‘Wow! I’m proud to be an Asian! … Finally, a “home-grown”, or should I say a, “home-based” magazine for the Asian Region.’, wrote one Maldivian diving professional when, in June, 1992, the first issue of Asian Diver Magazine rolled off the presses to become the first publication of its kind in Asia.
With its distinctive bold banner set against the deep blue of gifted marine-photographer Michael Loh’s, “Terrestrial Invasion” (the underwater image that graced the front cover of that first issue) the magazine’s launch set in train a burgeoning awareness of Asia’s enormous potential as a diving destination without equal.
The brain-child of, Rainer Sigel – an inspirational visionary who had lived, worked and dived throughout Asia for over twelve years – Asian Diver Magazine was an idea that had been a year in the making and whose time had, after the travails of a hard birth, come at last.
“At the time”, Rainer later wrote, “I knew even less about publishing than about diving, and promptly came face to face with the harsh realities of the media business. One is that the only way you can make a small fortune in publishing is by starting off with a big one. The other is that you are lost between the white sheets unless you find first-rate people to help you.”
Working closely with the magazine’s founding editor, Julia Goh, the pair set about persuading a core group of like-minded diving enthusiasts to support their efforts, people like, Andre Pribaldi, from Indonesia; Gretchen Hutchinson, from the Philippines; Michael Loh, from Malaysia; Singapore-based, marine biologist and conservationist, the late, Helen Newman; Sam Fang, in Thailand; Mae Abellana, from Hong Kong; and from Australia, cartoonist, Roger Harvey, and myself.
After months of heart-aches and sleepless nights, the concept of a diving magazine focused on, and devoted to, Asia’s underwater world was about to become a reality. And as the fledgling magazine’s founder and Publisher, Rainer penned the following opening remarks.
“Hello, divers of Asia.
Well, this is it. One year has gone by since the idea of a diving magazine for Asia was first born. We started it, we doubted it, we researched, we wavered and we struggled. In the end we did it.
….. There are tens of thousands of islands and coral reefs out there for you. Let us take you there and let us together protect them and their marine inhabitants against abuse and exploitation.”
They were sentiments matched by editor, Julia Goh’s, introductory comments that concluded with:
“Let us preserve the beauty of the sea, so that our children, grandchildren and generations to come, can find themselves, and not scum, barrenness and disenchantment.”
And in a region filled with an over-abundance of underwater attractions and reefs teeming with exotic life forms, Asian Diver Magazine has – like the deep blue theme of the magazine’s early front cover images – continued to be an unflinching champion of the need to conserve and protect Asia’s rich and diverse underwater heritage and environment for future generations to enjoy and marvel at.
Hand in glove with this focus on ocean conservation has been the role of Asia’s first and only diving publication in highlighting appropriate training options; in encouraging the growth of diving throughout the region; in promoting the discovery of new and exciting diving destinations; announcing the opening of new resorts and dive centres; disseminating information on safe diving practices; and in helping develop what, today, has become one of the world’s largest and most influential diving markets.
Continuing to build on that idea first given form by Asian Diver Magazine’s founder and original publisher, Rainer Sigel, the past thirty years have witnessed profound – and mostly positive – changes in society’s attitude towards the oceans; an outcome that owes much to the continuing efforts of today’s Asian Diver Magazine publisher, John Thet, and his editorial staff, and contributors.
At a more personal level – having been involved with the magazine since its inception – the past thirty years have passed in a flash; a roller-coaster ride of happy memories and good times spent in the company of some of diving’s most accomplished, talented and knowledgeable practitioners … people whose friendship I cherish and whose exciting adventures I have sometimes shared. Which is why I feel entitled – and honoured – to be able to say …
… Happy Birthday, Asian Diver Magzine. Thank you for guiding us to so many of the world’s most stunning diving locations; for your insightful articles, for educating us all on the need to protect and conserve fragile eco-systems for future generations to enjoy; for leading the region’s diving industry into a brighter future … and for turning one man’s publishing dream into such a successful reality.