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
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.
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.