Holly Wakely: They think I’m fearless

Diving with whales sharks is so amazing

By Holly Wakely, age 14, Traveling with KSC has become my favorite family holiday and it’s making me fearless. I was 4 years old when I attended my first Kids Sea Camp (KSC), my brother, Zebedee, was 5. My parents discovered KSC in Sport Diver magazine reading a story just like this.

My mom and dad are both keen divers and were hoping my brother and I would like diving as well. Luckily for them, we absolutely love it, and diving is a regular part of our family lifestyle. KSC makes sure all programs and diving are safe, fun and interactive for our entire family. 

Each year, our family picks 1 or 2 different trips to attend. I have been to Curacao, Utila, Roatan, St. Lucia, Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Dominica, Fiji, Yap, Palau and the Philippines for a grand total of 24 dive weeks with KSC.

I have worked my way through the PADI certifications from SASY, Seal Team, and JOW and currently both Zebedee and I have become PADI Jr. Master Scuba Divers, all through KSC.

I feel that snorkeling is rarely as interesting as diving, but snorkeling with the whale sharks of Oslob with Sea Explorers last summer in the Philippines was so remarkable and far more exciting than diving.

The sharks came so close that I had to keep moving out of their way because they would not move out of mine. Zeb shouted, “Margo, this is the best day of my life!” I think we all agreed.

Not all people feel about diving like I do, some are scared. The hardest part of overcoming fear is having the courage to jump in. Once you learn the facts about marine animals and facing fears, you can really enjoy diving and snorkeling in the ocean.

Last year in Roatan, my buddy Abby, who was 11, was too afraid to do her mask removal skill. Being a fellow kid diver, I demonstrated for her how easy it was and told her that everything would be “Ok”. She felt so much better. With our instructor Woody Tinsley, she then jumped in and completed the skill perfectly. I was so happy to help because we had a great time diving together all week.  That experience opened my eyes to wanting to help other kids with their fears about diving.

Many kids fear sharks because they don’t know enough about them. Most sharks are actually rare to see on a dive. I am not afraid of sharks and look forward to seeing them.

One of my greatest moments was getting to be in the water for Abby’s first shark.  Because I was so excited to see one, she was keen to see a shark too. Luckily for her, we got to see a nurse shark diving in Roatan. I reflected on the first day she dove with me when she was terrified of everything underwater. It was very inspiring to experience and influence that kind of change in Abby as she conquered her fears.

That experience makes me want to become a PADI divemaster. I want to be able to help more people face their fears. I would love to encourage other kids to try scuba diving and explore the ocean. I want to educate people about the underwater world so that they won’t be afraid.

Last summer, my family took us back to Palau, where Zeb got certified. I was 9 years old then and a PADI Seal Team diver. We all got to dive, see dolphins sharks, manta, giant clams and nautilus and I even snorkeled Jelly Fish Lake. It was so superb that I wanted to go back again and experience it as a diver, and it was 10 times better than I expected! The manta and sharks showed up, as did everything else.

Diving is a passion and that means if you want to have a rare opportunity to dive with Thresher sharks like I did in Malapascua, then waking up at 4 a.m. was the time to go diving.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled about 4 a.m., but watching Threshers just above my head at sunrise was so worth it! If you don’t know what a Thresher shark is, look it up.  Their tail is the same length as their body and they use that huge tail to stun the fish they eat. 

KSC has given me tons of unforgettable experiences. When I tell my friends that I dive with whale sharks and snorkel right next to them, they think I’m fearless. They can’t believe how large whale sharks are or that they don’t have teeth. 

Going to KSC introduces great career possibilities for young divers too. For example, my brother Zeb is very interested in photography. KSC gives away SeaLife underwater cameras and helps nurture and encourage those with a passion for underwater photography. Zebedee’s picture of a ghost pipefish from our Philippines trip won the RSPCA Photographer of the Year award. 

Meeting kids from around the world is also a special part of the trips. In the Philippines, a group of children would greet us each morning before and after our dives. We talked with them, took pictures with them and just had fun together. We looked forward to seeing each other daily. We played basketball and visited villages and schools. On our final day, the children ran beside our van, crying and waving goodbye. I  loved the father-daughter trip we took to Dominica for spring break, and can’t wait for the Galapagos and Cayman Brac this summer.

Thank you, Margo; Tom and the KSC crew, for some of the most memorable experiences of my life. I also thank the staff at the dive resorts we have visited for keeping us safe and being so much fun.