Walking into Scuba Marco is like stopping by a friend’s house. The full service dive shop offers every thing from rentals to dive trips to certifications to great conversations. Husband and wife owners, Jeff and Jessi Dawson, have created a laid-back, tropical atmosphere that echoes their lives and their style of business. Emphasizing hospitality, fun and patience, the couple live on “island time” and go by the motto, “No hurries. No worries.”
For the first-time scuba diver, this “mom and pop shop” offers the perfect vibe to get one started. “For folks that aren’t so sure, we start with baby steps. We start out in the pool, letting everyone get comfortable,” explains Jessi. “To get started, all you need to do is go on our website, www.scubamarco.com and click on SSI. Click the “Learn to Dive for Free” icon and it will get you started with on-line prep work. Once this is completed, give us a call and we can get you started. To becomecompletely open-water certified, we can have you ready to dive in two and a half days.” Once “scuba students” complete the short dive course with Jeff and Jessi, “we log your dives in your log book and take your picture so we can send out for your certification card and, boom! You’re ready to dive any time, anywhere.”
As the only Scuba shop in Southwest Florida that runs dive charters, Scuba Marco can take divers to some of the best local dive spots. Moving to Naples at the age of seven, Captain Jeff Dawson has grown to know the waters well. Jeff became certified in 1985, while attending The University of Florida and dove recreationally for many years. “It was probably around 1990, I was on a particular dive, not too far out, on the northwest corner of a five mile reef. It was a beautiful dive. When I was down there I realized I could bring peopledown here and we could have a blast. That was where the thought for running divers out to local reefs first came from.” Jeff went on to get his Captain’s license, went through PADI and SSI dive instructor training, and was on his way. “In 1998, I opened the dive shop here.”
Scuba Marco is also where he met his wife, Jessi. “We met while Jeff was certifying my parents. He had only been open a few months when we first met. I come from a family business background so I just started helping out right away,” she adds. Jessi has also since been certified as a Master Diver. This October will mark the 14th anniversary of Scuba Marco. Within that time, the Dawson’s have certified over 1,000 divers and have gone out on over 5,000 charter dives.
Offering complete equipment rentals and sales, air and Nitrox fills, three different types of dive charters, First Aid Certification, scuba certificationsfor beginners all the way to Dive Master courses, to planning exotic excursions for their diving buddies, Jeff and Jessi live all things scuba. “That’s why I did this,” explains Jeff. “We love what we do. A job is always a job, there is work involved. But for the most part, we just have a lot of fun!” adds Jessi.
Scuba Marco charters offer a unique look at the base of the Gulf of Mexico. The area’s warm waters are nutrient rich and loaded with marine life. “The Gulf’s bottom is mostly sandy, so anyplace there is structure and habitat, we find high concentrations of diverse aquatic creatures. Structure comes in the form of natural patch reefs and ledges, extensive artificial reef systems, and numerous shrimp boat and barge wrecks,” states Jeff.
“Our dive sites boast a variety of tropical fish including Queen and French Angelfish, Blue Tangs, ParrotFish, and Spotfin Butterflies to name a few. The area also offers the highest concentrations of enormous Goliath Groupers. Theycan reach up to seven feet in length and weigh up to 700 pounds! Massive schools of shimmering silver bait fish attract Snook, Snapper, Grouper, Sheepshead, Jacks, Mackeral, Cobia, Barracuda, Permit, plus others. Combine that with sand dollars, starfish, nudibranchs, and a plethora of colorful shells equaling an aquatic visual orgasm! Did I mention the Nurse Sharks (docile), Spotted Eagle Rays, and endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle’s often encountered?”
Several two-tank trips are scheduled weekly (conditions permitting). Trips are split into three categories based on how far out the sites are: near shore (two to ten miles, 25 to 40 feet), middle ground (10 to 15 miles, 40 to 55-plus feet) and offshore (15 – 25 miles, 60 plus feet). Each trip allows a maximum of six passengers to offer a more intimate experience. Their custom 28-foot Sport Craft and 32-foot Twin Vee dive boats are perfect for these trips. Reservations for any dive trip are required.
Jeff and Jessi are currently busy planning their next scuba expedition. Any andall dive enthusiasts are welcome to join them in Cozumel, Mexico from October 6th to the 13th. The all-inclusive trip offers boat dives, shore dives, rooms, three meals daily, adult drinks and more.
Photos of trips such as the upcoming Cozumel adventure and of daily Marco dives line the walls of the shop. The bright smile on every face says it all. “We do everything possible to keep people happy and have a fun, exciting experience,” adds Jessi. “We make sure that all our divers are competent and confident in their skills whether they are being certified with us or going out on the boat with us.”
Whether you just want to discover scuba, or become an assistant instructor, Scuba Marco offers all these things and more. Visit their location at 1141 Bald Eagle Drive to learn more from these friendly scuba experts, or give them a call at (239) 389-9135. Visit www.scubamarco.com to learn more about the different levels of certification offered and charter trips available.