Words and images: Donald Day, Diving Convenor, PADI Course Director, EFR Instructor Trainer, Shark Guardian Ambassador
You look down at the water and the mesmerising colours – from turquois all the way to a deep, captivating blue. The wind slowly blows sand off a nearby beach. You check your equipment one final time, nod at your buddy and roll backwards - and enter a completely different world. As today you don’t remain on the surface sailing, rowing or paddling. Today you explore the world that awaits below the surface - vivid colours, stunning marine life, and never-ending adventures.
Introducing the fifth non-core sport of the RHKYC – scuba diving!
Our core sports are all related to water, but they all take place on the surface. And while Hong Kong has stunning backdrops for exciting races and amasing cruising, there is a whole different world waiting to be explored – below the surface.
Following in the footsteps of the existing non-core sports of the Club, we are launching the Kellet Diving Society (KDS). The main focus of this society will be to build a community of like-minded members who share the passion to protect, explore and learn more about the underwater world. Everyone is welcome – regardless of experience or certification level. We will be diving agency agnostic – any certification of a known diving agency is welcome! If members desire further training, courses from beginner up to instructor level will be available, with certification issued through the largest and best-known diving agency globally, PADI.
Under the umbrella of this community, we will focus on three main areas: marine conservation, exploration and education. Over time, other areas will naturally develop.
There are many aspects to this important and diverse topic, so we need to concentrate on specific areas to be effective. One area we will focus on is dealing with the obvious problem of pollution – both on the surface, as well as underwater. We will continue, and expand, the successful beach clean-ups which have proven popular with members and their guests, especially young children. It doesn’t stop at beaches of course – collecting plastic while going for a run, or a hike, makes a big difference. Additionally, we will organize specific field trips which will focus on underwater clean-ups. I pioneered the introduction of the PADI Dive Against Debris® specialty in Hong Kong several years ago, and participants are eager not only to gain additional knowledge, experience and the specialty rating, but also help protect the aquatic realm. As part of this activity, we will systematically collect and submit data to global NGOs, such as Project Aware. Contributing key data – as citizen scientists – will help data analysis and studies which evaluate, for example, the relationship between debris found on shorelines and debris found on corresponding seafloors.
Another key area I am personally very passionate about and have been involved in for over 15 years is shark conservation, and we will be organising seminars, presentations, and (hopefully soon) field trips to observe these amasing creatures.
To foster our community spirit we will organize diving excursions, both shore-based and from boats. This will include day trips to the well-known dive sites around Hong Kong, but also exploring dive sites that are not frequented very often. We will selectively do shore dives as well, focussing on unusual dive sites which potentially offer interesting topology around Hong Kong.
Diving in Hong Kong offers a great variety of environments – from large boulders at 25 meters at Nine Pins, sloping coral reef at the Main Dam, to pristine marine protected areas in Hoi Ha Wan. Over 50 different species of coral and literally hundreds of different species of fish can be found across Hong Kong, including colourful clownfish, lionfish, angelfish, moray eels, frogfish, as well as nudibranchs and other. Coral you might encounter include staghorn, leaf and brain coral. We have even spotted lagoon rays during night dives. Visibility in Hong Kong usually is not on the same level as in other Asian destinations but can reach up to 12m on a good day.
Once the current travel restrictions are lifted, we will expand our diving excursion across the region. Hong Kong’s location within Asia puts some of the world’s best diving spots within just a few hours of flight, ideal for extended weekend trips. And if one ventures further, truly remote and isolated spots await, teeming with marine life. This might, right now, be somewhat in the future, but is definitely on the radar.
Of course providing education to interested members will be another important part. One goal will be to introduce children to the experience of being underwater – young children from the age of 8 years can undertake various “aqua missions” in the pool, spend a fun day under the water, and earn the respective recognition. This global program has proven to be very popular and we are looking forward to rolling this out over the course of the year.
For those members who haven’t dived in a while we will, upon demand, offer refresher courses. And if other members would like to further their education, we will organize more advanced courses such as the rescue diver course, specialties such as underwater imaging, buoyancy or Nitrox (a special gas mix leading to extended bottom times), and also professional level courses including Divemaster, Instructor and beyond. And if you haven’t yet tried scuba diving, but always wanted to get certified, we can do that too. All of these courses, after successful completion, will result in PADI certifications, the largest and most recognized agency and brand in the diving industry.
If there is enough interest for more advanced and specialized training, we will organize these courses as well, including for rebreather units such as the SF2, or Trimix diving.
A few words about myself – I stumbled onto diving during a round-the-world trip in 2002, which coincidentally included some of the best diving locations in the world, as I was soon to discover. I became a Divemaster on the tropical island of Koh Tao in 2003, and an instructor on Utila in 2004. Later on my job in consulting sent me to Shanghai, where teaching diving on weekends provided a welcome reprieve from work pressures. After arriving in Hong Kong in 2009 I balanced working in finance with teaching diving from beginner courses, advanced courses and specialties to professional level courses. In 2016 I was selected by PADI to become a Course Director (instructor trainer). I am also a first aid instructor trainer, and the Shark Guardian Ambassador for Hong Kong, a UK-based NGO which recently succeeded in banning the imports of shark fins into the UK (and is currently working on getting the same ban enacted in Continental Europe).
In Asia we are extremely fortunate to be mere hours away from some of the best scuba diving locations in the world. Diving opens the door to a different set of travel and opens travel locations which one wouldn’t explore otherwise. So, while we can’t easily travel to locations at this moment, maybe you feel it is time to learn something new, or refresh your training from a while ago.
Call to action: If you are interested – whether very experienced and passionate, certified but a bit “rusty”, or always wanted to learn but never got around doing it – please fill out this questionnaire, and become a part of the Kellet Diving Society!
See you soon!