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Diving with… Maartje Sterk, ScubaCaribe Jamaica, Montego Bay

Caribbean DTA Team

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

My name is Maartje Sterk and I am from The Netherlands.

What is the name of your business?

ScubaCaribe

What is your role within the business?

I am the Dive Team Leader for two dive centers in Montego Bay Jamaica. My responsibilities are making the daily dive schedule, being responsible for all bases, their inventories and making sure all our equipment is in an excellent state and being maintained, giving training to our dive staff, front office, captains and lifeguards, and of course teaching PADI courses and guiding fun divers around our beautiful reefs!

How long has the business operated for?

ScubaCaribe was founded in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) in 1991.

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

I started diving in 2012. My mother is a dive instructor and encouraged me to try diving too. My first experience was in 4 degrees dark murky Dutch water. My first ocean dive in the Philippines made me hooked on diving. After my first fun dives in the beautiful warm waters in Asia I went back to Holland and started to do multiple Specialties and Advanced courses. In 2015 I decided I wanted to live abroad and make diving my living so I finished my Divemaster course. In 2016 I became a Master Scuba Diver Trainer in Koh Tao Thailand. Besides my recreational MSDT certificate I am also an Advanced Trimix Diver.

What is your favorite type of diving?

My favourite type of diving is deep dives and wall dives. The deep dives require some more planning and thinking before you go into the water. The theory part and the calculations before this type of dives is especially very interesting. The feeling you have when you are diving next to a big wall, covered in hard and soft coral, schools of fish surrounding you and when you look down you see the wall ending in an endless deep blue with all kind of mysteries, reefs and marine life waiting to be discovered, I can’t even describe it… The chance of seeing some bigger marine life is a little bit bigger and of course the wall is a perfect hiding spot for some small marine life such as lobsters and crabs, or moray eels.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Montego Bay has a lot to offer. The diving we offer here is very easy. We don’t have extremely strong currents or very choppy seas which makes it perfect for beginners. Because we have a lot of different dive sites, from reefs to walls, you will never get bored of the diving and you will never dive the same reef twice. One of our popular sites is Stingray City. It’s a shallow reef where we almost all the time find the city’s inhabitants: big southern stingrays. It never gets boring to see these massive rays hiding in the sand or stirring up the ocean floor looking for food.

We also have a great team in Montego Bay who will make you feel at home right away! Safety is our main priority according to all the activities we offer. Our team is very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about the activities we offer and the environment we are in. When you come to visit our base, you will feel part of the family!

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

My favourite dive site is called Airport Wall. It is a very steep and deep wall located next to Montego Bay International Airport. During your trip there you will see the airplanes coming in just in front of the dive boat. When you descend you will start at a shallow part of the reef which is about 40 feet deep. If you swim out for a couple of minutes north you will reach the wall. The top of the wall is about 50 feet deep and it drops down until you can’t even see the end anymore. We have massive barrel sponges, huge colourful fans, big schools of snapper and blue chromis swarming around you. If you are lucky you will see southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, barracuda, turtles, and on some very lucky days we can find nurse sharks or even dolphins. A dive at this site can never last long enough!

What types of diving are available in your location?

At our base we offer guided dives from our dive boat. We are located on the north side of Jamaica. That means, right in front of our dive center, we have one big reef along the coast line. When you swim out north from this shallow reef, it drops down in a wall or slope. Therefore we have a massive variety to offer to our divers. Shallow and easy reefs with lots of marine life and some cool swim throughs. For the more Advanced divers we have some incredible walls where you can drift along on your search for different marine life. We also have a small wreck of a DC3 Plane. The plane is partly deteriorated, but you can still see the wings and the propellers of the plane clearly.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

The most rewarding part is to see the happy customers after a day of diving. Also, when I see the staff growing in their knowledge and using it in all the activities we have to offer. Everybody is very interested in the training we provide as a company and willing to improve. It is very rewarding to see people learn and grow.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

My favourite underwater creature is the octopus. It’s very hard to find them because usually they are hiding in some small caverns or holes. When they find their temporary home, they block their front doors with a lot of shells. They are beautiful to look at and almost hypnotizing! They can squeeze their bodies through the tiniest holes and are very clever!

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

Our biggest problem is the country’s reputation. When people hear about Jamaica they think that it is an unsafe country with mediocre diving. Well, both of them are absolutely not true! Just as in every other country, we have some areas that are best to be avoided here but overall the country is very safe. The locals are very friendly and helpful. Tourism is a big income for the country so they will not do anything to jeopardize that. Jamaica’s tourism means mainly all inclusive resorts which can provide you with tours around the island as well.

The diving is absolutely amazing here. As I told before, we have a big variety of reefs and walls suitable for every level of diver, diverse marine life which includes multiple types of rays, barracuda, turtles, and lots of smaller marine life, with all kinds of reef fish, nudibranch, eels, crab and lobster. You can never predict what you will see here. Occasionally we see dolphins during our dives or a hiding shy nurse shark. We hope by promoting our diving we can show the world how beautiful our reefs are!

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Our company ScubaCaribe is closely involved with PADI and Project AWARE. On a daily basis we explain to all our divers the importance of our reefs and the importance of being environmentally friendly. Reducing plastic, picking up garbage if we find it during our dives, the use of biodegradable sunscreen etc. All our staff participate in coral conservation lectures and presentations about our marine life and coral reefs to make everyone more aware and give the good example and spread the word! AWARE week takes place in September and every ScubaCaribe base holds an event for their specific base during this week. Montego Base held a reef and beach clean up together with staff and divers. We followed this with a talk about our marine life and the importance of our reefs.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

If you are a non-diver or an advanced diver, we have something to offer to you. Our cristal clear, blue ocean with great visibility and warm temperature year round makes it a perfect way to start your diving adventure or to explore our reefs and walls. We have a big variety of dive sites and a great range of marine life to be found. Our ScubaPro equipment is in excellent condition and safety is our main priority. We keep our groups small, and all dives are guided by PADI professionals. Our staff are helpful, friendly and always in for a chat! Come check us out!

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

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Cayman Bogue swim fundraiser adds sister island event for 2023

Caribbean DTA Team

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Swimmers from around the world invited to traverse ‘The Bogue’ in this 10K swim from Cayman Brac to Little Cayman for CCMI.

In September 2021, 16 local swimmers took on the challenge of swimming from Cayman Brac to Little Cayman, an open water swim of approximately 10 kilometres, to raise money for local non-profit the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). After a very successful and fun initial experience, the organisers plan to make this an annual event to help bring endurance swimming events to the Sister Islands.

With such interest after the inaugural event, the 2023 Cayman Bogue Swim has increased the number of available registrations to 50 swimmers, has opened registration to swimmers both locally and abroad, will include several categories of registration, and will feature an expanded weekend of fun and activity in Little Cayman. Participants and their supporters can plan to join other Bogue swimmers for a welcome drinks/packet pick up event on the Friday evening, Bogue Bash: Band and BBQ celebration dinner on the Saturday evening, a tour of CCMI, and more. The weekend will begin Friday, 28th April 2023, with the actual swim starting at 8 am on Saturday, 29th April. The swim starts at Scott’s Dock, Cayman Brac and finishes at Point of Sand on Little Cayman.

Swimmers can choose to register in the competitive ‘race’ category, open water swim category, or as a relay team of two or four persons. No matter the race registration category, the Cayman Bogue Swim is an opportunity for swimmers of all ages, backgrounds, and mixed ability to share in a unique physical and mental challenge that has only been completed by a small number of swimming enthusiasts.

Swimmers can register for the event at https://donate.reefresearch.org/BogueSwim2023. Registration is US $325/person, and it includes event registration, welcome pack, event shirt, event swim cap, entry to welcome drink event/packet pick-up, locally made finisher medal, entry to the Bogue Bash: Band & BBQ event, tour of CCMI, transport via boat to the start line from Little Cayman, in-water support, and include a donation to CCMI in support of their work. Flights, lodging, all other meals, and incidentals are not included in the registration fee and are the responsibility of the participant.

The organisers of The Cayman Bogue Swim once again selected CCMI as the beneficiary of event proceeds, and unlike last year, swimmers will not have to engage in significant fundraising as part of their commitment to swimming in the event. However, anyone wishing to support the participants and their efforts to swim across the Bogue are welcome to donate to the online fundraising page: https://tinyurl.com/Bogue2023.

All donations support CCMI and their work to protect and restore coral reefs in the Cayman Islands through impactful research and innovative marine education experience for students.

For more information about the swim, please visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/caymanbogue.

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Halloween Special Part 2: PADI’s top 7 wrecks to dive in Bermuda

Caribbean DTA Team

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Just in time for Halloween, we’re back with Part 2 of our deep dive with PADI into spooky Bermuda… 

  1. The Mary Celestia

Also known as the Mary Celeste, this Civil War-era paddle steamer hit a coral reef and sank to her watery grave 1884. She’s known as one of the oldest wrecks in the area and is well-preserved considering: divers can view both her intact paddlewheel and engine, plus her bow, stern, boilers, and anchor. Resting at 55 feet below the surface, a little piece of Mary Celestia made its way above water in 2015 after a few bottles of 150-year-old wine were discovered and delivered to sommeliers for sampling in Charleston, South Carolina.

  1. The Cristóbal Colón

This enormous ship is the largest wreck in all of Bermuda. Coming in at a whopping 499 feet long, the Cristóbal Colón was a Spanish luxury liner that crashed into a coral reef off the north shore in 1936. With an abundance of marine life that’s settled in and around the wreckage strewn across 100,000 square feet of the sea floor, she’s visited by snorkelers and divers alike. Today she can be found at depths of 15 to 60 feet, but she used to peek out the surface of the water when she first sank, up until she was used for target practice in World War II.

  1. The Iristo

Only a year after the Cristóbal Colón went down, the Iristo (also known as the Aristo) followed in 1937. The captain of the Norwegian freighter is said to have been startled by the Cristóbal Colón’s wreckage, which ultimately led to the Iristo’s own untimely fate. He ordered the crew to change course but the Iristo struck a submerged reef and went down too! Her wreckage remains to this day with engine, boilers, and propeller visible amongst spectacular coral.

  1. The North Carolina

Looking for an extra spooky dive? Check out the North Carolina’s ghostly “deadeyes” in rows along her deck railings – the uncanny sailing riggings look just like cartoon skulls. At depths between 25 and 45 feet, she makes for an eerie visit whether taking a shallow dive as a beginner or diving into the deep. Hailing from Liverpool, this 250-foot English iron hull sank on New Year’s Day in 1880 when she ran aground southwest of Bermuda. Despite attempts to raise her, she remains in the depths of the sea sitting upright with a collapsed mid-section.

  1. The Montana and the Constellation

Get a two-for-one dive in when you visit the Montana and the Constellation, uniquely stacked on top of each other to the northwest of Bermuda. The Montana wreck dates back to 1863 – the Civil War era blockade runner hit a shallow reef and down she went. The Constellation followed eighty years later in 1943 and some reports state that the Montana’s bow took her down! The American cargo ship was carrying building materials and scotch when she went down, so divers can view stacks of cement bags and glassware when they explore these shallow waters.

  1. The Hermes

Explore the outside or inside of Hermes, a freighter that experienced engine trouble and was abandoned by her crew. Built in 1943, the lonely ship was deserted until 1984 when she was acquired by the Bermuda Dive Association and turned into a sunken artificial reef. She’s known as a highly photogenic beauty with fantastic visibility. Fully intact with her mast pointing to the surface, Hermes has come a long way from desertion as one of Bermuda’s most popular dive sites.

  1. The King George

Another lonely and ghostly ship left to sink to the bottom of the sea, the King George is a large dredger that was built for the Bermuda Government. After arriving on the island in 1911, she served a few years before being towed out to sea and left to sink in 1930 when she was no longer needed for harbor operations. Fully intact and upright, divers can circle her from end to end on the quiet ocean floor.

Ready for a Spooky Dive in Bermuda?

If you want to dive into the spooky depths of Bermuda’s water, there are several different types of PADI certification to get you there.

Formal training for wreck diving is especially important for your safety as it involves special procedures, techniques, and equipment. The PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course covers all the fundamentals and includes four scuba dives to give you practice in the open water.

Enrolling is simple: you must be at least 15 years old and have earned your PADI Adventure Diver certification or higher. PADI’s wreck dive certification covers the basics, from navigating the inside and outside of a wreck to the appropriate gear you’ll need for wreck diving. You’ll also learn how to plan and map a wreck site along with special techniques to protect the site’s integrity.

You complete your certification after four wreck dives with an instructor, and away you go! The eerie deep blue of Bermuda awaits…

Images: DIVE BERMUDA

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