Jamaica’s Underwater Trailblazer

When Michael Clarke became a PADI Course Director in 2017, it marked not only a special moment in his career but also one for Jamaica – Clarke was Jamaica’s first PADI Course Director under the family-owned Sandals Resorts International (SRI) which includes Sandals and Beaches Resorts, the Caribbean’s leading all-inclusive resort company. Since then, Clarke has certified over 132 instructors for SRI.

Michael Clarke

Clarke lived and worked on his home island of Jamaica until 2004 when he relocated to Beaches Turks & Caicos, for the next seven years where he ran the brand’s largest dive shop until returning home to Jamaica for a promotion as the Group Watersports Director for SRI. Today, Clarke, along with the rest of the Sandals and Beaches Resorts team, operates 17 different dive shops across its chain of resorts spanning seven Caribbean islands and have certified over 100,000 divers. Sandals and Beaches Resorts also currently have 81 PADI Elite Instructors on staff.

“This for me was an emotional time as I never dreamed that I would be a course director and most of all the first Jamaican one,” he says. “Being able to transfer knowledge and years of experience onto someone that will change their lives for the better is such a humbling experience.”

Through his work in the diving community, Clarke became a mentor for others in the Caribbean communities in which Sandals operates. As an attraction for divers around the world, Clarke, and the PADI certified Sandals and Beaches dive team at each resort’s Aqua Center discovered that guests appreciated the authenticity of having locals guide them on their favorite dive sites and reefs. Best of all, certified divers can dive daily during their resort stay… it’s all inclusive!

“We have really great wall dives that make for spectacular dive sites,” Clarke says.

Michael Clarke and Sandals team

With the growing interest for diving among the local community, Clarke and the Sandals team decided to host an IDC for five Divemasters as a way to inspire other divers and raise interest in scuba diving to the rest of the Jamaican community. 

“For me, this is only the beginning as we have so many people, not only at Sandals but in the respective Islands that want an opportunity to become instructors,” Clarke says. So my goal is to promote and inspire Caribbean people to become dive professionals.”

In addition to completing a structured IDC with the PADI and Sandals staff, the five candidates also received hands-on experience with overnight stays on the property. The IDC ended with an award ceremony to commemorate their successes.

The growing diving community in Jamaica has also brought awareness to the importance of conservation in the underwater world. In March, the Sandals Foundation celebrated 10 years of fulfilling its promise to the Caribbean community of investment in sustainable projects, from the implementation of Marine Protect Areas (MPAs) to planting coral reef nurseries for transplantation, while also assisting with ongoing cleanup efforts on the islands by establishing national and international events. The Sandals Foundation has already invested in countless projects and programs that support conservation and environmental awareness, and the Foundation has committed to engaging 100,000 people in protection and conservation over the next 10 years. To learn more about the Sandals Foundation visit www.sandalsfoundation.org.

“The goal is to get more people into diving through internship programs and continue to work along with the Sandals Foundation through environmental programs,” Clarke says. “We want to make our guests aware of how important it is to protect the underwater world.”

Michael Clarke

“To date, the Sandals Foundation manages two Marine Protect Areas (MPAs). They’ve funded the development of coral reef nurseries in Jamaica and St. Lucia and they have made environmental education for communities and schools a major priority through funding programs such as the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation’s Save our Seas School program, Floating Classrooms, Ride to Save the Wetlands and distributing thousands of reusable water bottles and grocery bags spreading the importance on the reduction of plastics.” -Heidi Clarke, Executive Director, Sandals Foundation

With the long list of accomplishments that Clarke and the Sandals team have already achieved, the outlook for the future of Jamaica as well as the other Caribbean communities where Sandals Resorts International operates, and its divers is looking pretty bright.

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