Blessed with many diverse natural
resources, Belize is rapidly becoming recognized throughout the world. >From
the Maya ruins, to the pristine rainforest and other landmarks, millions of
visitors choose Belize as their vacation destination every year. Most of these
visitors are amazed by our Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world.
Snorkeling, diving and other water sports are a must when visiting, especially
in San Pedro. The Barrier Reef is a wonderful way of producing income for many
Belizeans and that is but one reason why we should strive to protect it. With
that in mind, this week we feature a person that has spent most of his life in
the water sharing his knowledge for the protection of dive sites - Mr. Larry
As a young child, Larry
enjoyed being in water and developed a keen interest in diving. By the age of
fourteen he was diving for golf balls in waterholes in his hometown of
Shreveport, Louisiana. This was both enjoyable and profitable for Larry, as he
was paid 25 cents for each golf ball he recovered. By 1975, he was a
professional diver and soon after started working on the promotion of this
sport. It was two years later that he arrived in San Pedro to include Belize's
Barrier Reef in a dive package he sold in the USA. Bewitched by the underwater
beauty found in Belizean waters, Larry found himself living part-time in San
Pedro until 1980, when he relocated here permanently.
a certified dive instructor with the Professional Association of Diving
Instructors (PADI), Larry established his dive shop at Ramon's Reef Resort
(Ramon's Village). Having chosen San Pedro as his new home, Larry not only
wanted to prosper alone but wanted his friends and his community to do the same.
He encouraged the locals to improve their dive education and was instrumental in
training most of the dive masters on the island from that time. In 1986, he was
appointed Belize's Central American liaison for diving activities by the
National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). Larry, at the time, was
an Instructor Trainer/Course Director whose activities included professional
leadership training. During this period he certified nineteen Belizeans from San
Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia, Turneffe and Lighthouse Atolls and Glover's Reef
as NAUI Diving Instructors. He has also certified instructors on the Belize Aggressor and
Wave Dancer (two of Belize's largest
live-a-board diving boats).
After ten years
of operating out of Ramon's Village, he moved to Journey's End Resort, where he
continued his work for another ten years. During this time, he also opened
another dive shop at Royal Palm Villas. Throughout the years he continued to
interest people in this fine sport. He started a program for San Pedro High
School students to be dive certified and has also certified students from Island
Academy and St. Matthew's University. Internationally, he has certified dive
instructors in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela.
Today, Larry Parker's Reef Divers is San Pedro's oldest
dive training operation. In April of 1999, he relocated to the pier in front of
the Spindrift Hotel where he continues to operate from. Because of his
impeccable dive reputation, Mr. Parker was recently invited to take over the
management of the dive shop at the Belize Yacht Club. This one-of-a-kind in
Belize - NAUI Technical Diver Training Center specializes in mixed gas (Nitrox),
extended range diving and decompression diving. Larry's next goal is to produce
a scuba academy in San Pedro to train people in all aspects of dive leadership.
Larry also found love in La Isla Bonita and on May
21st, 1994 married Suzanne
Curtis. Suzanne, a NAUI instructor herself has, since then, worked hand-in-hand
with Larry in the promotion of reef preservation and dive safety.
"San Pedro and Belize have seen good improvements. Belize
has definitely moved ahead in eco-tourism and in the protection of the
environment. A perfect example is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve," commented Mr.
Parker. Although the changes San Pedro has seen are for the better, Larry
still thinks that there are more people in this profession that should sharpen
their skills for the protection of our reef and tourism industry.
Today, Mr. Larry Parker is NAUI's Regional Training
Representative in Belize. Since his first visit to San Pedro, twenty-three years
ago, he has made a big impression. He has worked hand-in-hand with the local
people and managed to introduce a number of them into the dive business which,
in turn, has helped their families. As a result, he has helped educate a growing
community to be aware of the fragile nature of their marine environment. Larry
Parker's name is synonymous with diving in Belize. He is respected, loved and
admired for his contribution to the promotion of San Pedro. He is a wonderful
addition to our island and we thank him for diving into "Our Community".