The phrase "Tourism means Business" has been echoed throughout the country with the hopes that it is taken seriously by the people of Belize. As tourism increases every year, so does the emphasis on elevating the skills and training needed to ensure this thriving industry continues. This week The San Pedro Sun takes pleasure in introducing a Belizean who, from a young age, decided to share her knowledge of her surroundings, and teach the importance of protecting these resources, in order for them to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike - Vicky Showler.
Born in Redlands, California to Mercedes Santa Maria, a Mexican naturalized American and Bruce Showler, a Canadian turned American, Vicky Showler spent only a few years in her birthplace. Her father, a citrus company manager, had made contacts to operate in Belize and moved to this country when Vicky was only seven years old. Vicky recalls that, for some reason or another, her father ended up in the banana industry instead. Vicky laughingly commented, "We ate everything that could possibly be made from bananas; banana bread, banana pudding - you name it." Although Vicky's family plantation was located inDangriga in the Stann Creek District, the business office was in Belize City where she grew up attending St. Catherine's Elementary School and St. Catherine's Academy, graduating in 1975.
Following her schooling, Vicky's family returned to the US but she decided to stay behind. Vicky spent the next 18 months employed in a Belize City office before moving to Caye Chapel. The resort, named Club Aquarius at that time, employed Vicky as a storeroom keeper for two years. Club Aquarius, a dive resort, attracted many divers to this area and after observing the avid participation in this sport, Vicky decided it was her turn to learn. She recalled her first diving experience when she was nineteen years old. "It was at the back of Caye Chapel. Some friends assembled the gear, I put it on, walked into the water and was hooked!" Ms. Showler reminisced. A natural when it came to water sports, Vicky then achieved her Open Water Dive certification from the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) in Florida, USA.
Vicky then decided to give farming a try. Her original idea was to manage a cattle ranch in Unitedville, located on the Western Highway, in the Cayo District, but after twelve months in this field, she chose to return to the water. Vicky was hired as an assistant cook on the first "live aboard" dive boat in Belize, the Isla Mia. Even though Vicky loved to cook her love of the water was far greater. She quickly moved up to the ranks of Advanced Diver certification and Rescue certification before taking her Dive Master course. Vicky then completed her Dive Master certification and worked as the Dive Master for this vessel until 1985. Her next move was to Turneffe Island Lodge where she was employed as the assistant manager. Vicky's adventurous spirit soon found her sailing the Caribbean aboard a 96-foot schooner. The schooner stopped in Roatan, Honduras to have some work done on it and she ended up staying there for 10 months working as a DiveMaster atCocoView Resort. The schooner then set sail for and eventually stopped in Panama. It was in this country that Vicky had one of the thrills of her life working as a line handler, a person who handles the boat lines on vessels as they are being taken through the numerous locks of the Panama Canal.
In 1987, back in Belize, Vicky put her "sea legs" to use again and joined another live aboard team, the Belize Aggressor fleet. This new employment took her to the Cayman Islands to train as Dive Master and Photo Pro. At this point, Vicky left the Aggressor Fleet temporarily to pursue her Instructor's rating with Larry Parker of Reef Diver's at Ramon's Village Resort. For the first time in Belize, three Belizeans (including Vicky) sat the exam, and failed, but they all tried again in early 1988, and passed. This accomplishment made Vicky the first Belizean woman Dive Instructor and she subsequently left San Pedro to resume her new duties as a National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) Open Water Instructorwith the Aggressor. Unfortunately, soon after, she came down with spinal meningitis while working on the ship. While being treated for the meningitis, as a result of a routine x-ray, doctors discovered a massive dissecting aortic aneurysm. (If that were not enough, she was in the Belize City hospital when Hurricane Gilbert hit!) Vicky left Belize to have surgery in the USA in October, 1988. Returning in March 1989, she went back to the Aggressor until she received a better offer from Larry Parker to work at Reef Diver'sand decided to relocate permanently to San Pedro. Having achieved this, Ms. Showler spent the next five years working for the dive shop at Ramon's Village.
Eventually, Vicky Showler decided to go out on her own as a Naturalist Guide, a person who studies natural history or advocates naturalism. Vicky worked for local non-governmental organizations such as Programme for Belize, the International Zoological Expeditions, the Institute of Marine Sciences and University of Belize. As part of her work, she introduced middle and high school students from the United States and Belize to coral reef, sea grass and mangrove ecology. In between, she also worked as a Dive Instructor and Photo Pro for a live aboard boat called the Wave Dancer, part of Peter Hughes' Dancer fleet.
Because tourism had been such a part of her life since the age of eighteen, Vicky decided to give back to the industry by recently accepting the post of District Tourism Trainer for San Pedro. Through this position, made available by the Belize Tourism Board Training Unit, Vicky says she is able to reciprocate what this country has done for her. Since November of last year, Vicky's main function as the District Tourism Trainer has been developing tourism training schedules, marketing the programs offered and conducting or arranging for someone to conduct the training.
More than a conscientious diver, educator and adventurer, Vicky Showler's determination to live her dream has inspired others to do the same. Vicky has reveled in the beauty hidden below the blue waters of Belize and has help many others to discover the unique underwater world that has attracted so many to "dive into" "Our Community."