The Jakarta Post
More local scuba divers and diving instructors are needed in the Komodo National Park, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara ( NTT ), following the surge in tourist numbers, especially diving enthusiasts, on the island over the past few years.
“As many as 80 percent of the thousands of tourists spending their vacation at the Komodo National Park are diving enthusiasts. In the past couple of years, the number of domestic tourists spending their vacation there on marine excursions has gradually increased,” said Nurdin Rais, head of the West Manggarai Komodo Flores Dive Guide Association ( WMKFDGA ).
He said 50 percent of the diving guides operating in the Komodo National Park were from outside the regency, or from overseas.
Local diving guides realize that one of the basic stumbling blocks is the lack of local diving instructors who can instruct fishermen, thus transforming traditional divers who tend to be destructive into modern and recreational divers, Nurdin continued.
The issue was discussed during the launch of the Dive Guide Training Program, set up to transform traditional divers into diving instructors, organized by the Komodo Kita Foundation, Bank Negara Indonesia, the West Manggarai administration and the Scuba School International recently.
“As an initial step, the regency should encourage potential dive masters to join higher education programs to become dive instructors. In this the Komodo Kita Foundation [YKK] has answered our wish,” he said.
He said it would be a good opportunity for prospective local dive instructors because more than 80 live-aboard vessels operating in the Komodo waters were currently providing diving services.
The vessels employ more than 50 foreign diving instructors due to the lack of local instructors.
The Komodo National Park, which includes Komodo, Rinca and Padar islands, is home to Komodo dragons and other species. The Komodo National Park was named a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 1991.
After being nominated as one of the new seven wonders of nature in 2011 and later named as a new wonder of nature in 2012, the park has seen an increase in tourist arrivals, with 40,000 visitors in the first half of 2012.
The island’s tourist arrivals stood at 50,000 throughout 2011, while more than 40,000 tourists visited the island in 2010, according to the NTT Culture and Tourism Agency.
Saleh, an employee at the Komodo National Park, said visitors who were fascinated with the undersea beauty of the Komodo National Park repeatedly engaged in diving.
They spend between one and one-and-a-half hours sightseeing in the park and the rest of their vacation is spent diving and observing the marine beauty of the underwater world.
West Manggarai Tourism Agency head Theodorus Suardi said the regency administration had given full support to educating residents in West Manggarai about the tourism sector, including training master scuba divers to become diving instructors to cater to tourists vacationing around the islands.
“The West Manggarai regency administration is not yet familiar with catering to tourists at the underwater resorts. The government is ready to provide assistance by issuing clear regulations,” said Theodorus.
Later this year, West Manggarai is also set to stage Sail Komodo, an annual international maritime event that takes place in Labuan Bajo. The event, scheduled to be held in September, is part of the government’s efforts to promote NTT as a world tourist destination