Today I am excited to announce the outcome of the 2012 Responsible Whale Watch Operator’s Awards at the World Whale Watching Operator’s Conference at WhaleFest, organized and hosted by Planet Whale, located in Brighton, UK October 25-28.
My excitement is hard to contain and I am happy to report that on Friday afternoon Conscious Breath Adventures was awarded the top honor, being recognized and given the honor of receiving the Responsible Whale Watch Award for 2012!
This award is a happy and humbling acknowledgement of our efforts to provide the best whale watching and swim-with-whale experience possible for our guests while giving something back to the whales. Thank you to everyone involved!
The award is most gratifying to me because to qualify required both positive reviews from our guests and scrutiny from industry peers to win.
To qualify for consideration, a whale watching or whale swimming operator had to score five stars in five criteria from five reviewers on the Planet Whale Ethical Review and Rating System. The criteria are:
1) Safe approach to whales / dolphins
2) Valuable learning experience
3) Trip meets expectations
4) Minimal impact on the marine environment
5) Own research / support for conservation
Over the past two years we have been reviewed on Planet Whale, Conscious Breath Adventures has rated 5 stars across the board from our reviewers. The number and quality of the reviews is what caused Planet Whale to invite us to join the Planet Whale Watch Operator’s Partnership for 2012.
To me, that is the best accolade we can ever get: the fact that our guests appreciate what we do and more importantly, how we do it. We could not have gotten where we are without our guests and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
There were six operators which qualified for consideration. Next, fellow operators from the Whale Watch Operator’s Partnership volunteered to judge the six to pick a final three contenders. The judges took a close look at each, starting with the Planet Whale reviews, then operator websites, TripAdvisor reviews, and anything else they could find about the company. The judges looked at the details from both the point of view of a potential customer and as a professional whale watch operator, using their understanding of the business to read between the lines.
Conscious Breath Adventures was privileged to make the final cut and was shortlisted to win an award. This is a great honor in and of itself, to be reviewed and judged by peers in the whale watch industry as worthy of recognition. To get to the final three required that guests and industry professionals all found something exceptional. We have tried for years to do our best for the whales and our guests; it’s very nice to know that others feel we do a good job!
On Friday, the final day of the World Whale Watch Conference, the three finalists had one last chance to say a few words in person, or by video for those who could not attend, before a final vote was taken to determine the winner. After a few minutes to tally the votes the decision was announced with Monterey Bay Whale Watch coming in third, our good friends John and Linda Rumney of Eye to Eye Marine Encounters in Australia placing second, and Conscious Breath Adventures winning the top honor, the Responsible Whale Watch Award for 2012!
I was on hand to accept the award and say a few words of thanks, but not everyone who helped to achieve this accomplishment was there. To make up for that I would like to thank the people and organizations that made it possible. First, I’d like to thank the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Sub-Secretariat of Protected Areas & Biodiversity for creating and maintaining their model Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic. Their stewardship is a model for all nations.
Second I’d like to thank my good friend and right hand man on the Silver Bank, Jeff Pantukhoff, founder and president of the WhaleMan Foundation. I’ve been friends with Jeff for many years and he has been involved with Conscious Breath Adventures nearly from inception. Jeff is an excellent guide in the water and has a rapport with marine mammals like no one else I know. I could not have done it without him, and certainly not as well! Thanks, Jeff!
Next I’d like to thank friend and guide Clare Omodei of Australia. I met Clare when I was on a trip with Jeff to swim with minke whales in on the Great Barrier Reef where she crewed for Eye to Eye Marine Encounters, and where I appreciated her competence and cheerful spirit. Clare quickly made the transition from minkes to humpbacks and did a great job for everyone. Thanks, Clare!
I’d like to thank Elisa Buller, captain and divemaster, for helping in the water on the Silver Bank in 2011 and 2012, and I look forward to working with her again in 2013. I met Elisa several years ago when we worked together in the Bahamas while taking guests swimming with the famous spotted dolphins that call the area home, and she has recently returned from working with the humpbacks in Tonga. Thanks, Elisa!
Many heartfelt thanks to Cloe Waterfield for helping with behind the scenes administration, helping with guest’s needs from ashore during the season, and for her excellent series of posts in our Latest News blog. With a degree in marine biology and an eye for accuracy and education, Cloe has been a driving force in improving the education component of our operation, a key criteria for the award. Thanks, Cloe!
A shout out, too, to the excellent crews of the M/V Wind Dancer and M/V Sun Dancer II, for keeping us safe, comfortable, on schedule and very well fed! Their seamanship and professionalism is an asset to our operation and I would work with them anywhere. See you all next season!
To all my friends out there, too numerous to list here, who have helped, with keyboard, grinder or something else, through the blood, sweat and tears (you know who you all are), I simply say: thank you.
Of course I’d like to thank again all the guests that have joined us over the years, whether for only one week or many. I’ve met a lot of good people and made some good friends and without your continued support none of this would have been possible. You are friends of the whales and mine and always welcome on the Silver Bank.
And last, but not least, a whale-sized thank you to the humpback whales of the Silver Bank. When I first met them nearly fifteen years ago it was nothing short of a revelation and there is no way that I ever could have anticipated everything that would transpire in the years to come. Some of the most exhilarating and most dramatic experiences of my life have been in their company and for all the memories I am in their debt.
Capt. Gene Flipse
Conscious Breath Adventures