Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

An Atmosphere of Luxury in the Philippines

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

To hear owners Matt and Gabby Holder tell it, they started Atmosphere Resorts because they wanted more from a dive resort. They visited resorts around the world and found that all of them were lacking in one or more areas. The diving may have been great, but the food was sub par. Or the service. Or the hospitality. Since they couldn’t find what they were looking for in other resorts, they decided to build their own.

They chose the area south of Dumaguete on Negros Island because of the area’s premiere diving, as well as its location near the famed Apo Island. With unwavering hospitality, pristine beaches, spacious accommodations, an award-winning spa and food to die for, Atmosphere is setting a new standard for dive resorts across the world in just under eight years of operation. Oh yeah…and the diving is pretty great too.

luxury room

A Mix of Modern and Natural Accommodations

Let’s start with where you’ll rest your head after diving all day. Atmosphere offers three different room sizes, all of them spacious, clean and stylish. All of them feature eco-friendly air conditioning, large beds, flat-screen TVs, and plenty of room to unpack fully if you like. Stone floors and walls, mixed with bamboo and thatched roofs, make for a natural look and feel. The spacious bathrooms feature rainfall showers, as well as double sinks to avoid family or couple crowding. Large couches on the patio round out the room by giving you the option to relax outside.

luxury atmosphere milk bath

Sanctuary Spa

After you settle into your room, you’ve got an entire resort to enjoy — especially the resort’s Sanctuary Spa, an award-winning oasis of peace, serenity and rejuvenation. The spa offers all the services you would expect, and a few that may seem new to you: various types of massages, body scrubs, facials, body wraps, baths and the famous Watsu water treatment offered by only two other Philippine resorts.

Though the spa is smack dab in the middle of the resort, when you’re within its bamboo walls, it feels as though you’re in a different world. Serene background music blends with the sounds of the flowing waters in the pools and fountains, and each secluded massage area still feels open and spacious. Both the Watsu treatment and milk bath that I received made me want to move in to the resort permanently, not to mention causing me to forget all about my aching muscles and numerous jellyfish stings. The Watsu treatment alone was an incredible, almost spiritual experience that felt like being taken on an underwater dance. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.

Yoga with a View

If you feel the need to get bendy, yoga classes are conducted at sunrise in a cool treehouse overlooking the sandy beach. That kind of setting should make even the yoga-skeptic willing to at least give it a try. Group and private yoga sessions are available for all levels of yogis, including first timers and kids.

luxury yoga

Food to Die For

A self-described foodie and wine lover, Matt wanted the food at Atmosphere to be beyond reproach. Anyone who has eaten at their restaurant, Blue, will tell you that they succeeded, and then some. They source the food locally and the menu is full of options for nearly every palate including vegan, gluten-free, kids and healthy entrees for those counting calories. For those of us not counting the calories, their dessert menu has options that are sinfully exquisite —  I’ll be dreaming of that ménage a trois mousse for many weeks to come.

The food may be good enough for an upscale restaurant, but at Atmosphere you’re on a beachfront patio, so beach casual applies. Guests can also eat poolside, at the fully-stocked bar, at a private table for two to 10 guests in the treehouse, or in your room.  Flexibility is the name of the game here.

The resort hasn’t forgotten about oenophiles, with a wine cellar stocked with 500 bottles from wineries across the world, including boutique wineries. Last but not least, there’s a full-service coffee shop and bakery with cookies, cakes and other desserts next to their smaller pool.

Never-ending Hospitality

Okay, the rooms are great, the food is delectable, the views are inspiring and the spa makes you want to move in.  But the hospitality…wow, what can we say here other than hands-down, the hospitality at Atmosphere is the best we’ve ever encountered. Service at the restaurant and bar is prompt, friendly and casual. Water is refilled before you ask, chairs are pulled out, napkins are placed in laps, and anything you ask for is delivered promptly. This goes for all the staff in every regard — reception, the boutique, the spa, housekeeping, maintenance, the restaurant, bar and dive teams. Across the board, the staff made everything effortless and we never felt as though we were an imposition. Either the entire staff is made up of really good actors, or they all actually enjoy working the resort. I’m banking on the latter, and that in itself says a lot about how well the place is run.

With a Conscience

Behind all the luxury that Atmosphere offers is an eco-conscience. All hot-water heaters are solar, and they only launder towels left on the floor and change bedding every two days. They don’t use disposable shampoo and soap containers, opting for refillable ones instead. All of their waste is separated for recycling, and their AC units have energy-saving inverters. Their two crystal-clear pools are a mix of chlorine and salt, which greatly reduces the need for pool chemicals. Whenever they can, they use recycled and/or local materials, and they don’t provide any disposable plastic products, including water bottles. So, while you’re pampering yourself, you can still feel as though you’re doing so with an eye to aiding the environment. They don’t stop with just eco-friendliness, however; the resort is also community minded, an aspect I will cover fully in a separate article.

For a glimpse of the resort and all that it offers, check out our video here.

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How to Make Your Dive Dreams a Reality

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

By guest blogger Adam Straub

You’re in your cubicle on a boring Wednesday afternoon, and your mind drifts, as it often does, to fantasies of running a dive resort on a small, exotic island, all from a poolside lounge chair. This scenario doesn’t have to be just a cubicle fantasy. If you’d really like to make the leap to managing a boutique dive resort here are some tips to turn your dreams into reality.

Be A Multi-Tasker

There are many elements at play when managing a small dive resort, and you’ll have to address them as a one-person army if need be. Over the course of a few hours you’ll be booking reservations, checking guests in, settling bills, and planning dives, courses and activities. Then you’ll need to switch gears to balance your books, plan the daily budget, organize and manage your staff and check the daily weather. Before you know it, you’ll be suiting up to go for a dive while organizing transportation for guests from the airport to the resort. The more experience you have in a multi-faceted work environment, where lots of different tasks fall onto your plate, the better. Before being given the golden key to the castle, you’ve got to put in some time. Resort owners are looking for people with experience in more than one area. Candidates with the most diverse portfolios get moved to the top.

It’s Not Just About the Diving

Diving and management experience are perhaps two of the most obvious skill sets that should appear on your resume, but what about accounting? Do you have marketing or maintenance and mechanical skills? Can you speak more than one language or words and phrases from many different tongues? All of these things can be invaluable when it comes to setting you apart from the field.

It should go without saying that any hospitality or service-related experience should be right at the top of your resume as well. From summer bartending gigs to front-desk reception work to retail experience — anything that shows you have experience as a warm, welcoming ambassador. Highlight the credentials that show you off as someone who’s eager to greet guests and give them the service and vacation of a lifetime.

Maintain Your Reputation and Relationships

Having a great resume and a few years of experience are key, but just as important is having a sterling reputation. As you progress in the dive industry, you’ll learn just how small the diving community is. That people do talk and bump into each other all over the globe. The impression you left behind at your previous posts will make or break your opportunities.

And it isn’t just employers and dive pros you need to be concerned with. Was there a scuba student you constantly made fun of? Did you help a customer find the perfect mask for their face shape? These people also talk, and they talk online in public forums. And yes, they will include your name, so make sure they are using it happily.

Also, foster ongoing pleasant and professional relationships any chance you have. It helps immensely to provide a prospective employer with glowing examples of your positive reviews. In this day and age, online reviews are everything.

Finding Employment

Now the kicker — how do you find these gigs? Positive relationships and personal contacts are key, but if you’re just getting started you’ll have to do a little research. Word of mouth will eventually lead you to meet so-and-so who went on a charter with and heard about an opening in Eden because the prior manager fell ill or left for their next adventure, so always keep your ears open and chat people up, because you never know where an idle conversation can lead.

Keep an eye on the dive-agency employment boards online. Found a posting for a small resort in Bali that was filled three months ago? Follow it up. Check what other boutique resorts are in the area and send inquiry letters along with your resume. And be persistent. Check in every couple of months until a position opens.

Now, how do you make sure living the dream doesn’t turn into living the nightmare? Do your research and ask hard questions. You may annoy or insult someone by asking if the resort is currently turning a profit or if there have ever been any dive-related accidents, but it’s better to risk causing discomfort or losing an offer than to find out after you’ve flown thousands of miles that the resort was set up illegally, theft is a rampant issue with your staff or that the compressor is powered by gerbils running on a wheel.

Running a small dive resort is hard work and a tough gig to land. But once you’ve begun planning business calls around dives and started seeing the happiness on the faces of people desperately in need of a getaway, you’ll wonder why you ever stepped a closed shoe into an office instead of a flip-flop by the pool.

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Get To Know Your Scuba Cylinder

Friday, September 18th, 2015

By  Beth Alexander

As divers, we know that SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, but how much do you really remember about cylinders? Here’s a brief review to help you tell your aluminum from your steel and your DIN from your yoke.

What are scuba cylinders made of?

Cylinders are made either of steel or aluminum, with each having its own advantages and disadvantages.

Steel is harder than aluminum and therefore doesn’t damage as easily. It’s also heavier, meaning that divers don’t to carry as much weight. Once a diver has breathed the air out of the tank, he stays the same weight in the water, which helps with buoyancy.

Steel is prone to rusting, however, which is problematic for any piece of dive equipment, but especially for a cylinder, as you want your tank to be clean, dry and rust free to stop any potential air contamination or valve blockages.

Aluminum cylinders are lighter than steel and are also a lot less expensive. They are the most commonly used tanks at dive resorts. Because they’re lighter, they’re also widely used in technical diving, wherein divers must carry many tanks at once. Aluminum tanks are also useful for side-mount diving due to their buoyancy attributes.

However, since these tanks are a lot lighter than steel, divers must carry more weight. Also unlike steel tanks, aluminum cylinders change buoyancy from negative to positive as a diver breathes down the air, which means that the tank begins to float. Some divers may find this difficult to control.

What are cylinder valves?

Each scuba cylinder has an on/off valve, and each valve contains a “burst disk,” which is a safety feature designed to burst and release cylinder pressure if it’s overfilled or if the pressure builds due to heat expansion. Tanks also have different types of valves.

The most common is the K-valve, which has a single outlet to allow the connection of one regulator, and has no reserve function. It simply opens to allow gas to flow and closes to shut it off.

Y- and H-valves have two outlets, each with its own valve, which allows attachment of two regulators. This means that you have a failsafe — if one regulator fails or free flows, you can simply close the valve and breathe from the regulator that’s connected to the other valve.

Before the K-valve became common there was the J-valve, which had a lever that allowed the diver to pull and release the remaining air reserve if a low-on-air situation was approaching. These have since been replaced by the safer and more reliable K-valves.

What’s the difference between DIN and yoke?

Quite simply this is how you connect your regulator to your cylinder. Yoke connections are made when the regulator surrounds the valve and a seal is created against the O-ring when the cylinder is turned on and the pressure is released. A DIN connection is made when the regulator is screwed directly into the cylinder valve. It’s more reliable and secure, however it’s uncommon in many places, so an adaptor maybe required when traveling.

What do the markings stamped along the top of the tank mean?

You’ll notice that there are a lot of letters and numbers stamped onto the neck of a scuba cylinder — this isn’t a secret code meant only for dive professionals. The information contained therein is useful for you as well, from basic information about the material it’s made from to safety regulations regarding cylinder test dates.

Below is an example of the stamp on a cylinder and what each section means.



So the next time you go diving, pay some attention to your cylinder, whether it be test dates, the type of valve, or the material from which it’s made in order to adjust your weights. All the information is there, but if you’re ever unsure, never hesitate to ask a dive professional.


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Four Essential Steps to Keep Your Career Growing In The Dive Industry

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

 By Adam Straub

Like so many others, you probably got into the dive industry because you love it. The freedom, the flexibility, and the worldwide adventures lured you in — and then reality set in. The industry is rough, you’re making next to nothing, and you can barely afford to make it home to visit family, let alone go on adventures. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be like that. Here are four must-dos if you want to command a better salary, build a career and help save the industry all at the same time.

Make yourself marketable

Finishing your Open Water Instructor is only the first step. Sure, you can teach a couple of classes for your local dive shop, and this is great — you’ll have a lot of fun and you’ll start getting some valuable experience. But if you want to have your pick of destinations and ask for a decent salary, you must drink the Kool-Aid and go further with your career.

Add specialties and shoot for a minimum title of Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) or equivalent. And make sure you’re picking up specialties with a market, such as Deep, Wreck, Night, Side-Mount and Nitrox. Beware of over specializing with niche certifications; they’re fun, but they only appeal to a small market. Save them for after you get a job.

Once you’ve achieved a MSDT rating, you’re valuable enough to employers that you can start choosing where you want to work instead of employers hiring you just to fill an opening or helping you get your foot into the industry.

If you really want to seal the deal, make sure you’re conversant in a few languages. Even if you’re not fluent, being able to communicate the basics in multiple tongues makes you a far more valuable employee. Keep adding additional skills such as photography, videography, marketing, accounting or mechanical ability; dive businesses are multi-faceted and the more you can offer, the more marketable you become. These skills will also provide work when the season is slow.

Foster good work habits. Be on time (or early) to commitment and follow through on your promises. Be reliable and work your butt off. Take on and learn as much as you can, and be helpful. The dive industry is small. People travel and keep contacts worldwide, and they talk. A lot. Make sure they have only good things to say about you.

So now you’ve got the training, additional skills and references covered. Now comes the next piece of the puzzle.

Gain experience

Say yes to every adventure. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s all experience. Work landlocked retail, resort dive shops, snorkel tours, liveaboards and yachts. Get out of your comfort zone and travel. Switch cities, countries, oceans, or hemispheres. Go on adventures outside of diving like hiking, climbing, kayaking, or surfing.

Gaining training is easy; you only must open your wallet to begin. But experience takes time, and it’s not only ratings that count, but also what you’ve learned along the way. What lessons were important to you as you progressed? Who did you meet and what did you learn from them? Were you welcomed into the community? The knowledge one gains from all of this life experience and the ability to apply it to an employer’s operation is invaluable. Your customers travel; you need to too. Stay long enough in one spot as to still have been an asset to your employer, but make sure you don’t get complacent. Spend a minimum of 6 months in a place before putting that chapter on your resume.

Demand what you’re worth

You are now an MSDT with language skills. You can fix any piece of equipment, balance a budget, and increased sales at any shop by 300 percent. You’ve traveled to 20 countries. And you’re broke. You spent all of this time and money to become a hot commodity; now you’ve got to figure out how to get paid for it.

You’ll start out pretty happy to be living in a tropical location making enough to just enough to eat, but that will change. Trust me. You’ll want to see and do more, and then you’ll be mad at yourself for accepting room and board as payment.

For decades, employers have been able to pay awful wages to people who simply love to be underwater, because these dive pros can be easily replaced. This has had a trickledown effect. How many horror stories have you heard of employers shorting their employees’ pay? Stealing their tips? Working their employees all sorts of terrible hours without any schedule or security when a season is slow and their commission-based pay is returning no profit?

Have you ever noticed that there is a serious lack of 20- to 30-year-olds who travel to dive, but who aren’t relying on their parents’ financial assistance? People talk, and they talk about horrible experiences. Not only has that age group turned away from working in the dive industry, they have also turned away from diving as a whole. And the baby boomers are getting too old to carry dozens of tanks every day.

This means the pool of folks looking to work in the dive industry has gotten progressively smaller, and those who are actually worth a damn, even fewer. Employers have killed their own industry and workforce without replenishing it. On the plus side, this means the ball is in your court if you’re a top-notch employee. Demand your worth and if someone isn’t willing to pay it, keep looking. Only when dive employees start behaving like professionals and demanding professional wages will they be treated as such. Demand your fair worth and the next generation of dive professionals will sing the praises of the industry and encourage others to dive in force.

Or, we can all stand by and continue to watch the dive industry continue to eat itself and destroy the sport we all love. Take pride in yourself and your work, and demand to be compensated well. Just make sure you’re worth it.

Don’t forget to grow

Well done! You are now a decently paid member of the diving community and doing well for yourself. Now what? As you get older you’ll probably want more, and to take down a bigger fish, you have to become a bigger fish.

Look at getting your captain’s license, or a business and marketing degree. Start your own operation. And as you climb don’t forget what it was like at the beginning for you and what you wanted. Make sure the next wave of divemasters and instructors earns their dues, but help them achieve something more professional than what we experienced. In the end, we’re all divers.



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Mechanical Depth Gauge Watches — Are They Worth The Cost?

Friday, August 28th, 2015

I openly admit that I’m a mechanical watch geek. And for that reason, most of my watches wouldn’t know what to do with a battery if it bit them in the butt, so to speak. Mechanical watches run entirely on movement, either via the user manually winding them up each morning, or via an automatic winding movement. The best watches are often Swiss, and quite costly. The appeal for many people, myself included, is in the craftsmanship required to create one, and in the link to history, as the mechanical movements have remained largely unchanged throughout time.

The original dive watches were mechanical, as all watches were mechanical when scuba diving became popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus many of the most iconic dive watches, including the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster, are mechanical. Only later, in the late 1960s and 1970s, did the modern, quartz-based watches that we know today come about, and the modern dive watches hit the market. But mechanical watches are still around, and many of them are made in the tradition of the early dive watches.

New models are launched every year, and recently, more and more of these dive watches have been produced with integrated analog depth gauges. Some, such as the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge, feature a small tube where water enters, and, using the increasing pressure at depth, display your depth at any given time. Others use some version of the more traditional Bourdon tube, as you’d find in old-fashioned (pre-dive computer) depth gauges. These include the newly launched IWC Aquatimer series.

So why the sudden surge in this feature? Truthfully, while many mechanical watches label themselves “dive watches,” few divers rely on them as dive instruments, as they did when the watches were introduced. In those days, a diver kept track of his or her dive using a dive watch for time and a depth gauge for depth. Then, using a dive table, they’d know how long they could stay submerged before they needed to surface. Modern dive computers make these rather simplistic dive profiles all but a thing of the past, and with one instrument that keeps track of (and remembers) your depth and time, and calculates your remaining no-deco time in real time, dive watches have became more of a fashion statement and less of a dive tool.

Japanese manufacturers Seiko and Citizen are still making dive watches, and some of these do have built-in depth gauges. This means they can be used as simplistic backup “computers” in case your primary fails. I own one of these, and have used it on one occasion to monitor my ascent and deco stops when my primary computer failed me.

By adding a depth gauge to these dive watches, the manufacturers are no doubt trying to recapture some of their diving pedigree, and they’re succeeding in the sense that it would be possible to use these watches as backups, in the same way I use my current one.

However, all these watches have one thing in common: they are very expensive. An IWC Aquatimer will set you back $19,000; the classic Blancpain X Fathoms would set you back $38,000, and even the relatively inexpensive Oris Aquis Depth Gauge costs $3,500. And considering what even a top-of-the-line dive computer costs, these watches just don’t merit the cost in terms of functionality when a Seiko or Citizen watch with a depth gauge can be yours for around $500.

These watches ultimately appeal to a niche crowd (part of the reason for the price tag), which can be divided into two: desk-diver watch fans, who want to own a dive watch with more features than other high-end mechanical watches, and scuba-diving watch aficionados who want a mechanical, high-end watch that they can actually take diving and rely on in case of emergency. The craftsmanship cannot be denied in these pricey timepieces, so if you’ve got the means, by all means pick one up.

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