Sharing about Bermuda diving – one subscriber at a time
One subscriber at a time – that’s Mark Wynne's plan for sharing the beauty of Bermuda's reefs with the world.
About a year ago he and Holly Wakely launched Blue Horizon Diving, a YouTube channel that shows weekly episodes of scuba diving around the island.
The series grabs the attention of roughly 7,000 viewers each month and has inspired a bunch of scuba diving tourists to make the trip here.
"It started because I was exploring the oceans, exploring the reefs and just loving it and realised it wasn’t being very well promoted," said Mark, who has a full-time job and also works part-time, as an instructor with Dive Bermuda.
"I saw the opportunity for us to make the videos for fun but also use them to showcase Bermuda as a diving destination. A lot of people here don’t realise how lucky Bermuda is with the reef structure. We don’t have the marine mass that you do get elsewhere in the world with lots of fishes, but our reef structure is stunning. It could bring us so much money if it were promoted very well."
Their early videos – a bunch of diving clips put together – didn’t get much traction. Teddy Gosling, a board director at his full-time job, suggested they turn it into a vlog "and take people on a journey".
"We went from 100 subscribers to 1,400 subscribers in the space of a year, our views went from a couple hundred views and we're now averaging almost 7,000 views a month," Mark said. "Just by changing that style we have seen the channel grow and grow."
Those early days involved a steep learning curve. Mark and Holly, who in 2020 became the world's first junior dive master, had to learn every aspect of filmmaking.
"If you watch the very first episode we ever did, which was straight after lockdown, you can hear our voices cracking. We're holding the camera and shaking so the footage is very shaky because we were all nerves,“ Mark said.
"Most people think you just put some clips together, put some music on and that’s it done. We had no experience editing videos, no experience of how to produce them and come up with ideas, so it was all a learning curve. We pretty much had to teach ourselves."
Two hours of footage had to be edited down; they had to understand how the YouTube algorithm worked and learn to colour correct so that the underwater shots appeared as vibrant to viewers as it did to them in real life. The divers also had to learn how to choose the right music. They are grateful for the help received from people such as Robert Zuill of the government-owned CITV station.
"At the moment it probably takes us about 20 hours per episode because you're filming, editing and everything. It's amazing how much time actually goes into it," Mark said.
"We try to get an episode out once a week, sometimes twice. I'm working full-time Monday to Friday and then I come home and I'm editing maybe two, three times a night as well. Sometimes the motivation can be difficult. You want it to be of good quality, you want to showcase Bermuda the right way, you want to make people excited to come, but you also don’t want it to be bad so people stop watching after a minute. You want to try and make it engaging, entertaining."
There are currently 101 episodes on the channel; Bermuda is featured in about 72 of them. The rest are of trips taken by Mark and Holly around the world through their work with Kids Sea Camp, a "US company that offers training for kids and their families to learn to dive on holiday weeks in different places".
Roughly 35 per cent of their viewers are from the United States, the rest come mainly from the United Kingdom and Europe although there are also subscribers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji and South Africa.
"So we're actually getting this really nice global reach to showcase Bermuda," Mark said. "[It's surprising the] number of people who message saying they didn’t realise how stunning the diving in Bermuda is; the amount of people – in New York, in Atlanta and Florida – who didn’t realise, right on their doorstep, an hour and a half away, is this incredible diving location. So it's been really nice to take this opportunity and showcase it to them and see more people coming here."
Mark started diving at 16 in his native Glasgow, Scotland. Two years later, in 2008, he became an instructor.
"I learnt in the cold water, proper British diving. I worked in finance in the UK and after the oil price crashed I ended up spending a year travelling around the world."
Then hired to work here, he reached out to Mark Diel of Dive Bermuda.
"It's just amazing how things happen," he said. "That's kind of how my journey started off. I just ended up working my way up through the ranks as instructor and then this year I got accepted as a PADI course director, which is the highest level of instructor you can get for PADI.
"There are only 1,400 in the world and I've become the first one ever in Bermuda. It makes up one per cent of PADI's membership and we're the ones that train people to become instructors."
Mark spent ten days in the Dominican Republic proving he had the necessary skills. With so few Bermudian instructors his hope is to get young Bermudians interested and pass his knowledge on.
"Unfortunately there's only probably about ten instructors in Bermuda who are actually Bermudian. Dive Bermuda, between its two shops, used to employ about 20 instructors a year. And then you've got Blue Water Divers, Waterstart and Fantasea – they're having to bring in international people every year to come and be instructors. We are trying to create opportunities for young Bermudians who have an interest to pretty much have a career in the industry that will last for as long as a tourism aspect stays here."
It is partly with that work in mind that he decided to make a go of showcasing Bermuda.
He believes that strong marketing is all that sets the Cayman Islands apart from Bermuda as a dive destination as our reefs are far superior.
"They promote it better, they are constantly advertising, they're at all the trade shows. So you can see how they are getting all the tourism through.
"I am not trying to say they [Bermuda Tourism Authority] have been doing a bad job as they have been promoting other activities and events extremely well globally, but scuba diving has been a missed opportunity. So we felt let's just show our videos, hopefully they will reach a bigger audience and hopefully more people will be interested and come and dive in Bermuda."
The episodes, which run between 10 and 15 minutes, have caught the attention of people all around the world.
"We dive the wrecks, we rate the wrecks, we talk about the history of the wrecks and they are very, very popular," Mark said. "People in the US, in Europe watch them and come to Bermuda. We've actually seen people come to Bermuda and dive with us just based on the videos.
"It's really funny because we'll get people sending an e-mail to the shop asking if they could dive with myself or Holly. They've seen the videos and they’ve come to Bermuda to dive these wrecks but they want us to be diving with them. Because they watch the video they feel they know you."
Follow Blue Horizon Diving on YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/BlueHorizonDiving