SCUBA GENIE: Nickardo Dennis

by Jun 9, 2022People

Nickardo Dennis has always loved being in the water. No surprise, then, that he became a dive instructor. He’s known as the Scuba Genie. His love of the ocean is hereditary. Growing up in the seaside community of Belmont in Westmoreland, Dennis is a third-generation seaman.

“Both my grandfather and my father were fishermen, so my brother and I were always following them out to sea on their fishing expeditions,” says Dennis. “But we actually learned to swim by sneaking out and going to sea with our older cousins. We took every opportunity to jump in the water.”

He always knew his life’s purpose was waiting somewhere out there in the ocean and he was convinced he could find the answer in the hospitality industry.

“I worked in Negril for almost a year until 2005 when I heard that the newly built Sandals South Coast (then Sandals Whitehouse) was hiring,” says Dennis. He applied for a job as a lifeguard, as working at Sandals South Coast would allow him to do what he loved but closer to home.

“Sandals South Coast is where my career really took off,” says the dive instructor. It was also the perfect training ground with his first watersports manager, Reginald Vickers, playing a major role in his career.

“From the very beginning, Mr Vickers saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself,” he adds.

Dennis recalls, “Back in those days as lifeguards we used to do swim training refreshers each month and swim competitions to determine the strongest swimmers. Growing up by the seaside and swimming since I was six years old, I thought, clearly I had this in the bag. That was until I found myself struggling to keep up with my colleagues.”

That experience made two things clear to him. He was playing on a different level and was in desperate need of training.

“Sandals has a lot to teach but I had to be willing to open myself up to the process,” he explains.

Nickardo Dennis shares a moment with guest divers following an early morning dive.

For those who say Dennis is lucky to have found his purpose and do what he truly loves every day, he reminds them that he has never stopped preparing himself through training. 

Over the years he has engaged in training focused on team building and service excellence, which has shaped the hospitality professional he is today; environmentally focused trainings such as fish identification; peak performance buoyance and dive against debris and so much more.

While working as a lifeguard an opportunity presented itself for him to work in the activities area.

“In activities I was teaching guests to sail, kayak, windsurf, etc. I was also starting to develop a real interest in the boats,” says Dennis.

After his work hours he would hang around the boat captains and learn to drive the boats. By the time he got his Coxswain boat licence, he could drive all the boats in his department, except the dive boat. 

“The dive boat… that was the dream,” says Dennis. “Before he left South Coast, Clifford Kelly, a boat captain, was the one who first taught me how to drive the dive boat. But there was one challenge back then; the boat captain for the dive boat had to be at least a rescue diver,” says Dennis.

He admits that at that time he had no interest whatsoever in diving.

“When I did the open water and advance dive training it was only so that I could meet the requirements to one day captain the dive boat,” he says.

In 2008 he became a certified rescue diver but still his interest was in driving the boats.

“Being on the dive boat as much as I was, I found myself interacting more with the divers. I would encourage new divers who were having challenges and I would listen with bright-eyed wonder as guests and my fellow colleagues would return from a dive to share their experience in the ‘blue room’,” says Dennis. “Soon I found myself yearning to be a part of that.”

Nickardo carefully explores the reef during a dive.

As time went by he started to get a lot more comfortable with diving and slowly but surely his passion for diving soon replaced his love for boats.

“It’s funny sometimes how life has a way of redirecting you back into your destiny,” Dennis reflects.

He is very grateful to Keith Myrie, boat captain and dive instructor, who introduced him to diving, and watersports manager Rowan Williams, who was instrumental in encouraging him to get certified as a dive master and dive instructor. 

As a dive instructor since 2012, Dennis has taught approximately 2,000 divers at various levels – from the introductory course; discover scuba diving; PADI® Scuba Diver and Open Water Certification to Advance Dive Certification; rescue diver and dive master courses. On average Dennis, sees about 20 divers per month. He is currently one of five dive instructors at Sandals South Coast and perhaps the first PADI® Certified Dive Instructor from the Whitehouse, Westmoreland area.

After a decade of helping others explore the beauty of the ocean, Dennis can truly say he has found his purpose.

“I get such an immense joy from heading out to sea each day with my guests and from watching struggling students blossom into full-fledged certified divers. I consider the ocean to be my second home. I love her dearly and all the marine life and ecosystems that thrive within her walls and it pains my heart to see her hurting,” says Dennis.

He is concerned that irresponsible fishing practices and garbage disposal have helped to destroy the reefs.

“The ocean is not the way it used to be when I was a child growing up in a community that depended on the ocean as a means of subsistence,” he says.

But he believes there is hope.        

He says the creation of the Whitehouse Marine Sanctuary by the Sandals Foundation and installation of a team of marine wardens to patrol the beach has definitely resulted in an increase in fish biomass within the area.

“We can see the difference during our dives and it’s a good feeling,” he says.

He also gets a “good feeling” when he looks back at all he has accomplished.

“People may not necessarily understand how much work it takes to do what we do on a professional level. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and dedication,” says Dennis. “Sometimes I look back at my life and I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. I’ve had my setbacks along the way but I don’t focus on those.” 


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