Virgin Islands Diving – with Kids!

by Sandra Foyt on August 27, 2010

in Travel Ideas

dive3 It was my husband’s dream to get the entire family scuba diving certified. Me? I’d have been happy to explore the Caribbean reefs via snorkel, no tanks, no expense, no forty feet below the ocean surface

He begged and pleaded, and then he persuaded the kids to work on me, until I had to give in and at least look into the possibility during our extended stay in the Virgin Islands. Working in his favor was that the same outfit that scuba certified us back in 2002, Admiralty Dive Center, was still going strong on St. Thomas. Although under new management, our original Dive Instructor, Fishbutt, would still join us on our dives.

I knew my fourteen-year-old was more than ready for the PADI Junior Open Water course. She’s been pleading for this for at least two years, since her first introductory dive in the Bahamas. My concern was that her younger brother wasn’t a strong enough swimmer or sufficiently mature for the serious nature of this endeavor.

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Fortunately, I didn’t have to make this decision alone. The not-so-new owner of Admiralty, Duane, gave my almost-ten-year-old a pool test to see if he could handle the swimming requirements, and if he was comfortable in the water. He also assessed if my son would be a willing learner who would listen attentively to instruction. My son’s swimming skills turned out to be adequate to the task, but the latter item gave us pause. However, he was very eager to learn, and willing to try to be a good student.

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Both kids did great, learning quickly and easily. It was exhausting because they had to do the e-learning portion on a very slow computer at night after a full day of sun and surf. The entire distance learning portion takes six hours, but it was spread over several days. They also had to learn the basics in two pool sessions, combined with a shore dive. Finally, they had to complete learning tasks over four boat dives on two days, but that was the fun part for all of us.

Actually, my husband and I benefited from this experience as well. Neither of us had done any diving in long enough that we both needed a refresher, which we got as we tagged along on the instructional dives.

The teen impressed the heck out of all of us, demonstrating the ability to think clearly underwater, and showing the kind of good judgement that I wish was in evidence all the time! Her younger brother also turned out to be an excellent scuba diver, although he’s not ready to be turned loose by the dive master.  He still has some growing up to do, and although he’s done well, it’s hard to know how he’ll react to any situation.  I have to say, I was amazed by his calm acceptance of sharks in the water, even a ginormous eight-foot nurse shark. And, on the last day of diving, his mask repeatedly filled with water, the bane of many a diver, but he just cleared it as he had been taught, and went on.

My husband’s dream came true this summer. Not only did our children earn their first scuba certification, I also ended up rediscovering why I love to dive in the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean coral reefs. As my son explains it, unlike snorkelling, a scuba diver gets to interact with the living ocean environment. Today, we didn’t just see a sea turtle, we swam alongside of it.

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Carissa December 19, 2010 at 5:37 am

THat really IS a great scuba underwater family shot!! LUV it!! 🙂

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