We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch up with the legend that is Ed Statham from Wunderpus and talk, Komodo, Diving andwhat cn expected on the DRP tour this November.
Question 1 – Tell me about yourself?
My name is Ed Statham, I’m originally from the north west of England but I’ve been working and living now in Komodo for 8 years. I’m a PADI instructor, did my divemaster course in Thailand but have been diving for about 20 years.
My first dives were in Egypt, I fell in love with diving completely and was a pleasure diver for the longest time whilst I had businesses running in England. I then decided to sell up and do my professional training in Thailand to become a divemaster and have been working and trav
elling ever since.
Question 2 – How did you come to Komodo?
Accidentally! I sold my businesses in the UK and decided to
move away and was planning to go to Australia to see some friends that I hadn’t seen for a while. En route, I was passing through Indonesia and went to Bali, didn’t really enjoy the Bali vibe and met someone who said that Komodo had some great diving and was very chilled and off the beaten path. I went there, did two days of diving – blew my mind completely and then within two weeks I had decided to open a dive centre on a small island on the outskirts of the Komodo National Park.
Question 3 – How did your time in Komodo Develop?
Quickly! I went to stay on an Island on the outskirts of the Komodo National Park which had a small resort on it called Kanawa which had just been taken over by new management and on the day I was due to l
eave I happened to get talking to the new owners over breakfast and they expressed their interest in having a dive centre on the island but had no knowledge of diving so I jumped in and said “yeah, I can totally do that.”
So we worked out a profit share arrangement with them and I set up my dive centre on the island with no Indonesian language, no experience in Indonesia and how things worked, never having owned my own dive centre before only having worked in one but it went really well, business was really good, I stayed there for three years and after that time it was time to move on and try something new and as I had mostly only worked on liveaboards before, decided to build a liveaboard. I started building Wunderpus about a year before I left the island, took to years to build in total, we were the first people to ever build a liveaboard of that size in Labuan Bajo – previously they had always been build in Sulawesi or Kalamantan but I didn’t have the time to sit in Sulawesi for a year and watch a boat being built so built it nearer to home. We started operating in late 2014 and we have been operating ever since.
Question 4 – What threats are there currently in Komodo?
If you had asked me two years ago what the biggest threats were I would have said illegal fishing, now I would say that at least as big a threat if not bigger if the uncontrolled increase in tourism. Komodo has grown exponentially with massive developments not aimed towards eco-tourism, sadly there are huge resorts popping up all over the place and the number of guests coming into Komodo has trebled in the past two years.
In the opinions of me and a lot of the other local tour operators, we’re already at a saturation point with regards to the number of divers that are visiting Komodo National Park so this is obviously having a detrimental effect on the environment; not just the divers but also the boats, lack
of infrastructure, lack of moorings so people are throwing anchors, plastic coming into the area, bad diving practices sadly is a huge issue as well.
The fishing threat is still there as Komodo National Park is sadly not so well controlled in this respect. We are trying as a dive community to push for change and there seems to be a change happening but it’s happening very slowly as always within Indonesia.
Question 5 – As a founding member of D.O.C.K, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
D.O.C.K is Dive Operators Community Komodo, it’s a group of concerned dive operators. Currently, we have 20 members and we set ourselves SOPs with regards to
minimum safety standards, operating procedures and our environmental code. We support local initiatives with regards to waste, recycling, beach cleanups, lobbying for change through the national park and the central government to Komodo and also monitoring as we are the guys out there every day so we regularly report infractions and speak to people who are doing things wrong to change things from the inside.
Question 6 – What will guests expect from the Wunderpus experience?
Komodo makes it very easy for divemasters and instructors to show people amazing diving! It’s hard not to have a great dive in Komodo, you really have to do something wrong as you can pretty much jump in anywhere and see things that you would rave about in other parts of the world so, from this side of things, the environment makes it very very easy to provide good quality dives.
As a company, we have always been focused on keeping small groups; Wunderpus is 25m long, we only take a maximum of 8 guests on board, Mimic our smaller boat is a maximum of 6 guests so as a company we would only ever put a maximum of 14 guests inside the national park at any one time and this is the business model that we stick to. This is so we can offer a personal service but also, Komodo is not the easiest diving in the world – there is a lot of Bravado about how difficult it is, it’s very much a case that most people can dive Komodo but it’s also a case of doing it correctly by getting your timings right, diving the right sites for the right type of guest and also keeping the group sizes small to a maximum of 4 divers per guide on Wunderpus, very often it’s two. This allows us to keep people safe but also tailor the dives to peoples requirements and hopefully help them grow as divers and teach them new things.
On board the boat, fantastic chef, awesome food, four meals a day – you will not go hungry that’s for sure! Delicious breakfast normally after the first dive and then two-course lunch, snack in the afternoon and then a three-course dinner before you pass out ready for an early start the next morning. She looks like a pirate ship but all the safety equipment is there, we have life rafts, life jackets, marine radios, GPS, Satelite phones etc so you’re in very good, very safe hands.
Question 6 – During the trip in November, guests are going to learn a lot more about Komodo and what they can do but what would you say to guests getting excited by the trip, how can they support the work being done in Komodo or get more involved before even getting on the boat with Wunderpus?
Follow the D.O.C.K page, see the work that we’re doing – social media has a huge amount of power and this is one of the things that we as an organisation and me, in particular, are trying to use outside pressure to make changes in Komodo. We have been putting a lot of stuff on social media about the issues, what possible solutions there are, also in mainline media such as newspapers articles. Recently we did one in the Guardian which raised a lot of attention, not all of it wanted attention from my side – in Indonesia it is very dangerous to be seen to be criticising the local government or anything else but sadly it seems like a lot of the social media approach is the only way to get things changed and pressure from the outside will hopefully put pressure on Indonesia to up its game especially as it’s a Unesco heritage site.
So liking, following and sharing all of the facebook posts but also with regards to tourists coming here, you vote with your dollars. Choose an environmentally aware operator who is going to take good care whilst their taking you – it’s not always the cheapest option, it’s definitely not always the most expensive option either – a lot of the luxury boats are not as environmentally aware or will take better care of the coral or environment so do your research. D.O.C.K members are highly advertised online and they all follow these SOPs so that’s a great place to start. The usual things when you’re travelling, bring your own water bottles, say no to plastic bags, bring your own bag to carry your shopping around with, plastic straws – huge thing at the moment – bamboo or metal alternatives are easily available or just don’t use a straw as it’s genuinely not needed. Minimise your plastic waste – say no to single-use plastic on your flights. All these things – small things but if everybody does them then it makes a massive difference.