The Perfect Family Vacation

By The staff of Sport Diver
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Beaches, turquoise water, ocean-front villas, world-class diving, romance, recreation and relaxation on the Caribbean island of Curacao. Just add kids!

What? Did you say, "Just add kids,"?

Kids Sea Camp started in Curacao five years ago and the island's program has become the model for other destinations around the world.

Picture this: white sand beach in the late afternoon, barbecue cooking, steel drums playing and an incredible sunset in the background. Mom and dad are sitting on the beach sipping rum punch and soaking up some sun while the children are snorkeling and playing in the surf.

"Mom, there's something gooey and pink with two little eyes in a shell under the dock ... I think it's an octopus!" says the boy.

"No dear," replies his mother, "it's a conch that lives in the conch shell, not an octopus."

"But, Mom, it really looks like an octopus!" responds the boy.

The mother replies, "Honey, a conch can look like an octopus."

"It's an octopus, Mom," the boy states with firmness and runs off.

Three minutes later my son comes running out of the water and up the beach as I lay drenched in the warmth of the Caribbean sun. I open my eyes to see a very excited, smiling 9-year-old holding a conch shell in his left hand while his right hand eagerly points to the squiggly wiggly pink, then blue, then brown creature rapidly changing color far inside the conch shell. As this creature is being observed, he squeezes himself deeper into the shell, causing all the water to squirt out.

"See Mom, I told you it was an octopus. Ms. Katie, our Kids Sea Camp counselor, taught us that octopuses can change color and that they can fit into almost anything. See its tentacles, Mom?" states the boy with pride.

Got PVC pipe, calm clear water and ribbons. Just add junior open-water divers.

Scene: junior open-water certification at Curaçao Sea Aquarium. Underwater graduation.

This is the PADI junior open-water graduation, but it doesn't take place on land; it happens on a sandy bottom about 30 feet below the surface. Parrotfish, grunts and yellowtail snappers are in the crowd along with mom and dad blowing bubbles for their graduating kids. After a week of hard work in the classroom, pool sessions and open-water dives along with some clowning around with their instructors, this dive is their time to shine. So don't forget your camera, Mom, to capture the moment.

A smile, a smock, a few thousand dots of paint and enough brushes for everyone – adults and children alike – are what you get when you throw the "Pirate Painter" into the Kids Sea Camp mix. You will hear him at breakfast asking you to put your hands under his shirt and tell him what you feel. Don't laugh – he's serious, and the prize is grand if you guess correctly. Your hands are placed on the hundreds of bumps forming a fish he has painted on a canvas hiding under his shirt. Ron Steven, of Rogest Art, creates and inspires the minds and warms the hearts of us all with his marine life art workshop. Music and dance, laughing and fun make for another perfect day in paradise.

Margo Chornlesky, a scuba mom, developed Kids Sea Camp because she believes that kids should experience fun, hands-on experiences with animals, get messy with paint, laugh every day and enjoy and learn everything there is to enjoy and learn about our oceans. She wants kids to understand and grow to love what many diving moms and dads already do. Margo's biggest joy has been to witness, year after year, how many nondiving moms, dads and grandparents get so inspired by the children that they get certified to dive or take a discover scuba course and make it a family affair.

A week jam-packed with diving, sea lion and dolphin kisses and just plain fun … what more could you ask for? If there is one complaint that parents have every year, it's "My kids don't want to spend time with me." Some may consider that a blessing, but after a week of everyone doing their own thing parents may start to feel the need to spend family time together. To satisfy everyone's needs this year, in Curaçao we are going to make some mandatory family fun time at Porto Marie Beach. There will be gorgeous shore diving, white sand beach, food and fun – and don't forget the family – while spending the last day of camp just hanging out, snorkeling or diving with friends and family.

Reproduced with permission from Bonnier Corporation. All rights reserved.

Published: 25 Sep 2007 | Last Updated: 31 Jul 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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