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  • HOME | PALAU | COZUMEL | KIDS' SEA CAMP
      by Hagen & Corinna Wegerer
    Florian, 5, holds one of the inhabitants of Stingray City, off Grand Cayman.

    My wife, Corinna, and I looked over at the boys; you could see the excitement on their faces as the plane taxied down the runway. It was a typical cold and dismal winter day when we left Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel, and headed for the first stop of our adventure-Key Largo, Florida. People dream about packing their bags, leaving the snow behind and heading to exotic, sunny destinations. Last year, we did just that, only we took the whole family.

    IF ONLY…
    Before we had children, Corinna and I promised each other that we would never look back on our lives and say those infamous words, “If only….” Yet, it seemed our lives had suddenly become so full. Between the boys’ school, soccer schedules, carpools, piano lessons, let alone our careers, there seemed to be little family time.

    Bluestriped Grunts and warm waters off Key Largo welcomed the Wegerer family on the first leg of their around the world family dive journey.

    But Corinna and I had recently sold our business and were embarking on new careers as scuba instructors. Our two eldest sons, 7-year-old Sebastian and 5-year-old Florian, had just moved to a new school. Our youngest, 21-month-old Christian, had just discovered that his feet were made for walking. The thought of showing the boys something of the world before they were tied up with school, friends, career choices and not to mention, girlfriends, was too appealing to pass up.

    ...ESSENTIALS…
    There is no doubt that the main ingredients for a successful family adventure are a healthy dose of common sense and a well-stocked first aid baggie. We discovered a fine balance between what we could prepare for (bugs and U/V rays), and what we couldn’t (canceled flights and lost luggage). We also made a trip to our family physician to receive all the necessary travel vaccinations. Hey, you can never be too careful.

     

    ...LODGINGS...
    We tended to go for smaller and often family-run lodgings, close to local dive shops and beaches. We wanted to soak in the atmosphere, its people and its culture. At the same time we knew that traveling with young children meant that the accommodations had to be pretty spacious and, ideally, have a swimming pool. We also needed access to phones; our laptop was our means of communicating with friends and family and it also came in handy for making travel arrangements. If possible, we chose an apartment with a kitchen, which meant we could avoid having to eat out for every meal.

    Key Largo, Florida
    Here the resorts and dive operators lay out the welcome mat for traveling families. We stayed at Amoray Dive Resort. Our boat captain and crew were happy to take the boys on the dive boats and even found time to get in the water and snorkel with Sebastian and Florian, while one of us stayed with Christian on the boat. The Dolphin Research Center has a program for children which allows close contact with these mammals. Kayaking and sailing are always close at hand. Of course, Miami was not too far away for a great day at the Miami Sea Aquarium. Shops and amenities close by. Great for children. Reefs are shallow—fun and safe for snorkeling.
    The average daily temperature is 82°F, with water temperatures of 72-75°F (winter), 82-86°F (summer). CONTACT: Florida Tourism Board www.flausa.com or www.fla-keys.com • Key Association of Dive Operators (KADO) www.divekeys.com.
     
    Grand Cayman
    We found a resort (Treasure Island, but there are many to chose from) that was family oriented with swimming pools and right on Seven Mile Beach. Close to shops and restaurants. Lots of activities available, but expensive. The boys snorkeled from the beach and we took them to the famous Stingray City. It was here that Christian (our youngest) put his mask on for the first time and swam with the stingrays. Topside temperature averages mid-70s°F (winter), 80°F (summer). Water temperature ranges 78-82°F (winter), 82-86°F (summer). CONTACT: Tourism Board (800) 346-3313 www.caymanislands.ky or www.divecayman.ky • Cayman Tourism Alliance (345) 949-8522,
    e-mail: ciwoa@candw.ky.
    If I sit near the dive gear, mum and dad will let me use it, right? Sebastian, 7, tries to contain himself long enough to get to the site off Grand Cayman.

    …WE LEFT THE GAMEBOY...
    It took some time for the boys to discover how much fun sticks and stones, sand and water and other “treasures” washed up on the beaches could offer. But their imagination began to unfold, in layers it seemed, and in Belize, they invented a Treasure Island of their own. In Barbados, we visited the Oistins Fish Fry, a Friday night ritual for the locals. Families turned out in their Sunday best to listen to reggae music and enjoy the day’s catch, grilled on smoky fire. I remembering wishing time would stand still for a while.

    For Corinna and I, it was like reliving our own childhoods and looking at the world through their eyes. It was on days like this, that we were sowing the seeds of friendship between us, which we hoped would continue to grow even after the getaway had ended.

    Yap
    We stayed at Manta Ray Bay Hotel. Bill Ackers’ family personally took care of our children. It was a distant, but very worthwhile trip. Lots to see and discover for children. Better than weeks in a classroom. No toys or T.V. but endless sporty adventures. Fishing, kayaking, deserted beaches, snorkeling, painting, basketmaking, etc. The chef would personally prepare food at a moment’s notice, almost 24 hours a day. Rather than choose from a menu, the boys would make a request and chef would make it if he had the ingredients. It is a most unique and wonderful destination.

    Not many children can say they met Father Christmas in Yap, a small island in the South Pacific! Santa William was only wearing a cotton wool beard and a loincloth, but he did carry a sack full of presents. We had some great dives in Yap, well known for its resident population of Manta Rays. The average temp is 80°; November-May is ideal. Water temperature averages 81°F. CONTACT: Federal States of Micronesia www.fm/yap.htm Yap Visitors Bureau www.visityap.com Manta Ray Bay Hotel www.mantaray.com Micronesia Tourism www.magnificentmicronesia.com.
     
    Belize & Ambergris Caye
    Ambergis Caye Is very much geared up for families. Endless activities are offered. Our favorites were snorkeling with sharks and rays at Shark-Ray Alley, a mangrove trip to see the Manatees (very knowledgeable guides!!!), BBQ on a uninhabited island with snorkeling and birdwatching on Half Moon Caye. No cars on Ambergris Caye, so we rented bicycles and a golf cart. The boys loved it. Very safe during day and evening. Great restaurants catering for all tastes. Fairly pricey (activities and food).

    Belize (mainland): More of an adventure holiday. There are many organized day trips into the Majan Mountains, Jaguar preserves and on the rivers to see and hear the Howler Monkeys. Wild animal encounters are what our children loved most. Mosquitoes are a big problem, so are the noseeums. Heath precautions must be taken, and we would not recommend it for children under eight. The boys especially enjoyed the beaches and the driftwood, palm trees, coconuts, etc. The waters were shallow and calm, although a little murky.
    Topside temperature averages 79°F; rain season is June-August. Water temperature ranges 75-84°F. CONTACT: www.travelbelize.org.
    …WE COULD DO THIS EVERY YEAR
    Our love for the ocean was a great incentive for the boys to come out on the dive boats with us.
    We took turns diving and encouraging the older boys to snorkel and enjoy the reefs. Christian, the youngest, never missed out on the excitement, as there would always be a dive guide willing to donate his lunch so Christian could enthusiastically feed the fish. One day in Nassau, Bahamas, while Corinna was snorkeling with Sebastian and Florian, and Christian and I were watching from the top deck, a wild dolphin surfaced close to the dive boat and started playing with the boys. Christian screeched with delight as the dolphin demonstrated its aquatic acrobatic abilities. The encounter only lasted a few minutes, but it is one we will all remember forever.
    Bahamas—Nassau
    Nassau has everything your heart could desire. Hotels have all activities for kids. Great diving in every direction of the compass.

    Long Island and Exuma Paradise! More deserted beaches than you can shake a stick at. No organized activities, but your imagination can be your guide. Really safe for swimming and snorkeling. Gin clear waters, shallow on the shores. Lots of shells, sand dollars, crabs, tiny fish and warm water. Choice of restaurants and shops is limited, but who cares when you are sitting undisturbed on a white beach, not a tourist in sight, no vendors, no noise... just bliss! The boys loved Lizard Key, a short swim from Long Island—uninhabited except for countless curious lizards.

    Topside temperature averages 70-75°F (Sept-May), 80-85°F (in other months). Water temperature averages 70°F (winter), 85°F (summer). CONTACT: Bahamas Diving Association www.bahamasdiving.com.

    Whilst in Belize, snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley, one of the dive guides placed a 4-foot Nurse Shark in Sebastian’s arms. Of course, these sharks are used to being fed and handled by humans. But after the rock-a-bye-baby session with the shark, we had to explain that touching marine life is only OK if an adult says so.

    Along the way, we included the boys in our daily chores—shopping, cooking, or planning outings and activities. But most of all we would talk. About anything, everything and sometimes nothing at all. We never realized how much our children had to talk about.

    The Wegerer boys—Christian, 2, Sebastian, 7, and Florian, 5, enjoy a sunset off Bonaire.

    Finally, creating a website from photographs and journal notes was a wonderful education for all of us. The site is not only a way for us to have a lasting memory of the trip, but also a way to encourage others to try an adventure for themselves.

    It truly was a fantastic journey.


    Barbados
    The west coast has fantastic beaches and great surf for boogie boarding and hoobie-cat sailing. The boys found something that they wanted to do every day. The dive operator let the two older boys come out and snorkel over some of the wrecks in Carlisle Bay. They thought it was great getting close to these “pirate” ships. Beach snorkeling was also easy and great fun, especially when there were turtles in the water with us. Some of the all inclusive resorts have great activities and the boys were really taken care of from morning until late afternoon.

    We stayed at Smugglers Cove, a guesthouse right on the west coast beach near Holetown. It had a small pool and a large beach. Big plus for Barbados is the incredible safe, fast and reliable bus service. You can go up and down the west coast for just $3 or $1.50 for children. Bajan people genuinely love children—you are welcome wherever you go!

    The average temperature is 75-85°F, dry season is Jan-June. Water temperature averages 78°F. Contact: Barbados Tourism Authority www.bar bados.org.

    The World of Family Diving