Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking of Fiji - The Strange Voyage of The Kava

Ever since I read the book Getting Stoned with Savages by Maarten Troost and his follow up book Sex lives of Cannibals I have been on a quixotic quest to discover Kava.

For those of you who know not of the roots of Kava, a quick a dirty summary here:

Medical literature sometimes claim it has a "potential for addiction" because "it produces mild euphoria and relaxation" In a traditional setting, a moderately potent kava drink causes effects within 20–30 minutes that last for about two and a half hours, but can be felt for up to eight hours. Some report longer term effects up to two days after ingestion, including a feeling of mental clarity, patience, and an ease of acceptance. The effects of kava are most often compared to alcohol, or a large dose of diazapan. The sensations, in order of appearance, are slight tongue and lip numbing (the lips and skin surrounding may appear unusually pale); mildly talkative and sociable behavior; clear thinking; calmness; relaxed muscles; and a sense of well-being.

Nakamals, or "Kava Bars", are establishments that sell the traditional kava beverage. This concept originated in the Republic of Vanuatu, particularly the capital, Port Vila. A typical scene at one these Nakamals would be one that, a patron comes to bar, orders his kava and then proceeds to find a comfortable place to "listen to the Kava" (enjoy the effects).

This Quest for Kava has had me enlist friends as far away as the U.S Virgin Islands to send me four carved coconut bowls, buddies who once worked at PIANGO to warm me about Kava, and of course the Kava.

This sample came directly from Fiji - by way of the 2010 DEMA show in Las Vegas, and then to the offices of PADI, who then sent it to Southern California into the hands of Richard Theiss, who then sent this fine sample of native (and one hopes very potent) Kava to my home.

Ahhhh Kava.

Thanks to Da Shark for supplying the goods, and to Budd Riker who acquired it at DEMA and then reacquired it at the PADI Corporate offices, and thanks to Richard Theiss for the final Hail Mary Fed Ex pass and it's happy Kava-rific arrival today.

Never in the history of a single native drink has so much gone into one mans quest for the ultimate experiment. It has been quite a journey, frankly I had assumed all was lost when it got waylaid at the PADI offices.

Now it is on to the Kava drink itself, lovingly cured in hand carved coconut shells, and drunk with expectation and I might add some trepidation. If you're not so sure read Maarten Troosts series on Kava...we'll let you know how it all ends.

Patric Douglas CEO

Playa del Carmen - All Together Now?

Once again word from Playa del Carmen in Mexico and nascent Bull shark dive operations in the region are not good.

From a recent eyewitness account:

The sharks are being fished out right now (see attached photos). There was a great agreement with the local fishermen in Playa del Carmen and they had stopped shark fishing completely. At the beginning of December however, a fisherman from a neighbouring town captured and killed 21 bull sharks, following which the Playa fishermen decided that if he could do it, so could they.

Twenty nine 2 m+ bulls have been killed in the last month or so, and no-one is seeing any live sharks at the dive sites.I have just heard that there have been a couple of decomposing finned bull shark carcasses found on the reef in the last week - great advert for Playa!

Of course this ongoing horror with Mexican fishing interests can all be distilled down to a great argument for regional conservation efforts in tandem with initial operations. But we'll leave that to Da Shark from Fiji who summed up Playa in an outstanding Blog Dog post that is a must read for industry folks, and a cautionary tale for the folks trying to make a go of it in Playa.

From Da Sharks Blog - Playa del Carmen - too late already?

Shark Shot of the Week - Bahamas

Isa Baquerizo was recently on a commercial shark diving adventure off Freeport, Bahamas and came back with "The Shot of the Week."

You gotta love the look on this reef shark as he passes close by.

Curiosity has a face.

"So we arrived to Unexso the 2nd day of the trip. We first did the shark dive which was not incredible... it was AWESOME!!! Probably the best shark dive available today.. even better than stuart's cove because these incredible guys let you interact with the sharks within cm of distance. That's why I love so much the dive."

Matt Rand from PEW - Bahamas Shark Tourism PSA

If you are wondering why so much attention is being directed at shark conservation in recent times Matt Rand, Director of Global Shark Conservation of the PEW Environment Group says it is all becomes of an Asian obsession with shark fin soup.

"Unfortunately, because of their value in a bowl of soup, up to 73 million sharks are killed annually, just so their fins can end up in soup. It is a luxury item, it is not a food item. And what this is causing very rapidly is a global depletion of sharks. Right now 38% of shark species that are in the world's oceans are threatened, or are near threatened with extinction; and those are just the ones that we know. We also know that that statistic is actually short," said Rand.

This global decimation of the shark population is now having a negative impact on the ecosystems of many oceans, but Rand says but for a country that has tourism as its number one industry, potentially there can be a more devastating outcome.

"Here in The Bahamas, shark tourism activity actually brings in $78 million into the economy annually and reef sharks here are actually estimated to be about $250,000 each for shark tourism and shark related activities here in The Bahamas. So it is an important economic driver and it's a sustainable situation. If you leave the sharks in the water, keep them healthy as you currently have them, and keep the ecosystem healthy right now then you will have this resource for future generations to come, so that the kids will actually be able to see a healthy ocean environment as well," continues Rand.

Complete Story.