For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book your Turks & Caicos adventure with ‘real-life’ Bella the Mermaid 🙂 (video link)
Josie is a free diving instructor and underwater tour guide living in Turks and Caicos who inspires and entertains kids and adults alike with a special mermaid visitor 🙂
For most people, the mere idea of being without oxygen for minutes – even seconds – at a time is enough to cause panic. For Josie Smith, free-diving instructor and resident mermaid of the Turks and Caicos, it’s more like being enveloped in a hug.
“It’s a very open, very raw experience,” says Josie, who earlier this year took on her mermaid alias, “Bella,” as a guide for Caicos Tours and its submarine, Undersea Explorer. “All you’ve got is this breath hold. It’s like an embrace. It’s an ocean hug.”
Josie’s breath-holding skills allow her to take on her underwater persona, donning an intricate, glittering tail and putting on a show for the submarine’s guests. It’s the “creativity and playfulness of being Bella” that Josie enjoys most about her unconventional job.
“She’s a bit more sassy than a Disney mermaid,” Josie says. One moment she might eat grass from the ocean floor, then spit it out. Or she might blow kisses to the people peeping out of the submarine’s windows. Bella is a work in progress, so her personality is still developing, Josie says.
London-born Josie is the only free-diving instructor on Providenciales. She’s also the only mermaid. Her underwater career traces back to 2005, when she and her husband took a free-diving course in Thailand. Josie had already been scuba diving for five years, but learning to free dive was unlike learning to dive with a breathing apparatus. Free diving requires physical training, but psychological training is equally important. Most people can hold their breath (the practice of breath holding is known as apnea) far longer than they might think. “You definitely turn inward when you’re free diving,” Josie says. Josie continued taking free-diving courses from 2007 to 2009, earning her AIDA (International Association for Development of Apnea) certification in Egypt. For the next three years, she worked a free-diving instructor (the only one on island) until 2012. Cue Alastair Dods, owner and captain of Undersea Explorer. Alastair and Josie had met years earlier at a local pantomime production, “The Little Caribbean Mermaid.” They talked of incorporating Josie into the submarine tour as a mermaid, but nothing came of it until earlier this year. Josie became Alastair’s full-time tour guide for the submarine after the passing of his wife and business partner, Betty. And the two decided to bring something a little different to the submarine tour, adding a bit of fantasy to get children involved. Some of those kids might be 80 years old, Alastair says, and that’s even better. The mystique of mermaids reaches people of all ages. “It wasn’t the intention when I took over the business,” says Alastair, who bought Caicos Tours almost nine years ago. “But it’s always nice to branch out and do new things. For your mermaid adventure, contact Caicos Tours at http://www.caicostours.com/ The whole courtesy of Island Life & Times Magazine, with much gratitude!