BONAIRE

Eight-year-old LUKE EVANS was on SEAL Aquamis­sions, so Mum and Dad got to tag along to the Kid’s Sea Camp in Bonaire as well

Sport Diver - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs by MARK EVANS

Luke Evans starts his SEAL Aquamis­sions at the ever-pop­u­lar Kid’s Sea Camp.

“So, will I be re­ally div­ing this time?” “Will there be sharks?” “How many other kids are go­ing to be in the SEAL Team?” “Will we be in the sea?” “Will I see sharks?” “Will I get to night dive?” I was get­ting a se­ri­ous feel­ing of déjà vu as my eight-year-old son fired an end­less bar­rage of ques­tions at me. Was it re­ally only three years ago when, as a pint-sized five-and-a-half year old, he was ask­ing me many of the same queries be­fore em­bark­ing on his SASY and snorkelling ad­ven­tures at a Kid’s Sea Camp in Grand Cay­man?

Now in the mid­dle of his eighth year, he’d moved up into the PADI SEAL Team cat­e­gory within the Kid’s Sea Camp or­gan­i­sa­tion, some­thing he’d been count­ing down the days to since he first stuck his head un­der­wa­ter with a mask and snorkel on. Got to hand it to PADI, the pool-based SEAL Team is a fan­tas­tic in­tro­duc­tion to div­ing for chil­dren aged eight to ten. Luke had com­pleted his Bub­ble­maker just af­ter his eighth birth­day at the Blue Planet Aquar­ium (see the Jan­uary 2015 is­sue of Sport Diver), but he couldn’t wait to get stuck into the dif­fer­ent Aquamis­sions of­fered as part of the SEAL Team ex­pe­ri­ence. He’d be com­plet­ing the ini­tial five Aquamis­sions dur­ing his week at KSC, and once he’d notched up the ten Spe­cialty Aquamis­sions af­ter re­turn­ing home, he would hold the ti­tle of Master SEAL Team Diver. Now I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be a Master SEAL Team Diver - that sounds so much cooler and clan­des­tine than adult cer­ti­fi­ca­tions!

CHECK YOUR BUDDY

Our home for the week on Bonaire was Buddy Dive, a long-es­tab­lished re­sort with an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion and an ever-grow­ing num­ber of re­peat guests. You only have to go down to the on­site dive cen­tre and see staff mem­bers who have been there 11, 12, 13 years to know that you are some­where spe­cial - em­ploy­ees, es­pe­cially div­ing pro­fes­sion­als, do not hang around one lo­ca­tion un­less it has a lot go­ing for it.

Buddy Dive and Kid’s Sea Camp have had a long re­la­tion­ship, and there are two sep­a­rate week-long KSC events ev­ery year at the re­sort. Dive cen­tre man­ager Au­gusto Mon­te­brun and his ded­i­cated team have got it nailed, ef­fort­lessly keep­ing hordes of chil­dren from five-years-old up into the teens happy and oc­cu­pied, as well as mar­shalling masses of par­ents as they headed off shore and boat div­ing.

There was one group of SASY kids, Luke’s SEAL Team, and then var­i­ous pock­ets of teens do­ing PADI Ju­nior Open Wa­ter Diver, PADI Ad­ven­ture Dives, and even PADI Res­cue Diver. Throw into the mix sev­eral adults who were also com­plet­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cour­ses, and three boat-loads of qual­i­fied mum and dad divers leav­ing ev­ery morn­ing, and you had a recipe for dis­as­ter, but it all ran like clock­work.

The par­ents had it easy dur­ing the day. Chil­dren of all ages were dropped off to their var­i­ous staff mem­bers at 9am, and then weren’t picked up again un­til the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon. We never even got to see them at lunch, as the young­sters all had their own din­ing room - with its own child-friendly menu - set-up in the break­fast area, while we adults re­laxed in the pool bar/restau­rant with our own meals.

Al­though af­ter­noons of­fered the op­por­tu­nity for some fam­ily time ex­plor­ing the is­land or hang­ing out by the pool, there was still plenty of things go­ing on dur­ing the rest of the day through­out the week, with a cou­ple of in­ter­est­ing evening slideshow talks in the bar from the res­i­dent photo pro, a buf­fet bar­be­cue with a mouth-wa­ter­ing se­lec­tion of meats, and a gor­geous sun­set cruise on a sail­ing ves­sel that ran the full length of Bonaire, to name just a few.

“Luke demon­strated some neat buoy­ancy con­trol and a mas­ter­ful trim, and hap­pily pointed out par­rot­fish, blennies, but­ter­fly­fish and an­gelfish, though I thought his eyes might pop out of his head when a large tar­pon swam

right in front of him!”

“Now I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be a Master SEAL Team Diver - that sounds so much cooler and clan­des­tine than adult cer­ti­fi­ca­tions!”

SEAL TEAM EIGHT

Thank­fully, it wasn’t just Luke who was near DEF-CON 5 with ex­cite­ment - his seven fel­low wannabe Seal-team­ers were also bounc­ing off the walls when we de­posited them with their in­struc­tors on the first morn­ing. I have noth­ing but ad­mi­ra­tion for Elsy and her fel­low PADI Pros who were tasked with shep­herd­ing eight ul­tra-hy­per chil­dren into the pool and then get­ting them calm and fo­cused enough to don mask, fins, BCD and reg­u­la­tor to ven­ture un­der­wa­ter.

Elsy is a sea­soned vet­eran when it came to han­dling kids, though, and so she and her fel­low in­struc­tors would let Luke and his friends burn off some en­ergy play­ing in the pool and snorkelling be­fore mov­ing on to the Aquamis­sions. Equally, they broke up the day with more play ses­sions in be­tween the div­ing - af­ter all, they were only chil­dren, and too much struc­tured ac­tiv­ity could turn them off div­ing, when we wanted them to be­come hope­less ad­dicts like us!

See­ing the chil­dren set­ting up and check­ing their equip­ment, which com­prised dinky BCDS mounted on five-litre cylin­ders, and reg­u­la­tors with small mouth­pieces, brought a smile to the faces of all of the proud par­ents, and soon they were all con­fi­dently run­ning through pre-dive checks like tiny vet­er­ans, un­der the watch­ful eyes of their in­struc­tors, who ex­pertly kept them ‘in the zone’ when their minds started to wan­der.

In the wa­ter, through­out the five dif­fer­ent Aquamis­sions, Luke and his friends re­peat­edly prac­ticed wa­ter en­try and exit; equal­is­ing; mask-clear­ing; reg­u­la­tor re­trieval; swap­ping from snorkel to reg, and back again; and buoy­ancy con­trol, in­clud­ing fin piv­ots. They were also given some tasters of the Spe­cialty Aquamis­sions that be­come avail­able af­ter com­plet­ing th­ese ini­tial five, such as tak­ing pho­to­graphs of a myr­iad va­ri­ety of plas­tic divers and marine life with Seal­ife Mi­cro HD+ cam­eras.

CON­CLU­SION

It is safe to say that the SEAL Team was a ma­jor hit with all the chil­dren. The fi­nal ‘grad­u­a­tion dive’ in the sea along­side their par­ents was a se­ri­ous high­light. Buddy Dive con­ve­niently has a shal­low reef from dock to house reef some 15-20 me­tres away - it is in essence a large swim­ming pool - and so the in­struc­tors took the SEAL Team in two at a time for their very first sea dive.

Luke demon­strated some neat buoy­ancy con­trol and a mas­ter­ful trim, and hap­pily pointed out par­rot­fish, blennies, but­ter­fly­fish and an­gelfish, though I thought his eyes might pop out of his head when a large tar­pon swam right in front of him!

“So what Aquamis­sion did you en­joy the most?” I asked, as we tucked into hot­dogs to­wards the end of the week. Gulp­ing down a mouth­ful, he didn’t miss a beat: “The Aquamis­sion with the cam­era, def­i­nitely. I liked us­ing the cam­era un­der­wa­ter, and I was pretty good with it. I am go­ing to do your job when I get older…”

Next is­sue: It’s not all about the kids! Mum and dad get to en­joy some qual­ity shore and boat div­ing, while the chil­dren ven­ture off to the don­key sanc­tu­ary and on an is­land tour.

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