Ever since being shown to millions by the father of scuba himself on television, Belize’s Great Blue Hole has continued to captivate adventurers from across the globe. Plunging into its azure depths is on many a bucket list – the images of what lies beneath its surface as enticing as they are enchanting. For 22-year-old Placencia native, Sade Rowland, getting the chance to dive into the Blue Hole was a dream come true. It’s also an experience that she won’t soon forget.
An ocean lover at heart, Sade, along with Hopkins resident Carlee Castillo, is currently enrolled in Hamanasi’s first-ever Women’s Dive Internship Program. Thanks to the program, both Carlee and Sade have been able to explore Belize’s underwater world. All that and then some while learning the ins and outs of running a dive operation. Here’s how the program, spearheaded by the country’s leading regenerative resort, is helping Belizean women break barriers and enter the diving profession.
Hamanasi’s Women’s Dive Internship and Career Development Program
“What I love most about diving is the serenity,” said 26-year-old Carlee to Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle. “I love how calming it is. How, at a depth of 60 feet of water, it can simply ease your mind and soul.”
Through Hamanasi’s six-month-long internship, both Carlee and Sade will soon be able to turn their love for the ocean into a rewarding career. Whether for tourism or scientific research, the Women’s Dive Internship Program aims to equip young women with the skills needed to enter the diving profession.
“The journey has been nothing short of amazing,” Carlee added. “From the dives to the crew – they’ve played a major part in my growth as an upcoming diving professional with their expertise and their knowledge and even their sense of humor.”
That journey has also required some strength and lots of dedication, especially considering that diving is a male-dominated field. (In the US, 13.2% of divers are women and 86.8% are men).
“I’ve gotten a bit tougher mentally and physically – I mean, you kind of have to, working alongside men,” she noted.
This, however, is slowly changing, thanks to initiatives dedicated to increasing the number of women with dive certifications. The Women’s Dive Internship & Career Development Course began in early March. A paid internship, it covers a wide array of PADI dive courses. From learning what it takes to run an operation to learning how to navigate emergencies in and out of the water, the courses are preparing Carlee and Sadee for fulfilling careers in Belize and beyond.
“I think because of my stick–to–itiveness and my determination…I’ve become well-rounded. Having Sade alongside me throughout the entire journey has also made it a bit easier since we share the same challenges as well as the same goals. We’re each other’s motivation and inspiration to be able to have made it this far in this journey.”
The Journey to Divemaster
“I’ve developed my skills and confidence in diving that’s for sure. But overall it’s been an amazing experience that has enriched my life in many ways,” said Sade.
Divided into four phases, the completion of the dive internship will see both interns walk away with an internationally recognized divemaster certification. They’ll also leave with newly formed relationships with stakeholders in Belize’s dive industry.
Additionally, specialized courses ensure that they get the chance to diversify their experiences. Given the option to choose a total of five specialty courses, they have been getting hands-on experience professionally exploring the depths. Those courses include deep diving, fish identification, night dives, lionfish hunting, and underwater navigation.
“The journey has been wonderful,” Sade added. “Any challenges that came around, I overcame them. And with the help of the marine team, the journey was made even more wonderful. It’s never a dull moment with them.”
Sade and Carlee are expected to complete the six-month program in September. Hamanasi is planning on making the Women’s Dive Internship & Career Training Course a yearly initiative.
Diving With the Experts at Hamanasi
Found on the sandy shores of Hopkins Village, Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort is where offshore exploration meets inland adventure and beachfront relaxation. Known for being a founding member of Regenerative Resorts and “walking the eco-travel walk”, the southern Belize resort is also a leader in Belize diving.
A PADI 5-Star Resort, Hamanasi offers guests an extensive list of dive experiences to choose from, including learning how to dive with experienced PADI instructors. Diving enthusiasts get the chance to explore Belize’s southern barrier reef, home to some of the best dives in the country. For the conservationist at heart, embark on thrilling lionfish hunting adventures. Or, enjoy the ultimate diving experience at the country’s best sites: the Turneffe Reef Atoll and the Lighthouse Reef Atoll (home of the famous site “The Aquarium”).
Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle asked both Carlee and Sade what they would say to any young woman thinking of entering the diving profession:
Sade: I’d say go for it. It’s an amazing way for women to challenge themselves, especially since statistically this is a male-dominated field of work. I’m proof that you can do it, Carlee and I are proof. It is a wonderful journey and it takes dedication and drive, but for the most part, you have fun. I encourage women to take the opportunity and go for it and explore the magnificence of the underwater world.
Carlee: Everything that you set your mind to is possible. Don’t doubt yourself or step back just because it’s a male-dominated field. Take on the challenge. Yes, you will have those who will doubt your capabilities. But as long as you don’t doubt yourself you can achieve anything you want to. If I can do it so can you! And to anyone who loves the ocean but doesn’t know that being a divemaster is an option: get diving! You will fall in love at first dive.
All Photos courtesy of Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort.