of the dive professionals featured in 12 distinct shots has been protected by the convenient placement of different pieces of scuba equipment such as air cylinders, fins, dive flags and surface marker buoys, so nobody should be offended as they flick through the 12 months of the year!

The calendar was the brain-child of Mellisa Bunyan, co-owner of Blue Planet Divers, who became serious about what had been an on-going joke when British third level photography student Rosie Waites visited Ko Lanta for two weeks earlier this year.

Rosie, whose parents Jane and Chris had just completed their Divemaster courses with Blue Planet, was hugely receptive to the idea of taking photos of the willing members of staff in order to help out Children of the Forest and Lanta Animal Welfare.

“We had talked about this idea before, but mainly in jest! I thought it would be more appropriate to get a professional photographer in to do a proper job. Rosie loved the idea. She had done nude photography before, but only with models. She loved the idea of working with non-professionals as she felt it would be more of a challenge, getting the best out of people who don’t do this kind of thing for a living!”

Mellisa had been inspired to come up with the idea after watching the film ‘Calendar Girls’ and was determined that the photos would not be seedy. Those who come across the calendar in the Blue Planet shop in Saladan, or in many of Ko Lanta’s bars, in the coming weeks will be impressed by the professionalism of the shots and the humour which shines through them.

“The idea was that every guy would be happy with his shot and we managed to get one for every month of the year. The photos were taken in private, in a closed set, which meant that there was privacy for the guys and some of them came up with their own ideas for the shots they wanted to be taken. We didn’t want to take the photos anywhere you could see anything naughty. We wanted the guys to look hot and the photos to look cheeky. We’re delighted with the finished product. We are lucky, because there are some very good looking guys working for Blue Planet!”

There were quite a few giggles around the Blue Planet shop over a few days in March as Rosie summonsed the dive professionals into her little studio, away from the prying eyes of their colleagues.

With dive suppliers Mares coming on board as a sponsor, every Baht raised from the sale of the calendars in Ko Lanta’s bars, restaurants, the Blue Planet shop and on the internet will go directly to two charities on the island.

Underwater Proposal on Blue Planet Boat

Blue Planet Happy Couple

American visitor Jenny Prunty enjoyed an unforgettable St. Patrick’s Day during a scuba diving holiday at Koh Lanta last month when her boyfriend of nine years, Antonio Alvarado, unexpectedly proposed to her underwater. Antonio had secretly arranged with dive guide Bibi and videographer Don to ‘pop the question’ to Jenny at the bottom of the sea during a day out with Blue Planet Divers at Koh Bida Noi on March 17.

Everyone on the Blue Planet boat was in on the secret, bar Jenny, after Antonio had made his intentions known to the dive shop staff when he booked the day’s diving by email before he got to Koh Lanta. As a result, bottles of champagne were hidden away from Jenny for the trip to Koh Bida and there was a real festive atmosphere on the boat for the return trip to Koh Lanta after Jenny, still in shock, had said yes to her beloved by giving him the diver’s ‘o.k.’ signal at a depth of 10 metres.

But Antonio almost gave the game away about 20 minutes earlier. A slate he had secretly written in the boat’s cabin while Jenny was sunbathing upstairs, with the words ‘Marry me?’, had slipped out of the pocket of his Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) early in the dive.

“We were swimming along on our dive and then I saw ‘Marry Me?’ written upside down on a slate. It fell out of the pocket of his BCD a little. I kind of wondered what that was about, but I was just enjoying the dive and then I forgot about it!” exclaimed Jenny, who is from San Antonio, Texas.

Their guide, Bibi, signalled to all the divers in the group to kneel in a line along the bottom, towards the end of the dive. Jenny did not have a clue what was going on.

“Our guide signalled to me when the time was right to pull out the slate. I was very nervous. I had a string attached to the slate and it was tied to my BCD. I wanted to do something crazy, something that would last in the memory. We’ve been together for eight or nine years and we came to Thailand with two other friends, who were in on the secret,” said a joyous Antonio after Jenny had accepted his marriage offer.

He said that they were not particularly experienced scuba divers, but they had come to love the sport in the three years since they learned how to dive in the Cayman Islands. As an Irish-American, Jenny always loves to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and he wanted to make sure that she would remember the 2010 festivities for a long time to come.

For Jenny it all was a blur.

“All of the others started to kneel down and Bibi was pointing at something on the ground. I couldn’t make out what he was pointing at and then Antonio showed me the slate. I gave him the ‘o.k.’ sign under water. I was just shocked. We had just come to Thailand on a holiday with two friends and I had no idea that we were going to get engaged!”

The other divers in the group applauded when Jenny and Antonio kissed each other under water and videographer Don was on hand to capture their special moment so that they can show the video to their friends and families back in the United States.

Afterwards, their celebrations continued into the early hours at the Irish Embassy, Koh Lanta’s only Irish pub, where Antonio expressed his gratitude to Mellisa Bunyan of Blue Planet Divers for plotting the entire event in secret, much to the shock of his future wife!

And, for one day at least, the Blue Planet boat became known as Lanta’s ‘love boat’!

Breathless in Ko Lanta!

Breath Holding Competition

Residents lounging by the deluxe pool at the luxurious Rawi Warin Resort and Spa on Koh Lanta last month were treated to the bizarre sight of a select group of enthusiasts, from a variety of countries, who managed to hold their breath underwater for up to six and a half minutes at a time.

After elaborate warm-up and relaxation rituals, the competitors lay face down at the edge of the swimming pool and focused on holding their breaths as long as possible under the watchful eyes of internationally approved judges Richard Wonka (Germany) and Sarah Whitcher (England).

Andaman Freediving Challenge Breathholding CompetitionIt was the second day of the Andaman Freediving Challenge, Thailand’s only annual competition for Freedivers, and followed a day out on the Blue Planet Divers’ boat in which competitors managed to reach depths of between 20 and an astounding 53 metres in the open sea.

What was most striking about this year’s competition was how friendly the competition was throughout the three days and how keen the divers were to help each other out with advice and tips to enable rivals to extend their time underwater.

Freedivers learn how to hold their breath for long periods without the aid of scuba equipment and the annual Koh Lanta competition, organised by Blue Planet Divers, is the only one in Asia to take place outside of Japan.

Eight male and four female divers took part this year, many of them competing for the first time, in six distinct events over three days.

At 52, Italian Andrea Richichi may have been older than the other competitors, but his breath-taking times in all disciplines – including an incredible 53 metre dive from the boat – saw him collect all of the major prizes.

Andrea grew up spear fishing and snorkelling on the island of Sardinia. Amazingly, he has never undertaken any formal courses in Freediving, despite his breath-taking times, including a six minute and 33 second breath-hold in the pool.

“I have never been a scuba diver, but I have always loved being under water. When I grew up, scuba diving wasn’t an option. I have never done any courses, but you really do learn a lot at competitions and you get to meet very good people.”

“I was in Thailand for work this month, but I decided to come to Koh Lanta for this competition. People make friends very quickly at these competitions and I get asked a lot of questions because I have been Freediving for six years and I have taken part in over 25 competitions. This competition has a wonderful atmosphere and it’s in a country that I love!”

He said that world championship Freedivers might not help each other out to the extent that the competitors do on Koh Lanta, but the whole ethos of the Andaman Freediving Challenge is to encourage beginners and intermediates to challenge others (and themselves) in an extremely friendly environment.

Ossien Pekkala, from Finland, was thrilled to reach 30 metres on a single breath. He only took up Freediving four months ago, because he wanted to stay longer under water while snorkelling.

“The longer I can stay underwater, the more fun I can have!”

The women’s competition was won by Jacinta Colvin, from Melbourne, who was inspired to come to Koh Lanta after hearing about last year’s competition from friends in Australia. She was delighted to reach depths of over 30 metres in her first ever competition and managed to hold her breath for just under four minutes in the pool.

“I had never been to Koh Lanta before, I decided to come on a two week holiday, especially for the Andaman Freediving Challenge. It’s been really, really good and really friendly and I feel I have learned so much over the three days. It’s great to get to hang out with other Freedivers and I feel so much more confident now.”

Freediving Competition

One of the competition’s three Thai competitors, Petchrung Sukpong (or Aey), only undertook a Freediving course with Blue Planet Divers two weeks before the competition. She was encouraged to come back and take part by coach Richard Wonka, who told her it would be a great way to make new friends and improve her technique.

Aey works in Marine Conservation in Phuket, and was delighted she had made the short journey back to Koh Lanta for the competition. She was thrilled to reach a depth of 20 metres on a single breath, a personal best, and found that the experience was akin to meditation under water.

“I think Freediving is more relaxing than scuba diving because it is so peaceful and you don’t make any noise underwater, This competition is perfect for the beginner, because it’s so friendly, and I think I’ve learned a lot about Freediving over the three days. I’d never even thought about going into a competition before and now I’m thinking of going on and doing the Advanced Freediving course.”

Aey said that she would definitely be back next year to challenge her new friend, Jacinta, for the Andaman Freediving Challenge title!

Blue Planet Divers on Koh Lanta run regular Freediving courses throughout the diving season. Check out their website, www.blueplanetdivers.net, or telephone +66 (0)75 668 165 for details.

Enter the 2009 Freediving Competition

Freediving with Monofin

Blue Planet Divers would like to invite Freedivers of all levels (even beginners) to enter the Andaman AIDA Freediving Challenge 2009. The competition is being held on Ko Lanta from 10 Feb-12 Feb 2009.

Freediving Event and Competition Program:

Guillaume Nery8 February:

  • 10:00 – Presentation by Guillaume Nery (World Record Holder in Constant Weight), an Introduction to Freediving presentation and his world record.
  • 11:00 – Monofin Demonstration & Free Trial.

9 February:

  • Freediving Trip to Ko Haa with Guillaume Nery. Constant weight training and Free immersion – Cost = 1,500 THB

Pool Training Session10 February: Opening ceremony of the AIDA Freediving Challenge

  • 08:00 – Meeting at Blue Planet Divers office in Saladan
    – Registration and payment for entry fee
    – Transfer to Rawi Warin Resort & Spa
  • 09:00 – Opening Ceremony at Rawi Warin’s pool
    – Preparation and explanation of AIDA competition rules
    – Practise sessions in the pool
  • 12:00 – End of the day

Freediving Sea Competition11 February:

  • 07:30 – Meeting at Blue Planet Divers shop
  • 08:00 – Departure to Koh Haa (breakfast served)
  • 10:30 – Deep Sea Competition – Dive site Koh Haa Yai: Constant Weight and Free Immersion
  • 14:00 – Break with Evaluation – Interviews
  • 15:00 – Deep Sea Competition: Constant weight and Free immersion
  • 17:00 – Back to Ko Lanta

Freediving practise in the pool12 February:

  • 08:00 – Meeting at Blue Planet Divers shop
  • 09:00 – Pool Competition – Static and Dynamic
  • 12:00 – Evaluation – Winner announcement – Prizes sponsored by Mares and Rawi Warin Resort & Spa
  • 13:30 – Lunch by the pool – Closing ceremony

Competition Prizes:

Rawi Warin RoomPrizes sponsored by Mares and Rawi Warin Resort & Spa.

Overall Winner – First Prize:

The overall winner will receive 4 night’s accommodation in a Deluxe Room at Rawi Warin Resort & Spa for 2 persons. Breakfast for 2 people is included.

Mares Nemo SportDeep Sea Competition:

  • First Prize – Mares Nemo Computer
  • Second Prize – Mares Razor Pro Fins
  • Third Prize – Free Dive Bag

Pool Competition:

  • First Prize – Mares Mission Watch
  • Second Prize – Mares Razor Pro Fins
  • Third Prize – Free Dive Bag

Participation Fee:

  • 3,500 THB – includes; Hotel Transfers; Open Disciplines; Insurance, Blue Planet Apnea T-shirt, Breakfast, Lunch, Fruit and Soft Drinks

Freediver with Featherstar

Participation Conditions:

  • Each athlete must have a medical certificate prior registration. The certificate can be done by your personal physician or by a specialist in diving.
  • Fees must be paid before the 10th of February 2010 (4,500 THB).
  • If an athlete comes without Freediving equipment, we can provide them with bi-fins, mask, nose clip, belt and wetsuit. The rental cost is 400 baht per day.

To participate it is mandatory to follow the AIDA rules and a safe practice. Please check the AIDA website http://www.aida-international.org/ and click on “Downloads”, then “Documents”, then click for AIDA Competitions and Record Regulations. You can also try this link:

AIDA Judges:

JudgesRichard Wonka – Germany
(Judge level E, AIDA Instructor)

Sarah Whitcher – U.K.
(Judge level E, AIDA Instructor)

Contact Information:

If you have any queries, feel free to contact Blue Planet Divers
Email: blueplanetdivers [at] gmail.com
Tel: +66 (0)75 684165 / +66 (0)813 701 303
Web: www.blueplanetdivers.net

More information can also be found at: http://www.andamanaidafreedivingchallenge.blogspot.com/

Andaman AIDA Freediving Challenge 2009

Andaman Freediving Challenge 2009

The Andaman Freediving Challenge 2009 will be held over 3 days from the 10th – 12th February 2009. The event includes a preparation day, a Pool Competition at Rawi Warin Resort & Spa and a Sea Competition at Ko Haa on the Blue Planet Diver’s Boat.

FreediverCompetitors can win:

Open sea competition prizes:

  • 1st: Mares Nemo sport
  • 2nd: Mares Pure Instinct Razor pro
  • 3rd: Mares Cruise Free Dive

Pool competition prizes:

  • 1st: Mares Mission watch
  • 2nd: Mares Pure Instinct Razor pro
  • 3rd: Mares Cruise Free Dive

1st Prize - 4 nights at Rawi WarinOverall winner:

Guillaume Nery, the World Champion in Constant Weight, will also be our guest host for the event.

Schedule of Events:

  • 10th February: Registration, Pool training, AIDA rules, Seminar
  • 11th February: Open sea competition at Ko Haa (max. depth 60m)
  • 12th February: Pool competition & Closing ceremony, Prizes, Party!

The disciplines will be: CWT, CNF, DYN, DNF, FIM, STA.

Freediver with Featherstar

This will be the second Freediving Competition hosted by Blue Planet Divers in Ko Lanta. Due to the success of last year’s competition, they have secured sponsorship from MARES, Rawi Warin Resort & Spa and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The competition is also fully recognised by AIDA, the Worldwide Federation for breath-hold diving, and competitors can use points won at the Andaman Freediving Challenge 2009 towards their World Rankings.

This event is open to all and we welcome new freedivers to this competition.

Freediver with Lionfish

Contact Information:

If you have any queries, feel free to contact Blue Planet Divers
Email: blueplanetdivers [at] gmail.com
Tel: +66 (0)75 684165 / +66 (0)813 701 303
Web: www.blueplanetdivers.net

More information can also be found at: http://www.andamanaidafreedivingchallenge.blogspot.com/