In this ongoing series, we speak with 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?
Ignacio Muñoz Avalos
What is the name of your business?
Pro Dive International – Mexico & Dominican Republic
What is your role within the business?
Base Leader at Pro Dive International at Allegro Cozumel
How long has the business operated for?
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
10 years as a dive professional, but it’s been almost 30 years since the first time I dove. I’m a MSDT.
What is your favorite type of diving?
I like drift diving, but also photography.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
We are located in the middle of the Cozumel National Park. This premium location allows us to enjoy the best sites that Cozumel has to offer with very short boat rides. All our guides are MSDT’s so they are prepared to help both, beginner as well as very experienced divers. We group our divers depending on experience, and we maximize bottom times so that everyone that has enough air can do a long nice dive. Also we provide NITROX for free.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
That’s a very hard question. There are so many nice dives here. To see life and experience fast drifts I love diving in Cedral Wall. To see spectacular coral formations Palancar Caves or Bricks are a must. And of course if I want to go for a deep dive Punta Sur is amazing, especially during Eagle Ray season when lots of the congregate on that spot.
What types of diving are available in your location?
All the dives in Cozumel are drift dives. Some slow, some fast. Amount and diversity of marine life is one of the best in the Caribbean, both for small and big life. And the big coral formations of the Palancar are unique and breath-taking. We also have one nice wreck in the Park, a minesweeper from WWII.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
The chance of meeting divers from all around the world and introduce them to one of the best diving destinations that the Caribbean has to offer. But what I really love is teaching new divers. Being able to see their smiles after their first dives is priceless.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
I wouldn’t say change, but I see there are more and more initiatives from the National park and other NGOs with research studies and other campaigns that aim to make everybody realize that we need to be more careful with how we deal and treat our oceans. Especially divers.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
Having to compete with other operations that offer lower prices but whose standards are really lacking in safety for the divers. Several times we have to help divers from other dive shops that are left adrift on their own and have no clue of even the name of the boat they are diving with. Not to mention occasions in which we have to jump in with our emergency oxygen kits to help divers from other operations because their shops don’t carry O2 to save themselves a couple of extra bucks.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
We are pushing for a plastic free dive center so we are trying to get rid of as many as possible plastic products.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
I think there’s a need for more companies that put safety on top of everything else. In far too many places there aren’t enough regulations to ensure everybody follows good practices.
It’s a growing industry for sure, but more efforts are needed as an industry to protect and preserve the oceans and its ecosystems.
What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
Cozumel is one of the best diving destinations. That’s not a discovery. But we at Pro Dive International aim to help you discover the best places, the best sites that our island has to offer. I’ve dived all over the world and there aren’t many places where you can see so much life in one dive. My record is 16 turtles between Green see, Hawksbill and Loggerhead in just one dive! And the night dives here in Cozumel are just so cool with lots of octopus, eels, snakes, huge lobsters and king crabs.
At Allegro Cozumel, we also feature the “Ultimate Dive Experience” – a VIP-Stay & Dive concept unique in the Caribbean, adopted to the specific needs of our divers.
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Seahorse National Park announced on Eleuthera in The Bahamas
This week has seen the announcement of the designation of Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond on Eleuthera. This monumental announcement comes after years of efforts from the BNT and its partners in advocating for the protection of Sweetings Pond and its surrounding areas as an official national park under the BNT’s management.
Sweetings Pond is a large, land-locked saltwater pond in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. It has many unique natural features, but the most notable of them all is its incredible seahorse population, which is believed to be the densest population of seahorses in the world. The new 548-acre national park protects the entire one-mile-long pond and the surrounding terrestrial area. The land surrounding Sweetings Pond is a blend of intact coppice, mangroves, and farmlands. In addition, the new national park includes the extensive Hatchet Bay Caves system. This historic cave system is a popular attraction and contains a number of impressive geological features. It is one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.
Since 2014, the BNT has been leading efforts to have the area declared as a national park. This included years of public outreach and stakeholder consultations in communities across Eleuthera; education presentations in local schools; science and research efforts; and engaging consecutive government administrations. In 2018, the BNT submitted the “20 by 20 Marine Protection Plan” to the government, which included the recommendation to declare Sweetings Pond and other areas in The Bahamas as protected areas.
During the lease signing ceremony for Seahorse National Park, Minister Clay Sweeting, said, “This lease agreement for Sweetings Pond has been a long time coming. It represents a milestone in our journey towards sustainable development. It symbolises our collective responsibility to safeguard our natural heritage and create a harmonious relationship between economic progress and environmental preservation.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all stakeholders in this process of drafting and finalising this lease agreement. Their dedication, expertise, and commitment has been crucial in ensuring that this agreement falls in line with our vision of creating a thriving ecosystem while promoting responsible usage. Let us continue to preserve the jewel that is Sweetings Pond for many generations to come.”
The BNT invites the public to stay tuned for more news about its plan for the country’s newest national park: Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond!
To learn more about the role the BNT plays in managing terrestrial and marine national parks, conserving wildlife, and informing environmental policy, please visit its website: www.bnt.bs
Banner Image: A lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus), female, clining to algae in an alkaline pond in The Bahamas by Shane Gross
PADI Club invites Ocean Lovers on exclusive dive trip to Bonaire this September
Following the popularity of the PADI Club trip to Belize at the end of July, a second “dive trip of a lifetime” has just been announced by PADI Club to Bonaire this September 23-30, 2023.
Offered exclusively for PADI Club members as part of their yearly benefits, attendees will get to seek adventure while staying at the all-inclusive Buddy Dive Resort, one of PADI’s premier members on the island. Other PADI Members in Bonaire – including Toucan Divers, Divi Flamingo, Wanna Dive, Dive Friends and Scuba Do – will also be hosting various dive experiences throughout the week.
“Bonaire is a unique and beautiful gem in the Dutch Caribbean and we want to show our Club Members this little island looms large as a dive destination,” says Zach Pavkov, PADI Club Operations Manager. “This trip offers participants a chance to not only explore a world-class diving destination but do so through some of the very best PADI Operators.”
PADI Club members will receive a generous discount for this seven-day diving adventure, with packages starting at $1,739 per diver for double occupancy.
Included in the package are:
- social events that include hosted dinners, cocktail parties and live music
- transportation in Buddy Dive Resort’s famous pick-up truck
- daily shore diving and boat diving
- accommodation, with the option to share a room with another solo diver or rent out one, two and three-bedroom apartments to host larger groups of divers
- surface interval activities that include PADI Seminars and island excursions like hiking and bird-watching.
“Because the water surrounding Bonaire has been an established marine park for 44 years, Bonaire is now a top-ranked destination with abundant marine life that includes scorpionfish, flounder and frogfish, moray eels, hawksbill turtles and eagle rays, ” continues Pavkov.
With limited spots available, the list of participants will be decided on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who are not yet PADI Club Members but are interested in joining the trip can sign-up, which will also give them access to:
- 20% of PADI eLearning® programs and PADI Gear™
- a free ReActivate® online refresher
- a free DAN® Prepared Diver course
- a subscription to Scuba Diving® magazine
- access to the PADI Club Celebrity Speaker Series webinars
- brand partner benefits from GoPro, Uber, Salt Life and more
To further support ocean lovers to create positive ocean change, five percent of the PADI Club membership fee will go towards supporting conservation efforts around the globe.
“PADI Club benefits are designed not just to empower divers to explore the ocean, but also enable them to play a pivotal role in saving the ocean too,” says Pavkov. “This year’s additional expedition to Bonaire gives our community the chance to come together and explore our shared blue planet in a truly meaningful and connected way.”