This month, REEF is proud to highlight one of our outstanding Conservation Partners: Ancora Scuba, located in the Gainesville, Florida, area. REEF Conservation Partners are active organizations and dive shops dedicated to protecting marine environments. As valued REEF ambassadors, they teach fish ID classes, host survey dives, organize volunteer events and more. You can see the full listing of Conservation Partners or register your business or organization as a REEF Conservation Partner here: www.REEF.org/conservation-partners.
We're proud to have a fantastic, conservation-minded partner like Ancora Scuba. To learn more, check out our Q&A with Ancora Scuba below!
In what ways do you participate with REEF’s main programs?
We have been spreading the good news about REEF for years! REEF’s programs have been very popular with our divers, and we’ve been very pleased to see many of our students register as REEF members right about the same time as they register for dive insurance or their first big dive trip!
Since 2018, we’ve held multiple fish survey dives in both the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) and Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (EAM) regions. We’ve decided to look in a different direction this year and are currently finalizing plans to host a late summer invertebrate survey dive in the Pacific Northwest. While this will be our first ‘official’ survey dive in the California, Pacific Northwest and Alaska (PAC) region, we are no strangers to the kelp forests of California. We have made a habit out of screening at least a couple of Janna Nichols and Jonathan Lavan’s Fishinars aboard the boat to Catalina Island. They’re the perfect primer and a great way to fill the time between departure and dive briefing. They also, though, always seem to pique our divers’ interest in the possibility of signing up for a REEF Fish ID class.
While we don’t have any direct involvement, we’ve taken care to promote REEF’s Ocean Explorers Camp as the perfect alternative to the more traditional, landlocked summer camp. Over the years, we have also recommended the Marine Conservation Internship to a handful of our best students and fully intend to continue to show our support of the program anyway we can.
The pandemic-related travel restrictions forced us to halt developing plans for this year’s Great Annual Fish Count event, but we can hardly wait to meet several of our divers in Miami for the same occasion in July 2021. For now, we’ll look forward to participating in this year’s REEF Fest. Hope to see you there!
What other actions do you take to promote marine conservation?
We are committed to promoting a culture of respect across all that we do; respect for other divers, respect for the different communities we engage with while on expedition, respect for our oceans and all of the life they sustain. We’ve built our entire organization off of this foundational principle and, consequently, have consistently found ourselves surrounded by friends and allies who share our resolve to further the reach of marine conservation efforts around the world. Our relationship with REEF is a perfect example!
From the beginning, every step of our training process is designed to alert divers to their own potential as citizen scientists and underwater naturalists. We incorporate REEF’s extensive Fishinar archive into the dryland portion of our classes and place special emphasis on optimizing buoyancy control and the roving diver technique. In this way, our divers leave us prepared to lead by example in any sensitive submarine environment and to contribute, on their own time, to REEF’s ongoing data collection efforts. By offering our students such a comprehensive training experience, we hope to empower them to confidently advocate for responsible scuba practices and environmental awareness each time they enter the water.
We continue to find reasons to be proud of how seriously our divers take their shared responsibility to promote marine conservation. Not only during our annual beach cleanup and shore dive events in South Florida and Southern California (NB: this year’s California dive at Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach has been postponed), but on our international dive expeditions as well. Each of our expeditions are organized with the direct input of a specific conservation organization and rely exclusively on transportation partners with a proven record of ecological sensibility. Similarly, we only spend the night at places that are genuinely determined to minimize their environmental impact. Some of our trips even involve campfires and tent sites!
Sicily and Spain are frequent stops for us, but so are Malibu and the Maldives. No matter where we end up, our idea of a perfect dive destination is somewhere off the beaten path. This often means that we’re able to jumpstart a brand-new conservation-focused discussion within the communities we visit, and some of our exchanges with local fisherman, resort operators, and scuba enthusiasts have helped all parties reevaluate the significance of maintaining a balanced relationship between visitors, locals, and the sea. Along the way, this has facilitated the development of new environmental partnerships and our connections with smaller, more locally oriented groups are the direct result of our divers’ willingness to engage with people and places that too often go overlooked. As Ancora divers, our goal has always been to explore, rather than exploit, these communities and their dive sites. In that spirit, we’re currently working with our friends at the Saba Conservation Foundation to organize a new St. Maarten to Saba expedition for 2022. In the meantime, we’ll continue to both host and attend interdisciplinary lectures, seminars and workshops in order to amplify our message across disciplines, professions, and borders.
How can REEF members get involved with Ancora?
The easiest way to get involved with Ancora is to give us the chance to help you earn your next dive certification! We hold regular classes across Florida and Southern California, but we’ve always offered customizable and private certification courses regardless of postal code. Over the past few years, we’ve run private courses in and out of backyard pools, summer camps, and team retreats across the US, Europe, and Asia. We now have instructors based in half a dozen countries with valid passports and some pretty cool travel gear – We’re happy to come to you!
If you’re looking for a creative way to get certified, the ‘Florida Circuit’ is our favorite introduction to the natural wonders of the Sunshine State and the Ancora approach to diving. Over the course of three to six days, students are given the chance to complete the PADI Open Water course at different dive sites all throughout Florida, from the springs of greater Gainesville to the shipwrecks off the Keys. We make stops at a variety of state parks, nature centers and conservation organizations along the way.
Of course, if you’re already certified, you can always join us on one of our dive excursions or expeditions. Fresh perspectives and unique scuba stories are especially welcome. We begin to take reservations no less than eighteen months in advance of our departure date, so plan ahead!
We’re also planning to interview candidates for a summer internship position and are currently on the lookout for a social media-savvy person with a genuine interest in the continued exploration and protection of the underwater world. S/he need not already be a certified diver, but the desire to earn a certification and dive with us in the near future is a definite plus. Send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk more about joining us!
In any case, if you’re somebody who sees value in our approach and shares our commitment to marine conservation, education, and adventure, please do get in touch! We’d love to hear from you with expedition ideas, conservation partnership proposals, or just to say hello! Even if total immersion isn’t quite your thing, you can always find the nearest hammock and listen to one of our weekly Ancora Radio mixtapes!