Learning to scuba dive with Ela is by far my favorite memory of our first 21 months on the road. Ken earned his scuba diving certification in college (yes, he actually received college credit for learning to scuba dive). Once we were on the island and I learned our options to achieving scuba diving certification, I was hooked. In fact, many people flock to the Bay Islands (Roatan is one of the 3 islands composing the Bay Islands of Honduras) every year to learn to scuba dive or earn their Dive Master Certification. Apparently, it's one of the cheapest places in the world to do this. Ela and I went through Reef Gliders and had a fantastic experience.
If you have the time, I'd tell you to spend 2 weeks on Roatan so that you and your child (age 10+) could learn to scuba dive slowly. This can be done in a week, but I'd recommend spacing out the days for a younger kid. This way you'd have time to explore the island and hang-out on days you aren't in class or diving.
Our Path To Scuba Diving Certification:
1. Try out snorkeling - The dive shop recommended we take Ela snorkeling. If she liked snorkeling, she would be more likely to enjoy scuba diving. If she didn't like snorkeling, then she wasn't ready to go further. Ela loved snorkeling so much that she used her own money to buy her own mask and snorkel. Her snorkel gear is as important as her bathing suit whenever we're in the water!
2. Discover Scuba Diving Adventure - Our next step was a one day adventure with a scuba diving instructor where we learned very basic information about scuba diving and then went for two trial dives. The first dive was in shallow 8 feet water in Half Moon Bay (many non-tropical places do this in a pool) where we practiced breathing and learning how to communicate underwater. Once we passed a few tests, we went for our first "big" dive 28 feet under the water.
Ela had a hard time going much further than 10 feet. After the second time returning to the top of the water, I had to pull a tough mom move. "You're a strong, capable swimmer. If you're ready for this then you need to suck up your fear and go. If you're not ready, that's ok. You're only 10 and you can try again later...blah, blah, blah." Ela sucked it up and LOVED it. After the dive, she was stoked and very proud of herself.
I remember being on the floor of the ocean and looking at my 10-year old next to me and thinking, "OMG. Am I Crazy? I am 28 feet under water with my child. What am I doing?" However, I reminded myself that we could see the boat and if something happened, it was a mere 20 seconds or so to the top.
3. PADI Scuba Diver - Ela and I continued our scuba diving education with the most basic certification. The youngest one can do this is age 10, and only if the instructor decides that the child is mature enough to handle the curriculum and skills. Suzanne, our dive instructor, quickly determined that Ela was ready. Ela and I spent several evenings pre-reading the Scuba Diving Manual and several mornings in the classroom watching videos and completing multiple choice tests.
Suzanne would take us into the water in the afternoon for skill work. This was followed by two open water dives to practice the same skills. Ela would tell you that the hardest or scariest skill was having to take off her mask underwater and put it back on. This was preceded by another tough mom talk. With this diving certification, Ela is allowed to scuba dive with a parent and a PADI Professional down to 40 feet.
4. Open Water Diver Certification - I continued my scuba diving education with the next level of certification. This required two more open water dives, two classes in shallow water, and more classroom time. Suzanne was amazing. We covered all the essential skills in the first of my open water dives, and we went 60 feet under. This meant that my final dive could be with the family. Ken and Ela joined us and we went to 40 feet below, a personal record for Ela.
While I've spent many years making fun of Ken for getting credit for essentially "Under Water Basket Weaving" as I referred to his scuba diving course, I now see the error of my ways. Scuba Diving is definitely worth college credit. Please don't tell him I said this.