By Margo Peyton
- Family bonding: It is the perfect way to get them to disconnect from their virtual worlds and reconnect to each other and you. Today’s youth are stuck to their cell phones and rarely look up. Scuba diving is not only outdoors, it’s underwater, and in zero gravity! It’s a great way to meet other like-minded kids and have fun with family.
- Zero gravity: Scuba diving for kids is so different from that for adults. Adult divers tend to meander around a reef or wreck slowly, enjoying the peace, the colours and the Zen of diving. Kids are much more animated, having fun playing with the new sense of zero gravity. They form skydiver formations, walk upside down on the bottom of the boat or ride one another’s tanks. It’s amazing to see all the fun things they think of doing you would have never thought about.
- Better communication: Kids develop better communication with their parents underwater. I have watched kids completely make up their own sign language or even learn American Sign Language and teach it to their buddies and parents. Many will take the Sea Signs PADI Distinctive Specialty course and enjoy full communication and learning during a dive. Personally, I feel the better communication results from the quiet, the fact that you cannot just shout out to get their attention. Kids have to be good buddies and stay no more than a breath away. They have to get in sync with their parents and pay attention. Many family members carry slates to communicate with each other and enjoy working on signs and signals before a dive together. It’s all part of the fun.
- Being the cool family: No you’re not going to Disney this spring break, you’re not going to a kids-only camp; you’re going on a family scuba diving vacation with your grandma and grandpa. How cool is that? Exotic travel, new cultures, new foods, and making new friends from other places. Not many kids in my own kid’s classes were heading off for dive vacation during summer break, or any other break for that matter. The fact that my kids were going shark diving in the Galapagos, or snorkeling in Jelly Fish Lake in Palau and diving at Stingray city in Grand Cayman was cereal to their friends. The fact that mom and dad are scuba divers or better yet Grandma and Grandpa, too, is awesome. Kids get excited and can’t wait to go. Remember diving is a buddy system and learning to be good buddies with your kids and grandkids is rewarding, even life-changing.
- Time is the most important factor in family health. Spending quality time with your kids and grandkids exploring the world is one of the best ways to share your life and your passion with them. Create memories that will last them a lifetime. They are not getting any younger and neither are you. Want to spend some quality time with the family before the kids grow up and go off to college and everyone goes their own ways and life just takes over? A certification card is for life and it will always remind them of who they were with when they learned to dive and where they were. This can be especially meaningful for grandparents, as time becomes far more valuable than anything else. It is becoming the norm to see three generations of divers on a dive vacation.
- Valet Diving: Diving has become easier, safer, and more fun. The days of old horse collar BC’s and J Valve tanks, belted lead weights to lug down a rocky beach are far gone. Now families can enjoy a hoseless computer, integrated weight systems, stylish comfortable wetsuits, and BCs in all colours and styles. How about a dive butler who doesn’t let you touch your gear, they put it on for you and all you need to do is giant stride into the hues of warm crystal clear blues? Private guides, so no sharing a single seahorse with ten other divers? When you return, a hot face cloth with mint to wash the salt from your face, a warm towel to dry off and a prompt serving of coffee, tea, or water awaits you as your dive gear is being changed over for the next dive? Yes, that truly is a thing. Wakatobi, Philippines, even the Cayman Islands. It’s called Valet diving. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for everyone and it does come at a cost, but for those 50+ divers that prefer to be pampered, it’s available.
- So many great family-friendly options: Sam’s Tours in Palau with easy recreational wrecks, jump-off-the-dock mandarin fish dives, mantas in 35ft (10m) of water, and even a shallow seaplane for kids to enjoy. Wakatobi for pampered diving and kiteboarding, windsurfing, and kid-friendly night dives. The Philippines is wall-to-wall whale sharks at Oslop, with a 39ft (12m) max depth, or Apo Island with the turtles. Sea Explorers is the great for training and diving with kids. On St. Lucia, Anse Chastanet, known as the top honeymoon resort in the Caribbean, now welcomes families who want to take their children back to the place where their parents enjoyed their honeymoon: two weeks a year, kids are welcome to this 5-diamond romantic resort for family dive weeks. There is Buddy Dive in Bonaire for the budget family that wants to enjoy guaranteed calm, clear, warm water all year with an academy year round for kids and training. Reef Fantaseas in Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac is ready and suited for kids. The Brac has a 140,000 gal (530000ℓ) training pool right on the ocean, and a kid-friendly dive team at all three resorts.
- Family-friendly options and amenities available for your vacation choices. 1 or 2 or 3 bedrooms, connecting rooms for larger families that want some privacy. Family friendly menu items. Gluten free, vegetarian, healthy choices, sauces on the side, extra dive staff available for better safer ratios on the boat. Instructors that teach you to dive in three days, stay and dive with you for the other three days to work on what you have learned and make sure you’re confident and comfortable. Family owned, family operated. Rooms are set up to handle kids with multiple beds. Dive shop that honours different dive profiles for your family. Kids 10 and 11 are 40ft (12m), Kids 12-14 are 70ft (21m), and kids age 15 and up can dive with adults. Kids 12+ can do night dives. Family-friendly resorts understand, know, and cater to these important things at reasonable and affordable pricing. All of the above mentioned are on my list for family-friendly with a few others, like Explorer Ventures liveaboard fleet, the Galapagos Sky, and Jean Michael Cousteau resort in Fiji.
- Education vacations: Scuba Diving vacations often teach kids and adults about the local marine environments, marine life and their perils, and needs for protection. Often you will visit marine parks and learn about conservation efforts. Children are naturally great advocates for the underwater world. They want to protect sharks and clean up plastics and be more responsible divers. Many kids will go back to their schools and towns and write about their trip and share what they learned.
- Giving them a memory to last a life time. They will not only remember, but also embrace the time spent with you and want to recreate it year after year. Being unplugged relieves stress, widens their world, and shows them on a global scale how to think bigger and be more mindful.
Margo Peyton is the founder of Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures, recipient of the DEMA Reaching Out Award, Woman Divers Hall of Famer, and the PADI Award of Excellence in training and education with over 6,000 certified kids and zero dive accidents! For more: www.familydivers.com
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