Monday, October 12, 2009

Amos Nachoum - Lies, Deception, and Shark Diving

Amos Nachoum is one of the industries best known underwater photographers. He is a part time group leader and shark diver.

Amos Nachoum is also a confirmed liar.

This post is about The Big Lie that Amos told in 2008/9. A lie about his intentions, his honor, his company, and his "one" shark diving trip to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

To be as fair as I can - I was once a fan of Amos Nachoum and his underwater work which spans many years and many countries. Now, I am left saddened, and frankly outraged with a man who lied to me personally, and lied repeatedly to an entire shark diving fleet of operators in 2009.

"The Big Lie," was Amos Nachoum's sole desire to take scuba divers out of cages at Isla Guadalupe to join him for what he has coined "The Everest of Shark Diving," face to face encounters with great white sharks. To be clear Amos is not a "shark diving operator" at Isla Guadalupe, he is a scuba guide, dropping into dive sites worldwide for quick expeditions and then on to his next sites with paying clients in tow.

The cost? $5900 USD per diver. The other not so big lie, more of an abject deception really, was the fact that Amos's total time on site with Isla Guadalupe's white sharks amounted to a grand total of three full days in 2008.

Let's look at that. After three days in 2008 Amos Nachoum decided that he was comfortable enough with the small sampling of animals he had met to turn around and offer guided "out of cage shark trips" for $5900 USD per diver. Amos has been diving with whites in South Africa, but as anyone will tell you in the animal encounter business, each site is unique. Each animal group unique. What is acceptable animal protocol at one site is often quite different at another.

For Amos, three days in the company of white sharks at a completely new dive site to him made him an "out of cage expert." For others who have been in the company of these same animals for many years there's a strong belief on a commercial level there should be a barrier between sharks and humans. With good reason.

This is where the Big Lie came to play, as Amos began quietly selling his "Everest Shark Adventures" at dive shows and in backrooms, he started encountering push back from existing operations like mine. Push back in the form of phone calls and face to face meetings with Amos detailing why he should not attempt out of cage "commercial level" shark diving at this site.

The people holding these meetings with Amos were not random dive folks they were industry peers, vested shark diving operators with years of local site knowledge and years of interactions with these animals.

With each meeting Amos became more adamant, stridently proclaiming that he had "no intention" of going cageless in 2009. Amos insisted that phone calls and flyers being made and submitted by him to random scuba divers all over the world "were mistakes," or "incorrect assumptions."

The "Amos Circus" as it came to be known, came to a full boil with me personally this summer (2009) when a phone call out of the blue turned my blood to ice. Amos Nachoum on an airline flight encountered a woman he did not know. In the short conversation that ensued he discovered she was a diver, he whipped out a flyer as asked her to "join him" on a cageless encounter with white sharks to Isla Guadalupe in 2009, at the discounted rate of $4500.

Amos Nachoum was marketing his "Everest Shark Diving Trips" to a woman he did not know and who was only Open Water certified with perhaps 60 hours of diving under her belt. I called Amos immediately. He denied meeting the woman at first, then he denied offering her the "Everest Marketing Flyer."

Amos demanded that I personally apologise to him in public for defaming "his honor and his company" repeating, once again, that he has not going cageless at Isla Guadalupe...ever.

Here's my post.

We have come to understand via a series of emails this week that Amos Nachoum lied to everyone in 2009 and to myself for what appears to be $5900 per diver and a chance to be known as "The Everest of Shark Diving Guide" on his second three day stint to Isla Guadalupe with white sharks.

So? you might say, everyone lies, why take this out on Amos?

Amos Nachoum's behaviour gets to the heart of the shark diving industry, pushing the envelope, and what should or should not be considered safe shark encounters on a commercial level. We have blogged about this over and over, and for the most part the industry is listening.

All except Amos, who as I have come to understand is now "on the offensive" attacking all the operators on site in emails, in a desperate attempt to head off being called out as a "deceptive shark diving guide" and yes, a "bald faced liar."

There's a reason Amos lied to the industry, he knew what he was doing after only three previous days on site was "beyond the limits," he also knew what he was doing was wrong. There's no other reason to lie, lie, and lie again to everyone who asked about his "one escorted trip" this season unless he was fearful of any direct confrontation with operators.

To say I am disappointed with the man is an understatement on many levels.

Mostly due to the fact Amos is so willing to put divers and white sharks in ultimately no win scenarios over the long haul. Yes, he "got lucky" this time but over the long haul the deadly combination of random sharks, random divers, and bad fortune will see this "Everest of Shark Diving," come crashing down with the sharks as the ultimate losers in Amos Nachoum's self made "Faustian $5900 Everest Bargain."

Amos, you can take that to the bank.

As for apologies, I believe sir, you now owe the entire industry one. You can start by posting it on your homepage for the next 6 months - or not. The shark diving industry now knows who and what you are, and I, for one, am sorry to have uncovered it first hand.

Patric Douglas CEO