Earn your Ocean Advocate Certificate and PADI SCUBA Certification with SeaSmart this summer!
During the July 10-17 & 17-24, 2021 weeks, we will venture to Utila, a small island off mainland Honduras, where we have access to the second largest coral reef in the world, the Mesoamerican reef. More than 500 species of fish and 65 types of coral live within the large reef system. We choose locations where developing today’s students with marine conservation skills will be best nurtured and where students can have a high impact on the endangered marine ecosystem. Utila offers a front-row seat to the latest in marine science through its unique position as the “Whale Shark Capitol” of the Caribbean. The program also incorporates becoming PADI Open Water Scuba certified, can include advanced certifications, or just be enjoyed by those already certified to dive.
Partnering with an incredible team of local conservationists, scientists and dive professionals, our participants will gain exposure to experiences unique to Utila. Mornings include diving and/or dive training, followed by afternoons and evenings filled with expert-led workshops from the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center. Activities and learning will focus on coral monitoring and restoration, the many fish of the local reefs, invasive species such as lionfish and their impact, whale shark studies to understand their role in the local environment and a search to snorkel with them on a research safari. Topside, we will hike, kayak and/or ride horseback to learn about the mangroves, animal and plant life and the unique ecosystems that have sustained the island for many years. Beach cleanups are always included, so we can leave our destination just a little better than when we arrived.
Week 1: July 10-17, 2021 Week 2: July 17-24, 2021
Trip & Program Details and FAQ’s
How many students can attend per week?
Due to the custom nature of this particular program and the unique activities which have built-in limits regarding participants, such as the whale shark safari, we will limit each week to 12 students. However, for a large group traveling together, alternative arrangements can be made to the program.
What are the prerequisites for the program?
You do not need to be scuba certified to attend this program, as scuba training and potential certification is included. Students for this program must be minimally 15 years old when the program begins to be eligible for PADI Open Water certification. Students aged 10-14 years old, will be junior certification candidates.
What will our days be like?
Each day will bring a completely different breathtaking underwater experience! The first several days will revolve around the PADI Open Water (or advanced) scuba certification course, working in a confined pool-like setting on skills necessary for scuba certification. Then you will move to open water; where you will do your final testing for certification. After certifications are completed, our dives may include fish and coral scavenger hunts, after completing fish identification and coral workshops.
Later in the day, our adventures may take us to any of the following: Hiking to explore the island and its natural inhabitants, spending time at the lagoon with a marine biologist who will also lead us on a kayak tour through Utila’s mangroves to learn about the role they play in the unique ecosystem, a sea life safari with marine biologists to find whale sharks, dolphins and exciting marine life to snorkel with (if we are lucky!), a tour by the local doctor of and understanding how a hyperbaric chamber works, and workshops with the biologists from the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center on the roles that whale sharks, lion fish and other important species play in the local environment. We will explore coral monitoring, conservation and restoration practices as well as fish identification and monitoring. Beach cleanups usually round out our trips. We will eat all of our meals at the lodge, where we will stay.
Who do you partner with?
For this program, we will partner with the Bay Islands College of Diving, located adjacent to our lodge for scuba training. In addition, the Whale Shark Ocean & Oceanic Research Center will host much of our conservation and restoration activities. Local organizations will provide topside tours and workshops.
Where will we stay? Where will we eat and sleep?
We will be staying at the Utila Lodge. Accommodations consist of rooms with two double beds and will be shared by same gender students in each room. Each room has its own bathroom and includes air conditioning. There are no large hotels in Utila town – only small, full service and low-impact family-run resorts. The Utila Lodge, our home for the program, is a safe, enclosed compound that includes:
a full-service restaurant (three meals a day are included)
*most dietary needs/restrictions can be accommodated with ample notice
a dock for our dive boats
the Bay Island College of Diving (BICD), who will be providing our diving instruction & charters, gear and lessons
the health center and hyperbaric chamber
the Whale Shark Oceanic Research Center (WSORC) who will provide many of our workshops and adventures
How does the scuba certification work?
The PADI Open Water Diver Course will potentially lead participants to a certification that allows them to dive independently with a buddy all around the world! Over the course of our days, instructors will teach the basics of SCUBA – encompassing the theory behind safe diving practices, skill mastery and finally becoming a PADI Open Water Diver on the second largest reef system in the world, certified to depths of up to 18m/60ft.
Once students have formed the base of dive skills, we will hop onto one of the dive boats – The Neptune, The Tiburon or The Sea Sprite and build on what has been learned by exploring and navigating some of Utila’s many beautiful dive sites. Because there is a limit to the class sizes well below PADI limitations, you will have the most possible one-on-one time with your dive instructor. This will allow you to really understand why they love scuba diving so much and what you can do to become the best scuba diver you can be!
What if I am already certified to SCUBA dive?
If you are already a certified diver, you can enjoy beautiful recreational dives with other certified divers (along with a SeaSmart chaperone, as well as a local dive guide) while those getting trained work toward their certification. Those in training will join together with those already certified during the week. Alternatively, you can work on an advanced or specialty certification during training time. Pricing is adjusted accordingly.
What needs to be completed for an Ocean Advocate Certificate?
There will be opportunities throughout the program to attend workshops, participate in research activities, and perform underwater observation and work. These activities and contributions are integral to maximizing your experience and value from the program and are required for the certificate. Service hour opportunities can be discussed pending your requirements.
How many counselors will be with the group?
One counselor remains with every six students. This gives you peace of mind knowing that we know where your child is at all times.
Do the students need vaccinations to go to Honduras?
Do the students have to participate in diving?
No. While students can participate in the land-based activities only, we strongly encourage experiencing scuba training.
Can the students get certified to scuba dive at the camp?
Yes, we have incorporated it into the week long program. In most cases, students will finish with their PADI Open Water certification.
How well supervised are the students?
The students are supervised at all times.
Can parents attend?
Yes. Parents are welcome, but space is limited.
How much spending money do students need to bring?
Only money for airport snacks, souvenirs, t-shirts, soft drinks, and gratuities.
Is it safe to travel to Honduras?
The area that we travel to is very safe. Utila is an island off the mainland of Honduras. We will not travel through mainland Honduras at any time during our journey.
What kind of communications will there be?
The lodge has WiFi, though on islands there are often disruptions in service. SeaSmart will post pictures of our adventures on social media, whenever possible, during our trip. You will have the leaders’ direct cell phone numbers. We do not take phones from students during the week, however we encourage the students to “unplug” when they are topside, to fully experience the nature and beauty around them.
Is there a medical facility available to the students?
Yes. There is a doctor that works in the medical center and hyperbaric chamber next to the lodge. The cost for a consult is $20. All charges are paid at the time of service, and you can receive reimbursement through insurance (yours or DAN).
Do we need special insurance?
Yes. SeaSmart and the Lodge require that your student has DAN (Divers Alert Network) insurance for their trip. You can sign up online at https://www.diversalertnetwork.org or have us enroll you for $40, if you are doing your certification training during the program. It is not expensive and covers extensively for dive-specific trips. Your primary medical insurance may exclude scuba diving and/or may not provide coverage when you are traveling out of the country. You may or may not also opt for trip interruption travel insurance, if you do not already have that coverage.
How much does it cost?
The $2850 all inclusive fee for one week includes:
3 Meals Daily
PADI SCUBA Open Water training, and potentially, certification
Use of kayaks
Transportation from Roatan to Utila via ferry, and land transportation to the Lodge
Topside activities, workshops and classes including Ocean Safari
We offer a $50 per participant discount for siblings, family members or members of a scout troop or group when registering together. There is a $100 discount per participant for early payment in full.*
The two week fee is $5500. Additional certifications will have associated fees.
What do I have to do before going?
In preparation for SCUBA training, you must complete the PADI online eLearning session for the Open Water certification course, and submit a printout of your completion.
How do I get there?
You are responsible for your own airfare costs. Once we understand where everyone from the group is coming from, we will organize what US airport will be our meeting point. We will fly together to Honduras and ferry over to the island of Utila. Associated luggage limitations, etc. will be communicated based on the final transportation selections. Ground transportation to the lodge, once on Utila, is included.
How does COVID impact the program?
The good news is there hasn’t been a confirmed case of COVID on Utila since December 2020. While a lot can change between now and July, here’s what’s currently happening with regard to COVID precautions.
Entry into Honduras requires a “within 72 hours negative test” (rapid or PCR) and an online registration requirement. For return to the US, there are rapid tests readily available. At our lodge, learning and SCUBA training location, which is a contained "campus," there is also a hyperbaric chamber and medical center. The doctor there has tests and, for a $60 fee, will conduct the tests, timed for our return.
The lodge and dive boat are following precautions, similar to what we are doing in the US:
Hand sanitizer stations are provided throughout the facilities
Required to wear a mask when inside shared facilities or on the boats - reusable masks are preferred
Safe Distancing is practiced and expected
Boat capacity has been reduced by 50% to allow extra space between divers
Divers who plan to use rental equipment are welcome to do so, but will be required to bring or purchase their own mouth piece and snorkel (This can change closer to our trip; SeaSmart will provide this if necessary)
Rental and personal equipment is disinfected after each use
The lodge and dive school temperature-checks all staff twice daily and may ask to check guest’s temperature as well
If there is a staff member or student that presents a fever, sore throat, coughing or any other signs or symptoms potentially indicative of Covid, this person must be sent to his/her room and the doctor will be contacted for a proper medical evaluation, with patient isolating during evaluation.
After we have received your application, we will notify you of confirmation of receipt. A $250 deposit is due to secure your spot within 10 calendar days. A second $500 deposit is due by March 15th. Final payment is requested by May 1st, after which deposits/payments in full can no longer be refunded. (*A $100 discount is offered for complete payments made in full on or before March 15th).
Additional instructions, forms and waivers for completion, and a recommended packing list will be provided upon payment.