Our Community - Larry Parker - "Diving deep into Our Community"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 34            August 24, 2000

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Larry Parker

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 Parker.

     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.

    As 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".

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