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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.

Scubafish – Winner of the Project Aware Conservation Award 2010

Beach Clean-Up in Kantiang Bay

To better recognise the achievements of those PADI Dive Centres and Resorts who have made significant contributions to the growth and development of diving, PADI Asia Pacific have announced the finalists and winners of this year’s PADI Asia Pacific Member Awards program which recognises the efforts of dive operators during 2009.

Beach Clean-Up in Kantiang Bay

The PADI Member Awards program was based on nine separate Asia Pacific regions; a system that ensured PADI Members compete with other PADI Members within their own geographical region for one of five Awards.
All PADI Dive Centres and Resorts within each of the nine regions were considered for nomination by a specially convened selection panel, who selected up to three finalists for each of the awards. A panel of PADI judges then considered all of the finalists within each region and we are proud and delighted to announce that Scubafish/ Narima Diving are the winners of this year’s Project AWARE Conservation Award for our region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam).

Conservation Award 2010 for Scubafish

The Project AWARE Conservation Award “recognises outstanding ecological achievements, with a focus on fostering environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”.

The dive team is delighted at this achievement and obviously intend to continue these efforts whilst offering a sustainable and environmentally responsible diving experience. Scubafish is now a 2 time winner of this particular award.

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.

Dolphins play around dive boat

Dolphin watching has become a regular activity on the return journey from Koh Haa to Kantiang Bay.  The divers on MV Moskito, Scubafish’s luxury dive cruiser have been rewarded with many sightings.  The dolphins glide in from the blue to jump and swim in the bow wave to much applause from the divers relaxing on the top deck.  Captain Mann loves the dolphins and slows down and circles around to let them cacth us.  What a fantastic sight!

Liquid Lense – Recommended by Lonely Planet

Liquid Lense Underwater Photography Course Student

Lonely Planet ThailandLiquid Lense received a glowing endorsement in the new edition of the Lonely Planet for Thailand.

After visiting Ko Lanta last year, the Lonely Planet team were so impressed with Liquid Lense’s talented, professional staff and innovative range of courses that they decided to include us in the new edition’s Ko Lanta section.

Underwater Photography & Videography

If you’re looking to try something new underwater, why not enrol in an underwater photography or underwater videography course? The colourful reefs at Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are the perfect spots to click a camera, and the friendly staff at Liquid Lense (www.liquidlense.co.uk) can show you how. This digital imaging academy runs a slew of hands-on courses from the Go Photo – one-day, two-dive seminar (7,100 B) to the Underwater Photographer PLUS – six-day, nine-dive videography course (32,900 B). The Tips & Tricks course (2,700 B) is a popular option for those who already have a bit of photo experience.

Underwater Photography Course Student