From packing bags to boarding a plane to seeing a new land for the first time: Some things that can be taken for granted or seen as a nuisance in adulthood can be the highlight of one’s childhood. Family holidays make for some of the fondest memories. Add scuba diving to the mix, and you have life-changing journeys that are celebrated by families for years.
One person who knows this firsthand is Rainer Jenss, president and founder of Family Travel Association. Jenss and his wife were avid dive travelers before their sons came along. They took a break from diving but not from traveling.
“I’m a firm believer that becoming a parent should not slow one down in terms of pursuing travel dreams,” says Jenss. “In fact, the options should actually broaden, since sharing the world with your children is one of the best gifts you can give them.”
When the boys were 8 and 11 years old, the Jenss family took a year to travel around the world, visiting 29 countries. However, they didn’t dive — thinking that both boys were too young.
After returning home, Jenss learned that 10-year-olds can earn PADI Junior Open Water Diver certifications. Soon both boys were certified, and the family boarded a plane headed for Palau on their first dive vacation together.
Now the boys prefer going to places where the family can dive — perhaps the blacktip sharks, manta rays and sea turtles they saw in Palau helped the cause. “While diving certainly gets them excited about all the marine life they see, it’s also taught them some very important new life skills: attention to detail, safety, team work and even self-confidence,” Jenss says. “What parent wouldn’t want that — especially with something their children love to do?”
Want to take your children on a dive holiday?
Here are a couple of suggestions to pave the way for a great trip:
Get the children trained before you go, or plan to spend enough time at the destination to allow them to comfortably complete their PADI Open Water Diver course. With PADI eLearning and Touch products, independent study is convenient and it prepares youngsters for the in-water training. Keep in mind that although certification isn’t possible for younger children, 8-year-olds can participate in PADI Seal Team and Bubblemaker programs and complete the PADI Skin Diver course.
Look for resorts and dive operations that cater to families. Many PADI Dive Centers and Resorts carry child-size gear — including cylinders — and offer guided dives to shallow sites with easy entries and exits. Accommodations with adjoining rooms and above-water child-friendly activities are a huge plus.