Say hello to Linde Star Jones, passionate diver, instructor, photographer and conservationist who would love dive with James Cameron and become a dolphin!
Full Name: Linde Star Jones
Live In: Currently living in Maldives, North Huvadhoo (Gaafu Alifu Atoll)
Working For: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Diver Qualifications: PADI MSDT, EFR Instructor, 12 Specialties, 2013 PADI Elite Instructor Award
When and where did you start diving?
I began as a Junior Open Water Diver in 1997, receiving my certification from a small dive center in Florida, USA.
Why did you start diving?
It began as an adventure for my entire family. Two of my older brothers were already divers. Then my mother, stepfather, brother and I took the course so that we all could enjoy fun diving together.
What made you choose to become a dive professional? (if applicable)
I was working as a Graphic Designer in Atlanta, Georgia and was only able to dive during my vacations a couple times a year. Though I loved my job, it didn’t offer enough time in the water, which for me has been a true passion since I was very young. I love being in, on, or around the water and decided to become a professional diver to be able to teach and share the joys of the underwater world with others, while doing my part to encourage active conservation of our beautiful oceans.
Which is your favourite dive site and why?
This is a really tough question, as I have many favorites in what I consider different categories of dives. In general, I’m a huge fan of wreck diving. Something about the nostalgia of a sunken ship really intrigues me. However, if I have to choose one site out of all the sites I’ve explored, it would be Dhoragalla. It is a reef near our resort that we often refer to as a ‘Coral City’ because of the overabundance of corals found there. The vast coverage is simply amazing, and it is truly spectacular to see such an expansive, thriving ecosystem. It is a cleaning station and a nursery. There are tall columns of coral, rolling pinnacles, and blanketed fields of coral, as well as a couple sandy patches, but in general there is coral as far as the eye can see. We can also typically find a few sharks, stingrays, turtles, wasp fish, nudibranchs, pipefish, garden eels, and shrimp there, as well an array of tiny fish, and a few of the larger guys passing through for a wash. You really have to see it to believe it!
What has been the most memorable dive of your life and why?
I’ve had numerous dives that I will for sure never forget. Some of them are memorable because of the people I was guiding, or surprise visits from various marine animals, or unbelievable visibility, or massive shipwrecks, etc. One dive in particular was this year in Maldives, on a drift dive at a site named Gemanafushi Kandu. It started out pretty typical for this site with a dozen+ eagle rays, 2 dozen+ grey reef sharks, white-tip and leopard sharks, a looming school of giant barracudas, hundreds of jacks, napoleon wrasse, and around 25-30 turtles. But I happened to be watching one grey reef shark in particular. He was swimming so close and directly above me. I remember thinking that this was a massive shark and was really impressed by his size. Then I looked just above him and recognized the perfect silhouette of a graceful whale shark. It was an adolescent, maybe 5-6 meters in length, but it stayed very close and we were able to enjoy its presence for quite some time. After that, a small pod of dolphins came by and were playing in the sand directly in front of us. They were rolling over and throwing sand at each other. It was so innocent and playful, I couldn’t believe it. The dive ended with two Mobula rays circling us while we were suspended in the blue completing a safety stop. I really couldn’t have asked for more from this dive. It was by far one of the best in terms of what we were able to see.
If you would come back as a marine life form in your next life, what would that be?
I think I would be a dolphin. Not because they are my favorite marine animal, but because they are very social creatures that really seem to love their life. Brilliant hunters, effective communicators, curious but friendly mammals; their love for the other members of their pod is overwhelming. The have excellent teamwork skills, and are nurturing to their young. They are fast, graceful and extremely playful. The list is endless to the fascinating traits dolphins possess.
Who is your dream dive buddy?
James Cameron. I don’t care that he is super famous, but I think he has a very strong passion for discovering new life below the surface and is especially intrigued with the extreme deep. I think we would have quite a few traits in common and would be able to have endless conversations on our curiosities and explorations.
What dive locations are on your dream “bucket list” and why?
I plan to dive the Lembeh straight next month and I truly cannot wait! I love finding all the little creatures and I am fascinated by their strange and unique features. I would also like to visit the Red Sea, Palau, Galapagos, Cenote, and Qian Dao Hu – an ancient underwater city in China.
What is on your bedside table right now?
A framed picture, some coconut oil, a very sweet postcard from my youngest student and a National Geographic magazine. It’s the edition that includes James Cameron’s record-breaking dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
What is your favourite piece of diving equipment and why?
My underwater camera(s)! I absolutely love photography, above and below the water. Having photos to remind me of all the beautiful and delicate sites and animals I’ve witnessed throughout my dives is a passion that I really enjoy pursuing. Being able to share my photos with friends and family in order to increase awareness of all marine life and our effect on it, has become a hobby to which I am very devoted.
If you were to launch a campaign to raise awareness on a specific issue that affects divers, the oceans or marine life, what issue would you target and why?
Definitely the over-fishing of our oceans. Whether it’s commercial fishing, shark finning, long-lining, or culling, the destruction is real and sickening. Just from a diver’s viewpoint, it is unbelievable to be able to witness massive schools of fish and sharks swimming freely, united and strong. But from an ecological stand point, if the fishing industries continue with current methods, societies as a whole will crumble. Living in Maldives, I’ve witnessed the difference in countries that practice sustainable fishing methods from countries that do not. Though there are various active programs dedicated to increasing awareness, the issue is ongoing and not receiving the world-wide attention it deserves.
Personally, I try to participate in any campaign devoted to helping our oceans. Reef clean-ups are common routine for me and act as a small way to fight a huge problem. During my time with Hyatt, we have organized numerous reef cleans and it is always exciting to be a part of it. Even now we are currently working on a project specifically for World Oceans Day. It’s a week of activity designed to promote and raise awareness for marine conservation and sustainability. Among other activities, the project will include cleaning two local reefs, and a 30km kayak paddle to raise money for the Coral Reef Alliance. It’s very rewarding to be able to participate in such active support of the sea!
Where will you be in 10 years and what will you be doing?
I would love to be involved in data collection and research initiatives for various marine life. Whether it’s analyzing migratory patterns of Great White Sharks, or working with a turtle sanctuary, I would be thrilled to be hands on with a team of brilliant, eco-friendly researchers. I’m not sure where I will be located, as I tend to go where the wind blows and I have several places I would like to explore during the next 10 years. I can tell you for sure, I will be diving!!!
Learn more about The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa at: http://www.maldives.hadahaa.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html