Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Sasalu Tawamudu Fiji - Sustainable Reef Resources

Sustainable Fijian Reef Resources Inc. (Sasalu Tawamudu) is a state-of-Georgia registered not-for-profit corporation with US IRS 501(c)3 status for tax deductible donations. It was founded by Dr. Bill Aalbersberg, the Director of Applied Sciences at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, Dr. Kirk Bowman, a professor of international affairs at Georgia Tech, and Dr. Terry Snell, a biology professor at Georgia Tech. Aalbersberg, Bowman, and Snell are part of an international team of scientists and researchers who are funded by the Fogarty Center of the US National Institutes of Health to work on drug discovery, conservation, and sustainable economic development in Fiji. Sustainable Fijian Reef Resources is a culmination of part of that work and combines local knowledge from Fijian stakeholders, cutting edge science on reef health, market dynamics, local community activism, and internet marketing.

The Board of Directors all serve without any compensation of any kind. Due to generous support from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group program of the Fogarty Center of the National Institutes of Health that supports our web page, all donations go directly to programs and partners in Fiji, such as the award-winning Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA).

Board of Directors of Sustainable Fijian Reef Resources, Inc.:

  • Dr. Bill Aalbersberg, Ph.D. Professor and Director of the Institute of Applied Sciences at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji
  • Dr. Kirk Bowman, Ph.D. Associate Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • Alison Graab. Former student body president of Georgia Tech and law student in environmental law.
  • Dr. Mark Hay, Ph.D. Harry and Linda Teasely Chair in Environmental Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • Jon Wilcox. President of California Republic Bank.

Sustainable Fijian Reef Resources also utilizes an advisory council of prominent Fijians, representing environmental groups, stakeholders, tourism industry leaders, and political leaders.

Sasalu Tawamudu Fiji - Sustainable Reef Resources

The wow factor - Fiji Times Online

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SEVEN years ago, two poms and a yankee gave up their career and took a chance on Matava, a little known resort on Kadavu.

The friendship forged 20 years prior was for the long haul so trust was never an issue when the trio decided to combine their zeal with business in a distant island home.

Richard Akhtar, (left) Adrian Watt and Jeanie Mailliard are now major players in dive tourism - their position solidified this year by a recent acquisition - a major environmental award from PADI, the world's largest international scuba certification agency, last month.

And at a dive expo last week, the resort bordered by the Great Astrolabe Reef, was easily identified as one of the best dive spots in Fiji.

"We are so proud of this achievement because it is the only one given in the region and Fiji has never won before," Fiji Islands Hotel Association executive Michael Wong said.

Mr Akhtar, who met fellow Englishman Adrian in London, said contrary to belief, dive tourism had a great potential to enhance and promote the marine ecosystem.

"The award means a lot because it is a recognition of the work we and the community have out in over the past five years," he said as he explained he first came to Fiji ten years ago as a conservationist. He met Jeanie, an American, while on a tour of South Africa.

"Ours is a partnership that started as friends 25 years ago. We looked at a number of options and saw Matava, that was already in operation, as a good opportunity."

Mr Akhtar said diving was a niche market that had a great potential to grow if efforts to protect the reef continued.

"There is a huge gap for this kind of tourism and we try to keep it all natural, that is the cornerstone of everything we do, the natural beauty is still there and it will always be a draw for us," he added, referring to the industry as a whole.

The PADI Asia Pacific Member Awards 2009 was in the category Project Aware marine environment award.

The awards were developed to better recognize the achievements of those PADI dive centers and resorts which have made significant contributions to the growth and development of diving.

Last year a major resort upgrade saw the addition of new high-tech solar power plant. Working in conjunction with our neighboring village of Kadavu Koro, the resort has also established a marine reserve from the boundary of the Matava foreshore extending out to encompass the opposite Waya island.

"This area is protected from any sort of fishing, shell collecting and reef walking. Our focus at Matava is eco-tourism. We promote the natural environment, both marine and terrestrial and have adopted programmes to avoid damaging our environment," Mr Akhtar siad.

"These include conservation awareness, and waste management (recycling) programmes at the resort and with local villages. There are no power generators at Matava - our lighting is primarily solar, with additional kerosene lanterns if required. All rubbish is also sorted, food waste is fed to local pigs and we compost as much waste as possible." "Plastic and glass bottles are recycled."

Ecologically conscious yet adventure driven, the three directors who operate this intimate getaway where 22 guests can stay at a time, have proven they were born to blend in our natural environment - offering our visitors a whole new breed of holiday experience.

The wow factor - Fiji Times Online

Saturday, 23 May 2009

FIHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2009

PADI Regional Manager Ian Cumming awards the PADI Member Award to Richard Akhtar of Matava at FIHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2009.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Matava - THE True Eco Resort in Fiji

Matava - THE True Eco Resort in Fiji. Matava is the genuine eco-adventure lodge, beautifully set off the beaten track, minutes from the Great Astrolabe Reef on Kadavu Island. Our intimate resort has beautiful, comfortable bures, outstanding cuisine and offers a full range of adventure and cultural activities. Dive or take a course with our PADI dive professionals. Experience fantastic fish, pristine corals, Mantas and sharks. Try big game fishing, snorkeling, sailing, sea kayaking, trekking, and join in authentic cultural and village events! No roads, solar power, low carbon footprint make Matava the ideal and environmentally responsible location to relax and unwind.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Virtual Training for Manta Research Assistants

The Manta Global Database has identified more than 150 locations where mantas have been sighted. Some of these locations are covered by manta affiliates others are rumors or reports by photographers. Each location needs a short description and map.

In order to create and submit the short location description, three actions must be taken.

First, within the assignment area, you need to collect what is known about the local manta population including who has knowledge, photos or video. Are there scientists or organizations working in this area? Are there manta affiliates including local dive shops, operators, resorts or resident photographers?

Second, the most important of the available local sources need to be contacted for assistance. And finally other materials to complete the description can be collected from the Internet such as a map.

In order to add a new location description, the research assistant first needs to register online. This can be done on the home page or by clicking [here].

Once registered, please send an email to for upload clearance and to be assigned one of more countries. Please indication how many countries that you are willing to take on and if you have any preferences. We will email your location assignments based on your request (if available). We will also send you any email contacts that might be in our database.
The work for any location or country is divided into the following tasks:

1) Background research
2) Local outreach
3) Map creation
4) Writing and proofing (spelling and grammar)
5) Posting description

The actual description will vary from location to location. Some areas will only be able to be identified on a map as tentative sightings. Other areas will have so much information that only one or two of the largest efforts will be summarized. If a much more comprehensive report is desired, please use Submit a Field Report (

See full article here: Virtual Training for Manta Research Assistants | save the mantas

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


CoralWatch is an organisation built on a research project at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. We have developed a cheap, simple, non-invasive method for the monitoring of coral bleaching, and assessment of coral health. Our Coral Health Chart is basically a series of sample colours, with variation in brightness representing different stages of bleaching/recovery, based on controlled experiments.

In the field, users simply compare colours of corals with colours on the chart and record matching codes. The charts can be used by anyone - scientists, school children, tourists and politicians.

It is our aim to both provide a scientific tool and increase awareness about global warming by demonstrating one of its devastating effects. We ask you to please help by using our kit to monitor your local reefs, or any that you visit.

CoralWatch have also joined forces with Project AWARE Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organisation working with divers to conserve underwater environments through education, advocacy and action. Project AWARE have registered over 500 CoralWatch monitoring locations worldwide making it easy for divers and snorkelers to get involved. You can view a list of participating dive centres or find out more by visiting Project AWARE

You can request a free* DIY Coral Health Monitoring Kit by contacting us at The chart is currently available in English, Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese and French with more languages becoming available in 2008!

We now have a link to NOAAs’ Tropical Ocean Coral Bleaching Indices Page! Here, you can immediately see which Coral Reefs are currently under Bleaching Alert, for further details click here.

* First kit provided free of charge.

Move the mouse over a picture to see the difference between healthy (original picture) and bleached coral

Branching Coral (br)
Boulder Coral (bo)
Plate Coral (pl)
Heron Island

Coral type terminology has been refined to better represent the coral types present on reefs, as per feedback received from marine educators. "Staghorn" coral type changes to "branching" and "brain" changes to "boulder". All coral types will now have a two letter code, for example soft will be represented by "so". During the change of period you may need to use staghorn and branching interchangeably, and likewise for brain and boulder – please bear with us during this transition period. If you have any queries or comments please email

CoralWatch - Home

Sunday, 10 May 2009

What lies beneath?

Like a blue cover hiding Christmas presents, the ocean recedes and I wait in anticipation to see what it was hiding.

The dogs wait too. Rocks and coral soon start to jut awkwardly out of the blue blanket that is still being pulled ever so slowly away. We walk the clear sand path that winds from the resorts doorstep to the small Waya Island, which sits directly South of  Matava.

Sea grass appears first and our search begins, small crabs, banded sea snakes, snake eels and all kinds of interesting creatures have their 15 minutes of fame as we watch them go about their daily lives. Seconds turn into minutes and we loose our selves in a small crab constructing his home.

Minutes turn into hours and soon the ocean decides we’ve seen enough and starts to slowly take its creatures back until once again we are left with a glassy blue blanket at our doorstep.

Kate the Kiwi Instructor

Matava @ The Scuba Show in California!

We are heading across the Pacific to sunny California to have a booth at The Scuba Show at the Long Beach Conference Centre on 30th and 31st May 2009.

Come along and see us on the Tourism Fiji Booths # 615, 617, 714, 716 and we can have a coffee and relive the great dives! We are partnering with our good friends from Tourism Fiji, so that guarantees a few laughs!

We hope to see you there, it'll be a great weekend!
Richard Akhtar

Scuba Show 2009
May 30th & 31st
@ The Long Beach Convention Center:
THE Diving Event of the Year!™
The Scuba Show 2009
76,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space will host over 200 exhibitors featuring new and revolutionary dive gear, dive travel representatives and scuba experts. This is the largest consumer dive expo in the U.S.! 
33 seminars are presented during the weekend, packed with information, learning and entertainment. Top dive experts from around the globe will present detailed information on marine life, must-know travel information, photography and video techniques, dive medicine and more.

World famous marine artist Wyland will be appearing in person to do a live painting at the show and exhibit a large portion of his artwork.

Film Festival
Films from top pros and talented amateurs feature images from around the world. For maximum thrill, the films are screened on a 3-story tall mega screen inside the exhibit hall.

Casino Party
Las Vegas style gaming will be available for your enjoyment on Saturday night. The event benefits the non-profit California Ships To Reefs working to create artificial reefs from surplus ships.

Event Info
Scuba Show 2009
THE Diving Event of the Year!™
PO Box 11231
Torrance, CA 90510
Phone 310-792-2333
30-31 May 2009

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Winners 2009 Gallery » Byron Underwater Festival - Byron Bay

Winners 2009 Gallery

These are the photos and the winning video from the 2009 shootout competition. What a fantastic week we had. The visibility was fantastic all week - check out the winners list and the winning images - winning video will be up soon.

Best Festival Video

Best Festival Photograph - SLR camera

  • 1st prize - Mark Gray - a dive holiday for TWO at Matava in Fiji - includes meals and taxes - *flights not included

Mark Gray - winner SLR - Underwater Festival 2009

Chris Hamilton – 2nd SLR - Underwater Festival 2009

  • 3rd prize - Graham Midgley - a massive 1200mm x 800mm canvas print of your winning image by Retrospect

Graham Midgley – 3rd SLR - Underwater Festival 2009

Best Festival Portfolio - 5 images

  • 1st prize - Chris Hamilton - Full Beuchat SCUBA package including first and second stage regulators, occy & BCD as well as fins & mask.

Chris Hamilton – Winner Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Chris Hamilton – Winner Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Chris Hamilton – Winner Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Chris Hamilton – Winner Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Chris Hamilton – Winner Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

  • 2nd prize - Mark Gray - 6 Days/5 Nights Cocotinos Dive Package for one diver in Manado, Sulawesi. PLUS a $500 Aquatica voucher from Scubapix

Mark Gray – 2nd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Mark Gray – 2nd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Mark Gray – 2nd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Mark Gray – 2nd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Mark Gray – 2nd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Stefan Beekman – 3rd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Stefan Beekman – 3rd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Stefan Beekman – 3rd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Stefan Beekman – 3rd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Stefan Beekman – 3rd Portfolio - Underwater Festival 2009

Best Festival Photograph - Compact camera

  • 1st prize - David Bryant - Choice of Ikelite SLR housing (inc port) / video housing or DS-160 deluxe strobe package

David Bryant – Winner Compact - Underwater Festival 2009

Stefan Beekman – 2nd Compact - Underwater Festival 2009

  • 3rd prize - Ken Thongpila - a huge 900mm x 600mm canvas print of your winning image by Retrospect

Ken Thongpila – 3rd Compact - Underwater Festival 2009

Best Festival Photograph - Novice & Sealife Camera Try Outs

Susan Berry – Winner Novice - Underwater Festival 2009

  • 2nd prize - Aiden Dipple - Pair of ESCLAPEZ Fins

Aiden Dipple – 2nd Novice - Underwater Festival 2009

Cherie Dodd – 3rd Novice - Underwater Festival 2009

Neville Coleman Awards

Most interesting critter find during the Underwater Festival

1 - John Natoli

John Natoli – Neville Coleman Award - Underwater Festival 2009

2 - John Natoli

John Natoli – Neville Coleman Award - Underwater Festival 2009

3 - Ian Banks

Ian Banks – Neville Coleman Award - Underwater Festival 2009

4 - Ken Thongpila

Ken Thongpila – Neville Coleman Award - Underwater Festival 2009

Thank you all sponsors!

The Byron Underwater Festival would like to say a huge thank you to all the prize sponsors - without you, this festival would be only half as much fun.

Latest UF09 News

  • News: Underwater Festival 2009 winners now up - May 5th, 2009
    Please check out the 2009 winners page which features all the winning entries from this years Underwater Festival in Byron Bay. Video winners will be uploaded as soon as possible. We hope to see...

Winners 2009 Gallery » Byron Underwater Festival - Byron Bay

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Last night we went snorkelling

Last night we went snorkelling. Just in our backyard.

The tide was high and the breeze was warm. A dark canopy of sky with tiny holes in it shouted at us as we rippled through its reflection.

A family of Puffer fish, dozy and clumsy, rolling gently in the dark water, followed by a hermit crab fumbling with a sea urchin, its huge claws prying the spiky shell open.

We turned off our lights and watched the water ignite with golden white sparks.

Our fins touched the sea grass and it was just like when my mum used to take the hot clothes out of the dryer and throw them around in a dark room, the water sparked and we all laughed with a genuine joy.

Grown adults laughing like children into a dark night, dancing with the water and the light.

Kate the Kiwi Instructor

Monday, 4 May 2009

Green Tips - Ten Things You Can Do for More Eco-Friendly Photography

Green Tips - Ten Things You Can Do for More Eco-Friendly Photography
Text and photography copyright © Samantha Chrysanthou. All rights reserved

Nature photographers bring some of the most stunning imagery of the natural world to the public. We all benefit from having access to these photographs, but with this privilege comes responsibility. There are many things photographers can do to take pictures in a way that reduces impact on the environment. If you love nature and being in nature, these small steps can be incorporated so that you are preserving, rather than destroying, the very thing you came to photograph.

See full article here: Nature Photography

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Husky Dusky? Maybe!

Remember the mystery Shark?
It's still a mystery - but at least, we've managed to narrow down the choices to two likely suspects. And having gone digging, I found some brilliant pics on Andy Murch's great Elasmodiver website.
The two suspects look like this.

That would be a Dusky (Carcharhinus obscurus) on top and a Silky (C. falciformis) below. See the alignment and the size of the fins? And that caudal keel that for so long has left everybody baffled? Except that, apparently, it aint really a proper "caudal keel"? Read below and you'll understand - it's complicated!

And now, compare them with the mystery pic on top: any preferences?

Like El Tiburon and after a knee-jerk reaction in favor of it being a Silky, I now root for the Dusky. I've never seen a Dusky, but I've seen plenty of Silkies - and although I can't quite put my finger on it, the mystery Shark just doesn't "feel" like one of them. I'm specially unconvinced by the first dorsal, but then again, who am I to say!

Talking of which, Juerg cautiously tends towards the Silky - but being the good scientist he is, he has passed on the question to a very prominent (and probably, the best) Shark taxonomist who has come back with the following.

"C. falciformis it is, nice pics."

but then, after reflection:

"I was a bit deprived of sleep when I made the call on the identification, so that your friend may be on to something.
I did a composite illustration of C. falciformis vs C. obscurus, and append it to this note for comparison with the best of your two images.

The only carcharhinids with prominent keels when alive and dead are Galeocerdo cuvier and Prionace glauca, so that your Carcharhinus when alive and swimming shows a keel but not when dead. Rather like observing a live bird in a tree through binoculars vs a live bird of the same species in hand from a mist net, and again the same species of bird as a study skin.
Fin size and shape change with growth in Carcharhinus. I was wondering about your C. falciformis in terms of second dorsal shape, position of the first dorsal, and pectoral fin shape and relative size.

Tooth shape of upper anterolateral teeth and vertebral counts are diagnostic for these species, but until we can pack underwater mini CAT-scan machines, we have to rely on dead animals to voucher live ones. Shark watching is not quite as advanced as bird-watching, but it's getting there"

There you have it! And yes, it's complicated! But fascinating, too - at least to me!
But whatever Shark that really was, the myth about Bronzies (C. brachyurus) prowling the waters of Fiji remains just that, a myth! As expected! For now!

Stuart: there you have it!
Well, sort of.

Husky Dusky? Maybe!

Face of Australia: The Final 3

Face of Australia: The Final 3

The results of the semi-final round are in, 3 finalists have been decided by popular vote... and I made it through! Thanks in no small part to the good people at the other end of this newsletter — namely, you.
[Josh Jensen]I am extremely grateful to all of you that took the time to register and vote during the semi-final round, and here I am asking yet again for your help to leap the final hurdle.
What exactly is the Face of Australia, you ask? It's a part-time job working for The Underwater Channel (UWC). I would research and write my own stories, film them, and present them to the UWC's global online audience. I'm busting to tell everyone about the great diving we have here, to teach people a bit about marine life, and to tell you about the good work being done by local researchers and conservationists. Most of all, I'd love to to show that it doesn't need to be all doom and gloom from the media when it comes to the underwater world.
[sweepers]Votes from the semi-final round don't count anymore, unfortunately. So if you can spare a minute a day over the next week to cast your new votes, I will be eternally obliged. Voting runs from now until May 8th , and you can vote every day. You can also get your spouse, partner, kids, pets, postman, plumber, etc, to vote too — and with the bikini-clad hotties I am up against, I need all the help I can get!
Rest assured, this is the last time I'll bombard you with a request for help. Future newsletters will once again give you useful, relevant and sometimes amusing material. But for now, relax and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling you get each time you vote, knowing that you helped me land a job I'm passionate about, and that you'll be in my good-books for life.
All the best, and thanks ~

Friday, 1 May 2009

Young at Heart

Anthony going into the deep!

Anthony and Cheryl from Aussie arrived at Matava resort to diving guests that had just experienced a wonderful day diving with the Mantas. Cheryl and Anthony came to Matava with no diving plans but decided to give it a go, and they did just that.

Cheryl taking the plunge!

Armed with no diving experience and a ‘lets get on with it attitude’ they completed the course in three days, flying through the paper work and skills like naturals.

Now it must be said that these two Aussie’s were the ‘most mature’ students I have had the pleasure of teaching, but it didn’t make a difference as they were motivated and ready for a laugh. In no time they were out on the dive boat checking out the mantas for themselves. Well Done Ant and Cheryl.

Also Congratulations to Sylvia from Canada, Marcell from Switzerland and Byron, Wes and Denise also from Canada, who all completed the PADI Open Water Course.

by Kate the Kiwi Instructor