Here’s how coronavirus, or COVID-19, is impacting the scuba diving community worldwide. By Scuba Diving Editors Updated: June 5, 2020
Coronavirus is affecting everyone worldwide, including scuba divers, from individual travelers to dive shop and liveaboard operators. We’ve been in contact with members of the dive community from around the world to bring you the latest coronavirus updates and considerations to keep in mind for any future or planned dive travel. Please use this blog as a way to stay informed on what is taking place in the scuba diving community right now, and always check with local authorities and government entities before determining when and if it’s safe to travel or leave your home.
If you are a member of the scuba diving community and would like to provide a coronavirus update on your business or region, please email our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org
PADI has launched an interactive map that allows divers to easily see if diving is allowed, restricted or currently prohibited in their area because of coronavirus restrictions. The map includes a pin for every single PADI Center and Resort. If the owner has provided the information to PADI, the pin provides information about whether the business is currently open and its hours.
“As the effects of COVID-19 spreading and receding from each country evolve, local regulations adapt creating a patchwork of situations making it hard to stay up to date, even for residents in their own community,” says PADI. “This map is a great resource for information on current guidelines, any potential restrictions and special safety precautions in place to help people safely dive in again locally and across the globe.”
If you are a PADI Dive Center or Resort that would like your business availability and hours added to the map, PADI says: “Check your email for a personal link to update information for your area and business. By completing the online form using the unique link and keeping it regularly updated, you will be ensuring the most accurate information is available to divers.”
The map is continually updated to reflect the fluid nature of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Florida Keys reopened on Monday, June 1st after closing on March 22nd to prevent the spread of coronavirus along the chain of islands. Health checkpoints on two roads leading to the islands were removed and airport health screenings are suspended, “except for passengers on nonstop flights from designated COVID-19 hotspot states,” according to a press release about the reopening. It goes on to say island businesses have “implemented safeguards that include enhanced sanitizing, reduced occupancy limits, required social distancing and the wearing of masks, and barriers or increased space between seating areas and restaurant tables” as well as signage “to remind the public of the health protocols.”
The Keys tourism council issued advisory health precautions for tourists, which include packing face masks and hand sanitizer, avoiding socialization in groups of more than 10 strangers and checking ahead with tour operators about what facilities will be operating, (like public bathrooms), before arrival.
Dr. Mark Whiteside, Monroe County, Florida’s Medical Director, Discusses Coronavirus Travel Tips for Florida Keys:
The Cozumel dive operator is running a GoFundMe to supplement staff pay. “While the company has committed to continue paying all employee’s base salaries,” Dive Paradise said in a press release, “the dedicated staff of divemasters, instructors, boat captains, mates and sales and support staff are all left without the trip-based wages and tips that they rely on to survive.”
To help dive operators prepare to resume business operations, DAN released answers to common inquiries about returning to diving amid COVID-19. “Covered topics include safety practices for retail areas, staff and client interactions, dive boat operations, gear disinfection protocols and more,” DAN said in a press release. Other coronavirus resources from DAN for divers, such as articles and webinars, can be accessed at DAN.org/COVID-19.
If your inquiry is not addressed, you can contact DAN directly:
Green Fins, an initiative lead by UN Environment and the Reef-World Foundation to protect reefs by guiding dive and snorkel operators on sustainability, released guidelines for dealing with chemical cleaning agents in an eco-friendly manner and is providing free access to the Green Fins Dive Operator Handbook, normally £20. “We appreciate that this is an incredibly tough time for the diving and snorkeling industry,” said Chloe Harvey, Reef-World’s director, in a press release. “The coronavirus pandemic has many negative consequences for many people but there are silver linings including the potential to ‘redefine’ the tourism industry and use this downtime to put better environmental policies in place….”
Top Green Fins members have advanced their sustainability measures during lockdown including Evolution, in the Philippines, which partnered with the local sea police and other dive shops to monitor the waters for illegal fishing. “During this time when no one is diving, we realised that the dive sites could be at high risk of overfishing, especially as out of work employees look for ways to feed their families,” said Evolution Partner and TDI Instructor Trainer Matt Reed in a Green Fins press release. Two fishermen were arrested during the lockdown for fishing in protected areas. “So, even under these very challenging circumstances, the local dive shops have shown that they can work together to do their best for the amazing thresher sharks and the environment in which the sharks live….We are doing what we can to ensure the diving remains excellent and we encourage people to help out both the ocean and the small island of Malapascua by coming to visit as soon as we can open again for business,” Reed said.
Wuhan Diving, a PADI dive shop in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, resumed operations earlier this month. Employees and customers alike need to provide negative coronavirus tests to enter, yet, despite the disruptions, the owner expects to issue as many scuba certifications in 2020 as in 2019. Read more.
Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers is giving away a seven-night stay with five days of diving to 20 frontline healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. “We’re looking forward to pampering a few of the many thousands of people around the world who have worked so hard for so long caring for patients during this pandemic,” said the resort’s owner, Bill Acker, in a press release. “It’s a small but heartfelt gesture on our part in comparison to the sacrifices they have been making.”
Nomination rules and the entry form can be found at mantaray.com. The deadline for entries is December 31, 2020 and winners will be notified on or around January 1, 2021.
Pro Dive International Dive Centers, which operates in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, launched a fundraiser to supplement the salaries of its more than 150 employees. “Please help us now, to support ourselves and our families through this rough patch,” Pro Dive said in a press release. “We promise to be back, and ready to serve you again as soon as the COVID-19 crisis is over, hopefully very soon!” Donate at: donorbox.org/prodive
Divers can donate to dozens of dive operations through a crowdfunding campaign launched by the Sea Save Foundation on Giving Tuesday. “We believe that the people on the front lines of dive expeditions are critical ambassadors for ocean conservation. They show the world the beauty and challenges facing oceans” and will receive 100 percent of the donated funds, the Sea Save Foundation said in a press release. Donate at: seasave.org/scubaambassadors
Cave Training Mexico donated 50 medical grade quality masks, 500 pairs of latex gloves, and 5 liters of hand sanitizer to a local hospital, with work ongoing to make a second donation. The organization has also partnered with a local seamstress to provide hand-made cotton masks for members of the public, shipping to the U.S. is offered. For mask information or to assist with ongoing donations, contact Alessandra Figari, owner of Cave Training Mexico at email@example.com.
On Wednesday, April 19, Liquid Motion Underwater Photo & Film Academy will launch a free series of online lessons in underwater photography and films on their YouTube channel taught by award-winning Underwater Photographer/Filmmaker/Artist Guy Chaumette. “Now is the perfect time to work on your underwater imaging, and after subscribing to these tutorials, you could emerge a different person on the other side of quarantine,” Liquid Motion said in a press release. Online courses in underwater photography and cinematography are available at liquidmotionacademy.com.
Wayne Brown, CEO of Aggressor Adventures, wants divers to know that the team at Aggressor is working hard during this time to make sure they are ready and better-than-ever. The Aggressor yacht, river cruise, and safari lodge staff are spending their downtime deep cleaning and disinfecting all areas for the safe return of guests. More ways the Aggressor team is committed to Clean, Refresh, & Sanitize:
• Running drills and training for response to emergency situations
• Refreshing and cleaning environmental systems, air conditioners and watermakers
• Painting and repairing cosmetic wear and tear
• Organizing, testing, and servicing emergency equipment
• Updating all briefings and presentations
Anthony’s Key Resort staff members received two weeks of groceries on Tuesday, April 14 thanks to more than $10,000 raised through a crowdfunding campaign, the resort said in a press release. The campaign is ongoing, with donations accepted online. (NOTE: The donation platform will allow you to select the Anthony’s Key Resort as the recipient once a donation amount is selected.)
Spirit Airlines will operate a humanitarian flight for U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents. The flight will depart from Aruba and land in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 15, 2020. Passengers residing in Bonaire and Curacao will have the option to use Divi Divi airlines to transfer to Aruba in order to catch this flight. Please click here for the official announcement from the U.S. Consulate and contact Spirit Airlines directly to book a seat on this flight.
An online auction will be held from April 20 to 30 to contribute to staff salaries and replace gratuities at Dive with Martin in Cozumel. “The goal of this online auction is to raise money to help keep each of our valuable staff employed with a minimum salary,” said the shop in a press release. Join the “Dive with Martin Friends” Facebook group to access the auction.
Eco Divers Reef Foundation, a Cayman Islands nonprofit that works with local dive shops to propagate coral nurseries, now has a GoFundMe to support their local partners. Donations “will go directly into helping the dive shops run their shore diving and help keep the coral nurseries thriving. Please be safe during these times and thank you for any little donation as it will go a long way for many on the island,” said Brittany Balli, director of the Eco Divers Reef Foundation, in an email to Scuba Diving Magazine.
The divewear company is launching several virtual activities to keep the dive community engaged:
1) Photogrammetry Classes with John Kendall – Learn to build 3D computer models from underwater photographs in workshops supported by Fourth Element, which are running April 2nd, April 6th, Thursday 9th at 4pm UK time (11am EST). Sign up at: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/v2t4z0
2) Underwater photography competition – The categories include:
Prizes of Fourth Element gear will be given, entry details available at: facebook.com/fourthelementdive.
3) Under (bath) Water Photography Competition – “Basically, set up an underwater scene in your bath tub, fill the bath and photograph the scene,” says a Fourth Element press release. Entries can be posted on Facebook and Instagram. Details will be posted on the Fourth Element Facebook page on Monday, April 13.
4) Underwater Film Festival, Imaging Workshops, Virtual Dives – Tune into Fourth Element’s YouTube channel for:
NOTE Anthony’s Key Resort is now accepting donations at care4communities.org/donate. This donation platform will allow you to select the Anthony’s Key Resort as the recipient once a donation amount is selected.)
A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help replace wages lost by Anthony’s Key Resort’s staff during COVID-19 travel restrictions. It was set up in appreciation by a diver who, after getting stranded at Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR) on Roatan when Honduras closed its boarders, saw the effort the staff put in to getting him and all the other divers home safely.
Patricia Stone, another diver briefly stuck at Anthony’s Key Resort, said via email to PADI: “When I asked one of the upper management staff if the resort will survive, she responded that the staff will keep up the resort – cleaning, answering phones and anything else they can do – even with no paychecks, because they know it needs to be done or they will not have anything to come back to… AKR is a very special resort to so many divers. I am hopeful you or someone at PADI can help me get the word out about how AKR owners/staff bent over backwards for us and am also hoping our great community of divers can help them during this extremely difficult time.”
When Honduras closed its boarders and cancelled flights, 20 divers halfway through a one week stay at Cabañas on Clark’s Cay and Villa on Dunbar Rock realized they were “stranded” at the resorts. According to a press release issued jointly from the resorts, both extended the divers’ stay free of charge for as long as it took to get them home safely: “While it is nice and safe here, they weren’t with their loved ones,” said Mark Walker, Vice President and Operations Manager for both properties. “We also recognize that they weren’t here of their own free will. Therefore they weren’t charged for an extended stay that was not of their choosing. Not even for extras like diving, food, and beverages.”
The resorts scheduled a private yacht and bus to get the divers to the airport when American Arlines received permission to land on Roatan, Honduras to pick up more than 150 stranded travelers.
Joe Adams, owner of the Colorado-based Joe’s Scuba Shack, had a group staying at Dunbar Rock and said in the press release: “The staff and resort were amazing and went way above. The diving was wonderful, and our group was spoiled. If we had to be ‘stranded,’ we couldn’t have been in a better place.”
“I would like to sincerely thank Lee and all his marvelous staff for taking such great care of us during the Coronavirus epidemic that closed the countries borders,” said Clark’s Cay guest Lisa Pergament once she was home. “We were at Clark’s Cay a week longer than expected, and we were well taken care of, able to dive still, eat gourmet food, drink, and get pampered! I truly appreciate the two weeks of fun and sanity while the rest of the world was going crazy.”
According to a press release from Aggressor Adventures CEO Wayne Brown, their staff “getting all destinations ready for the safe, healthy, and joyful return of our valued guests. Currently, staff are focused on our number one priority to clean, refresh, and sanitize every Aggressor brand.
“For example, all yachts, river cruise vessels and safari lodge chalets are under-going deep cleanings and thorough disinfecting from bow to stern and starboard to port. This includes refreshing and cleaning all environmental systems such as air conditioners and water-maker systems. All dive equipment including compressors and scuba tanks are being visually checked and serviced. All dive rental equipment, too, is being cleaned and sterilized.”
Aggressor Adventures is also reviewing and updating safety policies and emergency response protocols.
The island of Roatan, like many places around the world, is currently closed to incoming tourists. But that hasn’t stopped generous divers from supporting their favorite dive resort. CocoView Dive Resort guests who have stayed at the resort five or more times, affectionately known as the CocoNuts, recently created a GoFundMe campaign to organize an emergency relief fund for the resort staff and their families. Talk about a loyal following!
Many dive operations are not able to take divers diving at this time and instead have taken to social media to interact with their followers. One shop in Mauritius posts a virtual dive briefing each day while another operator in the Canary Islands is encouraging a specialty dive course for scuba diving in the shower. The best video we’ve seen yet is of two, stir-crazy divers simply going for a “dive” in their home:
Show us your creative way of diving while on lockdown by posting to social media and using #ScubaDivingMag. Can’t come up with anything? Here are ten ways to stay involved in the scuba community without getting wet.
The U.S. Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A level 4 travel advisory is considered the highest level the state department issues and translates as a “do not travel” warning.
PADI Travel has worked with their operators to offer more flexible cancellation terms. The resorts and liveaboards listed on this page are offering more generous refund policies and rebooking conditions.
The recent coronavirus outbreak has led DAN to release guidelines on effectively sanitizing your dive gear. Gear can be sanitized by submerging it in a 10% bleach solution or using cleaning products such as Steramine™ tablets or other quaternary ammonium compounds.
For the entire release and tips on extra steps you can take to protect yourself, view DAN’s full release on their website.
As of March 15th, 2020, there were still no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 on Bonaire. In an effort to minimize the island’s exposure to the virus, the island government has been systematically announcing Bonaire travel restrictions for flights and cruise ships.
European Flights and Cruise Ships
Last Friday, the island government announced that all flights from Europe are immediately suspended until March 31st, 2020. Also, no cruise ships are allowed into port for 30 days.
Flights from U.S., Canada, Colombia and Dominican Republic
Announced today, and effective immediately, all flights from the U.S., Canada, Colombia and Dominican Republic have been suspended. Flights that were already en route to Bonaire at the time of suspension were allowed to land, but arriving passengers were interviewed and their place of stay registered. This restriction is in effect until March 27th, 2020, but can be extended.
Visitors to Yap can once again enter the country after a country-wide travel ban was lifted on Feb. 12, 2020. A Yap State Task Force is still in place to ensure that precautionary measures are being taken to protect all residents and visitors to Yap. The CEO of Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers, Bill Acker shared “Our guests will be met upon arrival and taken to their accommodations as quickly as possible”.