As Cayman again receives high marks for overall dive quality and diversity, its future dive leaders weigh in
Young Caymanians find opportunity in Cayman's thriving dive industry
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (12/2/2018) – The Cayman Islands has consistently set the standard in dive services and responsible conservation practices in the Caribbean. Balancing a busy dive tourism industry with the need to protect Cayman’s dive product is a responsibility that local dive leaders take seriously. They remain steadfast in their commitment to protect the local marine environment, while keeping Cayman’s diving vibrant and exciting for divers. With that comes the obligation to ensure that the next generation of dive leaders are prepared to inherit that responsibility.
Red Sail Sports, Divetech, Sunset House, Ocean Frontiers in Grand Cayman, and the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman all agree that ocean conservation education is the key. For years these dive operators have been promoting watersports and tourism as viable careers for young Caymanians and supporting work experience programs and individual waterports programs for students.
Lej Batiste, Jess Smith and Ragime “Raggy” Powery got the message and all three are now busy dive professionals in Cayman’s thriving tourism industry. These young Caymanians are passionate about diving, proud of the Cayman Islands and they want to protect the precious natural resources of their island home.
“My Father was a Divemaster at Divetech and he took me to work when I was younger,” said Jess Smith who is now a dive instructor at Divetech. “As I was around divers, I took a keen interest in SCUBA, marine life and ocean conservation. My father encouraged me to try diving. I was very nervous to begin with, but I wanted to gain his respect and impress my Dad as it was his passion. I also wanted to go diving with him. This was 4 years ago, and I wasn’t aware what a huge effect it would have on my life, and that eventually I would be Divemaster like my father.”
“I am proud to be part of the diving Industry as I feel that it is linked to my heritage as a Caymanian,” says co-worker at Divetech “Raggy” Powery. “I was 16 years old when I started diving with my brother and we would go every weekend.”
Lej Batiste, a young divemaster with Red Sail Sports started as a work study student, made his first dive and discovered a career path.
“As a Caymanian, I would like to have a career in the dive industry on the environmental side. I am planning to study marine science, and I would like to one day work with the Department of the Environment (DOE),” he said.
These young dive pros recognize how special Cayman’s marine environment is, and they share the urgent need to protect it. Part of their job is to make this clear with dive customers visiting from all over the world.
“I tell them that buoyancy control and checking dangling equipment is important, not only from a safety perspective but also to protect the environment,” said Jess Smith. “It is important to protect the future of Cayman’s dive sites. Sentinel Rock is my favourite dive site because of the colour of the coral, the elephant ear sponges and swim-throughs.”
Raggy Powery does the same. “I tell customers to respect the reefs and keep them safe for future generations. I have three young children who I want to take diving when they are old enough. It would be awful if the reefs were not kept in the same condition.”
As Cayman continues to grow as a tourism destination, these three young dive pros encourage others to explore the reefs that are such a draw for divers from across the world, and maybe discover a career.
“Try it! There are so many opportunities all over the island to do a try dive,” adds Lej Batiste. “I would like other Caymanians, my age and younger, to learn about their marine heritage and protect it for the future.”
“It’s is a solid career move as the industry is growing in Cayman and we are getting more visitors each year,” agrees Raggy.
Training Manager for Red Sail Sports Beth Hiryok says the company is currently working on a pilot program with the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre and Go-Pro Divers to offer students a Business and Technology Certification in Outdoor Adventure, plus a PADI dive certification.
“Previously, CIFEC Students have done work experience with Red Sail Sports 2 days a week, but that time was not tied to any certificate,” she said. “Now in the pilot program, their physical education teacher in school is teaching programme curriculum 2 days a week, and the students come to Red Sail Sports 3 days a week to complete their programme assignments and work experience. We have one student at Tortuga Divers at East end and one on the west side with our Red Sail Sports flagship dive shop.”
Getting locals to try diving is always a good way to promote the sport. Jess Smith recently taught a Discover Scuba course to the Miss Cayman contestants. In other outreach Sunset House & Sunset Divers are also offering introductory courses to students at a local school.
“If they show a keen interest, we offer them the chance to complete their open water training,” said Sunset Divers General Manager Mike Pinnington. “We feel it is vital to peak a child’s interest in the marine environment at a young age. These are our future environmental ambassadors and it is important to make them aware of the beauty Cayman has to offer.”
“I was unaware that Cayman was so famous for diving until I became professional and started working as an Instructor,” said Jess Smith who has worked her way up to Dive Boat Captain in 4 years
“I haven’t dived anywhere else in the world, so it’s hard to compare,” says Raggy Powery. “I know that we are getting more and more guests each year and they love the great dive sites, warm waters and 100 ft+ visibility, I guess I don’t need to go diving anywhere else!”
About the Cayman Bottom Times
The Cayman Bottom Times is news collaboration by five leading dive operators to promote the superb diving of the Cayman Islands, and keep the diving public informed of important developments and events. Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Red Sail Sports and Sunset House in Grand Cayman, and the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, all members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, represent more than 100 years of solid experience in a destination that is recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving. With a unique combination of deep wall and shallow reef diving, several wrecks, and world-famous Stingray City, the Cayman Islands has cemented its place as the top diving destination in the Caribbean. Offering diverse and wide-ranging dive programs on both Grand Cayman and Little Cayman, the members of this dive group represent the best Cayman has to offer; Divetech (www.divetech.com), Ocean Frontiers (www.oceanfrontiers.com), Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman (www.redsailcayman.com), Sunset House (www.sunsethouse.com) and the Southern Cross Club (www.southerncrossclub.com). Media Contact: Adela Gonzales White at Adela.G.White@icloud.com.