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Diving with…Craig Stephen, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, Australia

Pacific DTA Team

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

Craig Stephen

What is the name of your business?

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

What is your role within the business?

General Manager

How long has the business operated for?

Since 1969

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

32 yrs, OWSI

What is your favorite type of diving?

With so much great diving on offer, that’s a difficult question, I do however still get very excited, dropping in on remote uncatalogued reefs, especially when the current is ripping through 🙂

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Our vessel Spoilsport is crewed by knowledgeable seasoned and enthusiastic individuals that form a most magnificent team dynamic and ensure our passengers needs are met.  Our expeditions always optimise the prevailing conditions to ensure we get the very best possible experience on each and every dive. We offer a diverse range of dive sites, dive styles and animals from large to small. People are what make the difference and whether travelling solo or accompanied, as soon as you step on board, you will feel as relaxed as in your own home.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

Osprey Reefs ‘North Horn’ is undoubtedly one of my favourites. Osprey is an isolated Atoll over 100 miles offshore and 70 miles beyond the GBR. Two converging walls plummeting to over 1000m (3000ft) adjoined by way of a small plateau creating a natural amphitheatre teaming with life. Grey whaler are the predominant shark species, Silvertip, Whitetip, Great and Scalloped Hammerheads are also commonly seen. It’s not just the sharks however, the western wall has a fabulous drift dive back towards the amphitheatre covered in beautiful pink soft corals and fans. Potato Cod, Morays and even the occasional Whale Shark turn up from time to time. Its got everything including that ‘Big Blue Abyss’ feeling we all love so much ….  a very special place.

What types of diving are available in your location?

Beginner to advanced, Bommies or pinnacles, classic reef, drift, night, wall, reef caves & caverns; Minke Whale, Shark, Nautilus …

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

The variety, from managing vessel slipping to hiring the next passionate reef guide and developing exciting new itineraries …

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Nigh impossible to answer, a bit like saying who your favourite child is, and that’s a definite nono, haha. Until I meet an Oceanic White Tip, I’d have to say a Silvertip, grace, beauty, unpredictable, intimidating …

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

There are a few concerns not relative to just our center, but Coral Bleaching is an obvious one.  We are very fortunate to have such a vast reef system stretching over 2600km with some 2900 individual reefs. Having a roving permit, means we can pick and choose where we dive and ‘rest sites’ as they recover. However, the trend for rising ocean temperatures and greater frequency of El Nino climatic events, allows less time for coral recovery which may ultimately see the time v recovery work against us. Shark baiting or netting near populated areas also concerns us. Too many sharks are targeted as a consequence of shark attacks, often as a knee jerk reaction by government agencies feeling they need to do something. Most educated people including the families and victims of attacks accept the risk and their consequences; it is really quite disturbing how much ignorance still exists around these most amazing (and important to the environment) animals.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

As a company, we are Advance Eco Certified; this means that we apply best practice to manage ourselves in an environmentally sustainable way, which includes auditing by a government appointed regulator. We recycle at the end of every expedition donating the proceeds to local clean up charities; we have done away with ‘giveaway marketing’ plastic bottles and introduced metal ones, done away with glow sticks, we’ve repowered our engines both main vessel and tenders to minimise our environmental footprint and use suppliers with similar best practice and are constantly looking to improve. We have many affiliations with research groups both gov and NGO offering research space on our expeditions and are very proactive on boards and committees to secure MPA’s throughout the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I’ve seen our industry go through some highs and lows, impacted by other emerging adventure sports and global events.  Those of us fortunate enough to work within this industry really do appreciate just how lucky we are to earn a living so close to nature. That connection feeds our passion for conservation and encourages us to be proactive as ambassador’s for change. Gone are the days when ‘diving was dangerous and sex was safe’; there’s little machismo connected with diving these days and a lot more compassion for what we all understand, is an extremely fragile environment. The planets future is in the hands of our youth so for me, we need to energise the youth to get involved in our ‘sport’ to ensure not only its future but to create new ambassadors for environmental change.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer

Our itineraries offer incredible diversity of marine life and photo opportunities from macro to wide-angle from pygmy sea horses to Minke whales and if you like sharks, well, we have lots of sharks. No two dive expeditions are ever the same for marine life encounters which is one of the reasons we have so many repeat guests. The friendliness of our crew, the chef prepared meals on a large spacious vessel, all make this big comfy girl a very pleasurable experience. Whether travelling as a group a couple or on your own, you will feel as welcome as in your own home.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

Website: https://www.mikeball.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MikeBallDiveExpeditions

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mikeballdive/

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/mikeballdive

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Jeff chats to… Marine Biologist Dr Emma Camp about the future of coral reefs (Watch Video)

Jeff Goodman

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Marine Biologist Dr Emma Camp about the true state and future of Coral Reefs and marine conservation.

Dr Emma Camp is a marine biologist and the Deputy Team Leader of the Future Reefs team at the University of Technology Sydney. Emma is a United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, a National Geographic Explorer, a 2019 Rolex Associate Laureate and was recently named a 2020 Time Magazine Next Generation Leader and UNESCO-L’Oréal Australian Women in Science Fellow. Emma researches and advocates for the world’s marine life under threat from environmental and climate change. She is one of the founders of the Coral Nurture Program on the Great Barrier Reef – a unique program involving scientists and Tour Operators to enhance reef biodiversity and promote site stewardship. Emma is an advocate for Women in STEM and improved Climate Action.

Find out more about Emma and her work at www.emmafcamp.com


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Diving with… Simon Doughty, Volivoli Beach Resort, Rakiraki, Fiji

Pacific DTA Team

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

Simon Doughty

What is the name of your business?

Volivoli Beach Resort, Rakiraki Fiji Islands.

It is a family owned and operated business. The Darling family, originally from New Zealand found this ‘block of land’ and over the last 20-years have developed it into Fiji’s Premier Dive Resort with clients flocking from around the globe to experience our unique part of heaven.

What is your role within the business?

Sales & Marketing Manager / Dive Operations Manager

How long has the business operated for?

The resort is now in it’s 17th  year however the business initially started via our dive arm which is called Ra Divers back in 2000. We have consistently been growing and investing and now as an award winning boutique dive resort are proud to be acknowledged as Fiji’s Premier Dive Resort within the global diving community.

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

I have been diving for over 30-years and I am an SSI Instructor Certifier (IC)

What is your favorite type of diving?

I love all diving, I love every dive I do however currently diving the beautiful Bligh Water in Fiji I am never amazed at the amount of incredible diversity of critters and colourful corals that are in our waters. I also love spending time in underwater cave systems and historical shipwrecks when I travel.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

At Volivoli Beach Resort our clients frequently tell us they feel more like family than just a guest, after all Fiji is known as the ‘friendliest country on earth’ and once a diver experiences the incredible Bligh Water, ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and Fiji’s # 1 Dive Region we know they will be back. We dive the Bligh Water 365-days a year and have 9-regions with over 80-dive sites.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

For me I like Cannibals Cave at the moment due to its massive swim-throughs, and canyons, diversity of marine life, massive soft coral decorated walls however my favourite site changes quite regularly. I also love exploring and mapping new sites and of course world-famous sites like Mellow Yellow, Black Magic Mountain and E6 are always something special.

What types of diving are available in your location?

With over 80-mapped sites in 9-regions we certainly have something for almost every diver. Massive sea mounds coming up from 2,000msw to just breaking the surface on low tide, walls and pinnacles, many starting in just 2msw, some bottoming out shallow at 10 or 12msw with others dropping off to 30msw and far beyond. We have 3 House Reefs with super easy walk-in/walk-out access directly in front of the dive shop. The Bligh Water is universally known as not only Fiji’s #1 Dive Region and the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and the diversity of marine life from the tiniest nudibranch or pigmy sea horse right through to massive schooling pelagic fish and sharks. We have 5 purpose built dive boats and explore the Bligh Water 365-days a year.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I love seeing our guests return multiple times, it says to me we are doing something right, we have a great offer and service, we know they can choose anywhere to travel and dive however returning clients always make me smile.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Just like dive sites this changes regularly however I think at the moment I would say octopus as they really are a magical creature.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

Currently like everyone else we are struggling with the restrictions around COVID-19 and international travel, this is especially hard on us at 95% of our business comes from overseas and our borders have been closed since 23rd March 2020, so we are well into our 2nd year of essentially no business.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Yes absolutely we do a lot of environmental work and also involve the community and local schools in an effort to help pass on and educate our future generations. Some examples of this are mangrove propagation and replanting, we are currently installing a new hard coral nursery with the longer term plan to be able to transplant the maturing coral to other areas within Fiji that are not so well established. We also run events around World Sea Turtle Day, World Environment Day, World Oceans Day and World Clean Up Day and again actively involve the community.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

We never stop! During this ‘downtime’ due to COVID-19 restrictions our construction team have been busy extending our second restaurant and bar, which we call the Ra Bar (we are located in the Ra province of Fiji) on the beach and in the same building as our dive shop. It is magnificent and the perfect place to start a day with coffee and dawn breaking or watch sensational tropical sunset over an ice cold beer or yummy cocktail. We are also part way through constructing our new conference centre which will also be used for photography workshops and classroom with full multimedia and air-conditioned.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

If we currently remove the obvious COVID-19 obstacle the industry appears sound, we are teaching new students, doing lots of specialty courses, our market today may be slightly older than those of the past however SCUBA has few boundaries when it comes to age and our clients of today appear to have more disposable income and the ability to travel the world.

Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

Fiji really is an easy sell, magnificent tropical location; the Bligh Water is home to arguably the most vibrant and healthy reef system on the planet, warm water (26⁰c/31⁰c), Fiji is frequently acknowledges at the ‘friendliest country on earth’ – we have a modern boutique resort, 33 rooms, all with ocean views, fully air-conditioned, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, 5 swimming pools, 5 purpose built dive boats, over 80 dive sites and offer unlimited free of charge diving on our 3 House Reefs 24/7 for anyone staying on a full dive package. Arrive as a guest, leave as a friend!

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

Our website is www.volivoli.com, we are active on Facebook either at Volivoli Beach or Ra Divers and Instagram volivoli_beach_resort – you can contact us directly via email res@volivoli.com or call + 679 992 0942 or our US office audrey@volivoli.com

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