With Eric Cheng off diving somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, it was left to the only other responsible Wetpixel staff member who was in the neighborhood to cover this year’s Asian Dive Exposition. Since he wasn’t available either, I (Khun Drew) volunteered to organize the Wetpixel party at AD Maker bar in Lang Suan Road. However, before all the merrymaking could begin, I also had to see how this year’s ADEX went.
Arriving on the 27th morning, I went straight to BITEC, a relatively new convention center about 14 km from the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The 1st day of ADEX is always trade only day, so all entrants had to be related to the dive industry or the boating industry since ADEX was held in conjunction with the Boat Show Thailand. Since the show wasn’t as successful as yesteryears, I’ll just provide a report on the highlights of the exposition.
By far the biggest exhibitor was PADI, which had many little booths for various PADI dive centers to exhibit their area. Dive centers from Indonesia to Thailand were there but what stood out was the booth of Ecotourism Training Center. Reid Ridgway, Managing Director of ETCTH, started this project after the devastating tsunami hit the west coast of Thailand in 2004. The project is aimed at training locals for eco-tourism related jobs, including dive mastering and guiding. One of the biggest sore points of the Thai diving industry is that most of the dive masters and guides are foreigners. In fact, even though the Thai dive industry is the biggest in the world (certifying more PADI divers and instructors than any other country), other than boat crew and owners, there are surprisingly few Thai dive masters and dive guides. Hopefully ETCTH will encourage more local participation in the Thai dive industry.
Reid Ridgway with the new batch of Thai PADI Dive Master Trainees
ADEX is also the place where many new dive resorts and liveaboards market their products. The most surprising one that I found was the Christmas Island booth, run by the Christmas Island Tourism Association. The Australian destination is known world over for the great red crab migration where millions of red crabs literally overrun the island for a few weeks in October in an effort to mate and release eggs. This massive egglaying brings the gentle whalesharks, which is another highlight of the island’s various dive opportunities. It use to be very difficult to get to Christmas Island, with connections either once a week from Jakarta or twice a week from Perth. A new flight with Silkair from Singapore now opens up this wonderful destination to the international market. Best of all, the equipment laden photographer can now bypass the draconian Australian airport staff who are very strict with hand carry baggage weight. Wonderful news for those seeking new destinations with interesting biodiversity.
The Christmas Island Booth
The amazing marine biodiversity in Indonesia is under threat by destructive fishing methods of the aquarium trade (cyanide) and fishermen (bombs). While many NGOs are working hard to protect the coral reefs, with 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, it is an impossible task even with government assistance. Lately, resorts have begun buying the fishing rights of the reefs (Indonesian law localizes ownership) from villages to set up marine parks. One such resort was exhibiting at ADEX, Eco Misool Resort in Papua Barat. Another resort Wailea Resort in Sulawesi, operates just outside the Waleabahi marine protected area.
Walea Resort, run by Simona Motti (left in pic), is situated in the Togian Islands, just south of Gorontalo in central Sulawesi. They’re situated near the Waleabahi area which is now a marine protected no take zone. Walea Island is also the only island in central Sulawesi with a spa jaccuzi and an Italian kitchen! Mama mia!
Andy Miners looking over the moon with his wife-to-be Marit Wechsler
Misool Eco Resort is a new resort that isn’t really open yet (due to be open in mid 2008). Still managing director Andy Miners was on hand to promote his new resort, which has bought the fishing rights from various villages around Batbitim Island, the resorts home island. This area, totally to about 200 sq km, is now marine protected. However, as this report shows, it is a difficult task to protect the area without enforcement.
Andy showing Wetpixel member Suteethat “Boi” (ssra30) the photographic opportunities in the area
Beside dive centers, resorts and liveaboards, underwater digital imaging equipment was also on the exhibition floor. Scubacam Singapore had a booth sharing with Daniel Keller of Keldan Lights fame. Unfortunately for Scubacam, their prototype housings from Amphibico and Gates were held at customs, so they only had the new Seatool housings brought by the Seatool man himself, Kenji Ohmura.
Tony Wu, David Cheung and Kenji Ohmura at the ScubaCam booth
Fortunately for video fans, Pro Dive of Thailand had the Gates FX7 prototype and the HC7 housing on display. The FX7 housing was typical Gates fare with mechanical controls and accessories like the EM43 HD monitor. The surprising design includes a clear window for the viewfinder (the FX7 and it’s pro-sibling, the HVR V1, have their viewfinders at different heights, necessitating the non-magnified viewfinder). It remains to be seen how easily visible that clear window will be underwater.
The Gates FX7 housing with standard dome port and EM43 HD monitor
Controls on the Gates FX7 housing
Rear bulkhead of FX7 with the clear window viewfinder
Wetpixel member Nick Hope with the new Gates HC7 housing and lights system
Overall, with the bad transport and difficult location, the general feeling was that ADEX wasn’t as good at BITEC as when it was held in Central Bangkok. Still it was a great social occasion for many in the dive industry, despite its disappointment as a trade show. Here are a few pictures of various Wetpixel members at ADEX:
Wetpixel member NickJ showing us what unhealthy food the English eat (even in gastronomically wonderful Thailand!)
What dive show would be complete without Harald Hordosch of Seacam
Tony Wu and Gunther Deichmann greet each other (you should’ve seen what preceded this!)
The ScubaZoo boys making a presentation for Andy Shorten and John Randolph at Archipelago Liveaboards
Andy Shorten, John Randolph and Ricard Buxo (SY Ondina) at the Archipelago Booth.
Continue for photos from the Wetpixel and DivePhotoGuide gathering at AD Maker bar…