Emma and Tony Andrews are PADI Professionals, Owners of PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre Crystal Divers Mauritius and creators of the Crystal Ocean Explorers Program. Through education and inspiration, they hope to empower the next generation of Torchbearers to engage with conservation and make a positive difference for our ocean.

We caught up with Emma to learn more about the program, and their motivations for approaching conservation from the perspective of our youth.

What lead you to create the Crystal Ocean Explorers Program?

As the parents of three young girls, we often think about what kind of legacy we’d like to leave our children. What we wish for our children is a healthy, clean ocean and an empowered community. To help achieve this, we wanted to create a scuba diving program that would inspire and educate the next generation to make a positive difference.

By creating more PADI Torchbearers to become ambassadors for the ocean, and be aware of the issues facing local and global marine ecosystems, we might be able to turn the tide of change in favor of our ocean planet. It terrifies us that our children might not be able to enjoy the natural beauty of our planet or experience the ocean as we have. Being so wonderfully curious and keen to seek adventure, we wanted to try and empower the next generation. By arming them with knowledge and awareness, our hope is that we might be able to drive positive change together.

What feedback have you had from kids and parents involved in the program?

We love watching the children become inspired by scuba diving, the marine environment and ocean conservation. The parents are thrilled and excited for their children to find a passion and a hobby that embraces nature and the outdoors, away from screens and electronics. Since scuba diving naturally encourages STEM learning, our programs revolve around these principles with a strong conservation basis and environmental approach. Since the activities throughout the Program are designed to be fun, interactive and engaging, the children come away with a lot of new skills and a great wealth of knowledge for them to share with their family and friends.

The Crystal Ocean Explorers Programs have also been a fantastic opportunity for new friendships to form, which is lovely to see. We usually go on to run additional courses and fun diving in small groups and buddy teams. Because of the Programs, we also have a lot of parents and siblings who want to become more involved with scuba diving, from ReActivate Courses to Professional Courses, Bubblemaker Experiences to Emergency First Response and Coral Reef Conservation Courses. The Programs have been able to open up a whole new world for families to connect, spend more time together, make memories and share experiences. 

We spend time with children from a lot of different backgrounds, but the common trend is that they all fall in love with scuba diving and want to help save the ocean. They go home and ask their parents to make changes around the home – to recycle, minimize their carbon footprint, conserve water and reduce their use of energy and single use plastics.

How do you view the relationship between diving while young and a conservation mind-set?

We love that children have little to no agenda, prejudices or preconceptions. Their view of the world around them is pure and simple. If something is broken, let’s try and fix it. The planet is in trouble, let’s help it. We need to stop using plastic, let’s stop using it. 

In July 2020, the MV Wakashio ran aground the reef in the South of Mauritius. We were running a program at the time, and started brainstorming ideas with the children about how we could help and what we could do if the ship started leaking the fuel oil that it was carrying. Some of the ideas and solutions that the children came up with were extremely intelligent, insightful and interesting. Children have the ability to understand and come up with solutions without over-complicating the problem. For the fate of the planet to improve, we need more heart and we need more action.

Using scuba diving as a medium to inspire children while they see things in such a black and white way will help drive a genuine motivation to create a better future for our planet and our ocean. Because as scuba divers, we can really help to make a difference. With increasing opportunities to become involved with conservation worldwide, both fins on and off, our collective strength and unity will determine whether our children can enjoy and live on a healthy planet with a stable climate and biodiverse environment.

Sparking a deeper connection with the ocean and scuba diving at a young age, alongside an understanding of the importance of conservation creates a powerful relationship. During our programs and beyond, we encourage the children to strengthen and build on this. By empowering the next generation, we hope to create more foot soldiers ready to battle the very real threats the ocean is facing every day.

How can parents and kids sign up for future programs?

We usually advertise up-coming dates for our programs across our social media handles, so be sure to follow us to stay updated! We run the programs during every school holiday here in Mauritius, including Half-Term. We are also happy to run a bespoke programs for 4 or more children if a group of homeschooling children wanted to come together to enjoy the experience for example. We’ve also had offshoots of the program like Scuba Diving Birthday Parties, and online Coral Reef Conservation Experiences for Schools. Our team recently taught over 200 pupils in Switzerland and Denmark!

To book on to a Program, parents can get in touch via social media, email or What’s App directly: [email protected] and +230 5803 3263. At the moment, the program is a Day Program, but we’re working towards offering accommodation for the older children.

What is the Covid-19 status in Mauritius at the moment and what precautions are you taking to ensure your programs are safe?

Right now, the borders of Mauritius are open with a mandatory two week quarantine stay in one of the approved hotels and resorts. From the 1st of October, the borders will be open without restriction for vaccinated travelers and children. Please visit www.mauritiusnow.com for more details! There are still some cases on the island, so it is necessary to wear a mask, social distance and frequently sanitize your hands in all public areas. 

All of our staff are fully vaccinated, and we observe the necessary sanitary measures at the resort and on the boat. The resort is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected each day, including all of our scuba diving gear. We have a maximum intake of 10 children per Program. We usually rotate children between activities and on board the boat ensuring plenty of space at all times, as well as a small ratio of children to our PADI Instructors.

Help us amplify the movement to save the ocean by join the Torchbearer Community at padi.com/onebillion

If you have an interesting conservation story to tell, tag us on social media @padi @padiaware or get in touch with us on [email protected].

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