Costa Rica's Scuba Diving Pioneer
by John McNamara
Beard has been one of the pioneers of diving in Costa Rica, while
diving since 1954 in his native state of North Carolina. Bill has
taken a love for a sport and has exposed many travelers to wonders
and beauties of a different country like Costa Rica. Originally
Bill took his diving skills to the shores of Cuba but things got
too hot there politically and then headed back to the states and
lived in Miami. Believe it or not, Bill started a printing business
and continue this until 1971 where he went to Costa Rica on vacation
to free dive the famous coral reef at Cahuita.
the local diving and the country itself, Beard returned and opened
Costa Rica's first dive shop, Mundo Aquatico, in San Pedro in 1975.
For the next couple of decades, he introduced thousands of people
to diving. In 1987, having sold Muindo Aquatico, Beard moved out
to Guanacast to establish a new operation, Diving Safaris, at gorgeous
Playa Hermosa. In seven years he's built the business up from a
humble enterprise with cramped office space and limited equipment
to a thriving dive shop with the latest gear, five specially designed
boats and full PADI courses.
as a captain by the US Coast Guard, Beard runs a tight ship at the
dive shop. He is particularly strict about safety. Though Costa
Rican law does not require it, Diving Safaris follows stringent
U.S. safety standards at all times.
The shop's location on the dry Gulf of Papagayo (which has no run-off
from rivers and thus, Beard explains, great visibility) gives scuba
enthusiasts easy access to dozens of excellent dive sites. Diving
Safaris makes trips to 27 of them, including the Catalina Islands,
where huge schools of manta rays roam, and the Murcielagos Islands,
hunting grounds of bullsharks.
Many dive sites have yet to be explored. Slipping through these
waters, divers may be lucky enough to see species with names as
colorful as spinner dolphins, pilot whales, false killer whales,
horse-eye jacks, spades, rainbow runners and cow-nosed rays, as
well as turtles, schooling fish, and marine plants. Beard and his
crew have repeatedly seen a big orca (killer whale) in the area.
of the most pleasant ways imaginable of receiving basic scuba training
is to take Diving Safaris four day certification coarse at the hotel,
Sol Playa Hermosa Beach Resort. A two day course, "Discover
Scuba" is aimed at getting potential diver feet wet only.
"I've taught everybody from grandmothers on down. " Beard
says. "I don't care how good a diver they are when they come,
they're a better diver when they leave. That's without exception."
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