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Dive Fest

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Dive Fest got off to a good start this year with the presentation of the symbolic cheque by Cable and Wireless at Fort Young. Headline sponsor Swiss Army/Jewellers International hosted the event. Presentations were made by DWA President, Simon Walsh; Minister for Tourism, the Hon. Ian Douglas; Steve Bornn of the Discover Dominica Authority; Mrs. Nancy Nassief of Jewellers International; and Jeffrey Baptiste, acting head of Marketing of Cable and Wireless. All paid tribute to the efforts of the Dominica Watersports Association (DWA) and the longevity of the event. Mr. Bornn even provided figures to show that hotel bookings in the normally very slow month of July were increasing slowly every year, this could be attributed to the bigger draw that Dive Fest is having both regionally and internationally.

That evening saw the launch of Dive Fest proper at the Fort Young Hotel's Happy Hour with the Swinging Stars band in full swing.

In the pool Discover Scuba participants in the pool
The Dive Training Magazine sponsored Discover Scuba events in Portsmouth and at Anchorage Hotel were again well attended, many new faces were seen and a lot of interest was shown to complete full certification courses. The big scoop for the DWA was the arrival of and active participation of the Honourable Minister for Tourism, Ian Douglas.

Douglas became the first Minister for Tourism in the 15 years of Dive Fest to actively participate in Discover Scuba, where he admitted his fears about breathing underwater, then Discover Scuba Diving off the dock on the house reef where he was completely blown away by the experience, he has vowed to undertake a full certification course and is very excited about finally finding a place of tranquillity with no distractions or cell phones. In total 81 people of varying ages, some as young as 8, took the plunge and did discover scuba, 37 enjoyed seeing fish, sponges and corals in the natural environment on the house reefs. Thanks to all who participated and of course to the hard working instructors and Divemasters for making the event a success.

Sunday was the Swiss Army/Victorinox/Jewellers International Treasure Hunt, hosted this year by East Carib Dive in Salisbury. Somehow it seems that the worse the weather, the more divers show up. This year was a cloudless sky, flat calm sea and wonderful visibility, but fewer participants. Needless to say, that with all the points available and a smaller number of teams, seven this year, than previous years the competition was fiercer for the Swiss Army Divemaster watches supplied by our sponsor.

The winning team was Serendipity with 135 points, wining a pair of very rugged Swiss Army dive watches. In second place (115 pts) was Fig Mi who won a pair of Oceanic Geo dive computers, one team member had only just completed his certification course that morning and now has one (very nice) item less to buy for his dive kit. Third place went to a very last minute entry, Team Monty (90 points), who went home with a pair of Oceanic Pioneer masks which will not be on the market until October.

Events got underway at the dive operators during the week; most daily dives trips were prefaced by a brief talk about underwater photography for beginners by Barry Guimbellot from Dive Training Magazine. He spoke briefly about composition and lighting, this was then followed by a talk about the DC800 cameras which were available for people to try, as last year anyone wishing to try the camera would also have their images logged towards winning a pro camera set later in the week.

Sealife Awards Winner of the Sealife photo contest
After hours of viewing (almost 2,000 images were entered for the competition from all Dive operations), and judging a winner was finally announced at the Sealife Awards at the Sea Lounge in Loubiere, the winner won a Sealife Pro camera set up, second place a Sealife Reefmaster Mini camera, and third was an Oceanic Mask. Awards were made based upon composition, sharpness of the subject, technical merit and of course pushing the camera to its limits. All winners managed one or more of the categories judges were looking for.

Saturday saw the whale watch underway from Anchorage Hotel, and a new event hosted by Irie Safari at Champagne. The Kids Snorkel Treasure Hunt, sadly this event severely suffered from "island time" as no one showed up for several hours, then suddenly from nowhere, enough were present to begin.

Categories were 8–12 and 12–15yrs, the winners in the junior category got a host of prizes including free snorkel sets and free snorkelling for a year at Irie Safari. Winners in the upper age group won snorkel sets from 4-D and free certification courses to bring them to junior open water divers amongst a cache of other prizes from Springfield Trading and Benjo's Seamoss. As mentioned it was the first time the event was run, the children were in capable hands with our Divemasters overseeing the event, had fun and were extremely happy with their prizes, for next year we now know how to make it better and more importantly ensure a timely start.

This event was immediately followed by the Divemaster Photo Treasure Hunt where Divemasters photographed as many species of fish, coral or sponge on a given list as possible in the hopes of winning a camera kit. The rules were very strict and the competition cut-throat.

Saturday evening, the Wine and Cheese Party was held for a change at Evergreen Hotel. It was a pleasant evening as stated by those in attendance; but next year it will be back on one of the larger vessels in the DWA fleet. In keeping with Dive Fest things can change to see if they work or not, this is an event that has definitely made its name as a sunset cruise and wine tasting.

Fish Fest in Soufriere later that evening was a taste of what was to follow on Sunday with a huge crowd all enjoying themselves.

Kubuli races Kubuli Carib Canoe Races
Sunday was the banner day in Soufriere to end the 15th year of Dive Fest and what a party it was! The Kubuli Carib Canoe Races got underway in record time with some amazingly strong teams vying for the treasured Kubuli trophy and, more importantly bragging rights.

This year's coveted trophy went to Cable and Wireless, who on registering stated that they were "only fielding one team as losing was not in the equation". Big words indeed! Luckily they were able to back it up with action. The crowds were entertained by some boats becoming more like submarines, due mainly to the poor balance and winning tunnel vision of the rowers than the lack of rough seas (it was flat calm). Green Island Watersports was on hand for those willing to try tubing or bumper floats and it seemed like most of the island was in the area. By the end of the day's racing there were close to 5,000 people all enjoying themselves on the beach and surrounding roads in Soufriere, and more coming.

Ideas are already flying for next year's Dive Fest which promises to be bigger again and, of course, how to make it better. See you on the beach for Dive Fest XVI (July 10th–19th 2009) Can you afford to miss it?