Blue Water Series: The Dive Behind the Photo – Part 3

Schooling Jacks by David Valencia

“Cabo Pulmo is a National Marine Park located some 70 miles NE of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This place has become a source of pride for the small Cabo Pulmo community – and all of Mexico. It was not long ago that the community of Cabo Pulmo was a fishing village. Fishing for subsistence, the families there had been fishing the area for generations. A few elders in the community began to notice fewer catches and smaller fish than in the past. There was a movement in the community to preserve the area and, in 1994, Cabo Pulmo became a National Marine Park. Now, the community works to conserve the area and the marine life that dwells there. The community shares their special place with divers and other visitors from all over the world.

This giant school of jacks has become iconic in describing the success of the marine park. The size of the school is impressive. The school can fill an area as wide and long as a basketball court and ~15 meters (50 feet) top to bottom. In this shot I was following my dive buddy, Adil, as he took video of the inside of the school. Finally he emerged from the middle of the school of jacks and there were two goliath grouper right in front of him. The fish slowly separated and formed a nice frame around my friend and the groupers.” – David Valencia, Underwater Photographer

The conservation success story behind David Valencia’s captivating photo can’t help but motivate us as divers to protect what we love (and love to explore). While there are certainly many hurdles to overcome and much work to be done to preserve our marine environments, inspiration can always be found in the victories, from local movements such as the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park to global initiatives like those announced at the Our Ocean Summit in Chile earlier this year.

Whether or not your customers have the opportunity to witness an incredible sight like this, they can always be inspired by David Valencia’s stunning photo, “Schooling Jacks” on the limited-edition “Blue Water Series” PADI Replacement certification card. Order one of the three different limited-edition Replacement cards for your student divers through the PADI Online Processing Center or for yourself by going to Your Account on the PADI Pros’ Site Learn more.0701 Replacement Card Blog Post Graphic

School Groups and the diving business

Corri Clarke, PADI IDC Staff Instructor and Assistant Manager at Oonas for 9 Years, discusses here one of the more unusual groups of repeat guests and the benefits and challenges they present.

IMG_1564editCorri, can you give us a short background about Oonas?

As one of the longest established Diving Centres in Sharm El Sheikh, Oonas Dive Club is recognized for its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, set in the centre of one of the world’s most popular diving destinations. Guests return year after year to enjoy incredible Red Sea diving and the personal attention of our small team of professional and dedicated dive staff. Its charm and popularity are built around the unique combination of a dedicated Hotel and Dive Centre which are located right on the beach and set in a quiet corner of the busy resort of Na’ama Bay.

Why did you decide to focus part of your business to School Groups?

About 10 years ago, over a sociable après dive session, discussions with a diving guest and UK-based teacher explored the possibility of offering a special school trip to introduce school kids to the wonders of the underwater world. The following year, Oonas Dive Club welcomed the first of its many school groups, all booked on a specially constructed ‘Learn to Dive’ Package.

The event resulted in 30 newly certified divers enthused with their new found skills and the experience of visiting an exotic destination, happy teachers and a huge motivation for the dive instructors who enjoyed rising to the challenges of this new and unusual venture.

So, that’s the history. Since that time Oonas has hosted 15 different schools, (with many returning each year to continue their diving education) and issued over 500 certifications from Open Water to Rescue Diver. Groups sizes have ranged from 12 to 43 participants with students aged between 11 and 18 years old.

It’s a perfect solution for keeping the Dive Centre busy and the Hotel fully booked in what would otherwise be the more expensive school holiday periods which ‘regular’ divers are more inclined to avoid.


How are School Groups normally organized?

With any large group, especially those involving schools, the key attraction is the ease with which things can be organized. The more that can be offered by way of support, the more likely teachers will be willing to take on arranging a trip.

To this end, Oonas entered into a collaboration with a previous guest and school teacher, who set up a UK-based agency offering bespoke Scuba Diving School Trips. The services offered by the agency include:

  • Presentations to schools and parents about the proposed trip
  • ABTA / IATA backed travel agency for booking flights and insurance
  • Templates for risk assessment and other formal documentation required by school governing bodies and authorities
  • UK payment facilities
  • Pre-trip delivery of PADI materials required for courses
  • UK liaison at all stages of the trip

This leaves teachers free to concentrate on encouraging participation and ensuring that payments are collected, rather than getting bogged down in bureaucracy and paperwork – a great relief!

What are the challenges you face?

One of the biggest challenges for any Dive Centre based in a more exotic destination, is convincing those in authority of the safety aspects of the activities and the location.  Good briefing documents, thorough Risk Assessments, Emergency Action Plans and the backing of the PADI teaching system, all contribute to this aim. References from previous school groups, excellent ratings on customer review sites and international awards are also an important part of promoting the Dive Centre’s reputation as a professional and reliable outfit.

Once the decision makers have been convinced, the rest of the challenges relate to organization and planning. Communication is key! Try to obtain as much information as possible beforehand – there is nothing more frustrating than running around on the first day trying to work out how many students will do each course. Clear and precise information about each student, ages, proposed courses, the date of last dive and number of dives logged (where appropriate), food allergies, date of completed medical forms etc. Never give up on this – it’s always that one piece of missing information that will be bound to trip you up on the day!


It’s not just a holiday

Another important aspect is to promote the educational benefits of learning to dive in a foreign location. Scuba Diving is often seen as a relaxing pastime, with palm fringed beaches and hammocks, which doesn’t really fit with the learning and development objectives of a school trip. So, as well as making sure to promote the dedication and discipline needed to learn the skill of diving, emphasize the opportunities for cultural exchange, such as supper in a Bedouin encampment with experience of the traditional lifestyles and foods. Arrange a PROJECT AWARE evening with instructors all contributing to a presentation on the protection of our oceans, using Project Aware leaflets and materials. Quiz nights about local information, diving topics and marine conservation are great! An underwater clean-up dive can be very rewarding, or a shopping trip to the local bazaar with opportunities for interacting with local shop keepers and perfecting bargaining techniques – the resulting stories are hilarious.


Dive the Plan!

Of course, we’re all fabulous at dive planning, logistics, timings etc. Well, for school groups apply the same principles but much more! Always build in extra time for unexpected eventualities. Apply low student:instructor ratios, allow time for remediation in the timetable (you will be so glad you did!) and keep to a planned schedule so that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing at each point of the day. Have a debrief every day with staff and teachers to make sure everything is on track. Things that might seem minor, such as allocating spaces to groups for kitting and de-kitting can develop into chaos if not planned and communicated sufficiently.

What is so special about teaching school students?

So, is the extra effort really all worth it I hear you ask? Well after 10 years of welcoming school groups, I can definitely say a big emphatic YES!

The most amazing and motivating aspect is the transition you see as an instructor/teacher/manager, from students who arrive in a foreign country, slightly shy and often anxious about what they have embarked on, to responsible and confident divers, keen to discuss their experiences both above and below the water.

Ordinary diving guests have often remarked on their (unexpectedly) pleasant experiences mixing with a younger generation of divers, and teachers on their own diving holidays who have seen with their own eyes what a rewarding experience it is, have come back with their own groups in subsequent years.

The last night party and presentation ceremony is testament to the whole experience, with speeches from students and instructors, thank you gifts presented, friendships formed, group photos and a promise to continue diving in the future……….. oh, and a great big Egyptian buffet – what could be better than that 🙂


For more information about arranging a School Group contact [email protected] or have a look at the following website:





You Make It Possible

Thanks to your support, Project AWARE had a successful year in 2015 and is looking forward to 2016! Here’s what they’ve accomplished together with divers and dive leaders over the last year.

Check out the infographic below to see your support in 2015 in action!

Project AWARE Year in Review

Watch and share the Project AWARE’s Year in Review 2015 video on your website, e-newsletter and social media sites.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year from the Project AWARE team!

PADI Pros: Renew Your 2016 Membership Before 31 Dec and Get These Offers!

Renew your 2016 PADI Professional membership before 31 December 2015 and you’ll be able to take advantage of several exciting renewal offers:

SS021949000_D6i-Novo_Stone_Front_Metric_Airtime#1 – Win a Suunto D6i

Renew before 31st December 2015 and you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a Suunto D6i dive computer in one of four colour options (stone, stealth, black or white excluding metal strap variants). PADI Pros that have already renewed their 2016 individual PADI membership will also be entered into the prize draw. Terms and Conditions apply.

Renew Online and Enter the Prize Draw Now!

#2 – Free PADI Digital Product

Complete your renewal before 31st December 2015 and you’ll be able to take advantage of our free digital product renewal offer as a thank you for renewing, by choosing from either a free PADI Open Water Diver Touch or PADI Equipment Specialist Touch. That’s a benefit worth up to £65 / 88€ / 96CHF to you straight away. Find out more about PADI Digital products here.

To claim this offer, simply renew your membership and contact your PADI Sales Representative to claim your free Open Water Diver Touch or Equipment Specialist Touch today!

Renew Online and Get Your Free PADI Digital Product!

#3 – 5-for-4 on PADI Digital Products

Renew your PADI Professional membership and get the 5 for 4 offer on all digital products; that’s a saving of 20%!* Don’t miss this chance to save on PADI’s latest digital products – contact your local PADI Sales Representative to place your order and take advantage of this benefit for renewed PADI Professionals!

Renew Online and Get 5-for-4 on PADI Digital Products!

#4 – Automatic Renewal Discount

PADI’s Automatic Renewal service saves you even more money and registering is easy! Sign up to have your membership automatically renewed for 2017 and you’ll still get the discounted rate for your 2016 PADI Professional membership! Simply select the option to register for Automatic Renewal during your 2016 Online Renewal process to take advantage of this fantastic benefit.

Renew Online and Sign Up for Automatic Renewal Today!

If you have any questions about your PADI Professional renewal for 2016 please contact Customer Services by email ([email protected]) or telephone (+44 (0)117 3007234).

Don’t miss out on these fantastic offers above – click here to Renew Online Now

Together We’re #1 In Diving!

It’s no mystery why PADI is the world’s leading diver training organization. Members value the high quality of PADI materials and excellent customer service while divers get the benefits. All of this has made PADI the global leader and most trusted source for diver training since 1966.

*5-for-4 Offer ends 31st July 2016. Offer available only on multiples of five of the same product, not available as mix and match. Available to PADI Instructors who have renewed their PADI membership for 2016.

PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa 2016 Business Academy Schedule

PADI Business Academy (PBA) continues to be the diving industry’s most innovative and powerful business development tool yet, and is only accessible to PADI Members.

If you’re ready to increase your business exposure, sales and bottom line profit you cannot afford to miss this highly interactive, two day programme. Presented by expert senior PADI management, you will leave the Academy with a business development Action Plan and a post Academy support plan.

But don’t take our word for it, take a look at this testimonial from a Business Academy Graduate.

Below is the 2016 PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa Business Academy Schedule*. If you would like to attend an Academy, please download the PADI Business Academy Brochure, complete the PBA Registration Form and email it to [email protected]

PADI Business Academy Schedule 2016

Date Country City Language
03-04 April Italy Padova Italian
29-30 April UAE Dubai English
11-12 May South Africa English
19-20 May Kuwait English
04-05 August Saudi Arabia Jeddah Arabic
15-16 October Germany Berlin German
27-28 November UK Southeast English

*Please note that PBAs shown in this Schedule may be subject to change or cancellation. If you plan to attend a 2016 Business Academy, please check this schedule regularly. Additional PBAs may be added during the year.