Sports play an important role when it comes to the future vision of Qatar. The country’s efforts to host different sporting events are at full throttle.
Underwater diving is an activity that offers a different level of experience and sensation. It has fast become popular in the country thanks to its clean waters, beautiful marine life, unmatchable facilities and increasing interest of its diverse population in the activity.
Khaled Zaki is a Doha-based ambassador of Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). He is an underwater photographer and scuba diver. He is also a master instructor, consultant for diving and underwater photography. He has helped thousands of elite divers over the last two decades to get many certificates. He holds a variety of grand titles and prizes in dive training and underwater filming.
Zaki has been participating in major diving and underwater photography festivals and tournaments. He has also worked in a variety of marine documentary films in the region with BBC network, National Geographic, Qatar TV, Alrayan TV and Al Kass TV. A collection of his underwater photos was also chosen for a few post stamps for Qpost.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day, Community spoke to the PADI ambassador about how the scuba diving can become an attraction for the tourists in Qatar.
“Diving is the fastest growing sport for many decades. The numbers of divers in the world increases every hour according to the PADI. According to the association, there are over 1million PADI diving certificates issued every year and there are 6, 500 PADI dive centres in 183 countries.”
Showing his optimism about the future of the sport in Qatar, Zaki said: “In Qatar too, the number of divers continues to increase every year. Most of the new divers in Qatar are locals and the expatriates living and working here. There are, however, people who visit their friends and family in Qatar and try diving or want to learn how to dive during their short visit here.”
The PADI instructor further said: “While underwater diving could play a huge role in promoting and increasing tourism and economy in many sectors particularly with 20% new diving certificates being issued every year, it just needs a little set up and logistics for Qatar to become a diving destination. The country is surrounded by sea water from three sides and has very beautiful marine
-life with many divers visiting the country. The potential diver will buy air tickets, book a room in hotels, rent a car or hire a taxi, eat in restaurants and buy gifts.
“So from my position and experience as consultant PADI ambassador, I see that creating diving traffic for organised diving packages and starting to sell and market it outside Qatar is vital.”
Further highlighting the prospects for Qatar being an underwater diving destination, Zaki said: “There are several dive spots in Qatar. However, there is always a need for more spots specially the ones with easy access from the beach and the ones that are close by and can be accessed by a short boat trip. Many countries in the world find that this is a great source of income – creating more business opportunities in all directions small and big. Since the amount of diving tourism is massive, all divers tend to travel in groups and bring more foreign exchange with them.”
Sharing his long experience of underwater diving and photography, Zaki said: “Underwater diving is exciting, adventurous, social, relaxing, and educational. The diving is very safe if it is learned and practised in a right manner. Even a five-minute reading of a newspaper article about diving can help understand the basics of the activity. We continue to notice thousands of divers jumping in the water with diving gear from a diving boat or stepping on the ladder to get on board after a 50 mints of a nice experience diving somewhere. Further, you will be amazed to see how many people going to different airports for diving vacation or just come back home from one. You can have a look at divers on social media handles, @PADITV integral or Facebook and see millions of posts, likes and followers around the clock every day.
He was happy to see women taking to the sport in good numbers.
“Women are getting pretty much involved now in the diving industry as divers and underwater photographers. Currently as professionals, there are too many female PADI diving instructors and dive masters. The ratio will soon reach up to 40% female and 60% males.”
Zaki also sees an environmentally positive side of the diving. “Talking about diving, we must speak about the ‘Aware Week’ that was recently observed from September 14 to 22. The week is marked every year. You will find divers from all over the world diving to clean various dive sites and beaches. There is a massive effort very obviously from all authorities to clean the beaches and then keep them clean. However, people and the communities need to do more specially for prevention of pollution by educational and role-modelling campaigns in social media, TV, and newspapers to manage waste and trash properly when you are on the beach or in the sea besides activating high value of fines for the violations and offenders.”
He added: “We organised a clean-up drive last week in Sealine area. We cleaned a couple of diving spots with dive traffic and managed to clean the sea and get around 120kg of trash, mostly plastic. I hope that many private sector organisations adopt the idea to make a positive move to reduce waste and control single use plastic as it is currently a potential hazard.”
Zaki has captured some very beautiful moments of marine life. Among many of his outstanding photos he likes the one he calls ‘JackFish Breakfast’.
“This is one of my very special underwater photos as it was really one of those wreck dives in Thailand on a military vessel. After 25 minutes filming and taking photos for the wreck outlines, I located an unusual behaviour of a giant grouper ‘Hamour.’ I was at 18 to 20 metres of depth. I started to decent slowly with this voice in my head saying there was something special going on down there. After I slowly got closer to the Hamour fish, it started to look at me happily, proudly but with caution and slightly opened it jaws. When I looked in its mouth I discovered a living jackfish trapped inside and ready to be smashed, chewed and swallowed in by the huge grouper. I didn’t think a lot before I started to point the camera and shoot few quick still-shoots and switched video light quickly and pointed it on to get some videos too before Hamour turned around its back to me to get a private moment with his catch. I was really lucky that I was ready with the right setup, light and condition besides almost half charged battery in the camera and with enough space on the SD card. You need to be always ready for the right moment and to capture it. Once I completed my safety stops and got my head above the surface, I shouted yes because I knew this photo will be a world class winner. The photo has won two world class photo tournaments and a world golden medal and was posted in different divers’ magazines in 2016.”
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