Category Archives: Behind The Scenes

“I want your Job”.

Often a question that we as a team get asked on trips. So this months blog we will have a look at “well do you really want our jobs”!

The perception seems to be (not everyone) that we sit on our asses during the week while playing on FB and other social media sites and then climb onto a boat on the weekend and take you on an underwater tour or in other words we are on a permanent holiday!

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So let us break this down to a normal week in the middle of high season. In high season we get on average 5x two day/two night dhows booked with diving. Once we have chased (more like begging) the divers with regards to their equipment requirements (sizes, gas mixes, no. of tanks, amount of weight required etc), all this info is then passed onto the diving department who go through every profile return with regards to checking cards of people we do not know as well as date of last dive, emergency contact info and level of qualification.

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Then it is into the compressor room where we can pump up to 150 tanks for a weekend, pack 35 sets of dive gear, make sure all enriched air mixes are accurate to within one percent of the requested mix and prepare to put between 30-50 divers into the water for a weekend.

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As we draw closer (Wednesday and Thursday) the guides start checking weather systems (a difficult task in the musandam) as all the  weather sites vary greatly, choosing itineraries and dive sites based on levels of experience, sorting speedboats/chase boats out, crew allocation, water, diesel for the dhows and of course loading the respective dhows/speedboats with the correct gear allocated to said dhow.

We cannot afford a bad day at work whilst preparing for and on trips. The result could invariably be … we will leave it to your imagination!

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Once you are safely back in your vehicles on the way home, we start the off-loading, unpacking and cleaning of equipment. A day off arrives the next day and the following day after a rest it starts all over again.

Would we do it all over again … in a heart beat!

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Keeping your Dive Guide on your side.

The similarities between a dive guide and a barman are almost identical except for the mediums in which we operate. 

We have both heard it all before and we both have an exceptionally great game face that borders on getting our own star on Hollywood Boulevard. Therefore, how would you know that your guide has a genuine, positive outlook towards you or is faking it (we do that very well).

12809777_10153916985278080_1177085423168556251_nDive Briefings – I suggest you actually listen!

Over the years of guides getting together and chatting over a cold beverage regarding the days activities one topic always rears its head. There is always the diver(s) that do not listen to briefings! Fiddling with their dive computers or chatting amongst themselves while we brief is going to get you the game face or in the case of guides who have been around for awhile – they just stop briefing and you receive the death stare. We don`t brief to hear our own voices but to keep you safe, at least afford us a small iota of respect.

” Do you know where my mask, fins, weight belt etc”, is another “mm we have a live one here moment”. Contrary to popular belief we are guides and not housekeepers. 

Chucky” No, I don`t know where you put your freaking mask”.

Dive time! When we say in-water at 7am, we mean in-water at 7am! We design schedules not only for divers but for the non-divers on board as well. Maybe the kids want to use the banana boat or some folks would like to indulge in a spot of fishing. So no it is not all about you! Being on time will get you the genuine face.

Current divers! It does not take a lot to get yourself refreshed with respect to skills and buoyancy before a trip. The last thing we need is having someone flap around on the surface while the rest of the group has decided to descend (back to the dive briefings again) and we are in the a 7 knot current. Result – you get the game face!

IMG_0318This is the face you want to see @ the end of your trip (Jon 2nd left and stoked with his group).

We make decisions based on the group collective and not individual needs. So the next time you have a dive site preference and are politely (insh`allah) told that the group is doing another site – trust me we have our reasons.  Be courteous, have fun with us, trust us and most importantly afford us a bit of respect because at the end of the day when you are 30m underwater and difficulty strikes, the only person who gives a continental snowball about you is us!

A most importantly – the biggest factor about having the guide on your side is offering us a cold bevvie at the end of the day – you are going to have a great holiday 🙂

 

The Blog with Fog.

Welcome back to the diving season. March suddenly awoke from his wintery slumber and put on a feast.

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                                             The Musandam greets us from its wintery slumber.

It has been a kiddies month as well. Two young ladies aged 11 years of age completed their Discover Scuba Experience with instructor Bruce and were greeted by a whale shark after completion. We now think the certificate came second to seeing this gentle giant up close and very personal. We bet 2 free berths on a sharing trip they enjoyed it more than playing on their iPad or phones as well!

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Wally allows us the 1st sighting this year. Blessed!

Our monthly sharing trips were back in full swing or more like full immersion. Three hours into our departure we were hit with “the fog” or more like a wall of ice that enveloped us completely and obscuring our night vision. With GPS we made safe anchorage and woke up to the musandam that was about to put on a spectacle. Dolphins bow riding and a leopard shark within 5 minutes of our descent were small reminders of this sport we love so much. We were blessed and honoured to have had Dubai`s foremost blogger Slava Noor with us imparting words of wisdom regarding social media and adding a splash of pinkness to our dives.

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Just in case you misunderstood the word pinkness 

Please feel free to follow our social media sites and leave a review of your encounter on Trip Advisor. In this day and age it helps us tremendously to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

Instagram: @sheesabeachdhow

Face book: Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises – Dive & Discover

Trip Advisor: Sheesa Beach Dive Centre.

 

Have we failed you and have you failed yourselves?

A question I get asked quite often is “what`s the temperature like or what`s the visibility like”? There have been numerous times when we answer the question but with mutterings of hostile intentions.

After making a decision recently to change my current in-date training agency to another and starting the theory for the crossover I came across a simple, innocuous question which got me thinking about the heading for this blog!

The question was simply about choosing a wetsuit. You choose the wetsuit according to the temperature at the bottom of the area you dive in and not the surface temperature. Simple yes! But a simple question that gets answered incorrectly and leads to a diver having insufficient exposure protection which in turn leads to potential hypothermia and therefore a decompression sickness risk and thus no longer avails themselves to your services or anyone else.

Years ago when I was a young training leadership candidate, the dive sites were always full. Weekend after weekend there were divers in the water both new and regular divers. Admittedly there were less adventure sports available then for people to spread their time around but the reason I keep coming back to, is quality of training was a lot better then. Evening classes over weeks, weekends spent honing skills in the pool made us confident, comfortable and want to dive because of the very factors I have just mentioned. We had made an investment and boy were we going to cash in on it.

It was an age ago and times have changed, technology reared its head, globalization took over and we no longer have the time to do a 6 week open water class. However, most of the divers I did those classes with are still actively diving today as my peers in the industry or those that now do it purely as a form of escape from the world of one atmosphere. I can name quite a few of our clients that dive every monthly sharing trip and sometimes weekly on the fast boats. The common denominator still being quality of training. They still dive, ride bikes, jump out of perfectly good aircraft and have time to carry on with their lives so where are we missing the boat and thus why did you miss the boat!

We got caught up in the world going crazy, learn to dive now, courses completed in 2 days and a host of advertising gimmicks designed to get you into the dive centre and in reality straight out again as you do not feel confident and peer pressure takes its toll because your dive guide spent 20 minutes with you on the surface to get you down while everyone waited. We became and are “cash cows”. Spend more time on payment details than on the reason we got involved in the 1st place – to share our love of the underwater world with others.

Doing courses is not a way to part you with your money (ok it is) but it is a very important reminder to us as to why we wanted to learn. It took a very simple question to bring me back and I hope some of what is written here will help you do the same!

You v’s Us

This issue will be very different to the humour and tongue-in-cheek approach we are known for. Simple reason is to try and find another topic as the weather did us in over March and very few trips made it out.

The topic this issue is you v’s us. Who do we target as customers and who do you choose as your service provider?  If we took Maslow`s hierarchy of needs and converted into entry level divers that will do one or two dives a year as the foundation of the pyramid. Divers who have completed two or three courses, invested in low cost dive equipment, and dive purely on vacations or the odd weekend in the second tier. Divers who have made diving a serious hobby and own more expensive gear and actively seek out diving opportunities when they are able making up the third tier and then the top tier is those that have made diving a lifestyle choice and invested heavily both financially and personally.

The dive industry is cut-throat and to survive in it, you need to have a very clever strategic plan. Let us take a scenario that happens all the time. Joe/Joelene Bubbles is looking for a course and is walking along narcosis boulevard checking prices at dive centres in that street. Inevitably he/she will choose the cheapest one. Maybe he/she does a dive or two once finished his course and discontinues diving and takes up collecting coke bottle tops instead. I can almost guarantee that the reason he/she discontinued diving (why would you want to – it`s awesome) is confidence in their own abilities. Cheap is not always good. Maybe they did not like it and that is fine. These days people do not have time to spend on courses like I did. Quick is better for them and then back to checking their smartphone or family life.

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So good old Joe Bubbles remains in the bottom tier and is lost to us forever! Providing quality education and an enthusiasm derived from the instructor to student to continue is paramount to us all surviving. Without the third tier of divers, there is no industry. We as dive centres/resorts need to acknowledge this and spend more time targeting these individuals. We need to provide quality and confidence to new divers to get them into this group. Discover Scuba experiences are great for a short-term approach but the shop doors need to be open in five years’ time.

There a very few consummate professionals out in this industry who will spend time with you chatting about subjects pertinent to diving, having the skill set to enact and instruct what is being said and have a beer with you in the evenings while reviewing the above. If you reading this now ask yourself the question of “where am I on the pyramid”. The second question to ask is “who would the guides on my trip be more comfortable getting into the water with?” From our perspective, that choice is easy but we also love taking someone out of the bottom tier and getting them up the ladder.

The next time you ask for Ras Musandam and end up on Red Island instead, then we have answered your question for you and the rest is up to you. We will certainly help you on your journey.

Hello and Goodbye

January and February have traditionally always been a slow period and it has been no different this year.  However, we did have a Dive master intern to train which has kept us busy.  Please join us in welcoming James to the Sheesa family.  Contrary to the perception you may have from his mug shot, he hasn’t come to us straight out of the slammer.  He was just a bit nervous, having met some of our regulars 🙂

The rule of thumb when it comes to training is once a diver has progressed to the rescue diver and dive master programs then all gloves come off.  Young James suffered the same fate many of us did whilst we eagerly lapped up our instructors` sage advice and spent time doing slave labour that would put the young mining kids in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) to shame.

There is method in the madness philosophy as they learn to handle pressure as well as making difficult decisions that are needed to be made when the proverbial pooh hits the fan. The internship we offer is vastly different to the same old DM programs that are rolled out by certain training agencies and conducted by dive centres that basically teach someone to kneel at a bottom of a swimming pool and become a brainwashed zombie with no lateral thinking.  We spent time on time management, cooking skills, dealing with difficult clients (we know who you are and you know who you are), troubleshooting techniques at sea, guiding in currents, office administration, guiding small and large groups, rope work, personal budgets, and life skills to name a few. James is now able to plan and execute his own itineraries, cook for himself, make his own bed and wipe his own posterior. I think his parents are going to get more out of this program than James.

On the diving scene, we have just finished our monthly sharing live aboard and it was great to see the new faces on board. We do know that we had new faces because the old faces are too freaking scared of cold water to join us the latest Antarctica expedition to Sheesa. It was cold. So cold in fact that we are certain on at least 2 occasions a polar bear was seen swimming around in a dry suit.  The visibility on the other hand …. Wow! It was beyond clean. Devil rays, queen fish, barracuda, cow tail rays, scorpionfish, pipefish, trevally, turtles (and a bus of one at that), were all seen (and photographed) by the great Julian Palmer and Brigitte Chemla. The night dive was averted by the dive guide by having a GnT readily available upon his return after the 3rd dive and thus the no diving and drinking rule was applied and strictly enforced. A certain gentleman who goes by the initial JP was keen for an early morning dive at stupid o clock and found a willing buddy in GP and then followed by LW.  NM however was really impressed with their skill levels and thus they were able to brave the frigid waters on their own while the brave dive guide kept an eye on the safety of the dhow that lay gently at rest in a secluded and sheltered bay.

On a sad note, whilst we welcome James on board, we bid farewell to Chucky and Nedy.  Please join us in wishing them both the best of luck with their new endeavours (freelance photographer, Canadian resident).  They will sorely be missed.

  

Don’t worry though, you will shortly be seeing new faces at Sheesa and we trust you will give them the warm welcome that we all have received from you, our valued clients (there is absolutely no tongue in cheek in that statement), when we first arrived.

With that, all that is left to say, is to brush off those 3mm`s, as the water will start to warm up soon and we will soon be heralding the arrival of the 3 day trips.

A New Year, A New Look

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Ok, ok, we know it’s already half way through January, but we wanted to take the record for the most delayed New Years greeting ever. So, now we have explained ourselves, we`d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2017. Hopefully we will see lots more of you all this year, as you join us on the many Dhow and Fast Boat trips which are scheduled to run.

You will have noticed that we have been a bit quiet on the blog and web pages over the last few months. We do sincerely apologise for this, however we hope you will agree that it was all in a good cause. Wondering what we are on about now? Read on……….

We took the decision in 2016 to rebrand the company to best reflect our services. Our previous logo was very clever and for those of you who studied it, you would have noticed a dhow, an anchor and a sting ray in the design, with the sea part of the logo meaning Sheesa Beach in Arabic. However, at first glance, it did not speak to us (nor I suspect many of you) about who we are.

After getting our heads together with some seriously amazing branding guru’s (who just happen to be avid divers too), we came to the conclusion that a change to our website and logo, along with smarter use of social media was the way to go. We also felt it was important to differentiate between Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises and Sheesa Beach Dive Centre (which we felt had, up to now been confusing). Hopefully you will agree that it is now clear that the Company is Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises and with the addition of the slogan ‘Dive and Discover’ on the new logo and website, newcomers will quickly ‘get what we do’.

After a lot of hard work by a lot of people, we are extremely proud to launch the new website which, is fast, crisp and provides key information at the click of your mouse. Our social media has also expanded a bit by adding in an Instagram account (sheesabeachdhow) and changing our Face Book page to Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises – Dive and Discover. On the homepage of the website, you will find easily accessible icons to all our social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and of course our blog, Sheesa Shenanigans.

Actually, talking about our social media brings us to a point that we feel is important to talk about. Those of you who follow the blog may have noticed the humorous content that we infused into the articles. This isn’t difficult as the humour and fun emanating from the blog is, we believe, reflective of the experience that we feel many of our customers enjoy on our trips. We can however be serious, and at times it is important to be so. Diving is a dangerous sport and it is essential that we sometimes remind ourselves of this. On that note, we would like to talk about a slightly more serious side of the relationship between diving and social media.

I recently read an article on how social media can cause death on dive trips. A shocking view point maybe, however it rings very true. We are continually bombarded with fantastic underwater images of dive sites, live aboards, resorts, divers personal experiences and so forth. We fail to understand that many of those fantastic images were the result of 100 dives done in some really testing conditions, before the perfect snap was loaded onto the world-wide web. We also age! This unfortunately means we cannot do some of those great current dives with big pelagics anymore due to our aging cardio-vascular system. Those pics however paint a false or at least, a deceiving truth.

This also brings us (as dive guides) to the very painful truth of “No, you cannot always have it your own way.” When a diver books a dive trip with us, they are booking in a personal capacity and as such, the focus of their dives are the same – for personal gain. We as guides take a different view, as we choose a site based on the weakest (not a word I prefer to use, however we are being realistic now) diver in the group. We dive for a group and you dive as an individual. Those of you who have done numerous trips with us will know this and happily, most of our regular customers are happy with this approach. Particularly as we strive hard to ensure that the sites we choose have options to suit all levels. Thus, when we do place restrictions for safety reasons, be it weather, capability of the wider group, etc., our guests, are on the whole, extremely understanding.

It was interesting the other evening as a few of us (yes, we have a social life here) sat around having a couple of toots, discussing this very topic. There was one group who were very pro letting the client select an alternative dive, after a dive site had been briefed and selected. Such as “we dived this site last week and want to go there instead.” Now this isn’t always possible, however, it can be done within reason:-

Do the conditions allow?
Is everyone in agreement?
How much of a deviation from the original dive plan is it?
Is everyone equipped/configured to do the dive?

Ultimately however, whether we stick to the original site or go with the alternative suggestion, the golden rule is plan your dive and dive your plan. Even if the plan is slightly newer than the original one.

We are as always, happy to be flexible, striving to ensure you get the best experience, best service and most enjoyable time from your weekend as our guest. However, do please always bear in mind that we are there for your safety, not just your enjoyment. So, whilst we are more than happy to consider a suggestion or request to deviate, we will sometimes, politely but firmly say no. And when we do, it is always with good reason which, (if you are interested) we are happy to share.

For all of us, another days diving is another day diving education, no matter how experienced we already are. That’s what makes our sport so refreshing and exciting. We hope you agree!

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