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Scuba Diving Programs for Kids

A St. Croix dive shop offers scuba programs especially geared toward kids to help them learn about the wonders of the deep blue Caribbean Sea.

 

Children often want to mimic their parents. As an avid scuba diver, my children started asking me about diving not long after learning how to swim. Now, at the ages of almost 10, 7 and 6, there are scuba programs to get each of them started. Here are the ins and outs of immersing little ones in the magnificent undersea world according to scuba instructors at Cane Bay Dive Shop, the largest scuba diving operation on St. Croix, which operates seasonal children’s programs and summer kids camps.

Simulated Scuba for Ages 6 and Up

Simulated scuba diving experiences are offered to children as young as 6 years old through a program called Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth (SASY). As part of the program, kids have a brief poolside lesson on diving after which they don pint-sized scuba equipment. They then get to test their new skills in a pool, but there’s one big caveat—children are not permitted to submerge in the water. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have lots of fun. Children get excited just breathing through the regulator (air source) and making noises like ducks.

Inevitably, however, kids want to submerge, but their buoyancy compensator vests, or BCs, are specially designed with flotation devices to prevent just that. “They can kick all they want and [they] are not going to get down [in the water],” says Tanja Schmidt, an instructor with Cane Bay Dive Shop. Instead, children are taught simple scuba skills on the water’s surface. such as placing the regulator in and out of their mouth and clearing it of water. They can have fun swimming on the surface with masks in the water and regulators in place.

The SASY experience lasts about an hour and costs $60 per child. The program whets the appetite of young children, many of whom begin counting down the years until they turn 8, at which point they can join the next program, Bubble Makers, where they can finally go underwater.

Bubble Makers for Ages 8 and Older

Children who are 8 years of age or older can participate in the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Bubble Makers program which allows them to scuba dive in a pool or shallow body of water. There’s just one problem: blue lips. According to Schmidt, “Once they’re in and going, they don’t ever want to get out,” even if that means turning blue from the cold water.

In Bubble Makers, children are introduced to scuba fundamentals like learning about pressure changes that are felt in the ears as they submerge. Children also learn the same important skills taught in adult programs, like recovering a regulator should it fall into the water or clearing a partially flooded mask. From there, it’s show time as children dive into the water to retrieve submerged toys and tools, just like trained scuba divers—blue lips and all. The program lasts about 90 minutes and costs $60 per child.

Seal Team Scuba Camp

The Seal Teal Scuba Camp is a PADI pool-based summer camp for children between the ages of 8 and 14 looking for action-packed fun with exciting scuba missions. Seal Team camp involves a week of organized programs that teach children how to develop underwater skills while learning about the aquatic environment.

There are five initial missions as part of the camp that include tasks all scuba divers must learn, such as reading air gauges, underwater hand signals, shallow water entry and much more. Many of these skills are taught to the children using various types of games. Buoyancy control, for example, may be learned by diving through hula hoops underwater. In addition, there are Seal Team videos and workbooks.

When the first five missions are completed, the participants earn a Seal Team card, after which the children are encouraged to undertake more scuba challenges. These following missions vary but can range from snorkel blasting wars (snorkel blasting is a skill needed for diving), underwater search and recovery of “stolen” items, and even missions to infiltrate submerged wrecks—which are constructed by the students themselves with PVC pipes. The total cost for the camp is $295, but students can apply their experience for credit toward their scuba diving certification if submitted within 12 months of the last mission.

Close Encounters of the Marine Kind

What do all these programs lead to? Fun, confidence and an appreciation for the oceans that encompass 70 percent of our earth. Very likely the programs will lead to Junior Open Water Certifications (price $325), which allow children 10 and up to dive in the ocean waters to a maximum of 40 feet when accompanied by a parent, guardian or divemaster. Samantha Barnett, another instructor at Cane Bay Dive Shop, recently helped a group of youths earn their certifications. On their very first dive, a turtle swam with the group the whole time, even pulling on someone’s hair. That’s what diving is all about—close encounters of the marine kind!  

How to Participate

SASY and Bubble Makers experiences can be arranged at any of the major resorts on St. Croix. Seal Team camp is typically offered two weeks each summer, while Junior Open Water Certifications are conducted year-round, both out of Cane Bay.

Contact Cane Bay Dive Shop at 800-338-3843 or www.canebayscuba.com.

 

Read more in Best U.S. Virgin Islands Dive Sites.


Destinations: U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Croix

Themes: Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Scuba Diving


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