Monday, 31 August 2015

Shark Week: The Opening Ceremony

It's that time of year again, we are getting excited for Sharks and Rays and celebrating them with our second annual Scuba Junkie Shark Week!!

The aim of this week is to raise awareness of the unfortunate amount of threats that face our much loved elasmobranch friends. Through community involvement activities, presentations and fun and games we hope to change the 'shark attack' perception of of these hugely misunderstood creatures. Being at the centre of the coral triangle and  being so close to one of the last places where schooling hammerheads can be seen whilst diving, Scuba Junkie is situated in one of the best places to raise awareness!

The first day of this much anticipated week saw the arrival of Green Semporna and WWF to aid with shark conservation activities with SMK Mabul and Project SHA. Over the past few years we have developed a close working relationship with both of these companies. Green Semporna is a non-profit organisation that works closely with the local community. They aim to promote conservation and environmental efforts in Semporna and the surrounding islands. Their work is incredible and they continue to amaze us with their passion and hard work.

The atmosphere of the resort was buzzing as children from around the island descended on the beach. They were then brought up to the resort and Green Semporna gave an insightful presentation on Shark Conservation in Bahasa Malaysia for the kids. Education is key in shark conservation, having children gain an understanding of why sharks are important and why they should be protected is crucial to making a change. We hope that by involving kids of Mabul in our Shark Week we can promote shark protection and help create a generation that truly care about our oceans.

As divers came back from their first dive it was time for customers to get involved. We held a huge beach clean. Staff, interns and guests all got involved, as well as SMK Mabul and Project SHA, in removing debris from the beach. We collected  a lot of rubbish which we shall remove from the island. Beach and reef cleans are a huge part of our Shark Week as marine debris is a problem for all underwater critters. We hugely appreciate all of the effort everyone put it. In the heat it is a sweaty and smelly job, but it is one that makes an immediate impact.

The evening saw the official opening ceremony. Steve Ashby, one of the managers of the Mabul Beach Resort started the evening introducing everyone to what Shark Week is about - raising awareness and changing perception of sharks. He talked about how conservation efforts have been at the heart of Scuba Junkie since it opened.

We then had a presentation from David McGuire from Shark Stewards. The aim of Shark Stewards is to protect the ocean through the preservation of the apex predators. David's presentation gave a wealth of information. Having started diving in California with Great White Sharks, David has worked hard over the years to fight to the shark fin trade. David spoke about the origins of shark fin soup and how the industry has grown. Shark fin soup originated in China, it was created by the Sung Dynasty 986AD. Originally it was a show of affluence, only the wealthy could afford such a dish and it was a demonstration of power. Such a small percentage of the population could afford it didn't create a problem. However, since the 1990s affluence in China has massively increased and more and more people have been able to afford this dish. It is now a huge dish worldwide and the shark fin trade is decimating shark populations. The shark finning trade may be closer to home that you would like to think. Countries in Europe are amongst some of the highest in levels of shark fin trade. 

Tens of millions of sharks a year are killed for their fins - and their death is not fast. To save space on their boats many fishermen will cut the fins off the shark whilst it is still alive. They will then throw the body overboard and the shark drowns.  

While people fear sharks there are only 5 fatal shark attacks a year. To put this into perspective Jellyfish kill 40 people a year, bath tubs claim the lives of 348 people a year, and 13 people a year are killed by vending machines. 

The first day of our Shark Week was a successful one! We look forward to what the rest of the week brings. 

Facts about Coral Cat Sharks:

  • A small slender shark with cat-like eyes 
  • It has a very distinctive mottled pattern on its body
  • Little is known about the biology of this small shark
  • It is widely distributed, but often it is just its tail that is spotted poking out of the corals. 
  • It lays eggs rather than giving birth to young 
  • It is listed as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN Red List. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

9 Reasons to get excited for SHARK WEEK!

Shark Week is nearly upon us, and here are some reasons we were here at Scuba Junkie are getting really excited about it! 

1. Fundraising activities:
During the week we will have loads of fundraising activities going on. We will be holding special shark based pub quizzes and daily competitions through out the week. All the money we raise is going directly to shark conservation in the area. 

2. The Finathon!
We will be holding a sponsered finathon where our staff and interns (and anyone else who wants to join) will be swimming around Pulau Mabul. We hope to raise awareness and money for our sharkie friends. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for information on how to sponsor this event. 

3. Presentations: 
We have a whole host of special guests who will be joining us during the week giving some fascinating presentations. From information on the threats that sharks face, how to photograph sharks and the biology of sharks everyone will be gaining a wealth of information on these stunning creatures 

4. Shark Speciality:

Amongst the competitions there will be opportunity for customers to win the opportunity to do the shark specialty. The PADI Shark Speciality gives students a insight into why sharks are so valuable to the ecosystem and builds knowledge of the threats that sharks are facing every day. Students will discuss what effects the habitat of sharks in the Mabul area and why more sharks are seen in some areas than others.  

5. Reef and Beach cleans: 
Those of you who know us know that there are few things that get us more excited than removing trash from the ocean. A glamorous job it is not, but there are not many activities that are more satisfying. We will be conducting several beach and reef cleans through out the week. There will also be information given on why this is such an important job to undertake. 

6. Community involvement: 
We will once again be working closely with our good friends over at Green Semporna. They will be assisting us on our work with the local school children. The kids will get involved in a whole selection of activities that are aimed at education and shark awareness and the importance of keeping Pulau Mabul clean. 

WWF are also supporting Shark Week. They have a plan for a Roadshow for Primary Schools in Semporna. They plan to visit schools and educate on the idea that sharks are interesting, not a threat to us and need to be left in the ocean. 

We are hugely grateful to both of these organisations for their support and involvement on what is going to be an incredible week! 

7. We get to talk about sharks!
Sharks are amazing! That is just a fact of life. We love talking about sharks and we love to share our passion for them.  Our Shark Week aims to educate and increase awareness. We want to show those who have a more 'Jaws' views on sharks that really they are shy creatures who are essential to the ecosystem. Shark Week means we get a whole week of promoting these fascinating, stunning and intelligent creatures.

Everyone loves sharks!

8. Everyone is getting involved'
This year Shark Week is all over Sabah. Not only are we having a plethora of events at the Mabul Beach Resort, but Semporna and Kota Kinabalu are involved as well. So wherever you are diving, you won't miss out on the fun. Kota Kinabalu will even be holding a Shark sunset cruise in the National Park. We will be posting lots of updates for you so you know exactly what we will all be getting up to. 

9. Beach Party! 
No Shark Week is complete without a party and us Scuba Junkies know how to throw one. We will be having a BBQ and music on the beach as part of our closing ceremony. What better way to end the week than dancing under the stars celebrating our elasmobranch friends. 

For more information on Shark Week feel free to email us: Also keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter @ScubaJunkie_MY  for updates

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Blue Ringed Octopus, Wonderpus and Hammerheads!

We are now well into our High Season and the atmosphere at the Mabul Beach Resort has been amazing! As you may have seen on our Facebook page we had a hugely successful Pub Quiz this week. We raised an impressive 370RM for an organisation called Green Semporna. The bar was abuzz with energy, enthusiasm and a healthy level of competition! We have also had some incredible sightings of the rare and wonderful; such as the Blue Ringed Octopus, the Wonderpus as well as Hammerheads and Black Tip Reef Sharks at Pulau Sipadan!

Cephalopods are the dream sighting of many divers. The diversity of the species that we see around Pulau Mabul, Kapalai and Pulau Siamil is just incredible. From the more commonly sighted Broadclub Cuttlefish, that reaches sizes of 50cm, schools of Big Fin Reef Squid, to the rare and beautiful Flamboyant Cuttle fish - just 8cm long - we can see it all! 

Broadclub cuttlefish frequent most dive sites in this area and can be seen displaying an impressive array of colours and textures. We have even been lucky enough to witness these stunning creatures mating. A school of Big Fin Reef Squid can be seen on Froggies, a dive site located just off of our jetty. 

But the most impressive sightings we have had over the past few weeks have undoubtedly been a blue ringed octopus and a wonderpus. Both were witnessed whilst diving out on the Sipadan Barrier Reef. These stunning octopus both sport beautiful and distinctive patterns. 

Blue Ringed Octopus 

Sadly not a photo from here, but gives you an idea of it's beauty! 
The blue ringed octopus is a tiny cephalopod that, as the name suggested, can be seen showing beautiful blue rings all over its body. It's arm span reaches only 15cm, but don't be deceived by it's size. The blue ringed octopus is one of the deadliest things in the ocean. It's venom is 1000 times more powerful than cyanide. Generally found amongst sand and rubble, our lucky divers got to watch this stunning octopus displaying iridescent blue rings for nearly 15mins!

The Wonderpus

Photo taken at Awas
The aptly named wonderpus is another octopus found on many divers bucket list. The red / brown and white markings of this cephalopod make it extremely distinct.  However, it is often confused with the mimic but there are ways to tell the difference. Mainly, the mimic has a white band that frames its tentacles, whilst the wonderpus does not. Sadly, the one that was spotted by our customers only had 3 arms. The other 5 could have been lost in many ways - most likely being attacked by a natural predator. When an octopus is under threat they can sever their own limb to distract the attacker; the severed limb will continue to wiggle! Even more amazingly they can then grow this limb back!! And we didn't think they could get any cooler. 

Of course, we are all abut diversity here at Scuba Junkie. Not only do we see amazing macro, but we see endangered pelagics. Our divers were lucky enough to see a scalloped hammerhead earlier this week at Sipadan!! We also had an even rarer encounter for this area - black tip reef sharks! Although these may be common elsewhere, it is not often that we spot them here. 

It's been another great month of diving and we can't wait to see what the next few months will bring! With Shark Week coming up at the end of this month, we will undoubtedly be kept busy.