Many travelers assume that travel activities have the same professional
standards as back home. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the
saying goes, "In Asia, life is cheap."
Fact is, few Asians even know how to swim, and only fishermen go to sea. But
when it comes to making money around an island paradise such as Phuket,
businesspeople don't hesitate sending untrained staff who can't even swim
into kayaks or speedboats. That's because they don't have the pride - or
courage - to actually go on their won trips and look their paying guests in
In a lifetime on and in the ocean, I've learned to respect and almost fear
the sea. Every recreational disaster I've witnessed, prevented or studied
starts with a lack of respect for the sea - sometimes due to inexperience,
but more often sue to flippant attitudes.
That's why I've promoted professional standards since I came to Thailand,
but outside John Gray's SeaCanoe and a few ultra-high end boating companies,
only lip-service prevails. Training and actually producing a credible trip
costs money, so why bother? This is Asia.
There are regular fatalities in the water sports industry, but regulations -
of any - are ignored in the "Land of the Free". This all came home on Loi
Kratong 2005 when, as last man in our group, I paddled out of a Hong to
escape a large, noisy mob from a company whose owner I have never seen in
the Bay, let alone a kayak. Ten minutes later, one of his guides had an
epileptic seizure. Without any First Aid/CPR training, his fellow guides did
everything wrong and the guide died.
I fault the owner, not his staff.
When I suggested First Aid/CPP, he laughed it off.
To my surprise, at the next high season, hotel tour counters showed me his
First Aid Training Credentials. In a Hong, I congratulated his staff. They
just laughed and told me they still had no training - the owner just bought
the credential from a corrupt doctor.
That's almost as bad as the company that still displays the decade-old
awards the JGSC guide team and yours truly won in spite of (definitely not
because of) the folks who still display them.
The result is this slide show section. In a market where credentials are
bought, paperwork is meaningless. The only way to guarantee credibility is
with photo and video documentation, so here it is. We started
photo-documenting our training at this year's First Aid/CPR training at
Mission Hospital, where credentials cannot be bought. As we progress through
our other staff training, we will continue to add slide shows to prove
I hope this starts a trend, with other companies having the courage to train
their staff, with the photographic evidence to prove it.