A passion for sharks and photography

FDA: Family Dive Adventures (not to be confused with the Food and Drug Administration) and KSC: Kids Sea Camp

I just don’t know where to begin. Kids Sea Camp is just so awesome to even attempt to write about. But here you are now, reading my excited mess of ideas and thoughts on what diving means to me, so I’ll give it a go (no promises though.

I should probably start with the exciting stuff, like where I backward roll into a school of 50 plus sharks in Yap (the country, not the small annoying noise made by dogs) or when I’m charging at top speed through the current of Ulong Channel in Palau, but instead, I’ll start at the beginning.

Photography, Kids and diving, Kids Sea CampAt the age of five, I joined my first KSC. My parents signed me up in the PADI group known as SASY. Little kids get to put on scuba gear but substitute the BCD for a life jacket, so we float on the surface while breathing through a regulator. This was my first incredible experience with scuba diving.

Since I was already a water baby by six months and swimming by one, I thought KSC was created just for me. Quickly making my way through the dive ranks, I again returned to KSC in Roatan for Seal Team. This was a landmark in my interest for scuba diving.

Seal Team is a program for eight- and nine-year-old kids to experience diving in the confined water. However, KSC Seals can dive in the ocean. I just fell in love with diving.

On my 10th birthday, my mom and dad chose Yap and Palau for our family adventure, and that’s where the real story begins. The experiences I had in Yap and Palau were likely some of the best I thought I would ever have.  Completing my PADI Jr. Open Water certification with manta rays overhead was surely one of the greatest moments of my life.

The feeling I had when I was diving with 15-foot mantas and some 50 plus reef sharks daily was phenomenal, too amazing to fully describe. It’s funny, everyone said it was all downhill from there. I guess they didn’t know Margo and Tom Peyton or Kids Sea Camp. Since then, I have dove with and learned about tiger sharks and bull sharks with the shark school at KSC Fiji. I traveled with my family to the Philippines, where I dove with rare thresher sharks and had the second best day of my life diving in Oslob with whale sharks. The memories created at KSC are outstanding. The friends I have made are the best friends in my life. This is also where I properly learned photography. The support from Margo and my family is the reason I have stuck with it.

Margo hired me to be the photo pro for the Philippines 2016 trip, and I photographed the entire 17-day journey above and below. You can see for yourself my passion for photography in the Philippines photo gallery on the KSC website. I can safely say these experiences have significantly contributed to who I am today.

At the age of 10, after returning home from Palau, I was so passionate about saving sharks (learning all about the Palau shark sanctuary) that I set up a small organization called Save our Sharks Bermuda. I collected over 1,000 signatures and met with the minister for the environment to discuss and plan how best to protect our sharks. Bermuda then signed the International Agreement on the Conservation of Pelagic Species. I was so totally delighted about this because I had made an impact on Bermuda and the conservation of the sea.

Having the privilege to dive from a young age is exceptional. Through diving with KSC over the years, I have climbed the PADI ranks from SASY, Seal Team, Jr. Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue and Master Scuba Diver with more than 150 dives and nine specialties. 

This feels too good to describe.  Having the family dive adventures that Margo and Tom create, and growing through all the PADI ranks like my dad a PADI instructor too, is what I love the most. I have made lifelong friends around the world and have been encouraged by my family in a way I could never repay.

So thank you, Mom, Dad, and Holly.

Margo created the best organization that I have ever known. She has influenced me, trusted me and helped me in every aspect of my life. She and dad have guided me through diving safely with each step. I am even more grateful for my family finding Margo; she is an inspiring instructor with her focus 100% on safety first. She is the heart of Kids Sea Camp!

This year, we are heading to The Galapagos and Cayman Brac KSC weeks so we can all dive together with the families we have met around the world.

By Zebedee Wakely, age 16,  See more images: instagram.com/zebwakely