RTL reporter ambushes Dive Businesses at Boot 2024 RTL reporter ambushes Dive Businesses at Boot 2024

Dive businesses ambushed by German TV crew at Boot Show

A camera team and reporter for RTL, a German channel known for their trash-TV format, ambushed three unsuspecting exhibitors in hall 12 – the main show hub for the scuba diving industry.

The Boot Show in Düsseldorf is an annual spectacle that brings together enthusiasts, professionals, and international businesses from both the yachting world and the diving industry. The show runs for 9 consecutive days and attracts crowds of over 200,000 visitors from 120 different nations.

This year, the event showed a significant growth in the number of diving exhibitors, necessitating the expansion into additional halls to accommodate them all.

Amidst the excitement, however, three prominent scuba diving businesses in Hall 12, the primary hub for diving exhibitors, found themselves unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight in a most unwelcome manner.

What happened?

A camera crew from the German broadcaster RTL – a channel best known for it’s soaps, casting & dating formats and cringe-worthy reality shows – descended rapidly upon the unsuspecting businesses.

Led by a known controversial RTL reporter, a self-titled ‘Holiday Rescuer,’ the crew’s intrusive tactics shocked business employees, associates and attendees of the show alike.

In the vicinity of one of the stands when it happened, sdm actually witnessed the reporter pursuing confrontational interviews, pointing both microphone and camera into the faces of bewildered employees despite obvious objections.

Having already been politely declined for interviews and being led away from the show stands, the interviewer reappeared just minutes later and continued to pester employees for further information.

Why were the businesses approched?

The targeted businesses — Wiro Dive, a highly regarded German travel agent, Shark School, a shark awareness and education group, and prominent liveaboard operator Master Liveaboards — are all currently embroiled in an ongoing internal investigation following a tragic diving accident off the coast of the Bahamas.

During a Shark School private charter (organised and carried out by tour operator Wiro Dive), a 46-year-old German diver lost her life to a tiger shark during a shark dive at the world renowned dive site ‘Tiger Beach.’

Most in the industry have already heard about the incident, however respecting the family’s wishes, the investigation had been kept largely confidential, involving only the implicated companies and affected individuals.

The opportunistic intrusion by a mainstream TV channel has been widely regarded as a blatant disregard to the sensitivity of the situation, striving to turn a private tragedy into a public spectacle – the RTL reporter ultimately questioning safety procedures in the water and attempting to point the finger of blame.

His source, a currently unnamed ‘shark expert’, had provided opinions regarding aspects of the popular shark encounter that could allegedly be coincided ‘negligent’, according to the reporter.

Shark diving, particularly in the Bahamas, entices thrill-seeking divers with the promise of close encounters with magnificent predators like tiger sharks, reef sharks and occasional hammerheads.

While such experiences are generally safe and controlled, the inherent unpredictability of sharks underscores the associated risks. While experienced guides are in the water, there’s really no such thing as a shark ‘expert’ and nobody really knows how they will act.

With this in mind, our best guess would be that RTL’s unnamed ‘expert’ is either someone looking for their 5 minutes of fame, a direct competitor or a disgruntled ex-employee. We’ve certainly seen it before.

Is there any truth to RTL’s claims?

It has to be said the organisers and overseers of the ill-fated excursion, Shark School and Wiro Dive, are both highly regarded on the European stage. Standards appear to be as good as, if not better than, most other businesses in this area of dive travel & adventure experiences.

Likewise, Master Liveaboards, the operator of the dive vessel chartered by the group, certainly boasts an impressive amount of experience, especially when it comes to shark diving in the Bahamas.

One look at their website shows plenty of warnings about the risks of diving with sharks. There’s extensive company policy about the rules, regulations and safety procedures for divers.

Incorrect practices or lacking experience?

Dig a little deeper and you’ll soon see that Shark School and Wiro Dive have organised many of these private excursions over a number of years – each time choosing to return to Bahamas Master. Each excursion, one assumes, with the same well-rehearsed team and procedures.

Furthermore, Shark School not only have their own, experienced people in the water with their guests – for years they have relied on, and put their trust in the more experienced guides of the Bahamas Master, without whom the trips would not be possible. This team are in the water with these predators almost daily, year round. This of course implies that the number of experienced shark guides accompanying guests on these trips is actually much higher than on ‘normal’ shark excursions.

For Shark School, Wiro Dive and Master Liveaboards to continue this partnership, year after year, without problems or issues, casts a huge shadow of doubt on the RTL reporter’s theory of incorrect, negligent practices. If so, issues would surely have been raising a long time ago?

If problems existed with the organisers, Master Liveaboards would’ve refused to run private excursions with Shark School. Or indeed the other way around. And yet, this has never happened. The partnership appears to have flourished.

Anger at dangerous reporting and lack of compassion

We concider the reckless regurgitation of opinion based comments, especially by a main stream reporter (who’s not involved in, or has any understanding of the dive industry) is not only unprofessional, but dangerous for our industry as a whole.

As an industry still recovering from the effects of the Corona pandemic, the majority of the industry leaders we talked to at the Boot Show have expressed anger at the broadcaster for choosing the wrong time, place and manner to approach the group for comments.

Obviously there is journalist interest in an incident of this kind. But general opinion is that RTL could’ve handled it more discretely (and morally) outside of the event arena.

Recent shark activity in the Bahamas

Safety accusations aside, shark attacks in the Bahamas are proving to be a regularity. Mere weeks after the Shark School incident, a 44 year old woman from Boston was attacked and killed by a tiger shark while paddle-boarding in front of Raffles Resort.

Months earlier, 73 year old Heidi Ernst, an experienced American diver with more than 500 logged dives, was bitten by a tiger shark while ending a dive and exiting the water. She was rushed to hospital, the crew fearing that she might bleed out on the boat. As it became evident that the damage was irreparable, the decision was made to amputate the shredded leg.

But despite recent incidents, the demand for shark diving in the Bahamas persists.

In the broader context of shark diving ethics, concerns regarding chumming waters to attract sharks do indeed require reflection. Yet, the fundamental acknowledgment must remain: nature is unpredictable. Whether you’re shark diving, sky diving or snowboarding in the Alps. The quest for exhilarating encounters necessitates a degree of risk acceptance. And scuba divers, sky divers and snowboarders are well aware of this.

Tragic as it is, the loss of life serves as a sobering reminder of the dangers inherent in diving, particularly with apex predators. For this reason, it’s all the more important that future encounters only be under the guidance of seasoned professionals, like those at Shark School and Master Liveaboards. Anything else would be a free-for-all, wild west situation.

By no means, do we wish to play down this tragic accident. Losing a life is unbearable – losing the life of a fellow diver, cuts much deeper within our community. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the husband and family of the deceased woman. Our article attempts to address a different issue and not the incident in question.

Tough questions follow for event organisers

In the meantime, the incident at the Boot Show has left many dive businesses questioning the organisers’ commitment to ensuring a conducive and respectful environment for exhibitors – regardless of what might be happening outside of the show arena.

Wiro Dive’s pre-warning of the impending camera crew underscores the need for proactive measures to safeguard exhibitors’ interests. Owner Robert Wilpernig’s alleged request for the crew to be denied access to the event grounds was not only reasonable but also reflective of a desire to uphold the integrity of the show while respecting the wishes of the bereaved family.

The organizers’ failure to address these concerns effectively, has undoubtedly left a sour taste for many exhibitors, raising questions about the event’s ability to prioritize exhibitor welfare amidst external disruptions.

Moving forward, there is clearly a pressing need for the Boot Show Düsseldorf to reassess their protocols and ensure that exhibitors are adequately supported and shielded from unwarranted intrusions. Only this can foster a more secure and conducive environment for all participants.

To our knowledge, the RTL report has not appeared online or on TV. Nevertheless, we’re eager to hear what the infamous ‘Holiday Rescuer’ makes of the story. Will this be a serious, factual report or thinly based click-bate aimed purely at getting social media engagement and website visits? We’ll keep you informed when the story breaks.

13.02.24: UPDATE – as of yesterday evening, 12th Feb 2024, RTL have published their official report on the RTL website! We’ve transcribed the video from German into English and analysed the entire contents of the report here.

Leave a Reply