The ocean is a vast and mysterious place even to those who know it well. In fact, as much as 95% of the ocean, and as well as 99% of the ocean floor remain unexplored.
The chance to explore this environment, which covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface, is a big part of the allure of scuba diving. Each dive has something new to offer, and something new to discover just beneath the surface.
Sharing this joy of exploration is part of the purpose of ConnectOcean, a dive center, conservation group, and outreach organization located in Las Catalinas, which they do through a wide variety of PADI Certifications and Citizen Science dives.
For those just looking to get started in diving, ConnectOcean offers Discover Scuba Diving (DSD), a resort dive experience to introduce beginners to the diverse and beautiful world underneath the water.
ConnectOcean Aquatic Academy is the onsite PADI Dive Center at Las Catalinas. However, their center actually integrates a Marine Ecology Center just as much as it does a traditional dive center. For example, all trips and courses are anchored with a focus on Citizen Science and Marine Ecology. As a part of this focus, the group creates experiences that inspire participants to care more about the ocean, as the first step in protecting it.
For example, during each dive trip, the ConnectOcean team briefs guests about local marine ecosystems and engages them in hands on Citizen Science, where they help gather valuable data to use for various conservation purposes. This includes the creation of a photo ID data base of oceanic giant manta rays commonly found at the Catalinas Islands, deploying Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS), the use of Laser Photogrammetry to measure sharks and rays, vessel surveys, and fish surveys.
The DSD, comprises three parts. The first is a poolside briefing at the Las Catalinas Beach Club, which includes the basics of theory, followed by some in-water practice with dive instructors. During this initial session, there’s also a brief medical questionnaire to ensure that all divers have a safe, smooth, and incident-free first dive.
The next day, divers have the opportunity to put these skills to use on a guided dive with the ConnectOcean team at the nearby dive sites of the Catalinas Islands. There are two options for the types of experiences for Discover Scuba Diving
The shared boat option for Discover Scuba Diving includes 2 dive sites, full equipment rentals, and a day of snacks and refreshment with a semi-private guide on a shared boat charter. These trips typically include a mix of fellow divers and snorkelers aboard, all heading to the dive site at the Catalinas Islands.
Once in the water, ConnectOcean groups break off for a guided Citizen Science circuit around the dive sites, tracking sharks and rays with an instructor who identifies the many species encountered on the dive. These groups are all comprised of ConnectOcean divers and guides, in a ratio of one instructor to a group no larger than 4.
These trips depart from the Beach House Marina at 8am, with transport arranged either from concierge or independently, and trips return to the harbor around 1:30pm.
The second option for a DSD dive is through a private half-day charter, which provides flexibility and a more personalized way to explore the nearby waters. Divers might focus on the Dirty Rock dive site, where smaller reef fish swarm in great numbers, while those seeking larger wildlife might set out to the flats around Dos Sombreros, or the oceanic side of the Catalinas Islands.
ConnectOcean dive instructors tailor time under the water to the different goals of their divers, stopping in certain spots to highlight unique species, or picking a route to particularly interesting habitats. By making use of the ability to pick specific dive sites, DSD divers can take this personalization up another level, and tap into the knowledge of these marine experts about specific areas, or simply go where conditions are most ideal.
These trips cover a private half-day charters, with morning charters covering from 8am to 12:30pm and two tanks for a dive, with seasonally available one-tank charters departing in the afternoons at 2:30pm.
ConnectOcean believes that one of the most powerful ways to encourage ocean conservation is to share the beauty of the ocean with others, and the Discover Scuba Diving course is one of the best ways to get an introduction to the underwater world. Guided by the team’s skilled marine specialists, these courses are more than just a way to try out diving. Instead, they present the chance to begin the long process of understanding the many intricacies of the ocean, and contribute to conservation efforts at the same time.
In addition to the useful collection of data on these dives, a portion of the proceeds of courses and trips go towards the group’s local community not for profit programs which include an Ocean Stewardship Program teaching young people about the importance of Ocean Conservation as well as a Holistic Adventure Program for people with life changing injuries.
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