Thursday, February 28, 2019

Overcome the fear

Celine is on her first trip it out of Europa. She took a twelve-hour flight from Zurich to San Jose and is now exploring Costa Rica. The reason for this trip is to visit her boyfriend, ConnectOcean's very own DM Intern Matthias! Celine likes the ocean as long as she can touch the bottom, and she likes to spend time at the beach, but water is not her element. She doesn't feel very comfortable in the water. That is not a big problem if there is no particular reason to swim in the ocean.  But, her boyfriend came to Costa Rica to do an internship as a divemaster. And of course, he wants to show her what he has been doing the last months. And yes, he wanted to show her the ocean with all the fantastic creatures as well... Now Celine has a small dilemma.

Celine is a curious person and likes to try new things. So she decided to do her open water course here in Costa Rica, even though she is afraid of the open ocean. She wants to see the beauty of the ocean that her boyfriend was telling her about, with her own eyes.

She finished her online theory and got ready to jump in the pool with Instructor Dave to learn the basics about scuba diving. This was already the first challenge for her, 200 meters swimming, and a 10 minute survival float. She isn't a really good swimmer, for that particular reason, she likes to stay out of the water, but now she has to swim the distance to continue with her scuba diving training. Against her apprehensions, she did a great job and mastered the swimming test. This success boosted her self-confidence and she started to feel more comfortable. The followings dive skills were no problem until she had to take off her mask under water. Water went in her nose and that caused some issues. She tried and tried, but she couldn't master the skill...  so she ended the first pool session a little bit frustrated, but not ready to give up.

Two days later Celine jumped back in the pool for another go at mask clearing and to learn the other skills. This time she overcame her fear, and was able to clear a flooded mask!. The rest of the skills were then easy. She was now ready for the open ocean dives!

The following day, Celine and Dave went to the diving boat to do her first open water dive. Celine was nervous but also very excited for this new experience. She entered the water like a pro and mastered all surface and underwater skills without any problems. And what a first dive she had! She saw sharks, a bunch of rays, big schools of snappers, grunts and other fishes. The second dive was as great as the first.

Even though she was loving diving, the skill on Dive 3 loomed ahead. She had to take off the mask again, and this time in the ocean at a depth of 10 meters. As the third dive approached, she once again conquered her fears and completed the skill!

Dive four, her first fun dive, without any skill training, was a well-deserved reward. Celine is now a certified diver, and is super excited for her next chance to dive!

When Nippers turn into mermaids

During our Nipper Lifeguard training, the participants normally learn about beach safety, work on improving their swimming skills, and practice rescue techniques.

But today was a special day! Katy Sakurra, a Russian freediver, came to speak to us about freediving. The kids were excited and ask a lot of questions, wanting to know more about this sport.

Katy showed us her equipment and explained the benefits of monofins and long fins.

After all the explanations she gave us a demonstration in the pool. The Nippers were impressed and were excited to try it.

Katy brought monofins for kids and so the Nippers turn into mermaids.

With Katy's instructions, the kids swam and dove in the pool. It was a lot of fun. The Nippers liked it so much, that they didn't want to leave the pool and continue with the beach training.

Only with the promise that we will do some freediving in the future together with Katy in the ocean were we able to continue the Nipper Program on the beach.

Thank you, Katy, for this fantastic hour and this new experience!

R/V Falko

Last Saturday ConnectOcean had the privilege to facilitate a Ship to Shore call with Research Vessel Falkor from the Schmidt Ocean Institute. The Institute aims to accelerate the understanding of our oceans with innovative research technologies, marine operational practices, advanced data analysis, engaging storytelling, and open sharing of new knowledge. We seek to advance the frontiers of ocean research by providing state of the art operational, technological, and informational support to pioneering marine science and technology development projects at sea.

We invited the students from La Paz, CRIA, Futuro Brillante, and our CEPIA group and joined the Ship to Shore call with more than 80 students. The participants learned about Deep Water Exploration in the waters of Costa Rica! Did you know more than 50% of Costa Rica has a depth of 2500m! The Scientist onboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor explained how they were using the ROV Subastian to explore underwater seamounts and ridges. The students had the possibility to ask questions and learn more about their interests. In general, the kids learned about the discovery of new species, and the ongoing efforts to protect these seamounts! What an awesome learning experience!

VIrtual Reality

Last Saturday we had the chance and the privilege to create a unique experience for our CEPIA group. As part of their explorer program, we took them on a virtual reality journey to Isla del Coco.

On our trip, we were supported by Roberto Cubero and Edgar Gálvez, who gave us a presentation about the magic island, and described how they took the footage we were about to view.

Roberto is working as a game ranger on the Island. He shared with us what ignited his passion to pursue a career in conservation, what makes Isla del Coco such a special place, and why he wants to show the world the beauty of nature. He explained how every day, pollution and trash end up in the ocean and affect wildlife. And this not just around Cocos Island. His is also passionate about protecting sharks and explained how important sharks are for a healthy ecosystem and the importance of protecting them. It was inspiring to listen to his stories and we are thankful that he shared his experiences with us.

Edgar is a storyteller. He has the same passion as Roberto, but he tells his stories in a special way. He took to the art of Virtual Reality for that. With Virtual Reality he is able not just to tell a story, he can take the people on a journey and show the beauty of nature. And if people can see what they hear, the impact is much bigger, and the people care more about it

So, we went diving with the group, but just in virtual reality. The kids were swept off their feet and enjoyed this experience. They look now forward to try Discover Scuba Dive as next step in their explorer program and blow their first bubbles under water.

The art of virtual reality brings a new tool for education. Now the students can dive from the classroom into the ocean and see the beauty and the biodiversity. This increases the learning experience and serves also to make the youth more sensitive to the conservation efforts needed to protect the world's environments.
If you want to have the same experience as the CEPIA group, email us to set up a journey to Isla del Coco for your students, group, or family!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Nippers are back in training

Our Nipper Lifeguards are back in training!We had a great training today and started the day with an introduction and discussion about how important lifeguards are and what the biggest challenges are here in Costa Rica.

The training started with the trimesterly assessment. For that, the Nippers swam 200m timed, treaded water for 6 minutes and also practiced retrieving an object from deep water.

After the assessment the class continued with swim training and they worked on their swim skills.

 Then we went down to the beach. There we reviewed how to choose a safe bathing area and how to interpret the flag signals. The Nippers set a safe bathing area up by testing the water condition, current, and other potential hazards.

In our safe bathing area the Nippers learned the STAAR methodology of scanning and assessing for potential hazards. STAAR stands for “Scan, Target, Assess, Alert, Rescue”
To memorize the acronym our Nippers got to create their own mascots in the sand explaining the importance of STAAR.

The winning creature was an Octopus called "Oscar" with a great story told by Eli.

We ended the morning with a game. We are looking forward to next Saturday, which is “bring-a-friend- day”. We hope to welcome a bunch of new kids and inspire them to join our Nipper Surf Lifeguards.

CEPIA is back in Las Catalinas

The CEPIA Group is back in Las Catalinas

On friday the 11th of January we had the first CEPIA class for the year! We were happy to meet familiar faces and to welcome new kids to our program. To break the Ice and to learn the names of the participants, we played a game. The group built a circle and one person was in the middle. His/her task was to catch the person who was named. The named person had to call another person’s name before he or she got caught. It was fun.

After that, we jumped in the pool and had a swim lesson. The kids did the exercises with enthusiasm, they were as excited to be back in the pool as we are to have them back.

After the pool session, we went down to the beach where Sio started to explain more about the ocean, waves, and current. In a playful way, the kids simulated a rip current and learned how to get out of it if ever caught in one. 

We ended the morning with a bath in the sea and a beach game. It was a great first class and we are are looking forward to next Friday to meet the group again.


We are Divemasters!

Me, Matthias, and Anna finished today our final workshop in our Divemaster training. What a nice start in the new year. After two month of hard work, learning and skill training combined with different workshops where we established emergency action plans for different divesites and drew a dive map we are now certified.

We are so proud of ousrelves!