Anyone with young kids certainly knows about the lifestyle modifications that need to be made in order to raise children. Among other things, you just can’t go out as much or stay up as late as you did BC (before children). And when it comes to traveling, most parents somehow feel obligated to forgo their dream trips or favorite vacation activities for more family-friendly destinations and accommodations that cater to kids.
This seems particularly true in the case of scuba divers, who too often take a complete sabbatical from the sport while bringing up their kids. After all, how are moms and dads supposed to go diving with young children in tow?
My wife and I found ourselves in this boat after our boys were born, and although I still managed to finagle my way back in the water every now and then, Carol and I rarely”‘buddied up” underwater, and we certainly weren’t planning vacations that revolved around diving like we once did.
Last spring at The Adventure Travel Expo in Washington, DC, I learned that compromising our love of scuba diving for the sake of our two young sons proved unnecessary. Not only was I enlightened to the fact that children as young as 10 years old can now become certified divers, I discovered a tour company that catered to families like ours: parents who want a guilt-free dive vacation while the kids get a chance to participate in their own underwater adventures. Kids Sea Camp (KSC) was started ten years ago by Margo Peyton, a travel agent and mother of two who wanted to bring together like-minded people who love the ocean, diving, beaches, snorkeling, and travel, and offer them the opportunity to share their passion as a family. After initially launching with just one trip and one other family, KSC now offers hundreds of kids the opportunity to learn about scuba each year. In honor of her dedication toward helping kids gain a greater appreciation for our oceans and creating family diving events around the world, Margo was recently inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.
It didn’t take a lot of persuasion to get Carol and the boys on board. After perusing their list of itineraries, which now include destinations like the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Belize, and the Galápagos, we decided on Palau, which I had been told by the famous underwater photographer David Doubilet has some of the best diving on earth. After figuring out exactly where it is (just north of Papua New Guinea and 500 miles east of the Philippines), we booked the weeklong trip even though it happened to overlap with Thanksgiving. Not to worry though, we were assured that a turkey feast with all the trimmings would be included.
One of the biggest draws to KSC is the fact that they can fully train and certify any child ten years or older during their excursions. Our original plan was to have the boys (who are now 11 and 13) go through the PADI certification program on the trip. After all, how cool would it be for them to become certified in waters teeming with marine life and practically unlimited visibility?
But we quickly reconsidered when we realized they’d be sitting in a classroom and would need to study up to pass the mandatory test — not exactly something they would want to do while on vacation. So instead, we certified them over the summer so they could join the other teen divers on the trip and take full advantage of the amazing reefs surrounding this Micronesian island. Our kids had a fantastic time experiencing their first ocean water dives with their fellow certified teen divers; however, I did take note of the fact that the kids who were getting certified during the trip didn’t miss a beat.
For children under ten, they also have plenty of programs that will also get the kids in the water. For the younger boys and girls, there’s SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) with lots of underwater pool adventures as well as fun educational activities. Children ages 8-10 can participate in the PADI SEAL Team Program, a course which includes time in the ocean waters where they learn the basics of diving. But regardless of how old they are, the whole point is not just to supervise them, but get them exposed to scuba diving and have them share the experience with their parents and other children their own age. With that as an expectation, we packed our bags and prepared for the 21 hours of flight time it would take to get us to Palau.