For even the most prepared diver, logistics on international dive trips are at best a hassle, and at worst a nightmare. There's a ton of boxes to tick on the mental checklist.
Now - if you’re a diver without any bodily restrictions - put yourself in the fins of a diver with serious physical challenges. What if you’re paraplegic, have very limited mobility, or use a wheelchair? Then your checklist grows exponentially, with questions such as: Will the resort room have a reachable shower head near the shower bench? Can I easily access my bed from my wheelchair? Will the dive boats fully accommodate my needs? Will my dive guide be properly trained in leading divers like me? Or even: Will I have a compatible dive buddy?
Together with the nonprofit organization, Diveheart - an Illinois-based group which trains both disabled children and adults (including military veterans) in diving and trains able-bodied divers to teach and buddy with them - Scuba Travel Ventures helps make physically-challenged divers’ dreams come true. “Diveheart teaches them how to dive,” STV Dive Travel Specialist Mike Arellano says, “we help set up their travel arrangements to make it rewarding for both DiveHeart and the divers."
A group of five Diveheart divers -- five wheelchair-using young adults from Chicago Mike has personally guided - are booked next month to fly to Bonaire for a week of diving at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort .
In addition to booking Diveheart’s trips, STV works to make sure the world’s leading resort managers are aware of physically-challenged divers’ needs and committed to accommodating them. STV also works with resorts to donate vacation package giveaways at trade shows, raffle them off and donate the proceeds of ticket sales to Diveheart, just as the Roatan-based resort,Sueno Del Mar recently did.
“The most gratifying thing is looking at the pictures and hearing the voices of Diveheart divers who in diving did something new,” Mike says. “We’re doing whatever we can to get them more physically and mentally active through dive travel. They’re able to do what able-bodied divers take for granted and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
To learn more about Divheart’s efforts and STV’s collaboration with this nonprofit group, visit diveheart.org.