If you’ve ever visited the Australian outback, you would already know that scuba diving isn’t a usual occurrence – especially considering the ocean can sometimes be hundreds of kilometres away! So when we heard that two PADI Pros, Hannah-Lee Young and Luke Caldwell, were travelling through remote and regional Australia to give locals a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience, we knew we needed to hear more.
We asked Hannah and Luke some questions about their new business venture, Blue Essence Experiences, and how they’re bringing the excitement of the underwater world to those without access to the ocean.
What is Blue Essence Experiences?
We specialise in creating bespoke aquatic experiences for our clients, making memories that will last an eternity. Our primary focus is taking scuba diving to rural and remote places in Australia where such a unique, special and memorable experience as diving would not be possible without travelling many hours to the Australian coastline. We strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to see for themselves what breathing underwater feels like and of course, catch the scuba bug!
When and where did you learn to dive?
Hannah: When I was 19 I decided to do my PADI Open Water Diver course, I was terrified- I had never even tried snorkelling in the ocean before, let alone diving beneath the surface with marine life! I will never forget our first day completing our confined water skills in the pool- those first few breaths underwater are etched so clearly in my mind, I remember finding it hard to trust my regulator and I felt like I wasn’t getting enough air… that was until I relaxed and then, there was no looking back… only down!
Luke: Having grown up on a yacht in North Queensland, I was always in and around the water snorkelling and spearfishing from a young age. I did my PADI Open Water Diver and Advanced Open Water Diver course at Julian Rocks, Byron Bay as a teenager. I then went on to become a PADI Divemaster in Cairns in my 20’s.
What made you want to become a PADI Professional?
Hannah: I had never thought of it at the beginning until I completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course whilst backpacking in Cambodia. One of the divemaster’s on the boat was explaining his journey to becoming a PADI Divemaster and it inspired me to do the same. I had been struggling for a few years not knowing what it was I wanted to do with my future as I never felt passionate enough about anything. I went back home to Cobar, said to my parents that I wanted to move to Cambodia to become a PADI Instructor, got a job in the mines to save up enough money to fund my endeavour and then 10 months later, off I went.
Luke: With my love for being in and around the water, travelling the world and sailing, becoming a PADI Divemaster seemed like the next logical step in order to secure a job that would combine all three of my favourite things. Being a dive professional opened up many opportunities for me in the yachting world. I had the opportunity to travel the world and have so many incredible experiences on board a variety of different sailing yachts.
Why did you decide to teach in the remote town of Cobar?
Hannah: I was born and raised in the incredible community of Cobar until I fell in love with scuba diving and moved to Cambodia to become a PADI Instructor at the age of 21. Growing up in a small, remote country town that’s an 8hr drive from the nearest beach, the ability to scuba dive seemed like a farfetched dream that only those who lived in tropical parts of the world could achieve.
It was my learning to dive experience that instilled in me a strong sense of urgency to take the PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience to remote parts of the country as it is really those first few breaths underwater you never forget- regardless of how many incredible ocean dives you have had! Beginning in my hometown of Cobar was always going to be the first choice when Blue Essence Experiences was born, it was my way of giving back to a community that gave me so much growing up.
What courses do you run and how are these conducted?
We primarily run the PADI Discover Scuba Diving course when we visit these regional and remote towns. As each of these towns have an aquatic facility with a shallow and a deep end, it is the perfect introductory course in a safe and controlled environment. The sessions run for 1.5hrs each and we take a maximum of four people per session. The theory is learnt first and then it’s into the shallow end of the pool. Once all of the skills have been completed we go through a little bit about buoyancy and how to control your placement in the water using your breath. On the pool dive we add in a couple of extra fun games with hula hoops setup so our students can practice their buoyancy and at the end we do an underwater egg and spoon race in the shallow water.
We also offer snorkelling sessions for any kids aged between 8-10 that are run at the same time as the Discover Scuba Diving sessions. It’s been amazing to see how many kids have been able to dive down and collect sink toys now that they know how to equalise and duck dive confidently.
What’s next for Blue Essence Experiences?
We already have plans to head back out to Cobar, Lake Cargelligo and West Wyalong in the summer of 2022. We will be conducting PADI Discover Scuba Diving weekends at a variety of rural and regional towns in NSW during the summer months and then focusing on QLD during the winter.
During 2021 both myself and Luke will be continuing our diving education. Luke will be focusing on obtaining his Freediver Instructor rating and I will be focusing on obtaining my PADI Adaptive Techniques Instructor rating and my Disabled Diving Instructor rating.
Further to our remote and rural Discover Scuba Diving sessions, we will be developing sessions with school groups, people living with disabilities and private/family group experiences. Offering a personal service and experience is our expertise and eventually this will lead to retreats combining a number of aquatic activities such as PADI courses, PADI Freediver courses, surfing and sailing.
What kind of feedback or reactions do you typically get from the locals who try scuba diving for the first time?
Well, firstly it’s those incredibly huge smiles underwater as they take their first breath from their regulator. That’s generally then followed by “THIS IS SO COOL!” and then a couple “This is so weird” and then just this sense of awe and amazement at what they have just done. Once the dive is completed and we are all back on the surface, the most common statement is “I could stay down there forever!” or “Can we go back down again?” From the parents we hear “I know what we are doing on our next holiday!” and “Where is the closest dive spot to us!?” I think the best feedback we have received though is “Can we sign up for another session?” We knew we were onto something special when people started booking multiple dives in a swimming pool.
Have any of your Cobar Discover Scuba Diving participants made plans to do their Open Water Diver course?
Most definitely! We have had several enquiries about where and when people can do their dive courses with us. However, at this stage we are looking at referring participants onto other PADI dive shops, depending on where people will be spending their holidays.
Thinking about becoming a PADI Pro like Hannah and Luke? Learn more about our Divemaster and Open Water Scuba Instructor courses and start living the dream!