Some Scouting adventures unfold right in your backyard. Others take you a little farther — or deeper.
That’s why it was huge news when, on March 25, 2022, the BSA lifted its COVID-prompted ban on international travel for BSA troops, ships and crews.
That news opened up a world of scuba destinations for Scouts and Venturers — and new opportunities to reinforce the safe, correct way to learn scuba diving.
Among the first Scout units to take advantage of international travel was a group of 18 older Scouts from Troop 175 of Simsbury, Conn. (Connecticut Rivers Council). In April, the Scouts and leaders traveled to Roatan, Honduras, for an epic scuba diving adventure.
In clear waters 2 miles off the coast of Roatan, the Scouts explored coral reefs, spotted seahorses and discovered a kaleidoscopic assortment of tropical fish. They even saw some reef sharks, which are generally harmless and rarely aggressive — as long as you’re prepared.
“The instructors gave us a detailed briefing about what to expect and how to act,” says Brad Mead, Troop 175 Scoutmaster.
Speaking of training, the BSA has expertly crafted guidelines when it comes to scuba diving safety. The Scuba BSA program introduces Scouts and Venturers to the magic of scuba diving, but more advanced training is required to complete open-water dives like the ones Troop 175 experienced in the Central American country of Honduras.
These advanced courses cover topics like the buddy system, communication, specialized equipment, buoyancy control and understanding the concept of pressure.
And speaking of international travel, leaders should consult these resources from the BSA’s International Department and any travel advisories from the Department of State before planning an overseas trip.
Training: In advance or on site
When arriving in Honduras, half of the Scouts from Troop 175 had already finished their certification as open-water divers from previous trips. The other half completed the online portion before arriving in Honduras and spent the first three days of the trip completing the in-the-water training.
They did this all for a cost that’s comparable to what you might spend on an out-of-state domestic trip, Mead says. In Troop 175’s example, we find proof that with some creativity, fundraising and smart budgeting, no trip idea is too grand.
“Roatan is one of the cheapest places in the world to dive, and the island is surrounded by reefs that offer hundreds of dive sites,” Mead says. “In addition, its location off the coast of Honduras gives it a tropical environment, sandy beaches and a high level of safety.”
A trip overview
The Scouts and leaders arrived in Honduras on April 9 and took a bus to the Bananarama Dive & Beach Resort.
After checking in to their rooms, the group went to the dive shop attached to the hotel to collect their equipment and get suited up for an adventure below the surface.
The 10 Scouts and Scouters who were getting their certification for the first time were split into two groups and spent the next three days learning the skills they’d need for diving in the open ocean.
Those already certified immediately began exploring the water.
In the evenings, the two groups united for dinner.
“The sounds of Caribbean music were everywhere on the beach,” Mead says. “We tried different restaurants each night up and down the 2-mile beach. The food was fresh, and the prices quite low compared to the United States.”
With their training complete by Wednesday, the newbies were finally certified and ready to go on some adventure dives with their troopmates. On Thursday, the entire group packed all their equipment into a big bus and drove to the south side of the island.
Friday saw more full-group dives followed by a farewell dinner. Saturday was bittersweet as the Scouts made their way to the airport for the flight home.
“This is a great troop trip,” Mead says, “because the Scouts get a full open-water certification and immediately get to use it on some spectacular dives.”