Hagen & Corinna Wegerer
5, holds one of the inhabitants of Stingray City, off Grand
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.
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.
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.
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 couldnt (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.
|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.
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 shallowfun
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
Key Association of Dive Operators (KADO) www.divekeys.com.
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
Cayman Tourism Alliance (345) 949-8522,
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 days 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.
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 moments
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.
& 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.
Our love for the ocean was a great incentive for the boys to come out on
the dive boats with us.
WE COULD DO THIS
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.
Nassau has everything your heart could desire. Hotels have all
activities for kids. Great diving in every direction of the
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
Islanduninhabited 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 Sebastians 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 choresshopping, 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.
Wegerer boysChristian, 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
It truly was a fantastic journey.
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 childrenyou are welcome wherever
The average temperature is 75-85°F, dry season is Jan-June. Water
temperature averages 78°F. Contact: Barbados Tourism Authority
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