Connect with us
background

News

Diving with… Sarah and David Hellevang, Golden Rock Dive Center, St. Eustatius, Dutch Caribbean

Caribbean DTA Team

Published

on

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?

Sarah and David Hellevang – husband and wife owners/operators.

What is the name of your business?

Golden Rock Dive Center

What is your role within the business?

Owners/operators: David does all of the maintenance and repairs and most of the captaining.  Sarah does marketing, finance, administration and dives or captains a few times per week.  We have two other full-time PADI Instructors/managers at the dive shop.

How long has the business operated for?

Originally established in 1994.  Sarah and David purchased in April, 2017.

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

We fell in love with diving in 2008 when we went to the Philippines as our first dive travel. We became PADI open water dive instructors and quickly decided we wanted to run our own dive center the way we had envisioned:  not under the confines of so many shops that overload their boats without good diver supervision or run a small operation without the safety and high quality equipment.

What is your favorite type of diving?

Slow, relaxed, looking for all of the little things.  I find a slow hovering dive allows me to see the natural marine activity and often the sea life comes to me! I could spend hours with my head under a rock playing with cleaner shrimp or looking for frogfish!

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

Want to return to how diving used to be?  Small groups of experienced divers with quality service without being pretentious; authentic island get-away without the mass tourism; relaxed atmosphere where our divers feel like family, not just another diver on an over-crowded boat.

Diving on Statia is so eclectic!  With over 30 dives sites, most of which are with moorings, Statia boasts several new wrecks, old historic wreck diving with anchors, blue beads, and bottles from the 1700 and 1800’s, well preserved coral encrusted lava flows, and more… all under the protection of the St. Eustatius Marine Park and Reserve since 1996.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

So many good ones to choose from!  I really enjoy both Hangover and Double Wreck, where I can spend hours searching for the macro sightings as well as a turtle or two that will often swim directly up to divers.

What types of diving are available in your location?

Several distinct diving ecosystems: historic archaeological dives with old anchors and glass bottles from the late 1700, several new wreck dive sites including the prestigious Charles L. Brown, isolated rock outcroppings surrounded by huge Caribbean sand rays, deep wall dives, coral encrusted lava flows from the Quill eruption around 40,000 years ago, sandy bottom muck diving with flying gurnards, sailfin blennies, historic artefacts including the opportunity to find a Statia Blue Bead.  Statia has diving for all levels and interests.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

We are having fun renovating and updating the business since we purchased two years ago.   When my husband and I purchased Golden Rock Dive Center we had the vision of providing dive services that are safe and attentive, yet relaxed and authentic.  We have incredible staff that hold dear the same vision.

I love when our customers leave with smiles on their faces from an amazing day or week of diving and feel they were catered to on their special dive vacation. “Leave feeling like family, not just another diver on a boat.”

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Ohh!  I love them all.  Anytime I find a nudibranch I am happy and sea turtles will always be dear to me. But, my ultimate favorite is summer time when all of the juveniles bloom in the water and I get to find the juvenile trunkfish.  They make me smile the most!

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

As new owners, we are constantly updating, especially after our rebuild from Irma.  We are back in our old location with new digs and loving it!  We are also in the process of some new program development… keep tabs on our Facebook and website in the coming months for more details.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Absolutely!  Beyond the daily protection of our Marine Reserve by educating divers to have good buoyancy and respect for the marine environment, we regularly organize or participate in land and underwater rubbish clean-up.  We offer Project Aware and REEF dive training and participation.  Statia has many local and visiting research divers on the island conducting multiple marine research programs.  These researchers are regularly on our boats and around our shop providing tourists the opportunity to dive with and learn from researchers.  These scientists provide educational talks and dives directly to our customers which is a fun way to learn about what is going on in our underwater world.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

Mass tourism in general and mass dive tourism specifically with no oversight and no education is damaging our fragile marine and land environments. Though all-inclusive resort vacations are inexpensive and convenient, tourist, especially divers, miss out on any authentic and personalized experiences as they are hidden behind the walls of the resort and end up diving without any personalized touch.

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

With over 1000 hectares of protected coral reef, we have almost more reef environment than Bonaire and Saba combined.  Combine this with the authentic and safe island experiences, coming to Statia is like stepping back into the Caribbean 30 years ago.

Only one dive boat is allowed per dive site, so divers get a truly personalized diving experience.  Our boats leave from the local fishing pier directly next to the dive center where divers can interact with the local fishermen and we regularly host local fish and lobster BBQ’s at our dive shop.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

Website: www.goldenrockdive.com

Facebook: Golden Rock Dive Center

Instagram: Golden Rock Dive Center

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News

Blue Marine Foundation launches new partnership with Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

Caribbean DTA Team

Published

on

Ocean charity makes initial grant of $90,000 to marine parks on six Dutch Caribbean islands. Award will fund projects including coral protection, and training youth marine rangers.

Ocean conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation has announced it is awarding $90,000 in funding to support marine conservation in the Dutch Caribbean. A range of projects run by protected area management organisations on six islands will each receive a grant of $15,000. The funding is the first step in a longer-term partnership to support the islands and help secure sustainable financing through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Trust fund.

To improve ocean governance, Blue Marine uses a combination of top-down intervention and bottom-up project delivery to help local communities at the front line of conservation. It will work together with the DCNA to help marine-park organisations protect the unique and threatened biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean.

The new partnership is an important development in the successful management of marine conservation parks in the Dutch Caribbean. The UK-based charity has established a small-grants fund to provide rapid access to support for critical conservation projects run by marine parks.

The individual projects and their local partners are:

Unique ecosystems on the islands are vulnerable to threats such as feral livestock causing sedimentation on reefs, and invasive species, including lionfish and coral diseases. They are also at risk from overfishing, climate change, coastal development, erosion and the build-up of harmful algae caused by waste water.

The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are also home to important “blue carbon” habitats – ocean ecosystems such as seagrasses, mangroves and other marine plants that suck up and lock away carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. Seagrass is so efficient at this it can capture and store carbon dioxide up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.  The management and protection of these blue carbon habitats is vital in the fight against climate change.

Current marine conservation measures in the islands include a 25,390 square km mammal and shark sanctuary- Yarari sanctuary- across the Exclusive Economic Zone of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. All six islands have inshore Marine Protected Areas ranging in size from 10 to 60 sq km.

Blue Marine’s Senior Project Manager Jude Brown commented: “Having recently visited two of the islands, I witnessed first-hand how special this region is. Diving the waters off Saba I saw huge Tarpon swimming amongst shoals of blue tang, and hawksbill turtles feeding on the seagrass beds. I also witnessed the challenges these islands are facing from coral disease to issues with coastal development. It is an exciting opportunity to work in the Dutch Caribbean, bringing expertise and funding from Blue Marine to join with the wealth of knowledge already on the islands, to work together to protect the important marine life arounds these islands.”

Tadzio Bervoets, Director of the DNCA commented: “The Dutch Caribbean consists of the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The nature of the Dutch Caribbean contains the richest biodiversity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The diverse ecosystems are a magnet for tourism and at the same time the most important source of income for residents of the Dutch Caribbean. Nature on the islands is unique and important but it is also fragile. The coming week we will be in The Netherlands to present a Climate Action Plan for the Dutch Caribbean to emphasize the urgent need for a climate smart future for our islands.”


Photo: Coral reefs in the Dutch Caribbean- Photo credit: Naturepics: Y.+T. Kühnast- all rights reserved

Continue Reading

News

Dominica’s Secret Bay unveils new amenities

Caribbean DTA Team

Published

on

Secret Bay, Dominica’s exclusive six-star, all-villa, Relais & Châteaux rainforest resort and residences, has unveiled a first look at three new amenities inspired by biophilic design – Mouben Welcome House, Gwiyavye’ Lap Pool & Bar and Zing Zing Lounge. The architecturally stunning amenities are the first undertakings being introduced as part of the 10-year-old, award-winning resorts’ multi-year, master plan. This evolution – spread over 40+ acres of coastal land – allows for an array of new amenities, more private villas, and the introduction of a for-sale residence program, all while lowering the resort’s overall density and granting guests the utmost in the luxury of time and space.

The new amenities being unveiled at this time include:

Mouben Welcome House – Mouben Welcome House is both an architectural feat and the new resort hub where guests jumpstart their transformative journey. Modern in design and organic by nature, the structure features a porte-cochere for seamless entry and a fleet of electric vehicles to transport guests to their villas, as well as effortless access to Secret Bay’s beachfront, and the forthcoming funicular and Bwa Denn: Food, Art & Brewery. The Welcome House features the new Adventure Concierge Desk, where guests can arrange an array of life-altering island experiences—a service that is also available in-villa. Secret Bay will continue to have a “no front desk” concept, allowing guests to check in and out directly from their villa.

Gwiyavye’ Lap Pool & Bar – While each villa has its personal plunge pool, the Gwiyavye’ Pool & Bar serves as an elevated oasis for all guests to enjoy. The relaxing oceanfront destination features an in-nature lap pool for guests to use at their own leisure, a cantilevered deck with lounge chairs to soak up the warm Dominican sunshine and a spacious, full-service bar handcrafted with Guyanese Greenheart wood. Enveloped in lush rainforest landscape, the space offers spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea amid an orchard of guava trees.

Zing Zing Lounge – An extension of Secret Bay’s existing gourmet Zing Zing restaurant, the Zing Zing Lounge is a more casual offering that serves up specialty curated cocktails by expert mixologists paired with authentic Dominican bites. The Bar & Lounge is open daily from 5pm to 10pm.

“Secret Bay is continually evolving to meet the needs of our guests and stand out as a superior resort experience,” said Dinesh Kissoon, General Manager of Secret Bay. “We’re thrilled to bring these new experiences to Secret Bay and continue to raise the bar for excellent hospitality.”

In addition to these three new amenities, the masterplan of intimate amenities also includes a funicular, an art barn and a microbrewery, all slated for completion in early 2023.

Tucked away on the unspoilt “Nature Island” — one of the Caribbean’s most sparsely populated, environmentally conscious and culturally rich countries — Secret Bay has been praised for its ability to effortlessly capture the luxury of time and space along with its artful fusion of high design, local craftsmanship, commitment to sustainable development through numerous green and eco-friendly initiatives and its reputation for authentic guest experiences custom-curated to personal preference. 

Part of Secret Bay’s elevated experience is delivered in the form of its culinary offerings, including a “no-menu” concept at the innovative Zing Zing restaurant. Similarly, the Gommier Spa, a three-walled, treetop retreat designed especially for couples, focuses on local and sustainably sourced products for treatments. Other amenities include dedicated villa hosts, on-call concierge, chefs and guides and two secluded beaches.

Nightly rates at Secret Bay start at $897 USD. Secret Bay is located in Portsmouth, Dominica and can be reached at (+1) 767.445.4444 or info@secretbay.dm or online at http://secretbay.dm/.

The Residences at Secret Bay provide vacation home buyers with the rare opportunity to own a residential-style villa managed and marketed by one of the world’s most acclaimed sustainable luxury all-villa boutique resorts. Pricing for The Residences at Secret Bay starts at $1,490,000 USD for whole ownership or $208,000 USD per share for citizenship investors. For more information, visit www.secretbay.dm/residences. For a consultation, please email residences@secretbay.dm.

www.secretbay.dm

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Trending