Terri Bodle grew up watching Jacques Cousteau on television, and fell in love with the ocean. She knew one day she would learn to dive. When she met her husband, Ken, Terri gave him a PADI Open Water Diver scuba certification class as a gift be- cause she wanted him to dive too. Married for more than 15 years, they now have a scuba diving family and some of the best memories of their lives from Kids Sea Camp Grand Cayman. “Every night at Kids Sea Camp, I would open our hotel door and see six cameras charging and dive gear scattered about,” said Terri. “In that moment, I realized we are not only a scuba diving family, but a family of underwater photographers!”
Every day during Kids Sea Camp weeks, parents explore and scuba dive with other parents as the kids, ranging from 5 to 18, participate with other kids their age in Seal Team AquaMissions, Junior or Advanced Open Water Diver certification classes and photography and video classes, all while learning about marine biology and conservation. During Sea- Life camera weeks, kids are taught photo and video. Kids learn the importance of buoyancy as they use their cameras to take underwater photos and video.
Thirteen-year-old Nico Bodle learned to scuba dive at 10. She wants to be a marine biologist and came to Kids Sea Camp with her SeaLife DC1400 camera to get trained in Underwater Photography. “What I wanted to see more than anything in the world was a sea turtle,” she says. “In Grand Cay- man I not only went scuba diving with turtles but I photographed them on almost every single dive.”
Nine-year-old Bodle triplets Mason, Wyatt and Weston joined the PADI Seal Team program. On any given day, the kids not only experienced snorkeling or scuba diving, they did it with cameras, scooters, compasses and more.
Continuing education and conservation are a large part of Kids Sea Camp Grand Cayman. Kids participate in a variety of underwater activities, such as underwater photography and video, wreck diving aboard the Kittiwake, boat diving, fish ID dives and DPV (scooter) dives. There are programs on marine biology and environmental protection, and Project AWARE initiatives about lionfish, sharks and pollution.
The highlight of the week for many families was Stingray City. Divided into small groups, families are asked to gather on the bottom and remain still in the sand. Divemasters used squid to attract stingrays and draw them close. If kids did not want to interact with the rays, they simply crossed their arms. “Diving Stingray City was special because it was our first dive as a family,” said Terri. “Ken and I have done more than 50 dives with Nico, but it was our first time with our sons. They each had their own fears and challenges they overcame during the week. We are so proud of them.”
“To breathe underwater feels incredible,” says Wyatt Iwanaga, 16. “The world beneath the waves is so alien, so inaccessible and so beautiful. To be immersed in this world is nothing short of a miracle.” After scuba diving in Yap Caverns and at Vertigo, a site known for reef sharks, during Kids Sea Camp Yap, Wyatt continued, “These blacktip and gray reef sharks circled us, not aggressive but curious. Turning around to find 10 or more sharks in the water is supposedly terrifying; I found it fascinating.”
Wyatt took his PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification during Kids Sea Camp with his brother Dylan, 14. Mom Laura wanted to explore the South Pacific and bond with her teenage sons. With Kids Sea Camp, the family discovered a newfound family passion for the ocean and scuba diving, and got a chance to visit the South Pacific Islands of Yap and Palau with more than a dozen other scuba diving families.
Labyrinths of underwater caverns, sharks and mantas are just a few of the highlights during Kids Sea Camp Yap. Families choosing Kids Sea Camp Yap or Kids Sea Camp Palau spent a week in either location or combined them for a two-week South Pacific adventure.
"Descending into the clear, blue water, we came upon the entrance to the caverns,” said Wyatt. “The amount of coral and fish was astounding. As we swam through the passages, our guide would point out a moray eel poking out of a crevice or a school of fish making their way through an adjacent cavern.” The variety of life below the surface of the sea was more beautiful than the work of any Renaissance sculptor or painter.”
Nothing can prepare first-time visitors for the spectacular Rock Islands of Palau. Riding in special dive boats, cruising at speeds above 20 mph, riders sit on the boat’s bow as the captain maneuvers through limestone islands, resembling gigantic mushrooms, which were coral reefs millions of years ago. “Looking out on the Rock Islands showed me the small amount of time we live on this earth,” says Wyatt Iwanaga. “The average human life span is about 80 years, and the Rock Islands have existed for millions of years.”
Kids and their parents saw blacktip reef sharks getting cleaned, anemonefish dancing in sea anemones, and turtles and octopuses. Because Palau was the first country in the world to declare its waters a shark sanctuary, divers saw sharks on almost every dive. Together, families snorkeled in the famed Jellyfish Lake and Clam City. They dove Blue Corner with reef hooks, where the giant male Napoleon wrasse came so close that they kissed kids’ cameras with their giant lips.
A highlight for many families was the chambered nautilus dive, organized by Sam Scott, founder of PADI Five Star Dive Center Sam’s Tours. Scientists believe the nautilus, which live in very deep water, are endangered. During Kids Sea Camp, special dives in less than 20 feet of water allowed families to interact with them. “On the nautilus dive, I got to hold a prehistoric animal, take photos of it, and watch it jet propel and move around,” said Nick, 9. “It was super cool.”
Visit familydivers.com for Kids Sea Camp 2013 dates and locations.