Southern Cross Club dive instructor Mike Schouten recently logged dive number 10,000 in a career that spans decades as a dive professional. To mark the occasion, Mike and resort owner Peter Hillenbrand dove 10 dive sites on Little Cayman from Blacktip Boulevard to Lea Lea’s Lookout. Diving on spectacular Bloody Bay Wall is always an amazing dive experience, but Schouten said the 10,000th dive was special.
“This dive wasn’t about anticipation, but more of emotion and reflection,” he explains. “Thinking about previous dives reminds me of all the amazing people that I have had the pleasure of diving with, and all the extraordinary marine life that I have seen, from tiny seahorses to Humpback whales.”
As a dive instructor, Mike Schouten has introduced many people to the sport of diving and has changed a few lives. Tish Disston, a recent visitor from Bonita, California is one of those people. She took Mike’s Discover Scuba Diving Course at the Southern Cross Club and he took her on her first ocean dive, in one of the world’s best dive spots.
“I feel fortunate to have had Mike as my instructor, but I fear I’ve been spoiled, not only by Mike’s guidance, but also by the dive sites we visited in Little Cayman,” said Tish. “He was patient, attentive and he made each dive a unique experience. We hung out with a sea turtle as he munched on some vegetation, we laid down on the sandy bottom of the sea with a nurse shark who seemed relaxed and unthreatened by our presence. These were all amazing experiences that I will never forget.”
“I know what a big impact learning to dive and overcoming fears can have on people, it’s a big responsibility, and I hope that I can contribute to that in a positive way,” said Mike.
A native of the Netherlands, Mike Schouten remembers his first dive, quite different from what he’s used to in Little Cayman these days. He says he wore ill-fitting dive gear, the weather was dreary and the visibility bad.
“I didn’t know what to expect, and of course I was full of anticipation,” he recalls. “When I submerged, my gauges slipped down my arm, my mask filled up with water and I lost a fin, but I remember thinking… hey cool, that’s a starfish!”
10,000 dives later, Mike still retains that sense of wonder and enthusiasm about the sport he loves. How does he do it?
“By looking at it through different eyes each time. There are many different ways to approach diving; a painter might look for colour and patterns; an amateur biologist might want to get better at identifying fish; another diver really appreciates geology, and I am inspired by all.”
That inspiration from an extraordinary dive instructor and guide touched Tish Disston, who plans to come back to Little Cayman as a certified diver to further explore the amazing Bloody Bay Wall.
“When we swam off the wall, and saw nothing but the deep blue sea, Mike motioned for us to turn around and look at the reef we had just been exploring,” she said. “It gave me a completely different perspective of the wall, it was amazing! I will probably expect all my instructors in the future to be as great as Mike was.”