Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Offshore Inspiration at The Dive Bus, Curacao:


How Mark and Suzy Pinnell transformed a simple idea into one big business plan.

Published in Underseas Journal, Q4 2018

Discovering a beautiful Curaçao shore dive site, marred by trash and fishing line, was the motivation for Mark and Suzy Pinnell to open The Dive Bus, the island’s first 100% AWARE Dive Center.

When PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and PADIAmbassaDiver™ Mark Pinnell and his wife, Suzy, discovered how incredible the shore diving was in Curaçao, they didn’t realize their life was about to change. At the beach one day, they noticed a drop-off close to shore and decided to check it out. They discovered a beautiful dive site with a vast variety of life - but filled with trash and fishing line.
“Curaçao was mostly about boat diving then,” says Mark. “After exploring more amazing shore dive sites around the island, we decided to do something about changing that.”

In 2005, The Dive Bus Curaçao opened as a tiny dive shop on the beach by the drop-off that inspired their idea. These days, the dive shop is a PADI Five Star Dive Resort and has expanded to include a second Dive Bus and a Dive Bus truck. Their shore diving plan has proven so successful that other local businesses have followed suit. In this year's Scuba Diving magazine’s Readers Choice Awards, divers voted Curaçao as the second best shore diving destination in the Caribbean and Atlantic region.
“Divers liked the really simple Dive Bus philosophy: no crowds, no boats, no fuss, no bother, no worries, just seriously fun shore diving,” Mark says. “This differentiated us from the beginning, and we quickly established a niche and reputation.”

Their personal attention also extends to their PADI dive course teaching styles, where classes are small, with a maximum of four students per instructor.

And when it comes to using the dive facility, the Pinnells have an open-door policy.
“We try to make it as fun, easy and convenient for our divers as possible,” adds Suzy. “Almost everything is on an honor system, including the Beer Board! And they love the convenience of the drive-up tank and gear room, rinse tanks and drying racks.”

The team builds the daily dive schedule around their divers’ experience, preferences and skill levels. Just like the PADI dive course classes, their guided dives have low diver-to-pro ratios.
“With bigger groups, you’re usually looking out for the divers, which makes it more challenging to find and point out cool marine life spots as well,” Mark says. “We’re able to do both, safely, without potentially damaging what the divers are there to see.”
Curaçao’s first 100% AWARE and Green Star Dive Center, conservation is also part of The Dive Bus model. In addition to making weights from recycled fishing line lead, the shop offers divers Eco-Friendly Packing Pointers before leaving home to reduce their impact on the island and has recycle bins on site.
“We’ve increasingly focused on sustainability elements over the years,” says Suzy. “What’s great is how many divers choose to dive with us because of that, and how many are happy to join in and do the same.”

From putting Curaçao shore diving on the map, to implementing increasingly more conservation efforts, the Pinnells have taken a simple idea and created something that will benefit divers, and the island, for years to come.
“My top tip for happy divers and happy instructors is to focus on making safety and quality, fun,” Mark says. “Because our instructors are excited and enthusiastic, our divers probably will be, too.”



#divecuracao #seriouslyfundiving #thedivebus #PADI #Ambassadiver #100%AWARE