Picking Bananarama dive center manager's brain!
Hi everybody! I have already spent forty five days in Roatan diving non-stop. I figured it's about time I could pick on Malcolm Forrest's brain. As Bananarama dive center manager, I was eager to know what one of the most well-known and respected diver on the island could share with us.
Here's a summary of our friendly chat at down by West Bay beach.
How did you become Bananarama's dive center manager?
Mal: I left my job in England and came to Roatan to work as a dive master. I ended up getting a job as a dive master and manager of a dive center in West End all straight away. While working on the island I always quite fancy the job at Bananarama. Four years ago, a managing position became available and my partner Sofia and I were offered to cover it.
Can you please mention some of your staff attributes?
Mal:Yes sure. We definitely have got a nice mix of different nationalities and personalities.
Our staff is passionate about what they do. They only have one day holiday a week and I have never received any complain about it. They are also competitive, in the good sense of the word I mean. Our instructors are always competing to see who has been able to find the coolest fish or creature underwater. The way they interact each other has also a positive impact with our clients. As they are so enthusiastic, they continuously inspire confidence on our customers.
What does it make Bananarama dive center different from the other dive centers on the island?
Mal: We are not completely different. Roatan has a good amount of good dive centers and their staff generally like what they do. We do probably go a little bit extra in taking more time with our divers. You also have to choose people that can work in a mature team. Captain must help our instructors and the other way around. This has an impact in our customers, because we create an easy and relaxed atmosphere. Our aim is to have our divers enjoying their time with us!
How many courses do you give per year?
Mal: We have an average of 350 students per year. Seventy percent of those are Open Water.
Why would you recommend a diver to come diving to Roatan?
Mal: Those who want to start diving would have great fun on the island. E-learning PADI courses are becoming increasingly popular. They have to go through all the theoretical knowledge at home and only come down here for the diving. Certified divers will find that Roatan is among the top destinations in the Caribbean. We don't have very strong currents, there is good visibility and a lot to see. We have two wrecks which are very popular and some drift dives which can be enhanced with the use of Nitrox. More experienced divers will find lots of swim through, canyons and adventure dives. There is a little bit for everyone!
Which are your favorite diving sites on the island?
Mal: I don't always tell them ! Ok, the south side of the Island, near the point, between 60 to 110 feet. The reef is very healthy in that area and barrel sponges are huge! You can find Sargassum triggerfish, Queen triggerfish, Blue parrotfish, Turtles or Spotted eagle rays. Schools of Blue chromisfish always give you a buzz when looking at the drop off!
Can you recall a funny moment/episode during your diving career?
Mal: The most fun comes from teaching rescue courses numerous scenarios. Boat captains and other people are involved to recreate rescue situations which turn out to be a lot of fun. On my early days as a Dive master I intended to guide a customer to a dive site called 'Whole in the Wall'. While on the boat, I gave her a long briefing about the site, spin over my back, entered into the water and realized I would never be able to find the 'Whole in the Wall' cause I was in the wrong dive site. I ended up taking her through some channels and made her believe we have been to the right place!
How do you cooperate with Roatan Marine Park?
Mal:I am lucky enough to be friend with the current manager. Nick, who is an employee, is a fellow English man. My partner Sofia, myself and Bananarama actively cooperate with the Marine Park. We cooperate with the park rangers who patrol the area, as this is quite a big area. I have personally helped them to secure the current office building and have been involved in the Marine Park T-shirt design. Everybody would like to see more done, but you need to understand that everything is a slow process in this area. The lack of funds doesn't help them either. If water continuous to get warmer, paired to unsustainable fishing and poor diving practices, the reefs are in great danger.
What do you think about SUUNTO instruments for diving?
Mal: Four years ago, I purchased a Suunto Mosquito in England for my partner Sofia. It has proven very reliable, easy to service and she seems to be very happy with it. I am particularly attracted to the new Suunto diving line such as the D9, which not only looks great as a watch but it has a great feature: a compass integrated.
Thanks to you for reading! See you in a couple of weeks when the last dispatch from Roatan will be published.
Good luck and if you are close to the water, good diving!