Sub-Tropic Adventures, owned and operated fulltime since 2011 by St Helenian Anthony Thomas, offers Padi Courses, fully guided dive tours, sport fishing trips, dolphin watching, whale watching and snorkelling with whale sharks.
This year, Sub-Tropic Adventures and St Helena itself have been nominated for the Dive Travel Awards 2018 (see page 19 for further information).
In celebration of our world-class waters and dive operators, The Sentinel is featuring diving this October, before votes for the Dive Travel Awards 2018 close at the end of the month.
William Knipe, age 28, is a trainee teacher at Prince Andrew School and is nearing completion of his Divemaster with St Helenian Anthony Thomas, who owns and operates Sub-Tropic Adventures.
Below, William gives a firsthand account of what it’s like learning to dive in St Helena’s waters (he had never SCUBA-dived before coming to the island); and about the experience of acquiring a divemaster with Sub-Tropic Adventures.
Travelling to St Helena
I am originally from Gansbaai South Africa – a small town close to the southern tip of Africa (Agulhas), where majority of the White Shark cage-diving operations take place. Gansbaai (Shark Alley, a stretch of open water between Geyser Rock and Dyer Island) is regarded as the Great White capital of the world.
In Gansbaai, I grew up around the ocean. So I guess the ocean has engrained itself into my way of life. Before I moved to Saint Helena I worked as a deckhand and tour guide on a whale-watching boat for Dyer Island Cruises in Gansbaai.
I have now lived on Saint Helena for almost 4-and-a-half years.
Not long after moving to St Helena, I took interest in diving but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take it on due to the tough time schedule I had working for Basil Read.
Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be sent for First Aid and Secondary Training through Basil Read, and that’s where I met Anthony Thomas [of Sub-Tropic Adventures]. After explaining the time situation, he shifted his schedule and I was able to start with my dive training.
The path to a divemaster
One thing I have learned through education and apply to all environments I find myself in, is that learning is a lifelong journey and we never get too old to learn new things. So I guess I take on all opportunities like a sponge and try to learn as much as I can; that is what influenced my decision to start with my divemaster.
To complete your divemaster you have to fulfil the following tasks: Draw dive maps, lead dives, assist with diver training sessions and complete a divemaster theory exam.
I’m doing my divemaster course and training through Anthony Thomas from Sub-Tropic Adventures. Anthony acts as my teacher and mentor, in the dive-class environment I act as logistical lead and teaching assistant while Anthony acts as teacher. Anthony gives me guidance in practical environments (leading dives, class dives) and as teacher in the theory section.
I also have to credit the wider SCUBA community and Saint Helena Dive Club for all the support and advice that they have shared over the last few years. The knowledgebase on St Helena is fantastic and without others’ love for diving and the ocean, I would not be where I am today SCUBA-wise.
I am hoping to complete my divemaster by December. I started in June, but due to my trainee program and wide range of subjects that I have chosen to teach my DM course has taken a backseat. But December should be manageable.
St Helena’s waters
Logistically, St Helena is perfect. No matter where you live on the island it’s a maximum 25min drive and you’re at the meeting point.
All commercial dives with Sub-Tropic Adventures are organised by Anthony and his team: Dive numbers depend on the season, in winter the numbers drop and in summer they pick up. The first dive that I had to lead was 14 divers – a yearly average I would say is 10 divers.
St Helena is also perfect for diving as the water is (for me) very warm. In summer we can expect water that’s +24°C and in winter a minimum of 17°C, so compared to what I’m used to, which averages 14°C, St Helena is pretty warm.
Also we don’t have any large predators around our coast, which lowers the stress levels for novices who do have that fear lurking in the back of their minds.
St Helena is the perfect classroom for diving! You have great operators to teach you and a vast SCUBA community to guide you on one of the greatest adventures you could embark on.