Teen Open Water SCUBA Camp
Escape to the vibrant world below the warm, clear waters of the Atlantic! If you’re drawn to what lies beneath the ocean’s surface, – Sea Turtle Camp’s Open Water SCUBA Camp is for you! Lessons begin in the classroom and then move to the pool for hands-on practice with master divers. Then, get a close-up look at rays, tropical fish, corals, algae, and other aquatic life on a series of open-water dives. After completing all the skills, you’ll receive your open-water SCUBA certification.
6-Day PADI Certification Includes:
- Self-Guided E-Learning prior to program start
- 1 Classroom session
- 1 Pool session
- 1 Lake session
- 1 Ocean session
11-Day PADI Certification Includes:
- Self-Guided E-Learning prior to program start
- 1 Classroom session
- 1 Pool session
- 1 Lake session
- 3 Ocean sessions
This adventure is designed for rising 9th graders – recent high school graduates passionate about the marine environment. A lifelong passion for many ocean enthusiasts, SCUBA diving opens the door to the world of marine biology research.
- Visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital and Rehabilitation Center
- Salt Marsh Exploration
- Sea Turtle nest walks along the beach
- Snorkeling & Boogie Boarding
- Stay in our Ocean-View retreat center steps away from the beach
- Earn 10 hours of community service credit
In addition, the 11-day program includes:
- Tidepool in North Carolina’s only natural rocky outcrop
- Visit the North Carolina Aquarium
- More extensive sea-turtle and marine science hands-on, feet-wet activities
- Earn a total of 15 hours of community service credit
**Please note that all activities are subject to change without notice**
Camp tuition includes lodging, all meals from dinner on the first day to breakfast on the last day, 24-hour access to camp staff, 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 Topsail, mask, fins, and snorkel, and additional money for snacks or souvenirs.
2024 Open Water SCUBA Camp Dates:
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 education. Campers get the extraordinary opportunity to participate in some amazing daily activities designed to teach them through experience instead of out of a textbook.
During this amazing adventure, you will:
- Visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
- Search for turtle nests during nest walks along the beach
- Receive PADI Open Water Scuba Instruction
- Take a Natural History Tour of the NC Aquarium (11-day program)
- Understand salt marsh and wetland sustainability
- Study Dune Ecology
- Kayak through the salt marsh (11-day program)
- Earn community service hours
* * Schedule is subject to change. Please keep in mind that we try our best to adhere to this schedule but we cannot control mother nature. In the event of adverse weather, we have rainy-day activities in place. We cannot control canceled vendors. We will try our best to incorporate what was missed in later days, but it does not always fit into our schedule **
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.
Campers will be housed in a 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 are available 24 hours a day for campers.
Campers will not only enjoy the breathtaking sunsets from the decks of the Retreat Center, but also private beach access, campfires, and outdoor activities such as volleyball, corn hole, basketball, and much more.
As 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!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I get to see real live sea turtles?
YES!!! We work very closely with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center which has 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 injuries. The NC Aquarium usually houses a few and from time to time we even see them out in the ocean.
What airport is best to fly into for your program, and do you provide a shuttle service?
The airport to fly into is the Wilmington International Airport (ILM), which is located 45 minutes from our facility on Topsail. Our educators meet all participants at baggage claim OR their gate. The shuttle cost to and from this airport is included in the program tuition. Participants must arrive and depart between 12-3 pm to ILM. If you have to arrive outside of our arrival and departure times, there are additional fees for a separate shuttle pickup.
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 driving in should try to arrive between 12:30 – 2 pm on the first day and depart around 12:30- 1:30pm on the last day of camp.
Does my child need to know how to swim to be able to attend this program?
Yes. Due to the nature of this program, all campers must be able to swim and have a basic level of comfort in the water. Since water activities are physically demanding, we do require that campers be able to swim 25 meters unassisted and be comfortable in water where they can’t touch the ground. Our lifeguard-certified staff will conduct a swim test on the first day of camp to ensure the safety of each camper whenever they are in the water.
I am a finicky eater. Can you cater to special diets?
Yes, we can accommodate many dietary restrictions and preferences. If your camper requires a special diet, we are happy to ensure your camper’s dietary needs are met. You will be asked about food allergies and special diets in your camper forms. If you have additional questions or concerns, our Program Coordinators would love to help you!
Can I call home during camp?
We have all campers check in with their parents upon arrival, but we have limited parental contact for the duration of the camp. Sea Turtle Camp is a growing experience, and we find that young people do best and gain confidence through independence. Campers are NOT allowed to carry cell phones at any time during camp. Any cell phones brought to camp will be collected upon arrival and returned upon departure. Parents will be updated through emails and the many pictures we’ll be posting on Facebook throughout the trip! We will provide an after-hours number to reach the office in the event of an emergency.
Is my camper allowed to bring electronic devices?
At Sea Turtle Camp, we promote immersive, hands-on learning experiences that are free from electronic distractions. While campers are allowed to bring cell phones and electronic devices for their arrival and departure days, once they have checked in with their parents/guardians and settled into camp, all electronic devices must be surrendered to our camp staff. These devices will be securely stored throughout the duration of the trip. It’s important to note that if any electronic device is discovered in a camper’s possession after the initial handover, it will be confiscated, and appropriate measures will be taken. However, we do permit campers to bring MP3 players and e-books. Please be aware that any device capable of connecting to Wi-Fi is not allowed.
Should I bring a friend?
While most participants come alone, you are welcome to come with a friend. Please indicate in the enrollment that you would like to room together.
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. We strongly recommend families purchase trip insurance to protect their investment. Additional information for trip insurance coverage and providers can be found here. Please review the terms of our cancellation policy. In order to enroll in Carolina Ocean Odyssey, you must agree to these terms. Our full cancellation policy can be found here.
“Hi, my name is Abby Hayes and I am a senior in high school. I am addicted to Sea Turtle Camp! I have participated in two camps and I can’t wait to go back one last time. My first camp in 2012 was the Marine Biology Immersion and last summer I attended the Marine Biology Open Water Scuba Camp. They were both amazing! I met other kids from all over the United States with the same passions that I have. My favorite memory of the Marine Biology Immersion camp was when we went to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. The staff were so kind and educated us on how important sea turtles are to our ocean and how to care for them while they are at the hospital. My favorite sea turtle I worked with was Lefty, he was missing his left flipper. We also learned how to surf one day and we explored Topsail Island, which was amazing and so much fun. My favorite camp though was the Scuba Camp in Wrightsville, North Carolina. It has been a goal of mine to become Scuba Certified and Sea Turtle Camp made that happen with all the support and training that I needed. We started in the pool, then a lake, and then to the ocean. I saw all kinds of marine life, even a barracuda. My favorite part about diving was seeing sea life in its natural habitat. I love looking back at all my pictures of us swimming, camping, eating Surf Berry, and scuba diving. I would highly recommend either camp to young teens. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and have had experiences that I will treasure my whole life.“
“Our daughter loved it! She arrived on her 14th birthday and all of the counselors sang happy birthday to her as she checked in. She got to care for and learn all about several different kinds of sea turtles. And she made many many friends. She definitely wants to return for camp next summer, possibly to do the SCUBA camp. Highly recommended.“
“I was nervous about sending my son to achieve his advanced SCUBA certification, but Sea turtle Camp provided an extremely safe, well-guided, and very educational experience. He learned many elements of dive safety and dive techniques, had some great adventures, and met kids from all across the country.“
“My son attended the Sea Turtle Camp in Wilmington, NC during July 2015. In his words, “It had many unique features and it wasn’t nerdy at all.” Evidently, it was also great fun. He was enrolled in the scuba certification program, so that was a central focus, but he also had plenty of time to learn about the turtles and marine biology and horse around in the ocean with the other campers. Needless to say, he’s already talking about going back next year.“