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Phuket Diving: Gear and skills part the waters

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Diving: Gear and skills part the waters | The Thaiger

PHUKET: When was the last time something truly fresh hit the dive market? Yes, every year we get niftier regulators, more swanky dive watches and new fin designs that we can’t resist at least window-shopping for. But, when was the last time something was put on the market for recreational divers that really parted the waters – changed the way we thought about diving?

In an activity that is becoming more and more relaxing and accessible to the general public, those wanting to “push the limits” without doing the heavy lifting of tech-diving books, have found themselves at a loss.

Those of us with full time, non-dive industry jobs still want that sense of discovery; to end up in the footnotes of a history book; or, at the very least, to be more than 50 minutes down on a dive trying.

This year PADI has finally gotten the ball rolling with the launch of three new specialty diving courses: recreational rebreathers, sidemounts and self-reliant diving.

But, this isn’t tech diving.

Kevin Black from Kiwidivers in Chalong, one of only four recreational rebreather dive instructors currently in Thailand, explained that PADI was bringing the “Wow” factor back to scuba diving. The new certifications let recreational divers safely push the boundaries of what they consider sports diving.

The only closed-circuit rebreather currently available on the recreational market is Poseidon’s MKVI. This is one of those bits of gear that guys piecing together their tech kits in their garage years ago would have dreamed of, and now it’s here, safe and actually designed for sports divers.

Before sitting down with Kevin, my understanding of rebreathers was fairly simple – they don’t make bubbles.

Well, I wasn’t wrong, but I was missing just a little bit of the point too. Yes, they don’t make bubbles as the air you breath out is cycled and scrubbed through a closed system, and then has pure oxygen from one of the two tanks in the kit automatically blended with the oxygen-depleted air, making it good for another breathe, time and time again. Sounds complicated, but I was assured that they were dummy proof – so I wouldn’t have any issues.

However, by focusing only on not blowing bubbles and disturbing the fish, I missed the point. Rebreathers don’t just add a couple more minutes to your dive, as I thought. They don’t just double your dive time. They actually can turn a one hour dive into a three hour dive, Kevin explained.

That means, you are the first to jump, and then after everyone has come up, had lunch, geared up and booked a second dive, you are the last to come up – and still don’t have decompression time, unlike a tech-diver.

Recently PADI ran an event showcasing both the Poseidon recreational rebreather and sidemounts on Koh Phi Phi.

For many of the 30 to 40 divers on Phi Phi who attended the event, this was their first time strapping a tank under each arm for the sidemount configuration and feeling the new diving “flow”. Sidemount configurations have been around for a long time, first reportedly being used in England for cave diving, and subsequently used all over the world for cave diving and penetration dives.

The weightlessness and balance that sidemount divers gloat about is enough to make me sign up for the course, just to join the club. And the redundant gas supply and reduced lower back strain are both advantages that I’m looking forward to.

Though the course is geared toward recreational diving, it also provides a nice view of the tech-diving world. It’s a little step that leaves you totally comfortable when you start shooting for your ultimate goals, from exploring cave systems to just feeling like you’re part of the ecosystem when you hover above the corals and snap a stellar photo.

Different from the recreational rebreather course and the sidemount course, the PADI self-reliant course isn’t about becoming comfortable with new equipment; it’s about becoming comfortable with yourself.

PADI has, since time immemorial, preached (and perhaps rightly so) that divers should never dive without a buddy. Though that philosophy has not changed, PADI is now willing to admit that it does happen, either intentionally or unintentionally. And let’s be honest: who is a dive instructor relying on in an emergency when they are taking two “Discover Scuba” divers on their first dip into the big blue?

PADI’s position is clear in their released statement: “Diving without a Dive Buddy, by choice, while not advocated, is something which PADI recognizes to be occasionally either necessary or preferred by some divers.”

This recognition is in many ways a new frontier for experienced recreational divers (100 plus dives is necessary to take the course). Those who have only been loosely following the buddy system, or ignoring it completely while taking photographs, spear fishing or lobster hunting, can come out of the closet.

Not only can they now stop hiding in some murky underground social circle, but they have the opportunity to be trained in “self rescue”, to be tested so that they can at least engage in a more risky activity in the safest possible way.

“One of the key things you learn is how to deal with running out of air when you don’t have a buddy to rely on. You also learn a lot about calculating just how much air you use in different circumstances, and how to plan dives around your estimated consumption,” Kevin explained to me.

Yes, I’m stoked about this and over the next several months plan on taking the opportunity to check out these courses, log some stunning dives and shoot for the foot notes of someone else’s history book.

This is part one of a four-part series on PADI’s new specialty diving certifications.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Property

Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real?

The Thaiger

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Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real? | The Thaiger

If you’re looking to invest in overseas property, search the market and it’s not unusual to find condos for sale with guaranteed rental returns of 40%, and some even higher. Yes, it DOES seems too good to be true, but the offers are out there and the packages often come with free legal fees and other such benefits. Clearly, before diving in, you need to seek some expert and professional advice.

So, what is the debate about? And what questions should you ask prior to investing?

Guaranteed rental returns are obviously enticing for investors and purchasers alike, with standard net returns usually being advertised below the 10% mark.

In the opinion of many, this is not a cheap marketing trick. Yes, it does have ‘marketing power’ and it might just be the additional financial package that helps developers and agents clinch the deal. But for the investors, they genuinely are guaranteed a minimum return on their investment. Surely that’s positive. It eases the concerns of investors and keeps the market buoyant. And why wouldn’t buyers prefer to go with the property that guarantees this return, over the property that does not?

Other experts are not so sure. While acknowledging that a rental guarantee clearly offers agents and developers an advantage in marketing and selling, there are voices within the industry that urge caution. There’s a suspicion that developments that come with a guarantee may be overpriced and that the developers may have factored the cost of the guarantee into the actual price of the property that is being offered.

Those that hold this negative opinion about guarantees suggest that a better strategy for any investor might be to really understand the market in which the property is being offered, aim to get the lowest price possible, do the deal and then organise the letting independently.

Other cautious voices wonder if investors aren’t being tantalised with a vision of unrealistic long-term returns. The question that is asked is what happens when the guaranteed period ends? It’s not unknown for the guaranteed period to expire, and for the investor to suddenly realise that the true rental value of the property is much lower than they believed. Rental incomes suddenly drop, and they suddenly realise that they have overpaid into the wrong investment.

But still, many deny that developers overprice properties when offering guarantees. And no matter what, it’s clear that a rental guarantee is important for certain investors who need the security that it offers. And genuinely, it appears that there are some good guarantees out there on the market. So what to do?

The trick is to apply common sense and due diligence to the situation and examine the legal, commercial and financial strength of the guarantee and the market in which it is being offered. Here are some questions worth considering:

Legally, how is the guarantee structured?

Is it underwritten with a contract in which legal recourse is an option, should you not receive the income that is guaranteed? This is clearly important.

Commercially, is the guaranteed rental figure in-line with the rental market in which the property is situated? Basically, are the developers offering you more rental income than is actually achievable in the current market? If they are offering you more, then once the guaranteed period expires, you’ll probably see your returns on investment drop.

Financially, how does the guarantee work?

Is the guaranteed return dependent upon the commercial success of the project?

Some guarantees are based on projected annual revenues and are subject to these revenues being achieved. In other words, if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, the full guaranteed amounts might not be paid to the purchaser.

In addition to this, some guarantees may also come with the proviso that the amount being ‘guaranteed’ is ‘subject to the competency of’ the management of the complex. This may seem vague, but it’s possible that if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, then the blame for this failure is going to be put solely on the management company.

The vagueness of such a ‘competency’ proviso might also be used to cover all manner of issues. For example, is it possible that forecasted rental revenues might fail to materialise, not because of the bad management of a complex, but because the original forecasts were set too high? It might be easy to blame all manner of poor results on the incompetence of how an apartment complex is managed and to do this with no liability.

With this in mind, once again, it’s very important to look at the rental market in which the property is located, and then ask: are the projected annual revenues realistic in the current market? And of course, you will have to do some research on the developers.

Do the developers have a track record of successfully managing properties, renting them out and ensuring that incomes are generated?

If the answer to this is ‘no’, how then will they be able to generate the income that they are guaranteeing? This may be a sign that the property price has been ‘artificially’ increased to cover any foreseen shortfall in future income.

All-in-all, there’s a lot to consider. Guaranteed rental returns do offer investors a level of security, and it is natural for people to feel compelled to buy into them, and yes, there are some good offers on the market. But it’s worth remembering that in the right location, you’ll always be able to rent out a property.

As we always recommend at The Thaiger, do your homework!

To find thousands of available rental properties in Thailand, click HERE.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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