With the world’s leading divers and eco marine tourism business and thought leaders coming to town for ADEX 2019, we talk to Robert Scales, the co-founder of Ceningan Divers Resort, about his journey and how he’s protecting the marine bio-diversity of Asia.

Robert Scales and his wife Sandra at Ceningan Divers Resort. (Photo courtesy of Ceningan Divers)

Underwater 360: Could you tell our audience more about yourself, your journey and what inspired you to go into this field?

Robert Scales: My name is Robert Scales, I am a PADI Master Instructor, Tech Instructor and EFR Instructor Trainer. I am originally from Canada. I started diving when I was 12 years old. In 1997, while travelling in Central America I did my Divemaster certification at Utila Dive Center. I fell in love with the ocean, diving and the lifestyle. Sadly, that year my mother passed away and I returned home. After I returned to Canada, life kind of got in the way – working, going back to school, I eventually started a marketing agency where I worked until 2010 when I decided to make some changes in my life and return to my original passion. I have now been living in Indonesia for eight years. In 2015, my wife and I, along with our partners, started Ceningan Divers and the past four years have been an amazing experience as we build up and grew Ceningan Divers from a dream to a multi-award winning Dive Resort.

UW360: What are some of the most surprising things you’ve learnt about yourself and others in your journey in diving?

RS: That’s a complex question to ask and answer. Humans and business are in a constant state of flux. We evolve and change as we experience new challenges. It’s the beauty of perpetual movement and growth. The past four years managing our newly established dive operation has certainly been a great learning curve. I am constantly amazed by how little I know and how much there is still left to learn – whether its about yourself, others, cultures, business, sustainability or languages. Life is full of amazing challenges and the journey is an interesting one for sure.

UW360: Do you have any memorable stories you can share with our audience?

RS: Another awkward question. As a resort owner, I find myself juggling many positions including playing host to our guests which often involve sharing interesting anecdotes and stories. The reality is that good stories are often prescribed by the moment and situation. So, as much as I would like to share one now, it is best to catch me live during ADEX or at our resort.

UW360: In your travels while diving, how has plastic pollution impacted the places you’ve been to, products you’ve worked on or policy and strategic planning for the future?

RS: As a dive operator, we decided shortly after we opened our PADI 5* Dive Resort to develop and build a sustainable operation and adopt eco-friendly values and policies.

This has been an ongoing challenge and certainly something that I have aimed to improve for myself. We are lucky to live in a moment of history where there is an urgency in changing our actions – how we consume, the choice we make and the impact we have on the world around us. It forces us to change our routine and behaviour.

At Ceningan Divers and Ceningan Resort, we’ve adopted several initiatives to ensure we meet our goals in building a sustainable eco friendly dive operation. This includes saying no to single-use plastics such as drinking straws, plastic water bottles, needless packaging for the products we sell and selecting local, organic fair-trade products whenever we can. It includes incorporating education into our programmes with our employees and guests; Hiring an in-house marine biologist to develop new educational programmes and conduct community programs; Becoming a Green Fins dive operator and abiding by their code of conduct and speaking at conferences about building sustainable business practices and how we can reduce our impact in our dive holidays. However, despite all of these efforts, this is an ongoing battle and only through education and leading by example will we be able to make the changes needed to have a positive impact. It is a global crisis. We need to have corporations, government and citizens working together to ensure that our ocean planet remains sustainable for generations to come. I am hopeful that we can make a difference.

On a side note, as a dive operator, we have taken various steps in the past years to ensure we limit our impact and our divers’ impact. In 2018, we became a Green Fins dive operator and adopted their standards in our briefings and operations. We eliminated single use plastic some years ago and since Q3 2018, we have banned non-reef-safe sun protection cream on our boats and in our pool. We sell and promote alternative reef safe products.

Slowly, as we are made aware of new solutions, we offer alternatives to our guests which help promote safe and sustainable options while providing education regarding our personal impact while on a dive holiday.

UW360: The diving industry actively advocates for sustainable marine tourism. Which of the two do you think would make more of an impact – reducing/eliminating marine tourism altogether or encouraging sustainable marine tourism?

RS: Sustainable marine tourism is the only path forward. When combined with education and active programmes such as a beach clean up or a dive against debris, tourists can take actions to help. I believe these powerful motivational tools help people better understand their impact, the importance and fragility of our various ecosystem and assist them in taking appropriate actions to both decrease their impact and the impact of their business on the local environment. Sustainable business development, sustainable tourism and education all go hand in hand together to ensure everyone can enjoy the ocean, coral reefs, travelling and exploring new places with limited or no impact.

UW360:  Going forward, where do you see the diving industry heading towards?

RS: Again, another essay style question in multiple parts. To keep it short and simple, I think the industry as a whole certainly understand the impact we as dive operators and divers have on our ocean planet. We also understand how we can dedicate our time and resources in improving, helping and developing new programmes and solutions to reduce our overall impact, help reduce the global issues and provide education to ensure people and companies better understand their impact and how to reduce such impact or take actions to help eliminate waste and destructive practices. I believe that through communication, education, sharing best practices and working together, these changes are already taking effect.

Uw360: What are your plans for your own consulting company?

RS: Over the next year, we are developing new facilities at Ceningan Divers. This include our new pool which was completed in February, our new briefing area coming in April, our new reception and office coming in June and our new training centre scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2020.

We recently hired a full time marine biologist on our team. In her role, she is developing new workshops and training programmes for our guests. This will allow us to deliver more details briefings and educational programmes to our guests and students. We can take a more active role in working with local people on the Nusa Islands to contribute to locals gaining new skills and vocational training. It also allows us to make more meaningful contributions to ongoing reef checks and coral monitoring projects already in place around Nusa Penida.

As we near the end of the implementations of our various eco initiatives around our resort and dive operation, we are now concentrating on improving our educational programmes by adding new resources and the facilities to support our goals.

UW360:  What do you see the diving industry and your company ultimately transforming into?

RS: The short of it is that I believe we will see a drastic change in the way dive operators deliver their services. Whether it’s by taking advantage of new technologies or adapting new eco-friendly philosophies and values, ultimately, I believe that we are in constant flux; we evolve. Diving agencies such as PADI, SSI and RAID all seek to deliver the best in class. Of course, as a PADI 5* dive resort, we focus on what our agency is pushing while we aim to add new value-added services which meet our client’s needs and reflect our own values and believes. We certainly see a movement towards more eco-friendly, environmentally responsible operations and programmes. I believe this will continue to grow. The use of digital media will also extend our reach, attracting new markets and a different demography that we have seen in the past. This is certainly an exciting time to be involved in the marine tourism industry.

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