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Scuba Kids Take Plunge Off Honduras

Written By: David Handschuh
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2008

The waves were running high, pushed by a distant storm out at sea. My kids had regulators in their mouths and dive masks on their faces. I couldn't see their smiles, but from the sparkle in their eyes, I knew they were grinning from ear to ear.

We were on Roatan, Honduras, a beautiful western Caribbean island known for its warm, clear, blue waters with an average underwater visibility of 80 feet - a perfect setting for scuba diving.

I was fulfilling a promise to my children that they would learn to dive when they were both old enough for certification (age 12). We had traveled to Anthony's Key Resort, the end of the rainbow for scuba enthusiasts and vacationers looking for a mostly undiscovered, unhurried and relaxing getaway.

My daughter, Taylor, 14, and son, Kiefer, 12, joined a small group of children and adults for their first-ever scuba experience. Dive master Sergei Luperto led them to the resort's classroom, where his frequent jokes and colorful anecdotes about his underwater adventures made the hour-long lesson go by quickly and combined fun with the necessary facts.

After the class, the students walked a few doors down the dock to the equipment locker, where they checked out fins, masks, wet suits, weights, air tanks, regulators and buoyancy compensators, or bc's. Instructors helped size the equipment and pulled it all together for the students, all eager to hit the water.

A short ride across the lagoon by water taxi brought them to the site of their first-ever dive. Under the careful scrutiny of Luperto and a team of instructors, everyone submerged to a depth of about 6 feet, where they practiced such techniques as regulator and mask clearing, and alternate air-source use.

It was fun watching as Taylor quickly became comfortable with breathing underwater. "It wasn't scary at all," said my daughter after completing her first dive.

"My brain said I needed to come up for air, but then I realized that I was already breathing!"

Diving in Roatan offers both rookies and experts the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean, and the second-longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Rainbow-colored schools of fish everywhere gave my kids the feeling they were "swimming in an aquarium" during their very first dive.

While they were underwater, I toured the resort. It was like visiting a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" getaway on a "Honeymooners" budget. Individual bungalows built into mountainsides, or out over the water on stilts and decks, looked like something out of "Robinson Crusoe." Cool, refreshing breezes flowed in through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Until Jan. 31, you can take advantage of Anthony's Key Resort's 40th anniversary packages, which offer 50% off for a second guest. Hillside rooms don't have air conditioning, but they do feature large fans, relaxing hammocks and a beautiful view of the resort. Seven-day rates start at $1,500 per couple. Air-conditioned superior rooms, on the key, are $2,250 per couple.

Both rates are for divers and include hotel accommodations, airport transfers, three meals a day, three single-tank boat dives per day, two single-tank boat night dives and unlimited shore diving.

Rates for snorkelers and nondiving guests are substantially lower.

A swim with the dolphins, a highly popular resort attraction, is included for all guests. You can get in the water and watch these friendly, well-trained mammals dance on the water, leap high in the air and return for an affectionate rubbing of their bellies and a fresh-fish snack.

Horseback riding, kayaking and canoeing are offered daily at no additional cost. Come evening, there's a slew of activities that are rivaled only by the exhilaration of taking your first dive. Evening fare includes a barbecue fiesta with live island music - and competitive limbo dancing.