My Palau Kids Sea Camp family trip journal

                                                                                                                                  Palau Kids Sea Camp

Jane Colon-Bonet’s Kids Sea camp Adventure, Palau  trip Journal

 (Friday and Saturday- crossing international date line)

Even though it was 10pm Palauan time we were greeted by some native girls and boys dressed in native attire.  They placed lays on us made of local flowers interlaced in palm fronds.   It was late night when we arrived at The Palau Royal Resort so I went straight to sleep.

 (Sunday)

I woke up this morning still adjusting to the humidity and heat (82 degrees F and sunny).  I went out onto the balcony and I saw a breathtaking view.  For the first time my Mom woke up early and actually wanted to stay awake.  I saw tall limestone cliffs where each inch was covered with lush, green growth dipping into crystal clear blue water.  There was no smog so I could see to the end of the Earth.

We headed down to an unusual breakfast buffet.  It had a combination of American, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese foods.

We rented some snorkeling gear at Sam’s Tours and headed out to the dock for our boat tour of the Islands and Jelly Lake.  It was amazing!  The boat ride took us through more lush green islands unspoiled by mankind sticking up like heads of broccoli.

Jellyfish Lake was incredible!  This was my first time ever touching a Jelly fish (that didn’t sting).  The Jelly fish in Jelly Lake have lost their ability to sting because they have no need to. Jelly Lake is an isolated saltwater lake with no predators to eat the jellies and no fish for the jelly fish to hunt. Now they rely on internal algae for food following the sun during the day, but at night they go down into a highly toxic (to humans) nitrogen rich layer of water to fertilize the algae.

Later that day we had a BBQ lunch, I made a new friend her name is Calliie she is 10 years old blonde and energetic, plus a certified diver like me.

We all loaded back up onto the boat and headed for a snorkel at Clam City.  The Clams there Mackenzie.  She is younger than me, 8, and in the Kids Sea Camp sassy program.

From Clam City we went back to the resort, explored a bit and then we got ready for our welcome dinner at the Sea Passion resort.

We knew the President of Palau was coming that evening so I put on my best dress.   We had an exuberant welcoming by native dancers and a native ritual of “Calling of the Canoe”.  The President of Palau gave a welcoming speech where he talked about the islands of Palau and how much he enjoyed having us there.  A week before our arrival he had declared to the United Nations that Palau was the first and only “Shark Sanctuary” in the world.  I got to shake his hand and take a  picture with him and all the kids in Kids Sea Camp.

 (Monday)

The second day we had the unusual breakfast again and headed over to Sam’s tours for our first dive.  There I was assigned to the “Whale Shark” boat where I met some of the other Junior Open Water Divers and our Dive guides.

Our first dive took us on a one hour boat trip winding through the Palauan islands to a location named German Channel.  We sighted a 6 foot Manta Ray, lots of corals, a porcupine fish and lots of sharks.  The German Channel is a cleaning station for all fish.  In this area fish come from all over the ocean to stop and allow cleaner wrasses which safely clean large predatory fish that would otherwise eat these smallish fish.  This makes the German Channel a safe and amazing place to view lots and lots of ocean creatures.

The food was OK but the lunch spot was awesome!  We went to private white sand beach with ocean on both sides and large coconut palms for shade on the edges of a dense jungle.  I went swimming and shell collecting with my friend Callie.

The second dive of the day was named “Big Drop Off”.  This dive is a wall drift dive.  Along with many varieties of fish we found a lizard fish and a Nudibranch among the corals and sea fans that covered the wall.

We returned to the resort and got ready for out next evening.  Dinner was served at an Indian restaurant named the Taj.  They served us a delicious dinner of different and interesting Indian foods.  That evening we had interesting Indian dancers about my age.  They did a bunch of dances changing clothes between each one.  Some of the dances had veils and some had little bells all over the outfits – like belly dancers.  They were quite impressive.

 (Tuesday)

Once again we did the breakfast and headed out to the German Channel.   We were met by a lot of rain coming sideways at us like bullets as we sped along in the boat. At German Channel we saw two humungous Manta Rays the size of cars at the cleaning stations, 28 sharks – all different kinds – white tip, black tip and reef – the size of surf boards, a Green Sea turtle and some very interesting sea stars.  An excellent and lucky dive!

We had another fabulous lunch – a chicken bento box.   This time we had lunch at Sam’s Tours because of the rain.

The second dive took us through rough surf to the Blue Corner dive site.  Since I was limited as a Junior Open Water diver to 40 feet of depth this dive was ok.  We saw one puffer fish, two warty sea slugs and some star fish amongst schools of trigger, butterfly, and bannerfish.

That evening we went to the Sea Passion for another exquisite dinner.  That day we had the Polynesian dancers.  There wasn’t much singing like before but there were some instruments like a hallowed out gourd made into a drum and two frayed sticks that sounded like rain and thunder when put together.

That night we went home (back to the hotel) and slept like rocks.

 (Wednesday)

That day I awoke to something very unusual – it was absolutely pouring rain.  We headed down to breakfast and tried to avoid the downpour.  After breakfast we headed down to Sam’s Tours hopped on the boat.  My guide, Alex, warned me that I still needed to put on sun screen even if the sun wasn’t visible.  Once again the rain was coming into the boat sideways as we sped over to German Channel.  That day I wore my wet suit before I even got into the water.

One thing about SCUBA it that if it rains it doesn’t matter because you are below water!  That day I saw schoolmasters, horse eyed jacks, squirrel fish – the usual hordes of schools and corals.  I didn’t see much in the channel unique or extra large this dive.

We had lunch at Sam’s today.  When I got to Sam’s Callie, two other boys, Jefferson and I played a volleyball/soccer game.  We got sopping wet but it was fun!  The rain and the air was mostly warm – about 81 degrees F.

That afternoon we headed out to Blue Corner – also there I didn’t see any unique fish – a large puffer but I was told that the adults down at 70 feet saw quite a few sharks.

The Teen Divers also had a painting lesson with a funny, artist that travels with Kids Sea Camp around the world teaching children how to paint.

After the painting with I did my first night dive.  It was amazing,  I saw several interesting Sea Cucumbers and fish.  All of them were hiding.

That night we had the Yap dancers.  Yap is a very small island just North East of Palau.  We were told we were going to girls dancing but instead they sent the young men with bo staffs.

We fell asleep just as soon as our heads hit the pillow

 (Thursday – Thanksgiving)

It was my first time celebrating Thanksgiving outside of America.  I was told that the locals don’t really celebrate the holiday besides going to church.  Catholic is the main religion.  They do celebrate Halloween there.

It was a sunny day as we headed out on the Silvertip boat to our morning German Channel dive.  There I saw one large Manta Ray going into the cleaning station and a couple of sharks.  I was surprised that the sharks were so large.

I must say it was quite a thrill to be diving with them.  My dive guide told me that in thousands of dives there have never been any issues with the sharks.  They are in the channel as part of their life styles and don’t bother with us divers.

After a fabulous lunch on the beach we went to Jake’s Sea Plane.  This dive spot is an interesting plane wreck with a lot of interesting coral.  It’s down about 40 feet so perfect for Junior Open Water Divers.  There were lots of Parrot fish.   Part of the planes right wing was missing.  I found it 20 feet away hallow and covered in corals.  This plane was a WWII plane – I don’t know who’s.

We did a third dive at 10 feet for 15 minutes where I saw a puffer fish and my first Mandarin Fish.  It was soooo cute.  A native of this area with large yellow lips, green to it’s forhead, blue chin, orange body and blue squarish circles all over it’s body.

We went to Sea Passion for dinner.  We had four turkeys baked four different ways and several other sides like corn bread, mashed potatoes, gravey, corn and cranberry sauce.  That evening we made a sand Manta Ray on the beach about the size of the real deal.  With my guide and new best friends’ boyfreind,  Paul, who made a sand shark with the boys.

 (Friday)

Our last day diving.    My first dive was German Channel and almost as if there was a going away send-off we saw large Manta Ray, Sharks and lots of interesting Fish.  After that dive we went back to Sam’s  for lunch and caught up with our parents.

We went to the Light House dive site where we dove as a family just the four of us with two guides.  This was my father’s 100th dive making him a century diver.  My mother got her century dive in a few days before.  It was a great dive with loads of fire corals, lizard fish and bubbles.

  (Saturday)

Today is my last day in Palau.  I am not pleased to be leaving.  I made a lot of friends in Palau.  I will miss my guide Alex and I wish I could stay.

I went to a beautiful waterfall with my dad.  I went under two waterfalls and jumped off small ledges into a pool of water along the path of the river.  There was lots of mud and one time I actually got stuck.  I think my Keens were a little less pink after that hike.

We went to the stone head garden.  Some looked happy, sad or angry.  There we had lunch.  The usual Bento boxes but this time we had some traditional Palauan food like candied tapioca and fresh coconut milk/meat.  After that we headed back to the hotel stopping at the capitol building.

When we got back we packed up our stuff, took a shower and headed over to Sam’s tours for the graduation ceremony. There was a whole cooked pig!  There was a ceremony for each of the groups: adults, teens, sassy/seals and junior open waters.  Then there was the poem contest.  The poem that my mom and I worked on the evening before got first place (out of like 20 poems).  We won a underwater digital camera.

We then watched the video made my Nick Martirano, who followed us around all week, said our last goodbyes and headed for the airport.  I practically cried all the way there I was so sad to leave.

We arrived at the airport for our treacherous flights to Colorado.  I slept most of the way through it.  The odd part about it was that it started out Saturday, then it was Sunday, then it was Saturday again and finally we got home on Sunday morning at 5am.

Final thoughts

I think Palau is one of the best places for families to go in the entire world.  Kids Sea Camp is a great place to meet new people and learn about the different cultures of the world.

I also think it is one of the best places to go diving.  Magnificent Mantas and Sharks.  Try to go there at least once in your lifetime.  Thank you  Margo Peyton and Kids Sea Camp!

 

 

 

The real reason Kids Sea Camp is going to Fiji

Kids Sea Camp in Fiji is it really about the diving?

The news is out and the interest and bookings are mounting about the Fiji trip in the summer of 2015. But what is the real story of Why Kids Sea Camp is coming back to this jewel of an island in the South Pacific.

Many will say it’s the diving. Many would be right, Margo can’t wait to see the huge colorful coral, tons of critters and (this is code) the expected numerous large animal encounters. Margo loves diving in Fiji, with the health and wealth of the diversity of the ocean inhabitants it can make each dive memorable.

So many may say it’s the service of the local islanders that make you feel as it the whole island is your new home. If you have not experienced the friendly, loving but direct, professional yet humble service provided by the islanders it is hard to describe. It is the best I have ever experienced in the world.

We have friends that will come for the surfing. Many families, in fact, will book as one spouse will dive all day and the other will surf the entire time. A surf vacation wrapped in a dive vacation that really is a surf vacation. So for many it will be the surfing.

But for all the families that years ago rarely saw me on a dive boat in Fiji. For all the families that know I have a fondness for Kava. Those families and there have been many. They would say Tom is traveling halfway around the world for the music. Those families would be correct. Fiji is home to some to the most talented musicians in the world. Music is a normal and important part of the Fijian culture, in fact, I believe they all sing like most people breath — everyday in order to survive.

So I found a vintage Fiji video from the, “Nights around the Kava bowl” sessions. The video is a little rough, but it puts me back in my “Fiji time” frame of mind.

Be warned I will find more of this jam sessions “Nights around the Kava bowl” and there will be a monthly post of my Fijian music love story.

 

 

 

 

Be part of the Manta Movie 2014

The “Manta Movie” trailer from Yap in 2013.

Seeing a Manta Ray in Yap is common place at Manta Ray Dive resort.

Seeing a Manta Ray in Yap is common place at Manta Ray Dive resort.

Last year at Manta Ray Bay Resort in Yap our Kids Sea Camp families saw Mantas everyday. That’s right everyday. Bill Acker, the owner of Manta Ray Bay Resort, now in the diver’s Hall of Fame leads Yap Divers and has created some of the most memorable diving at any of our weeks.

I put together this little “iMovie” based on one dive in Yap from Margo’s SeaLife DC1400. The diving in Yap and Palau is some of the best in the world. So these large encounters are not usually at all, when your on a Kids Sea Camp week.

If you have any footage you want to share post it on our “Kids Sea Camp” youtube channel called Margo Kids Sea Camp.

How safe is scuba diving?

Jerry Seinfeld is wrong. Scuba diving is safe.

This morning as I look for inspiration to write I was listening to Seinfeld having fun with our sport. Jerry is one funny man. But he is completely wrong about diving, which may be one of the safest thing to do on the planet.

Sharks

Scuba diving versus other human activities 

Scuba diving death rate: 1 out of every 211,864 dives ends in death, according to DAN (2010 workshop report). Since I’m looking at around 600 dives in my scuba career, I believe I’ll keep diving. Margo on the other hand is a lot closer at 4,950 dives in her scuba life, so she needs to start worrying about her diving death, maybe two lifetimes from now.

In fact, a DAN study looking at DCS (Decompression sickness) states that from 1998 to 2004, or 105,135 dives, 95% were “uneventful”. And out of that 5% the most common problem, 2.7% was equalization, then buoyancy at 0.9%. The face mask was the next issue at 0.69% with dive computer issues dragging in last at 0.4%. Diving seems pretty darn safe.

Shark accidents: Just because its fun to talk about sharks and diving and at one time one of my biggest fears, sharks will kill me. It simple not true. Since (2000-2010) there were on average 65 shark attacks worldwide a year. Only 5 of those attacks, ever ended in a death. That number includes many of our human activities playing in the ocean; scuba diving, surfing, swimming etc. So sharks are not the killing machines we believe (Numerous national and international reports).

Human accidents: As far as the sharks that are reading this blog, well our ” finned friends” need to stay away from us. Sharks vs. humans — humans win, we kill about 100 million sharks a year. Most of it due to “finning”.

Car accidents: I would advise not to get in your car today. 1 out of every 5,555 registered drivers in U.S. died in some of sort car accident each year (Census 2008).

Birth: This is not the stat of the week at all, but giving birth can be risky business. 1 out of every 7,692 women die due to complications in childbirth (NCHS).

Jumping out of an airplane: First if your doing it, God Bless you. Margo has done it and she says she still misses skydiving. But ain’t no way I’m jumping out of perfectly good airplane. Anyway the rate is not as bad as I thought. 1 out of every 116,666 skydives end in death. So I guess, keep “free falling”, without me. (United States Parachuting Association)

Running: Being healthy can be dangerous to your health. 1 out of every 126,626 marathon runners died of sudden cardiac arrest during a run (1975-2003, NSC).

Falling out of bed: To put all this in a better light, falling out of bed is a real killer. In any single year 1600 or so people will die by falling out of their beds this year.

So it seems that being under the water is safer than our normal daily life. All the more reason to jump on a plane and head to a Kids Sea Camp week and go diving.

Being with Margo has shown me that “fear” is the real killer in life. And more than anything is that fear is what keeps us from doing the thing we love to do.

So, what do all these numbers and odds mean to me is, well— we really live is a fairly safe world. And even as we do all these fun and adventurous activities more than likely we are all going to live a long and health life.

And if we keep living the “Kids Sea Camp” life it will be full of great stories to tell that will live long after we’re dead.

 

 

Forms

So have you finalized your Kids Sea Camp forms?

Margo and I know the forms take a lot of time. We are working on making the whole sign-up for one of our weeks a lot easier. But in the meantime, the first “real” Kids Sea Camp week is Utila in early June, so we need all those time consuming forms. Time is running out.

I will say, I want to create more of a KSC membership so once you join KSC or FDA we have all your information already to go. The information would have to be updated yearly; such as age, street address (if it changes), and sort of status at all. But at least you would only have to sign-in, change what is need, then Hit save and we have it all ready to go. No PDF’s. No pen to paper at all.

I would love to hear your ideas or response to this little blog. It is time to get those forms in. And it’s our time to change how we process them to make it easier for you to enjoy your vacations with Family Dive Adventures.

Please email us with all thoughts, ideas or concerns about a membership?

Contact Form

We would love to hear from you! Please fill out this form and we will get in touch with you shortly.

 

Thank You, Kids Sea Camp!

Hello Margo.

I just wanted to let you know what a fabulous time we had in Grand Cayman.  THANK YOU!!!

My daughter did indeed get certified (shown on the right in the pic of the kids) and was able to join us for the last day of diving.  She was so proud to have finally done it, she told everyone she came across that she had gotten certified.

My son and I got in 12 dives, including a night dive that gave us a glimpse of not one, but TWO octopi!  The Sting Rays were amazing, and even though we enjoyed seeing turtles more on our dives than at the farm ( I followed this turtle up from 20 feet and just happened to have our GoPro in hand), the Turtle Farm was enjoyable too.

Emma was willing to adapt to our needs and was very professional in her approach, which I was more than grateful for.  I trusted everyone at Divetech with our safety as well as our adventures.  On top of all of this, the accommodations, staff and food at Cobalt Coast were so good my children have asked me to make it an annual event!

Thank you again for your patients with my scattered approach to this trip.  It truly was a family dive adventure we will not forget.

All the best,

Kym Lee

Ear clearing techniques for divers

Ear clearing troubles are the No. 1 reason most kids stop diving and adults end a dive.

But there are a few tricks and techniques, that will help most divers equalize easier.

In diving, the Valsalva maneuver is often used on descent to equalize the pressure in the middle ear to the ambient pressure. Performed properly — pinching your nose shut while exhaling — most divers can descend without any problems. But for some divers, the technique doesn’t help.

You should never continue with a descent if you are experiencing ear pain. But before you give up on a dive — or diving alltogether — try a few of these ear clearing techniques and suggestions.

Listen you should here a “click or pop.” Before you even board the boat, make sure that when you swallow you hear a “click or pop” in both ears. This tells you both Eustachian tubes are opening.

Start early. Several hours before the dive, begin gently equalizing your ears every few minutes. Some people can swallow or chew gum to clear ears; this seems to help because it makes you swallow often.  I don’t recommend chewing gum while diving as you may swallow and choke.

Equalize at the surface. “Pre-pressurizing” at the surface helps most divers get past the critical first few feet of descent. It may also inflate your Eustachian tubes so they are slightly bigger. Not all medical authorities recommend this, however. The lesson here is to pre-pressurize only if it seems to help you, and to pressurize gently.

Descend feet first. Studies have shown a Valsalva maneuver requires 50 percent more force when you’re in a head-down position than head-up.

Look up. Extending your neck and wiggling your jaw tends to open your Eustachian tubes.

Use a descent line. Pulling yourself down slowly on an anchor or mooring line helps control your descent rate more slowly and accurately. A line also helps you stop your descent quickly if you feel pressure.  Don’t rush just because others are faster. If you know you have trouble, let your buddy know and or the divemaster, so that someone is waiting with you.  If on a recreational dive boat, the divemaster could give you a little more time by getting in first.

Stay ahead. Equalize often, trying to maintain a slight positive pressure in your middle ears. Don’t wait until you feel pressure or pain.

Stop if it hurts. Your Eustachian tubes are probably locked shut by pressure differential. Ascend a few feet and try equalizing again.

Avoid milk. Some foods, including milk, can increase your mucus production.

Avoid tobacco and alcohol. Both tobacco smoke and alcohol irritate your mucus membranes, promoting more mucus that can block your Eustachian tubes.

Keep your mask clear. Water up your nose can irritate your mucus membranes, which then produce more of the stuff that clogs.

If you get congested during the dive, and have trouble ascending,  stop and try to clear and ascend slowly, use the anchor line if you need to have more control.  Don’t dive with a cold or conjestion.

Alternative Clearing Techniques

There are problems with the traditional Valsalva maneuver: It may not work if the tubes are already locked by a pressure differential, and it’s all too easy to blow hard enough to damage something. Divers who experience difficulty equalizing may find it helpful to master some alternative techniques.

Toynbee Maneuver. With your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your Eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.

Lowry Technique. A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee: while closing your nostrils, blow and swallow at the same time.

Edmonds Technique. While tensing the soft palate and throat muscles and pushing the jaw forward and down, do a Valsalva maneuver.

Frenzel Maneuver. Close your nostrils, and close the back of your throat as if straining to lift a weight. Then make the sound of the letter “K.” This forces the back of your tongue upwards, compressing air against the openings of your Eustachian tubes.

Voluntary Tubal Opening. Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn. These muscles pull the Eustachian tubes open. This requires a lot of practice, but some divers can learn to control those muscles and hold their tubes open for continuous equalization.

Kids Sea Camp returning to Fiji

Bula again! Kids Sea Camp back in FIJI for 2015

Fiji

 

Many of our Kids Sea Camp families have long asked us to head back to Fiji. Finally after a four year absence, Margo and I will be bringing families to one of our favorite islands — Fiji.  We have found the perfect resort for KSC at Beqa Lagoon Island Resort in the South Pacific.

And for the first time ever we are offering a true two week vacation in Fiji. The old Fiji trips only lasted ten days with two full days of traveling. You now have the option to stay from July 25th to August 8th if you wish. We are planning to be there the entire two weeks. There are two individual dive trips: July 25th to August 1st and August 1st to August 8th.

The diving is amazing. The food will be wonderful. If you want to surf bring the board. Need to relax,  Beqa Lagoon resort has a Spa. You need to have it feel like home? — the service from the local Fijians will make you feel like you are at home on your very own island.

Truly, the nature of a Fiji vacation is different from the other Kids Sea Camp weeks. Our past trips to Fiji have created deep connections with our families and the local Fijians. Many still communicate to this day. It is one of the few trips where families drop a couple tears when they leave this island paradise.

The trips will be full of the wonderful culture and traditions of the local Fijians. The resort employes over 75 of local staff, many who have been with the resort since its opening. The bond that forms with the locals makes Fiji one of the warmest and friendliest places in the world.

Which is perfect of Kids Sea Camp since we were just award one of the most family friendliest dive adventures in the world by Scuba Diving magazine.

Bula! Let’s go Dive

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Kids Sea Camp wins reader’s choice award

Reader’s say Kids Sea Camp one of the most family-friendly diving worldwide.

According to Scuba Diving magazine Kids Sea Camp weeks are rated as one of the world’s most family friendly dive experiences in 2014. The award is the first of it’s kind for Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures.

“We are deeply honored that our families took the time to show their support of our company. ” Tom Peyton said after the award was given to Margo and Tom at BTS Dive show in New Jersey this weekend.

” This “Reader’s Choice” award is truly a reflection of the quality of service the resorts and dive shops provide. And it goes without saying that what really makes our weeks so friendly are the wonderful families that have been coming to our weeks for over a decade now,” added Tom Peyton, Vice President of Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures.

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