Jan 11 2012

2011 – A YEAR OF TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

by Allen Walker in blog

2011 has been a long year, a year of extreme highs and lows, opportunity and misfortune, and a year where the boundaries have been pushed to the limits physically and mentally.

This tribute of 2011 is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Ronelle, my family and my amazing friends, who have stood by me, pushed me, cursed me but most importantly stuck by me through thick and thin. Inadvertently they have allowed me to set new boundaries and bigger targets for 2012 by getting me through the ones I achieved in 2011.

Thank you!

January, 2011 started with as absolute nightmare. It was the baiting saga going on and on and on……

ZIBS was finally fully operational and no longer a prototpe! With help from some mates we got the final product in the water and working. Entanglements by the Proffesional Shark Diving Operators was a thing of the past. Unfortunately there are still a few that still use the old techniques, maybe our ???? should spend less time figuring out how they can make money off the operators and spend more time enforcing proper baiting techniques. Mark & Gail, thank you for supporting and being the first to implement my new baiting techniques. Thanks to the others that followed suite.

It is a pity that the harsh and vigourous condemnation of the South African Shark diving Operators baiting techniques by international operators could not have been better aimed at the organisations like the Sharks Board to remove the shark nets rather than a fellow conservationist!!!

Although January had begun with with a negative the development of an succesful solution was aweome!

Even better though was the announcement that 2 of my photographs had been awarded Silver Medals and one was highly commended by www.underwaterphotography.com this was a great reward for 2010’s hard work.

Silver Medal – 2010/11 Underwaterphotography.com Category: Shark Photography

Silver Medal – 2010/11 Underwaterphotography.com Category:

 Commended – 2010/11 Underwaterphotography.com Category: Shark Photography

February was an interesting month mainly absorbed by work (note: I do actually have a job 😉 ).

It was also a month that gave me my first ever opportunity to photograph a huge Zambezi shark, mother nature however had to make it difficult and provided nice dirty water (5-8m viz), but hey I got in a shot or two.

The QE2 also graced Durbans harbour in her usual splendour.

I am glad I took the time to go and have a look at her before she departed to her next destination.

Another first for me was the successful presentation done with Fredric Boyle on Free Diving photography at Durban Undersea Club via skype from Belguim to Durban, South Africa. Thanks Fred, it was an absolutely awesome presentation.

 

Last, but not least, Hans my good mate has decided to join forces with me to slowly but surely develop Dive Culture for our future plans….

 

March, My memories of March are some of the best ever! Met up with 2 amazing guys from Cape Town, yes believe it or not “From the Mountain”, Graham Fenwick and Geo Cloete, gentleman in their own rights, really open minded and driven.

March produced some of the greatest photography results for me in a long time, thanks to Blue Wilderness, here they are, they speak for themselves:

Apex: Submitted into the 5th Annual Photography Masters Competition 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed looking at them as much as I enjoyed the time in the water getting these photographs.

 

April spent working and training students and oh YEAH, our Cape Town trip. Water conditions were not great at all in KZN so, due to the following:

  • We had some free time to use,
  • only been able to get a handful of pics for this month and,
  • needed some more,

well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Dive Culture got its official logo, thanks Debra from Dezine Mode , great job!

 

Dive Culture gets the agency for Hugyfot Underwater Housings and accessories (www.hugyfot.com) and Green Force lighting systems (www.green-force.com).

Our new housings arrive and Hans & I decide, hey, where better to test them! “ROAD TRIP”

Thanks to Graham & Geo, your hospitality and assistance to the “KZN hoody brigade” will never ever be forgotten.

Thanks to Steve from Animal Ocean, great job bud and we had a awesome experience. Jacques, thanks bud, great video clip you put together for us!

Here are some of the photographs for April.

 

 

 

 

 

I can honestly say that our Cape Town trip must rate as one of the best trips I have done in a long time! Destinations are cool, the people you meet that make the trips extra special are fantastic though!!

 

May has arrived and I am still reeling from a fantastic April, how can I top it?

It starts on the 1st of May, Ella Addison’s, very short notice, shoot for National Geographic Junior article. They got published. Thanks for the heads up Mark.

Missed the D.U.C. Shootout, but hey had to catch up on some work, miss one opportunity; you better take the next one.

Photographs taken of the Brumbies on a Shark Dive get published in Canberra Times and the Mercury newspapers.

 

Sodwana Bay Shootout is cancelled!

Recent developments, the up coming sardine run and the need to get more and more underwater time, at the times I want it, pushes me to take a huge decision. “IMPI” is put into plan and manufacture with a very thin line for delays or mistakes. P.S. My lovely wife wants my “NUTS” for garters, I kind of pushed this decision through.

May is also the month I got introduced to Cormac McCreesh editor of African Diver Magazine through Paul Hunter (Co-editor)

Diving on the Shoal has been bad with huge amounts of effluent and cold upwelling. My week in Cape Town taught me a few tricks though.

 

June, eish a hectic time ahead!

African Diver Magazine publishes my portfolio. Check out: http://issuu.com/africandiver/docs/africandiver_issue17

Went down to East London for the Sardine run from the 10th to 19th of June. The floods have caused havoc and may possibly have destroyed any hope in hell of seeing any Sardine Action due to the huge amounts of brown river water flowing into the ocean (Stretching 13 to 14km’s out to sea)

My assumptions were correct, not only did we have bad weather, there was not a shoal of sardines in sight, we had very scattered bird action and pods of dolphins moving through at high speed, making things even worse. My underwater camera stayed dry, as did my land camera due to rain and fowl weather.

 

Time is running out fast and there is a huge amount of pressure to get everything done before we leave for the Port St. Johns leg of the Sardine Run.

Andrew Kemp & I successfully complete our Skippers, not sure if this is a good thing 😈 .

We also get Rob Williams from Sodwana Bay on board for the Sardine Run, we require an experienced skipper to be with us and help us. Port St. Johns is no playground and Andrew & I face an induction of fire come the beginning of July.

IMPI is delayed and due date of the 25th of June is missed, it is getting a bit frustrating, I would have liked to have taken her for a few test runs before going to Port St. Johns. It was not to be.

Her induction would also be in Port St. Johns.

 

July arrives and IMPI is not ready. We do however get commitment that we can collect her on the 3rd, everything will be done and ready, thank goodness I built in some margins for error.

The morning of the 3rd, IMPI should be ready but Rob and I first swing by Rocky Bay to witness sardines being netted in the early morning.

Will from Feral did a great job and IMPI is ready, apart from a spare wheel for the trailer, a registration plate and trailer license, we get cracking and by 2pm we have all in order and hit the road.

Port St. Johns here we come, feelings of great anticipation, pure excitement overwhelmed me when we finally arrived in PSJ.

From here onwards things did not always seem to go the way I wanted or others wanted it. The trip was fraught with a serious of ups and downs, from personality clashes to bad weather, no communication at the location we stayed at (work obligations became an absolute nightmare) and last but not least no sardines, terrible visibility, and even if there was anything, there was no way we could get into the water. However as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, you just have to see it.

Thank goodness for location, training launches (a professional skipper guiding us, thanks Rob), whales and a “lost” school of mackerel.

This trip also had a positive personal impact, which I only quite recently realised.

Thanks to Andrew, Rob W, Rob N, Graham, Geo, Alette, Ronelle and Fernanda.

Here are some of the picutes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

August, contributions from Graham Fenwick, Rob Nettleton & I and Images by Graham & I are published in an article on the 2011 Sardine Run in Issue 18 of African Diver called Altered Expectations

I can definitely recommend Rob from Offshore Africa Dive Charters for diving through out the year in Port St. Johns.

Thanks Graham, Rob and Cormac.

August I also get my first proper hiding as a skipper, thank goodness IMPI is built strong (Awesome Job Will – Feral Inflatable’s). Along with that, I get a hard reminder not to be impatient! A good lesson learnt early on. (I wish my body was as tough as the boat though  ;-))

Feral repaired the boat for me through the night and we were ready to launch the next morning. Great service from a great team, thanks guys.

The rest August was spent working, so here are some more pictures from the Sardine Run 2011.

 

 

September, News that there may be an opportunity to open up and dive centre in Indonesia, Southern Mentawai Islands and is confirmed by one of the share holders, this a good opportunity and we decide to plan the a trip in November to go and do a “Look & See” – More about this in November’s page.

I am invited to Durban Undersea Club as a guest speaker on Shark Photography, the presentation goes very well and I am approached by African Diver Magazine to do an article for them in the January 2012 edition.

September I get some cracker Dusky photographs even though the visibility was not great!

 

 

 

October, arrangements are in full swing with Mark from Maccas Surf Resort to get all the required equipment for dive surveys to the island. The resort has no dive facilities at all, so everything needs to be shipped in. It seems to be a lot more complicated than just getting it there, the logistics sound pretty hectic. What is not helping though is the communication channels and lack of local knowledge, I am solely relying on Mark and I have to believe everything he tells me. Rather daunting if you ask me. Due to the remoteness of the island there is not much information on the Internet either, damn frustrating.

14th October our final travel documents are ready and we can rest and focus on the Sodwana Bay Shoot Out.

We spent 2 hard days on the water, conditions being pretty bad for Sodwana with lots of backscatter, strong current, cold upwelling and rough weather.

The bottom line: the boys on our boat did damn well:

Bernard Groenewald: 1st & 3rd – Compact: Wide Angle, 1st – Compact: Macro.

 

Andre Visser: 2nd Compact: Wide Angle

My mate Andrew won the Open Macro: Traditional Category.

 

I took 1st & 3rd Open: Wide Angle Traditional, 3rd Open Wide Angle unrestricted and won the overall Sodwana Shoot Out 2011, a goal I have always wanted to achieve.

November, the Sodwana Bay Shoot Out has barely hit home and we are on a plane to Indo via Malaysia to Maccas in Indonesia to evaluate a possibility of opening a dive resort!

The trip was an absolute disaster that taught us valuable lessons in life. What I can say is that if we did not go and have a look we would never have known and possibly may have ended up regretting we never took the chance to go and look, here are some pictures of the better times we had on this 20 day trip:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maccas must be one of the great surf destinations, a pity human greed has destroyed what lies beneath the ocean and the waves, not tsunami’s and earth quakes, as “some” may want me to believe.

This area must have been stunning under the water 15 or 20 years ago.

All was not bad though, November provided me with one last giftLONDON – Amateur photographer Allen D. Walker of South Africa was presented with the 5th Annual Photography Masters Cup Nominee title in the category of Wildlife at a prestigious Nomination & Winners PhotoShow. “Allen’s “APEX”, an exceptional image entered in the Wildlife category, represents contemporary color photography at its finest, and we’re pleased to present him with the title of Nominee.”

 

December, is spent tying up all the loose ends and admin at work, it is also a time of reflection, family and friends.

All and all I can say that 2011 was a good year as much as it was a year that seriously tested my resolve and most probably the resolve of my stunning wife and my great friend Andrew. Hans also had his fair share but I think the biggest lines were drawn with new people I met, with some I clashed with others I think I made close and strong bonds that will hopefully last our short lifetimes.

To the people I clashed with, I am sorry it didn’t work out better, I suppose that’s life and maybe next time we meet we have grown as people and things will be different.

To all, I hope 2012 is filled with new and great experiences. A special thanks to those that have supported the causes I have supported. Make 2012 a year of unlimited boundaries and champion as much as you can!!!

My plans for 2012! Hahaha, may my actions speak louder than words.

Here are some year end pics: