Location: West End, Tortola
As the last few stray bathing suits are pulled off the lines and stuff into bags and the last dive logs have been filled out and signed, the fact that the end of the trip is here begins to hit home. Over the past three weeks, the Panasea Pandas have done some truly incredible things. As a boat, we’ve sailed around the British Virgin Islands hitting over ten different Islands and managed to dive over 20 times and have seen some amazing things along the way. Whether it was the day at the Baths, learning to kneeboard, swimming with stingrays, seeing your first manta ray or shark, driving a boat for the first time, or finally diving alone at night, it’s hard to choose one favorite memory. But I think our last squeeze question says the most about our time spent down here. The question was, what’s your favorite Action Quest moment? And while many of the dive and dance parties and jokes were mentioned, the overwhelming answer from every person was that their favorite part had been the bonds formed with the people on board. It’s amazing how in three weeks the Pandas have gone from strangers to one of the best families I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of. Every single one of them has been wonderful to have on board and Bryant, Cayley and I all agree that we were very lucky and proud to call these shipmates ours. The work that our shipmates have put in along the way for all of their certifications have been incredible to watch. The Neptunes have officially become Advance Open Water divers and can now navigate through shipwrecks, dive after the sun has gone down, fix a broken regulator, and identify many different species of marine animals thanks to all of their specialties. It truly has been amazing to watch them grow into awesome divers. Not to be outdone, the Dolphins completely knocked it out of the park with all of their hard work. The majority of the second half of our trip has been dedicated to their group research projects as they dove to gather their research and spent much of their time on board analyzing the data and writing a research paper to prepare for a presentation of their research to the entire Dolphin program. As a Dolphin instructor I feel I have to brag a little as our Pandas completely killed it with the best projects and presentations in the whole camp (I’m not surprised with how smart and hard working each one of them are). While the goodbyes in the morning were tearful and hard, I do not doubt that no matter where they go from here, their time spent on Panasea will never be forgotten and I think the trip has changed all of their lives, as well as mine, forever.