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The Utila Dive Center - A Poseidon Rebreather Center Success Story

Utila Dive Center - A Poseidon Rebreather Center Success Story

By Andy Phillips

 

An epiphany is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply to any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. Epiphanies are studied by psychologists and scholars, particularly those attempting to study the process of innovation.” Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany_(feeling) 

 

Now, whilst categorizing our management team at the Utila Dive Center as scholars or psychologists maybe a slight exaggeration, as dive professionals and from a customer service and innovative aspect, we are constantly seeking to raise the level of service we provide our divers and to offer an enhanced unique diving experience on our reef systems.  The Utila Dive Center is located in the idyllic, laid-back Caribbean Bay Islands of Honduras, and is part of the 2nd largest barrier reef system in the world; the ‘Mesoamerican’ reef system with dive sites comprised of fringing reef systems, sheer wall’s and drop-off’s and offshore seamounts. Significant biodiversity of aquatic life and encounters with whale sharks, dolphins and rays a regular occurrence here.

 

Success Through Becoming a Poseidon Rebreather Center 

So with such great diving, and a dive center with an already established reputation for excellence in training at all levels from entry level through to PADI Divemaster and Instructor courses as well as technical diver training programs, we were still finding ourselves facing the ‘law of diminishing returns.’ That all changed, however, almost 3 years ago in 2011 when we became a Poseidon Rebreather Center and launched the PADI ‘Type R’ recreational rebreather programs. 

 

 

 

 

As a dive training facility that has certified thousands of recreational divers over the years and dive professionals at all levels, it didn’t take much discussion from our staff to realize that the recreational rebreather unit represented a significant breakthrough in an enhanced diving experience.  Although we do run monthly technical diving courses through to trimix open circuit diver, we decided we would limit our scope of rebreather training and offerings simply to the recreational diver for now.  So at the DEMA dive show in Orlando back in 2011 we purchased 3 Poseidon MKVI units, attended the technical service workshops, and personally hauled them back to the island of Utila and started offering our training programs and unit rental.

 

Since then we have consistently offered courses each month at the open water and advanced open water levels for our recreational divers.  We’re finding that these courses are appealing to experienced recreational divers who are curious to explore into rebreather diving and enhance their own experiences. Photographers and videographers who want better shots and more intimate experiences and encounters underwater are also turning to rebreather diving more and more. Many Divemasters and Instructors who are seeking to advance their own training and career advancement have also become certified as rebreather trainers.  We have had many divers visit us from North America and Europe to get trained on the unit and build hours and comfort, before investing in their own Poseidon MKVI and the new SE7EN units so they can extend their dive times in their local conditions.  In 2012 we ran the 1st ever PADI Poseidon MKVI Instructor course in Latin America and every quarter we have a scheduled PADI Rebreather Instructor course for dive professionals that meet the requirements and can also schedule Instructor training upon demand.

 

Andy Phillips with 2 divers

PADI Course Director Suzy Phipps (left) and PADI Master Instructor Mary Peter (right) training with Utila Dive Center MKVI Instructor Trainer Andy Phillips, for their own enjoyment and career advancement

 

For most seasoned divers, having to haul dive gear on long dive travel trips still remains as desirable as getting stuck with the middle airplane seat sandwiched between other sweaty travelers and parents with screaming babies. While most rebreathers and standard scuba gear are a headache to travel with, the Poseidon MKVI and SE7EN units are quite easy to travel with.  One of our own reasons for choosing to invest in the Poseidon units is not just their user friendliness and automation, which is essential to the recreational rebreather diver, but that they are also one of the most recognized and distributed recreational rebreathers worldwide. It is icing on the cake that their innovative design is great for dive travel, making them one of the more practical and convenient units to travel with. 

 

To promote and support the rebreather experience which results in intimate encounters with aquatic life for the last few years, we have been organizing training and offering trips to the Galapagos.  On our trip last September we hosted 14 rebreather divers, 5 of whom were using Poseidon MKVI Rebreathers.

 

Lara Anderson and Marc Carroll training on MKVI

Lara Anderson and Marc Carroll training with MKVI Instructor Guillermo Pierano (center) at Utila Dive Center prior to Galapagos liveaboard trip in September 2013.

 

5 Poseidon MKVI units used on Galapagos trip

5 Poseidon MKVI units represented the majority of rebreathers used on our 2013 Galapagos trip

 

The benefits of diving a place like the Galapagos on rebreather compared to open circuit scuba are comparable to watching a movie at the IMAX 3D cinema compared to on your TV at home.  Here is another YouTube clip from one of our past Galapagos trips and you can see the difference between rebreather and open circuit diving:

 

 

It’s not just the Galapagos that allows such intimate encounters, just this week on Sunday, March 8th our resident Poseidon Instructor Guillermo Pierano finished a MKVI Advanced rebreather course with student PADI Divemaster Kaelan Langelier, and they enjoyed a 15 minute experience with 3 Eagle Rays who were probably so curious as to who these silent divers were on the reefs of Utila.

 

 

Now it’s very rare that divers can say the aquatic life comes to check them out, unless you're diving a Poseidon rebreather, and that’s why we can state from the field that recreational rebreather diving is growing in popularity and is enhancing all types of diving experiences for a variety of divers. The Utila Dive Center is proud to be one of the first to advance mainstream recreational diving to recreational rebreather diving with the Poseidon units. Now our main goal is to improve on this...hopefully we don’t have to wait so long till our next ‘epiphany’!!!!!!

 

About the author

Andy Phillips has been working full time in the dive industry since 1996 and has traveled and worked throughout the world as a dive professional in South East Asia, South Africa, Australia, North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and the Red Sea.  He is a PADI Course Director/Trimix IT/Rebreather IT, DAN Instructor Trainer and IANTD Instructor Trainer.  He has been awarded the PADI Platinum status as Course Director for the last 9 consecutive years, and has spoken at the DEMA dive convention on several occasions, holds a Master’s of Science degree in E-commerce.  Andy is the Director of professional training for the Utila Dive Center, a PADI Career Development Centre in the Bay Islands of Honduras in the Western Caribbean.  His personal dive interests are travel, rebreathers, technical and cave diving.