After two years of passing the former grassy corner of the highway at Bonne Terre gap almost every day and watching the two-storey frontage of Dive Saint Lucia (DSL) emerge from the building site over the past few months, I was delighted to finally attend the official opening on Friday, November 7. And after meeting owners Marcel Buchler and Nick Mobley several months ago, I had a feeling the evening was going to impress, which indeed it did, in more ways than just the glittering party laid on by the DSL team.
Dive Saint Lucia is the first diving school on the island to have an on-site, purpose-built training pool, and its state-of-the-art amenities include classroom facilities, engineering workrooms, guest showers and secure lockers, as well as a specialist retail store offering equipment by Scuba Pro and Subgear, world class brands used by DSL in their training programmes.
DSL is also a PADI 5* Instructor Development Centre (IDC), offering all levels of PADI courses from beginner to instructor, together with guided dives on the plentiful sites around the island. The vision of the owners is to offer everyone a dive experience from the “try-it-once” tourist to the qualified dive master looking for a new coastline to conquer and they deliver their sales pitch with a passion that makes you want to leap into the cool blue training pool and get started.
Between them they have dived all over the world, and their joyful enthusiasm about the underwater realm is, excuse the pun, never far below the surface, even when the management team of Buchler and Mobley are talking serious business. Nick is also a partner in the world-renowned London School of Diving which has provided a guiding hand and training opportunities for the new Dive Saint Lucia team, as well as a wealth of industry knowledge and experience.
Promoting safe diving, the DSL standards are based on UK health and safety regulations for the sport; that and running a “green” facility are two of DSL’s top priorities. The company is already LEED certified, making it the first dive school in the world to meet the criteria required by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the international rating system for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings.
The DSL business strategy is to generate income on the island and keep it here, and that includes sourcing as many local goods and service providers as possible. DSL has also become actively involved in community activities, recently sponsoring the OECS Swim Championships and as a Silver Sponsor of the St. Lucia Mango Bowl Regatta at the end of November.
But perhaps the highest level of enthusiasm comes from the DSL management when they talk about their fledgling team which has been training since September. Dive instructors and boat captains have been cherry-picked from the local dive scene, and a team of four deck hands was recently recruited straight out of the Jus’ Sail Youth Training Programme.
According to Nick Mobley: “We want to give people employment opportunities, especially the youth that otherwise would not get a chance, but the real strategy is progression. Perhaps a deck hand will want to become a dive instructor, or go into the retail side. We want to offer avenues for young people to find their niche and a career for life, be it on the water or off.”
Already the team has been admired by visiting PADI representative Simon Chance who admitted he had never seen a dive centre team gel so quickly. The next step is a mentoring programme which will pair up senior and junior members to provide cross-training and exposure to all aspects of the DSL operation. Says Mobley: “You can build a fantastic facility but the team is what will make it a great dive centre.”