Can you tell us a little about yourself?
We live in Cape Town – my wife Clare was born and bred here, and I ended up here after growing up in Durban and then living in Botswana, Jordan and Mozambique. We love the outdoors, and the ocean in particular, and consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be able to enjoy the lifestyle we do in such a big city. You don’t have to drive very far from home to find space, fresh air, and all sorts of wonderful creatures when you need to get away from the noise and traffic and shopping malls.
How you first got involved in with blogging?
I moved to Cape Town just over two years ago, and started a scuba diving training business (Learn to Dive Today) from scratch. With no marketing budget (well, no budget, full stop!) we looked at every kind of free advertising we could find.
We saw that a lot of bloggers use their blogs for promotional purposes – some tastefully, others in completely tacky ways. After running a competition with a dive adventure as a prize on a popular local blog, I thought “Why can’t we have our own blog?” Clare’s job revolves around numbers but she loves photography, words and writing, so she was very keen on the idea.
The intention was to provide a resource for current and potential students, to answer their questions about diving, and to showcase what diving in the Cape – which is exceptional – can be like. It’s evolved into a broader spread of topics, but at the centre of it all is enjoying and caring for the ocean.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working on your blog?
Because we write about ocean-related events and activities with a special focus on Cape Town, we’ve become a bit more deliberate about attending relevant meetings, talks and festivals (in our personal capacity – no one sponsors us anything!) and writing about them.
We’re both a bit shy so we meet people really slowly, but we have gradually built up a network of fascinating people with various special interests in marine conservation. There is a lot of work and study that takes place in South Africa on marine subjects, and unfortunately the most vocal and self-promotional people are usually those who aren’t doing anything.
We’ve been lucky to meet some of the folk behind the scenes who are carrying out the real work.
How would (someone) describe your blogging style?
Varied subject matter, lots of words (if it’s Clare that wrote the post!), image-rich, and opinionated… But then that’s what a blog is good for: expressing your opinion!
What do you do when you aren’t working on your blog?
I teach scuba diving courses from beginner (Open Water) to Divemaster, and take divers (sometimes tourists, sometimes locals) on guided shore and boat dives. Clare works in finance – a desk job involving lots of numbers – and tags along with me and my students on weekends.
When we’re not working or blogging, Clare is reading or napping and I am feeding the squirrels in our garden or working on my car. We also try and dive for pleasure as much as possible, just the two of us, although in the busy season it can be difficult!
How do you keep coming up with material/content for your blog?
Our mandate to ourselves with the blog is to cover “everything ocean-related”, and since the two of us spend so much time either in, next to or thinking about the sea, we don’t have a problem with content generation.
A dive at a new site, a question I get from a student, a dive trip (overseas or upcountry), something interesting we’ve see underwater, or a book/DVD/talk we’ve seen about the ocean are all fodder for a new post!
Where do you go for news and information online?
The Underwater Times (www.underwatertimes.com) is a fantastic news aggregator for ocean-related news. We are also active on Twitter (@learn2divetoday) and pick up a lot of news there, too.
Whats your strategy with your blog in general?
The original intention, as I mentioned, was for the blog to act as a marketing tool and supplementary resource to customers of my scuba diving business. We do still keep that in mind, but it’s now also a lot about self-expression, sharing the things we’ve seen and enjoyed, and showcasing the marine diversity we have on our doorstep as Capetonians (and South Africans).
On the technical front, we’re in the process of figuring out how to move the blog from wordpress.com to a self-hosted WordPress site, and quite excited about the flexibility that will bring.
Everyone has a favorite post. Name yours and why?
One of Clare’s posts, about the recent shark bite that happened in Fish Hoek, got quite a lot of attention and was republished on the Shark Spotters website.
Her favourite one, however, is called “Shark Huggers”, and is a rant about people who pretend to care about shark conservation but are actually only interested in using sharks to raise their own profile.
My favourite post would have to be a toss up between one entitled “How to Clean a Stinky Wetsuit” (self explanatory title, I think) and one called “What’s in My Dive Bag“, which is about all the little gadgets that can make the difference between a terrible dive and a fantastic dive.
Name some of the bloggers whom you look up to and why?
I really admire Chris Mills from imod.co.za. His was one of the first local blogs I found, and thank goodness for that! He posts on all kinds of things, but we’ve found his material on social networking, online marketing, search engine optimization and developments in technology extremely helpful in figuring out our own online strategy.
We’re still total newbies in this arena, but Chris has a way of explaining things really clearly and showing how they’re relevant to your business. He’s also a really approachable, helpful guy and has answered some specific questions of mine too. If you’re not following imod.co.za, you should be.