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AFCFT grant funds Deptherapy expedition to Grenada

Caribbean DTA Team

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A team from Scuba Diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy heads to the Caribbean island of Grenada for the first time this month as part of a two-year programme funded by the Armed Forces’ Covenant Fund Trust’s (AFCFT) Positive Pathways Programme.

The expedition, which comprises several RAID training courses tailored to different beneficiaries as well as a reef survey, almost didn’t happen due to COVID constraints. The charity’s original plan for a two-week expedition to Egypt had to be re-booked and eventually cancelled, but thanks to the incredible flexibility of the AFCFT and their strategic partners, the Invictus Games Foundation, permission was granted for the funding to be allocated by Deptherapy for an expedition to Grenada.

Team Deptherapy will be staying at the True Blue Bay Boutique Resort and diving with Aquanauts in Grenada. Aquanauts have experience working with clients who have mental and physical challenges and offer the accessibility that some expedition members require.

Aerial view of True Blue Bay Boutique Resort, Grenada. Photo – Aquanauts Grenada

The 10 day expedition will take place from 13th to 23rd October 2021 with the group having to quarantine in resort for two days whilst awaiting the results of ‘on arrival’ COVID PCR tests. There will be at least seven days of diving which will comprise a RAID Deep Course, three RAID Advanced 35 courses and five RAID Nitrox courses.

Two or more days will be spent conducting a reef survey. This will be led by Deptherapy Ambassador and beneficiary Tom Oates, who is in his second year of studying for a degree in Marine Biology at Hull University. Expedition members have been supplied with Caribbean fish ID slates and are already developing their survey plan.

Over the last 18 months, the beneficiaries have been studying fish and coral ID led by Dr Deborah McNeill of the Open Oceans Project as part of the Positive Pathways Programme. The reef survey work is leading towards the second part of the programme which takes place in 2022 on an expedition to the Red Sea where a comparative survey of the aquatic life on the SS Turkia in the Gulf of Suez and the iconic SS Thistlegorm will be undertaken.

Dr Richard Castle, who is an independent consultant psychologist specialising in trauma and one of Deptherapy’s Vice Presidents said:

“The majority of Deptherapy’s beneficiaries have mental health challenges, predominantly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For the last 18 months expeditions to Roots to complete the Marine Biology programme have been cancelled, re-booked and cancelled again due to COVID. This can be extremely difficult for those with mental health challenges. I would like to say a huge thank you to the Armed Forces’ Covenant Fund Trust for being so flexible in allowing us to change our expedition plans at such short notice.

We have a close relationship with the Trust, but I doubt that even they realise how important their flexibility is in supporting the mental health of our beneficiaries.”

The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada. Photo – Aquanauts Grenada

Explorer, author and TV presenter Paul Rose said:

“I have been a supporter of Deptherapy’s bid for Trust funding from the outset in 2019 and very much involved in the project’s plans. It has been awful seeing expedition after expedition cancelled due to COVID. What I have always admired is Deptherapy’s attitude of adapt and overcome and the Grenada Expedition is yet another example of this very positive attitude. I am glad that the team will carry out a beneficiary-led reef survey as this supports the project’s objectives. A big thank you to the AFCFT!”

Corey Goodson was injured in a car accident during basic training prior to joining the Royal Anglian Regiment resulting in paraplegia. At 21 years old he is Deptherapy’s youngest ever beneficiary. Corey said:

“When the Board said we were not going to Roots in October I was shattered! Then out of the blue Richard sent an email asking if I could travel on these dates as we are going to Grenada. It’s an unbelievable, once in a lifetime opportunity. I have a lot of studying to do – my Advanced course, Nitrox and all the fish ID work – but for such an amazing expedition it is more than worth it.”

Formerly in the Scots’ Guards, Afghan veteran Gary Daye said:

“From doing my Deptherapy RAID Open Water 20 during August in Wraysbury to Grenada in October, it is just an unreal journey… I hope I don’t wake up and find it was all a dream!
Lots of hard work studying but it is the focus and buzz that I find reflects how the charity works. I haven’t met most of those on the expedition yet face to face, but we are already a team, a strong team. I am not sure how Deptherapy does it, but they create this positive, supportive atmosphere within the group; it is almost magical. Grenada, here we come!”

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

Photos: Aquanauts Grenada

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Lovin’ Saint Lucia: Two wreck dives and a wedding (part 3)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Whilst we have been lucky enough to dive in much of the Caribbean, Saint Lucia was still on our wish list. Until November when we got a chance to visit this beautiful island on a 6-night diving trip that would see us enjoy with incredible scenery both above and below the waves. We were able to sample three different hotels, dined at a host of local eateries, spoke to local school kids about the ocean and even took a tour into the rainforest canopy. Find out all about this trip over this series of three blogs on Caribbean Dive Adventures.


Our final day of diving saw us heading south again to the wreck of the Lesleen M. The wreck was sunk as an artificial reef in 1986. It sits upright in the water just off Anse Cochon in about 20m of water at its deepest point. AS it has been in the water for over 3 decades, it is now covered in marine life. Yellow and purple sponges rise up from the deck and off railings. Gorgonian corals created huge curtains across the walkways and on the bow and stern. The prop is covered in orange sponges and cup corals. Barracuda and porcupinefish cruise the middle section of the boat. Schools of reef fish live in the covered section of the stern. There is life everywhere you look. To make the most of this dive, bring a light, as the colours are incredible.

We were lucky to have been able to dive the wreck as a buddy pair, without any other groups. But we loved the dive so much we asked if we could join the group for another dive on the wreck as our final dive of the trip. However, the group we were going to dive with were a little bit special! Two of the group had got married the day before. Nine of the family (mum, dad, the happy couple, sisters, brothers, and their partners) who had come to Saint Lucia for the wedding were on our boat. We offered to take an underwater photo of them. Getting the shot was not as easy as we had first thought though! Getting them all still, in the same place, not blowing bubbles at inappropriate times turned out to be a challenge! It was, however, a joyous way to finish off our diving on Saint Lucia.

Our final day saw us heading to new heights, via a cable car experience into the rainforest canopy. Not only does this trip offer stunning views over the island, but our guide was so knowledgeable we also learned plenty about the local fauna and flora of the island. This is the perfect activity for the non-diving day at the end of a trip. A final cocktail in the beautiful setting of the Harbor Club as the sun set saw us reflect on a super trip. We barely scratched the surface of what Saint Lucia has to offer. Alas we never got to experience the diving in the north of the island, so we will have to return to rectify that. Hopefully sometime soon!


Nick and Caroline were hosted by:

Eastern Caribbean Diving

Bay Gardens Marina Haven & Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa

The Harbor Club

Travel Saint Lucia

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Blogs

Lovin’ Saint Lucia: Kids and Critters (Part 2)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Whilst we have been lucky enough to dive in much of the Caribbean, Saint Lucia was still on our wish list. Until November when we got a chance to visit this beautiful island on a 6-night diving trip that would see us enjoy with incredible scenery both above and below the waves. We were able to sample three different hotels, dined at a host of local eateries, spoke to local school kids about the ocean and even took a tour into the rainforest canopy. Find out all about this trip over this series of three blogs on Caribbean Dive Adventures.


After our first two days of diving in the south of the island, below the magnificent Piton mountains, it was time for a day off. Usually we would pack in a much diving as possible on a short trip like this, we had been invited to speak at a local school. Our hotel, Bay Gardens Beach Hotel and Spa, already support the school with a breakfast club to ensure the kids start the day with a good meal. They asked us if we might go and speak about the ocean, marine life, conservation and our work. As the school did not have a room big enough to hold all the kids, we setup in the local church. The kids filed in and sat in rows of pews and we chatted about the marine life that can be found both in the waters surrounding Saint Lucia and further afield. They knowledge of shark species was incredible! They even identified a Basking Shark correctly! We were stunned when they presented us with a huge box of local fruits they had picked from their gardens as a thank you. Our driver then took us for a drive around the north of the island to show us some of the plentiful beauty spots.

Back diving again, we still headed south, but to sample some different diving from our first two days. We were delighted to dive over a healthy seagrass bed that was home to a host of marine life. Snake eels skimmed along through the blades of grass, flounder lay camouflaged, and several species of crustacean could be found once you got your eye in. A huge Southern Stingray lay buried in the sand and our guide, Mervin, was delighted to find a seahorse (that did not want to be photographed). Dotted throughout the seagrass bed, coral bommies were a haven for small marine life critters. Eels and lobster hid in the crevices, while small juvenile fish darted through the coral and sponges.

Whilst we were on an all-inclusive basis at our hotels, we love to get out and about to try local establishments where we can. So each evening we would take a stroll to the waterfront to sample some excellent food and a local beer or cocktail, whilst watching the sun go down. The perfect way to finish off a great day of diving.


Nick and Caroline were hosted by:

Eastern Caribbean Diving

Bay Gardens Marina Haven & Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa

The Harbor Club

Travel Saint Lucia

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