reef encounters of the iwakuni kind
A new dive activity is coming to Iwakuni. Reef Encounters - Iwakuni is opening before the end of the year and will provide a full range of dive courses from beginner to instructor as well as a variety of specialties like night diving, deep diving, and trips. With our location right on the Seto Inland Sea, there are plenty of places to explore and new adventures to be had.
This activity has been a long time coming, and our MCCS Aquatics Department started getting the ball rolling in March of 2017. With all of the planning that went into bringing Reef Encounters here, there’s an air of excitement from MCCS and the community now that everything is ready to go.
“We’re really excited about the new SCUBA activity,” says Aquatics Recreation Specialist, Taisha Jacobs. “We already have a waiting list, so we know people are ready for this to start up.”
Reef Encounters is coming from Okinawa to set up a satellite shop. Headed by Doug Bennett, a Course Director Trainer and Technical Dive Instructor with NAUI Worldwide, Reef Encounters - Iwakuni is stacking up to be a one-stop shop for everything SCUBA here in our backyard.
“I have been in the scuba industry full time as an instructor for over 20 years. I have over 13,000 dives and 10,000 hours underwater and counting,” says Bennett. Along with his diving pedigree, Bennett is bringing two team members to assist with operations at Reef Encounters - Iwakuni.
Jeff McBride is the Manager for Reef Encounters - Iwakuni. Jeff is certified as both an NAUI and PADI dive instructor. He dives all over the world with the Middle East and the Maldives being among his latest adventures. Jeff started his diving career in the Pacific Northwest, so he is experienced with the cool water we have in the Iwakuni area.
Mei Ki "Maggie" Chan is the newest member of the Reef Encounters International Team. She has over 1,000 dives over the last few years in Okinawa, Pemba, and Indonesia. Maggie is also the team’s language specialist. She knows four languages: Japanese, English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Maggie is also spearheading the local dive boats and arranging trips.
“We plan on adding local talent as we get things going with hiring locally in Iwakuni,” says Bennett. With this team of multi-lingual, undersea specialists, what is Reef Encounters - Iwakuni going to offer?
“Diving is an amazing sport that anyone with decent swimming skills can do.”
Initially, the gear that Reef Encounters - Iwakuni carries will include Aqualung, Apexs, and Dive Rite as their main line with a few other items such as dive computers.
They are also phasing in a technical diving program which includes bringing in instructors this spring from Deja Blue and NAUI Freediving to run free diving clinics for the community. Along with dive classes, expect weekly dive trips, and longer trips over holidays to areas in Japan partner resorts in the Philippines and Indonesia.
Mr. Bennett is not only passionate about his endeavor here with Reef Encounters, but he’s also excited to work with our servicemembers and their families, “As a former Marine, I am thrilled to be working with Marines again. [They are] some of my favorite people on earth. We work with groups of Marines and other servicemembers at Okinawa on a regular basis, and we are thrilled that we are able to bring quality training, gear, and exceptional customer service to the folks in Iwakuni.”
Our Aquatics department is already facilitating mailing lists and getting those interested from the community prepared for the opening later this year. The Reef Encounters team is still looking at final pricing but they will be competitive with stateside prices and have negotiated reasonable pricing from their suppliers and will be offering classes at affordable rates.
“Diving is an amazing sport that anyone with decent swimming skills can do,” says Bennett. To get started in SCUBA diving, you don’t need to be a competitive swimmer, but you should be able to float in water over your head and to demonstrate a basic swimming stroke. If you are interested in diving but cannot swim, you should start with a basic swimming course to develop comfort in the water.
If you are already SCUBA certified, Reef Encounters - Iwakuni will offer rental gear and trips on a regular basis. All you have to do is stop by the Aquatics Office at IronWorks and register as the trips become available.
Whether you’re new to the sport, or an expert looking for continuing education, this activity is a great way to spend your time in Iwakuni.