Creating Tomorrow’s Memories at Kids Sea Camp

Publisher, mother and now grandmother, reflects on generations

of her family growing up in Kids Sea Camp.

By Carolyn Pascal Guarino

I felt compelled to come up with a good reason for my grandson Austin, now 14, to be Ok with posing for yet another picture with his ‘mimi’.  So I explained that when I am 90, he will be 45, and I want to be able to look back on us diving and hiking and zip lining and horseback riding and whitewater rafting and marvel at how we did all that together in just one very special week at Kids Sea Camp, Costa Rica!

Over the past 14 years, I have experienced dozens of Kids Sea Camp adventures with my daughter Melissa, my husband, my brother and his family, various old and new friends and grandson Austin. He started traveling with me to Kids Sea Camps when he was 8 and joined the Seal Team program. He was PADI Jr. open water certified at 10, and received his advanced certification at 13.  It is no longer a matter of if we will make the time to do it again, but where will we go and what will we do next.

In Costa Rica, I was reminded that we are not alone in our special family tradition. We were surrounded by other families who also cracked the Kids Sea Camp Code for keeping their growing kids close. Not only are they learning to love diving and the underwater world, but they are absorbing so many life lessons in nature, protecting the environment, being safe and having fun at the very same time. They hang with kids from all over the world, on boats, underwater, at the pool, and at their very own group table at meal time. But at the end of an action-packed day, families retreat together, exhausted and happy, with electronic devices remaining firmly in the OFF position.

I used to think that our days were numbered with teens being way too cool to want to travel with us for very much longer. Now I realize that since they have literally grown up with these Kids Sea Camp memories forming an important part of who they are, the age barriers disappear and the experience prevails. One day I do believe that my daughter Melissa, now a summer counselor for Kids Sea Camp and a PADI Dive Master, will be planning my dive adventures rather than the other way around.

The younger kids are enrolled in PADI SASY and Seal Team programs that engage them with learning the important scuba skills they will enjoy for decades to come. Once they earn their PADI Jr. open water certification at around age 10, they follow-up with specialty certifications that involve everything from underwater photography to fish identification, navigation and an Advanced Open Water Certification.

Adult divers depart on the morning dives, confident that their kids are in great hands, and that they will reconnect with great stories to share.

Non-divers use the opportunity to do exactly as they please. At the El Ocotal Dive Resort in Costa Rica, that entailed earning a dip in the Cliffside pool after hiking up the stunning property from the beach. The natural beauty is intoxicating and the relaxed conversation always turns to what other Kids Sea Camp trips we have done and what’s next. I dodge the question on what my favorite one might be, as I love the tried and true destinations as much as I am tempted by the new ones that are added every year.

Year after year, Buddy Dive Resort in Bonaire continues to serve up a magic combination of top notch PADI dive training in the perfect environment for all age groups, with exceptionally easy boat and shore diving. The most comfortable, casual and welcoming atmosphere makes you want to return year after year.

Also in the tried and true category, Cobalt Coast and Dive Tech in Grand Cayman never ceases to deliver exceptional dive training, and legendary dive experiences with stingrays, turtles, tarpon and more. Here we experience the thrill of scooter diving and can explore other specialties such as deep diving and even free diving.

When it comes to the search for the world’s ultimate diving, Kids Sea Camp nailed it with offering Palau with Sam’s Dive Tours and Yap with Manta Ray Bay Resort. The expectations are very high when you ask American families to travel half way around the world for any reason at all, but between the amazing giant mantas, the diversity of wild shark experiences, incredible WW11 wreck dives all set among the incomparable rock islands, I promise it is well worth the journey.

Utila’s Laguna Beach Resort is definitely on my ‘Must Do’ list. Judging by the rave reviews of eagle rays, pods of dolphin, whale sharks, sea horses and an idealic beach setting, I can understand why this little piece of heaven has been added to the Kids Sea Camp schedule, but of course, I must judge for myself!

I have enjoyed the ‘undiscovered’ nature of St. Vincent and its exciting diving opportunities many times in the past, but not yet with Indigo Divers and Buccament Bay Resort, the Caribbean’s newest 5 star all inclusive hotel. The combination of ‘off the beaten path’ great diving and a luxury Kids Sea Camp experience is just too much to resist!

Limited space may still be available for just one more season in the legendary Galapagos Islands aboard the luxury Buddy dive live-aboard. This once in a lifetime trip makes accessing whale sharks, historic reptiles, birds and 300 species of fish a truly elegant adventure.

And there are other grand options being added in 2014. The famous walls of Little Cayman are now accessible from the charm and comfort of The Southern Cross Club. Long weekend getaways in the Florida Keys are also something that owners Margo and Tom Peyton have been working on for the coming season. Always committed to keeping it interesting for both repeat and newcomers alike, they deliver the kind of experiences they themselves want to enjoy with their own growing family.

Before Austin’s 15th birthday, I will have to make the tough decision on where it will be in 2014. But wherever we go, I know we will connect with the familiar from years past, with a new twist that ensures we will continue to ‘give them a week they will remember forever’. Visit familydivers.com or Call 803-419-2556.