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Is Diving for the Whole Family?

As a super keen scuba diver and traveller, and mother to two energetic girls, (Bonita 13 and Sirena 11), I have had plenty of moments where I have had to question my priorities and my family values and weigh up if I can keep doing what I love, and whether there is a way to share that with my family.

When I met my husband Stu, he was already a diver, although with less dives under his belt than me and certainly way less enthusiastic about diving.  This actually proved to be a very useful attribute longer term as he understood my addiction but didn’t feel the need to satiate his thirst for diving like I did.  In the early days pre-children we would dive together from time to time in Spain (he is definitely a warm water afficionado).  I was already a PADI Divemaster and grasped any opportunity to be underwater, and Stu quickly learned how important diving was to me and was gracious in letting me submerge whenever the need took me!

Pregnancy was a tough time for me – not being able to dive was really tricky, and going on holiday to lovely destinations where normally I’d have had my dive bag in tow and been straight onto the reef, suddenly became dull boring weeks to endue lying on a sunbed!  I managed to fill my time by writing a Haynes manual (a story for another time!) and spent a disproportionate amount of time in swimming pools to try and stop my gills from drying out!   I got both my girls into a pool as quickly as I could (around 6 weeks old I seem to remember) and I’m delighted that my attempts to turn them into fish paid off.

After having our second daughter, we decided to move to Spain for a couple of years so that the girls could pick up a second language the easy way.  I very quickly squeezed my way into a local dive centre, helping with their English language website and social media, and working as a Divemaster.  Stu was commuting back and forth to the UK, but despite being a ‘single parent’ in Spain a lot of the time, the Spanish childcare system made it very easy to

continue working and I got to dive most days.  I do remember one day running late on the way back from the Marina with a minibus full of customers and having to dump them with the team at the dive centre and peg it down the road, still in my wetsuit and soggy boots, to stand at the school gates to collect Bonnie from school at 2pm.  The Spanish mums had already thought I was a little odd, living predominantly alone in a foreign country with two little blonde girls who spoke Spanish with a quirky local regionalised accent!  My appearance in head to toe tight black neoprene, when the temperature was around 28 degrees, certainly cemented their opinion of me – although I did manage to persuade a few of them to try diving as a result, as I squelched off in my wetsuit boots with an absolutely mortified daughter next to me!

After moving back to the UK and taking on a dive centre here, I was very lucky that diving was work, meaning it was much easier to obtain a pass to travel and continue indulging my passion.  Stu and I also agreed it was a very positive image to show the girls that any career path is possible and that being happy in what you do is crucially important. When the girls were really young, they both took the PADI Aware Course (and have become passionate advocates for the Ocean ever since!) and during COVID on World Ocean Day they did the Coral Reef Conservation and Shark Awareness courses too.  Bonnie did a cake sale at brownies and raised tonnes of money for the Marine Conservation Society and Siri arranged for us to come and talk to her school about the problem of plastics and fired up a term-long project on the subject.  Of course, as soon as each in turn was old enough they did the PADI Bubble Maker experience in the pool, and then PADI Seal Team and Master Seal team – patiently biding our time until they turned 10 and could do their PADI Junior Open Water Course.

Poor Bonnie definitely got the short straw here compared to her sister – she did all her training in the UK, and whilst Vobster was glorious, warm and had great visibility, it still didn’t compare to Siri’s open water dives.  She had done the referral option (classroom and pool in the UK) and we organised an ambitious trip to the Red Sea where she completed her course surround by clown fish, blue spotted rays and shards of sunlight piercing through the azure blue water.  Bonnie did her Junior Advanced course while we were there too, and they both did some PADI Specialties.   I was a little anxious beforehand about taking the girls to Egypt on a diving holiday but it was incredible.  The super-friendly team at Roots really took care of us all – we’d dive in the mornings together as a family, then chill by the pool in the afternoon (Mummy sometimes sneaking off for an extra dive or two!).  We also arranged a day trip to the Valley of the Kings in a vain attempt to avoid the school fining us for taking them out during term time!  Despite getting fined, both girls got featured in their respective school magazines for their underwater achievements and emphasis on how much they had learned:  physics, physiology, geography, history, Arabic, marine biology, meterology, tides, currents, fish identification – and the long-lost art of lazing around reading a book.  I have absolutely no regrets about our decision to take them on this trip and we will definitely be doing it again (sorry schools!).

We regularly go back to Spain as a family, to the gorgeous coastal town of La Herradura on the Costa Tropical, where we used to live.  It’s the perfect place for a family diving holiday as there is so much to do top side for those who may not want to dive as regularly, or at all.  Diving also tends to happen in the morning, with a two-tank boat dive heading out (surface interval on the rhib between dives) and getting you back and ready to re-join the family for a lazy sunny lunch around 1.30/2pm.  In summer there are some amazing kids camps and daily activities on the beach, along with the water park, play park, town square (which turns into a huge buzzing school playground around 10pm!) and scores of friendly bars and restaurants who welcome children with open arms any time of the day or night.  It’s also a stone’s throw from the stunning caves of Nerja, the fascinating Almunecar museum and the stunning Alhambra Palace in Granada.  Spain truly has a child-friendly culture and I remember the early days of living there, having dropped Bonnie to school, taking a screaming 8-month-old Siri who had hardly slept, to a café so I could grab a coffee and maintain some degree of sanity.  A homely Spanish grandmother came over to me and without saying a word just picked Siri up and took her off to sit with her and the other local ladies, eventually managing to stop her crying and get her to sleep.  I fell apart at this simple act of kindness that allowed an exhausted mother to drink a hot coffee for the first time in months, and I simultaneously fell in love even more with this very special little town and it’s very special people.

A UK trip which works really well as a family is Porthkerris – where we camp as a group on the beach and explore the gorgeous manacles reef from easy boat dives, or conduct shore dives any time of the day or night.  Both my girls loved diving here among the kelp, keeping a keen eye out for seals, star fish, cuttlefish and inquisitive wrasse.  In summer the water is definitely warm enough for wetsuit diving, and we even bring the family dog Enzie to help out with surface support and gather up any rogue sausages that may have rolled off the beach BBQ!

I honestly believe diving is for the whole family.  Like anything when you have kids, a little more forethought and organisation will be required to co-ordinate the logistics, and the spontaneous days of just heading out of the door without thinking are certainly (temporarily) a thing of the past.  However, all of that will fade into complete insignificance as you slide beneath the surface and drift alongside a stunning reef, holding the tiny hand of your very own excited little person, and watching the wonderment in their eyes as they explore this extraordinary world.  Prepare your self too for the irritation of watching them dive with ridiculously proficient trim and buoyancy and ludicrously good air consumption by about dive 5 or 6!!!

We regularly organise group or individual family trips to Porthkerris, Egypt and Spain, to the locations I’ve mentioned, so please do ask for more details if you’re interested in exploring with your family.

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