Monday, April 15, 2024

Kids in Action scuba diving camp certifies 18 students and two public officers

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The annual summer scuba diving program ‘Kids in Action’ came to an end over the weekend, certifying 18 children and two health officers. The two-week program concluded on Sunday, July 25th, with a beach clean-up and a fun dive at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The summer camp, which paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also included fly fishing lessons and reef ecology.

The program is organized by the San Pedro Tour Guide Association and the San Pedro Tour Operators Association. One of the organizers and instructors, Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie, explained that they reached out to schools informing them of the opportunity for students to learn how to dive. The children/students were chosen by the respective schools based on academics. Other schools choose the participants based on conduct as well. The program aims to pass down skills from professionals to the younger generation of divers. The camp also allows public servants, like police and other government departments, to join the program.

During the training, instructors are assigned to the participants. They are walked through the steps to become certified Open Water divers. Renowned angler Omar Arceo instructed students who took part in the fly-fishing part of the camp. Fly fishing is a very lucrative tourism industry within Belize. According to Arceo, introducing young children to this practice is very important not only for the industry but also to teach the importance of the resources supporting this fishing method that attracts thousands of anglers worldwide. Students learn about the importance of protecting fish species such as the bonefish, permit, and tarpon, the pillars of fly fishing. Without these fish, fly fish would not exist.

After intense theoretical and practical classes about diving, fly fishing, and marine conservation, the students were ready for graduation. At 8AM on Sunday, they engaged in a beach clean-up from central park to the Boca del Rio beach park. According to Leslie, this activity showed the new divers and fly fishers the need to keep the fragile marine environment free of harmful garbage such as plastic.

At 1PM, instructors and some successful participants met at Ramon’s Village Dive Shop and left for an afternoon of diving at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. They once again applied what they had learned over the past weeks and swam with turtles, hundreds of fishes, stingrays, and nurse sharks.

Organizers thanked all participants and tour guides for making this year’s camp another successful one. The new divers are expected to stay active and volunteer in future programs with local institutions advocating for conserving the marine environment surrounding the island.

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