“Underwater, No One Can Hear You Scream!”
This slogan could serve as a “Win or Loss“ in the parent/child diving relationship.
As a scuba diver myself, there aren’t many things more exciting and satisfying than sharing the underwater world with my child. Yet, planning a dive vacation or excursion with kids means considering their depth limitations, stamina and suitability of the environment.
Depending on their age and certification level, they may not be able to dive past 60 feet. They also may not want to stay out on the water all or half of the day.
Therefore, you should look for destinations that offer other activities, and plan on only doing one or two dives per day. It’s also important to choose places that embrace younger divers. This way, they don’t feel like – and/or are treated like – they’re a nuisance.
There are many options, but here are a few of my personal favorites for dive destinations for kids.
Bonaire is the mecca of shore-diving. Therefore, a family can dive at their own pace without the added stress of dealing with dive shops and boat schedules. All you have to do is simply pick up full tanks from your dive resort and go whenever and wherever you want. The diving is good year-round. So, if you do decide to dive by boat, the kids will appreciate the short, calm trips to the dive sites. There are several resorts on Bonaire that cater to families and offer programs for kids, as well as family-friendly activities such as kayaking the mangroves, chartering a sailboat, and windsurfing.
Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world and is well-known for its boat, shore and liveaboard diving options. Diving in Belize is usually quite easy because there is little to no current. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Lighthouse Reef, Turneffe Atoll and Shark Ray Alley are all good sites for kids. Some topside activities available on Ambergris Caye include kayaking, paddle-boarding, and hobie cat rides.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys make up North America’s only living coral barrier reef. Junior Open Water divers can visit various sites in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, most being no more than 50 feet deep, on daily dive tours with their parents. The famed Christ of the Deep statue is located there, making its depth accessible for the whole family. The Keys also offer many topside activities such as boating, paddle-boarding, sailing and bike tours, depending on the island or islands you visit.
Not All Who Can Dive, Should Dive
If your child isn’t a certified scuba diver yet, here are a few things to consider. Because…as parents, we know that all kids aren’t created equal.
What is the minimum age a child should be in order to scuba dive?
According to PADI (the Professional Association of Dive Instructors), kids can be certified as Junior Open Water Divers as early as the age of 10. Whether this recommendation should be applied to any or all children is a subject of debate within the dive community. Children develop physically and mentally at different rates, making it difficult to define an age at which all children can safely dive. A child’s maturity, reasoning skills, and physical limitations should be taken into account when determining if he or she is ready to begin scuba diving.
Helpful Guidelines to Determine If a Child Is Ready for a Scuba Certification:
PADI suggests that if the following questions can be answered in the affirmative, a child may be ready to enroll in a scuba diving certification course.
- Does the child want to learn to dive? (This should not merely be the desire of his/her parents and/or friends.)
- Is the child medically fit to dive? (Look into the basic diving medical requirements.)
- Is the child comfortable in the water, and can he or she swim? (He or she will need to pass a swimming test.)
- Does the child have a sufficient attention span to listen to and learn from class discussions, pool and open water briefings and debriefings and other interactions with an instructor?
- Can the child learn, remember and apply multiple safety rules and principles?
- Are the child’s reading skills sufficient to learn from adult-level material (allowing for extra reading time, and the child may request help)?
- Can the child feel comfortable telling an unfamiliar adult (instructor or divemaster) about any discomfort or not understanding something?
- Does the child have reasonable self-control and the ability to respond to a problem by following rules and asking for help rather than by acting impulsively?
- Does the child have the ability to understand and discuss hypothetical situations and basic abstract concepts like space and time?