Curacao Kids Sea Camp
There was a point about three days into Kids Sea Camp that my youngest, 4-year-old Gillian, sat next to me on the beach and proclaimed Curacao her favorite place in the world. Then she ran off with her new friends to build sand houses for hermit crabs. It was almost the first words she'd said to me during those three days.
She and my son, 7-year-old Ethan, had been absorbed by this phenomenon called Kids Sea Camp. The two of them had talked about Sea Camp every single night at dinner for about a month, and I feared that their expectations might exceed the reality of this family dive adventure. It didn't happen. They stayed, either in the water or immersed in the world of the water, from sunrise to bedtime. If they weren't full-blown water rats before this trip, they established their water cred during this ocean-centric family week.
As the editor of a dive magazine, I think quite often about the direction of the dive world, ways to grow the sport and the lifestyles of the divers of both today and tomorrow. I've even hired a teen editor to put my money where my mouth is about growing the sport and giving the next generation of divers a lifestyle to identify with and a bona fide voice. And each year we put out a family-focused issue, which helps fulfill our mission of keeping divers diving.
The founder of Kids Sea Camp, Margo Chornlesky, has the same idea: She wants to grow the sport positively with divers who are aware, environmentally active and inspired by the sea and its inhabitants. Her concept has taken the family dive world by storm. Her camps sell out quickly, and the idea is spreading in additional to Curacao -- there are now Kids Sea Camps in Grand Cayman, Fiji,
Anthony's Key Resort, with plans for more. For diving families, it's ideal: While the kids are busy with SASY, SEAL, shark and turtle feeding, marine-life encounters, touch-tanks, painting, beach bonfires, treasure hunts, swimming and playing, the parents can immerse themselves in some guilt-free diving. Most mornings, as the kids are lining up with the camp counselors, it's hard to tell who's more giddy about the day, the parents or the kids.
One of the first to embrace the idea was Sport Diver publisher Carolyn Pascal, whose daughter Melissa has, through participation in five years of Sea Camps, grown from a dolphin-kissed 7-year-old to a certified and well-skilled diver. She even spent time in the water modeling for my images like an old pro. One of the true testaments of this program and its ability to keep the kids enthralled is the repeat participants. The kids are really the key judges of the program; if they're bored, it doesn't work. The week I was there with my kids, almost every other family were Sea Camp veterans. And judging from the way my kids reacted, it looks like I've solidified my summer plans for the next few years.
The program has also begun to attract other environmentally and philanthropically minded people from the dive world. Marine artist and environmentalist Ron Stevens (www.rogest.com) has become a Sea Camp favorite. He takes kids on a dot-art journey into the lives of endangered marine life that's better, more effective and more important for our blue future than a thousand DVD slide shows. My kids started a lot of conversations with, "Mr. Ronnie said " -- and the art they came home with now graces the walls of their rooms. Other supporters of the program include SCUBAPRO, Underwater Kinetics, Fish Flips, and Sea Life Cameras.
As a parent, there was only one disconcerting thing that happened all week. During the beach bonfire night, there was a live band. And whose young daughter was the first to get on stage and groove to the beat? Yep, Gillian. Boy, am I in trouble when she gets older.