Marine Biology Open Water Scuba Camp
North Carolina is rated as one of the top diving destinations in North America by Scuba Diving magazine, making our coast the perfect place to learn to dive. No experience is necessary as a professional team of Dive Professionals will train you from start to finish. Scuba diving gives you the opportunity to see the marine world up close and is an incredible skill for those interested in a career in marine science. Join teens from all over the world on an adventure that will open your eyes to a new incredible marine biology view of our amazing oceans!
Escape to the vibrant world below the warm, clear waters of the Atlantic. Whether you were born and raised along the coast or have spent your life inland, the Sea Turtle Open Water SCUBA Camp is for any teen drawn to what lies beneath the ocean’s shifting surface. You will be trained by some of the best divers on the East Coast and by the end of the program, you will receive your open water SCUBA certification. Get a close-up look at the rays, tropical fish, corals, algae and other aquatic wildlife found in the waters off Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
This adventure is designed for anyone passionate about the marine environment ages 13 – 17. SCUBA diving is not only a lifelong passion for so many ocean enthusiasts – it is a door-opening necessity to the world of marine biology research.
- Explore the salt marsh and learn its vital role in the food chain
- Tour the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
- Tidepool in North Carolina’s only natural rocky outcrop
- Take a guided marine biology tour of the North Carolina Aquarium
- Learn about the salt marsh
- Spend time earning your open water SCUBA certification
- Attend academic training sessions where you will develop a knowledge base about scuba diving and the diving environment
- Explore the underwater world in warm, crystal clear waters
- Swim with a wide variety of marine life such as rays, sea turtles, dolphins, tropical fish, and coral
- Earn twenty hours of community service credit
Camp tuition includes: lodging, all meals from dinner on the first day to lunch on the last day, 24-hour same-gender adult supervision, admission to all activities, all equipment, professional scuba instruction, transportation including pickup and drop off from the Wilmington International Airport (ILM), community service certificate, Sea Turtle Hospital donation, Sea Turtle Camp t-shirt and memorable group photo. Campers are responsible for round trip airfare to ILM or transportation to Wilmington and additional money for snacks or souvenirs.
2016 Marine Biology Open Water SCUBA Dates:
June 25-July 6
July 23-August 3
2016 registration is now open.
Click Below to Sign Up!
Days 1 – 2
Your arrival to the beautiful North Carolina coast is met with the anticipation and enthusiasm of your fellow campers; now you will have the opportunity to see and interact with real live sea turtles as you aid in the rehabilitation and release of one of the oldest living creatures. Early the next day we’re off to work at the Sea Turtle Hospital, where you have the opportunity to be volunteers at the brand new 13,000 square foot facility. With rooms dedicated to husbandry, surgery, and public education, there is much more space than the previous 900 square foot facility. Don’t forget that this is a hospital; everyone here treats it as such, so while mesmerized, keep in mind that the work here is serious. Next, we’ll explore the salt marshes of coastal North Carolina, which are vital nurseries and filters for the greater ocean – and equally important to sea turtles.
Days 3 – 4
Following the tides, we’ll travel south to the only naturally occurring intertidal ecosystem in North Carolina – the coquina outcrop. This ancient sandstone reef extends out from the beach and is home to specific marine species like sea liver, sea anemones, and stone crabs. It’s a fun area to explore on our way to the Fort Fisher Aquarium. The alarm sounds early on the next day, but it’s a big day, so you barely register that. We rise early to potentially witness one of the coolest sights for a sea turtle lover: fresh tracks in otherwise unmarked sand. Our search is followed by another morning of duties at the hospital. After saying goodbyes to our flippered patients, we explore the salt marsh. Here we are able to spot herons and egrets stalking small fish and crabs amongst the grasses.
Days 5 – 6
After a laid back breakfast we will head to the beach for bonus water time. With the professional instruction of our parent company, WB Surf Camp, we will spend all morning building our confidence and learning to enjoy and ride the waves that dolphins and sea turtles have been enjoying for millennia. Next, we’ll learn about the diversity of invertebrate fauna located in our waterways. And of course, we’ll have to get in one last session at the Sea Turtle Hospital before we transition to our scuba instruction. It will be tough not seeing the turtles as often, but all the new material we need to cover for our Open Water certification will require a lot of our focus.
Days 7 – 8
We start the day with our first SCUBA class. Safety is always our number one concern when going out in the ocean and SCUBA diving is no different. Anyone can breathe underwater, but it’s important to learn the right way! Safety is intertwined with everything you will learn in your Open Water certification. We will dive into the basics of buoyancy, descending, ascending, breathing comfortably underwater, warmth, and efficiency. Saturday begins early as we meet for in-water training at one of our local pools. In today’s lessons we will be covering everything from controlling buoyancy to removing, clearing, and replacing our masks and regulators. Tonight we’ll explore dive charts, decompression sickness, as well as thinking and caring for others underwater should an accident ever occur. As in most scenarios prevention and preparation are the two best ways to avoid dangerous situations whether in life or in SCUBA.
Days 9 – 10
Another early Sunday morning puts us back in the pool to practice aiding our dive buddies if trouble were to occur. These exercises include towing a fatigued diver, buddy breathing, and removal/replacement of gear underwater and at the surface. All of this training is practiced over and over to create a calm, trained response to situations that can arise. We’ll inspect the undersides of floating docks and sample the abundance of life that attaches to hardened structures. We’ll start the next day at the beach with another surf lesson and then head over to Masonboro Island for our first open water dive. Here you will be familiarized with safety/equipment checks, adjustments, followed by buoyancy control and controlled descent/ascent. In the second dive you will partner with a buddy to practice safe emergency techniques. Then we’ll spend some time exploring underwater.
Days 11 – 13
Tuesday is the big day! After breakfast we will head to the docks, board our vessel, and head out Masonboro Inlet as the sun rises over the Atlantic. Only a few miles offshore, we will stop in the gentle rolling summer seas and set anchor. There doesn’t appear to be much out here. The land seems to be just a hologram on the western horizon, but down below is an incredible world of wonder. Before descent, we perform a few in-water techniques at the surface. After everyone has proven their abilities it is time for a free descent. At the historic Hyde and Markham shipwrecks you will be in awe of the incredible amount of life that exists in and around these artificial habitats. Using your compass, you will navigate around the underwater structures while being mesmerized by fish and marine life of all shapes and sizes! It is such an incredible world out there and now that you’re an official NAUI certified Open Water Diver it’s time to start planning for next year’s adventure.
Overnight Marine Biology Camp Activities
Coastal North Carolina is surrounded by rich marine ecosystems that countless aquatic species call home. From the expansive Atlantic Ocean, with its miles of white sand beaches on barrier islands to the fluctuating and dynamic salt marsh habitats, Sea Turtle Camp gives you the opportunity to explore and study these amazing ecosystems in depth. We strive to provide teenagers with the opportunity to learn more about marine biology and conservation through hands-on, feet-wet experiential educational. Campers get the extraordinary opportunity to work with live sea turtles as well as participate in some amazing daily activities designed to teach them through experience instead of out of a textbook.
During this amazing adventure you will:
- Volunteer at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
- Search for turtle nests during nest walks along the beach
- Participate in night time sea turtle nest/hatchling watch
- Receive Open Water Scuba Instruction
- Take a Natural History Tour of the NC Aquarium
- Understand salt marsh and wetland sustainability
- Study Floating Dock Ecology
- Learn Sandstone Ecology
- Study Dune Ecology
- Learn ocean and wave dynamics through surfing lessons
- Earn twenty hours of community service credit
While at camp, students will be staying in the heart of the sea turtle action on Topsail Island. Pronounced Tops’l by the locals, this 26-mile long, quarter-mile wide barrier island has a rich history filled with pirates, fishermen, and surfers. Since Topsail Island is one of the less developed barrier islands in the area, groves of maritime forest still dot the island and are rumored to hide Blackbeard’s treasure. Nowadays, Topsail is known as a laid-back beach town and a sanctuary for sea turtles.
NEW FOR 2016
Campers will be housed in fully furnished retreat center with an ocean view and beach access just a few feet away. This is an ideal location, as we will only be steps from our outdoor classroom. Students will see the sun rise over the ocean during morning nest patrols.
Students will enjoy dining together in our very own dining hall.
The rooms are gender-specific and feature air-conditioning, comfortable common areas, and gender specific bathrooms. Each participant will have his or her own bed. Sea Turtle Camp staff members are housed on-site and will provide 24-hour, same gender adult supervision.
Campers will not only enjoy the breathtaking sunsets from the decks of the Retreat Center, but also private beach access, game rooms, campfires and outdoor activities such as volleyball, corn hole, basketball and much more.
Now that we are only minutes from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and beach, we can have a more active role in providing care to the turtles at the hospital and assisting the Topsail Beach Nesting Patrol. More hands-on opportunities and nest watching means more fun for the campers!
Cynthia from Cross Lanes, WV – “My favorite part was meeting everyone and seeing how they were all interested in the same thing as me. The nest walks were such an inspiration to wanting to help and understand more of the life of a sea turtle. Our dive instructor, Frank, explained everything about our dives extremely well. I enjoyed my time.”
Jen from Randolph, NJ – ” Sea Turtle Camp was life-changing for me. I made some amazing friends, learned what it was like to breathe underwater, helped sea turtles, and learned so, so much about marine biology! It has made me love marine science even more than I did before. After this camp, I am certain that marine biology is the path for me. This experience has not only taught me so much about marine life, but it has taught me how much that life needs our help. When camp ended, I felt like I could answer anything about conservation and I couldn’t wait to share it with my family and friends! I can honestly say it’s been pretty life changing. I have done some things people never get to do in their whole lives (like see a turtle nest hatch or go scuba diving!). Thank you sea turtle camp for making me a happier, smarter, and better person overall :)”
Alyssa from Plattsburgh, NY– ” Our scuba instructor Brian taught us well and I felt safe with him while diving. The Sea Turtle Camp counselors are funny and nice. Everything you do is an awesome experience. The rooms were amazing. I hope I can come back next summer for advanced scuba.”
Craig from Alplaus, NY - “Most amazing thing I have ever done, I learned a ton and had a blast while doing it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I cannot wait to go scuba diving again. I will use all that I learned for the rest of my life. I am very hooked on surfing, SUP, and diving because of this camp. I have wanted to become a marine biologist for many years, and this camp convinced me that I have made the right choice regarding my future occupation. This camp has shown me that my love of the ocean and its inhabitants burns deeply within. “
Hana from Minato-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN - ” Sea Turtle Camp made this one of my best summers. I had so much fun learning about diving and working with the sea turtles made it an experience I could never forget. Also having the time to hang out with the other campers also created a friendship that will last forever. In all, this was the best camp I’ve been to and I will come back despite the fact that I live in Japan.
Lia from Yardley, PA - “I enjoyed everything about camp. I was able to make new friends that had the same interests as me. The counselors were very nice and relaxed. Andre was the most precise scuba instructor I have ever had. I enjoyed every moment and wouldn’t have asked for a better time. My favorite part was going to the hospital and taking care of the inhabitants living there. It opened my eyes that the reason why most of them are there is because of what we humans do directly and indirectly. It showed me that some people are unaware of threatening a species to the brink of extinction. We need to educate the public of the harms that we have created for these gentle creatures. I believe that we will accomplish what needs to be done if we have the inner strentgh and will to fight back.”
Kayla from Painted Post, NY - “Nothing can compare to giving a turtle a back rub and watching it dance!”
Sofia from Rye, NY – ” I thought the camp was fantastic! I give it an 11 out of 10. I met so many new people that I will always remember. The camp was a very comfortable environment, which was especially important for me since I have never been to sleep away camp before. All the counselors were also very nice and always encouraged you to keep trying and working. I loved this camp so much and I was sad to leave.
Lissette from Charlotte, NC - “My camp experience changed my life. Between the amazing counselors, how much we learned, and the friends we made, I couldn’t ask for more. Jamie and Leah made us feel at home, and I learned more than I ever thought about the ecosystem and how our environment needs help. Having the experience to work with Jean and the turtles at the hospital really touched my heart and reinforced my desire to want to work with these animals. The friends I made, I still talk to every day and know we will be friends for life. I was so lucky to be able to be a part of this camp, and I’m so grateful.”
Do I get to see real live sea turtles?
YES!!! We work very closely with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center who have an average occupancy of about 20 sea turtles with varying degrees of injury or illness. Some are even permanent residents due to the severity of their injury. The NC Aquarium usually houses a few behind the scenes and from time to time we even see them out in the ocean.
What kind of community service will I be doing?
At Sea Turtle Camp service is the most rewarding part of our program, and we like to think of it as service learning. Everything we do at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, from working directly with live sea turtles, cleaning, and feeding sounds more like enjoyment than service, but it is.
Do I need to have scuba diving experience?
No, this program is designed for teens that want to learn how to scuba dive. Our instructors will teach you all the skills that will keep you safe while underwater. A prerequisite for this course is that you must know how to swim.
Should I bring a friend?
While most participants come alone, you are welcome to come with a friend.
How old are the campers I will be rooming with?
Roommates are grouped together by age in order to enhance the overall level of comfort.
I am a finicky eater; can you cater to special diets?
Yes we can. We know how important it is to eat healthy meals when you are outside and at the beach all day long. We’ll ask you in a questionnaire what types of food, snacks and drinks you prefer.
What do I need to bring?
A complete packing list will be included with your informational registration packet.
What sort of payment do you accept?
We accept checks, money orders, or VISA/MC/AMEX credit cards. All credit card payments are processed online using a secure server. There is a $50 service charge for all returned checks. With the exception of the trip deposit, a 3% credit card surcharge will be assessed to all payments made by credit card. Please review our cancellation policy. Deposits are not refundable after acceptance into a program.
What airport is best to fly into for your program, and do you provide a shuttle service?
The best airport to fly into is the Wilmington International Airport (ILM), which is located a short drive from our suites on Topsail. Our educators meet all participants at baggage claim. The shuttle cost to and from this airport is included in program tuition.
What if I can’t get in by the set check in time?
Please contact our Program Coordinator to discuss arrivals and departures outside of our preferred times. In order to avoid missing any planned activities, participants should try to arrive around 1 pm on the first day and depart around 3 pm on the last day of camp.
What if my luggage doesn’t make it?
Occasionally the airlines will misplace luggage or your suitcases will miss connecting flights. We recommend keeping essentials, such as medications, toiletries, bathing suit, and extra change of clothes, in their carry-on luggage just in case.
What is your cancellation policy?
Sea Turtle Camp is an extremely high quality, tight margined program, with limited space. Therefore, once your student has been accepted into the program, exceptions to this policy cannot be made for any reason, including weather or personal emergencies. Please review the terms of our cancellation policy. In order to enroll in camp you must agree to these terms.
Do you have insurance?
We carry a comprehensive insurance package, including general liability.
How much spending money should I bring?
We recommend campers bring $50 to $75 per week of camp. This is for snacks, souvenirs or gifts you wish to purchase while at camp.