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5 places to explore the beauty and wonder of our underwater world

  • TURTLE INN RESORT / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
                                Snorkeling and scuba diving are part of the fun at Turtle Inn Resort in Placencia, Belize.

    TURTLE INN RESORT / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    Snorkeling and scuba diving are part of the fun at Turtle Inn Resort in Placencia, Belize.

Introduce your family to the beauty and wonder of our underwater world. Here are five places where you can swim, snorkel and learn to dive.

Belize

Belize is home to the second largest coral reef system in the world, luring scuba enthusiasts eager to dive the Great Blue Hole, the large submarine sinkhole once explored by Jacques Cousteau. If you team up with an experienced and reputable outfitter, it’s also a great place for beginners and more proficient family members to appreciate the glory of our underwater world. Las Terrazas Resort on Ambergris Caye is a family-friendly condo-style hotel adjacent to the White Sands Dive Shop, where Professional Association of Diving —Instructors-certified (PADI) instructors will ensure your dive experience is top-notch.

Contact: lasterrazasresort.com; ­whitesandsdiveshop.com; ­travelbelize.org

Harbour Village, Bonaire

Children ages 5 to 12 can join the resort’s Kids’ Great Adventure program where they will learn about the Bonaire Marine Park, snorkel, identify fish, and get comfortable with the SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) program, a wonderful precursor to SCUBA.

Children 8 and over can take part in the PADI Bubblemaker program, which enables young enthusiasts to breathe with a regulator in shallow ocean water. At 10, kids can earn their Junior Scuba Certification. Currently, the second diver in your party dives free when you book the Dive into Luxury Package. Children under 16 stay free in the room with their parents.

When not pursuing underwater adventure, families can use complimentary kayaks and paddleboards.

Contact: harbourvillage.com

Brac Reef, Cayman Brac

From this small, family-friendly island, families can enjoy a dive vacation that includes exploring the 70 named dive sites in the waters around Cayman Brac as well as the Russian Frigate and the Bloody Bay Wall near Little Cayman Island. The on-site dive shop provides personalized attention to the soon-to-be certified as well as the seasoned diver. The all-inclusive, beachfront resort also offers free bike rentals to explore the island, spa services and volleyball. Ask about special packages for families.

Contact: bracreef.com

The Florida Keys

Explore the only living coral reef system in the continental United States during a visit to this scenic South Florida region. For kids 8 and older, the Summer Marine Science Camp at Pigeon Key, an historic site 100 miles southwest of Miami, offers programs that include information about reef fish, coral reef systems, underwater photography and the gathering of specimens. Kids can get scuba certification during a camp session or brush up if already certified. The Keys are also home to more than 1,000 shipwrecks. The Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail includes nine submerged wrecks, all within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Certified divers can explore a string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs, some of which are easy, shallow dives, with local dive instructors.

Contact: fla-keys.com/diving; pigeonkey.net

Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

For families who choose to blend a luxury resort holiday with a scuba experience, this resort fits the bill. Give the sport a try by joining instructors twice daily in the comfort of Hawaii’s only specially designed scuba pool. Interested in learning more? Certification classes are offered at every level. Once the instruction is complete, escorted ocean dives are available. Meanwhile, families can enjoy the super-cool pool where rapids, a rope swing and water slides entertain, beach yoga and meditation, as well as a spa and numerous family-focused resort programs of interest to youngsters and teens.

Contact: grandwailea.com

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Resource: PADI.com

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