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Southern Cross Club’s Peter Hillenbrand Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award

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Peter Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand Purchased a Failing Property on Little Cayman 20 Years Ago and Transformed it into a Beloved Resort  

“It was love at first sight. The Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman have been in my heart and on my mind ever since.” Peter Hillenbrand is describing the moment in1981 that changed his life forever. He was on a dive trip to Little Cayman with his father but he began to dream about possibilities. And when the opportunity to buy the resort came up years later, Hillenbrand didn’t hesitate.

“The Southern Cross Club was a run-down resort when I took over management in May of 1995. And it was a rather huge task to see its potential and put in the work – mentally, physically, and financially – to bring it to what it is today,” he says.

Today the award-winning Southern Cross Club, a rare cocktail of elegance and rusticity described as barefoot elegance, is consistently voted one of the best resorts in the Cayman Islands. It’s stunning location, distinct personality and outstanding service barefoot keep its guests returning year after year, and most of them refer to it as “home.”

For his work and dedication to the Southern Cross Club, Little Cayman and the environment, Peter Hillenbrand, owner of the resort was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association during the annual Stingray Awards gala. Deeply honored by the recognition of his peers in the industry, Hillenbrand says he has not done this alone.

“The Southern Cross Club is the proudest achievement in my life, but it is not for me to take the credit. Without the many people who worked with me and put everything into building the mission and the resort, I would never be receiving this award,” he said.

Peter Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand singles out General Manager Jennifer Mills and Neil van Niekerk who have been with the resort for years and have been very instrumental, along with many others, in making the Southern Cross Club the success it is today.

“Pete thoroughly deserves his Lifetime achievement award; we are all extremely pleased for him and proud of him here at Southern Cross Club. He is a great boss, a much-valued friend and someone for whom I have the utmost respect. I congratulate him on this milestone and look forward to what lies ahead.”

As for the success of the Southern Cross Club, Mills says they take their cue from the boss.

“He is a very unique individual; an unusual combination of entrepreneur, high profile business man, environmentalist, conservationist and easy going, fun loving guy. Pete is a motivated, enthusiastic and ambitious person who is very hard working and not afraid to get his hands dirty when necessary. He is passionate about the environment and the tourism industry alike; someone who strives for success but not at the expense of moral reasoning,” she said.

Mills says Hillenbrand also embraces and respects the environment around him, the community in which he lives, and he shows immense generosity and kindness to his neighbors, friends, family and employees.

‘The rare blend of these characteristics, beliefs, and the vision that Pete encompasses are what drive and shape the Southern Cross Club; emanating down the chain of command through management to the Staff and in turn to the Guests,” she said. “Pete has helped create the resort’s personality, its’ “vibe” – making it the very special place that it is.”

Peter Hillenbrand, who is also a board member for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, a research facility based on Little Cayman, is not finished with his dreams for the Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman.

“I look forward to continuing to improve on my product, and to hopefully help guide the direction of Little Cayman’s continued development. There are no accessible places like Little Cayman left in the Caribbean. What she is, and what she means to those of us who love her, is precious beyond compare. It would be devastating to me to see her take a direction other than the laid back tranquility and pristine natural environment that our guests are so in love with.”

Peter Hillenbrand

About the Southern Cross Club

The casually sophisticated Southern Cross Club Fish & Dive Resort is Little Cayman’s original resort. It features 14 beachfront bungalows complete with a top-rated, professional in-house diving and fishing operation. A unique blend of rusticity and elegance the resort is often described as “Barefoot Luxury”. Little Cayman is renowned for its breath-taking coral reefs and pristine environment, and the Green Globe certified Southern Cross Club sets sustainability standards to protect it. The resort was awarded the 2013 Cayman Islands Tourism Association CEPTS Stingray Award for its exceptionally good stewardship of the environment and its ongoing commitment to preserving it. Guests to the Southern Cross Club can expect friendly and diligent service, delicious award-winning food, inviting rooms with breath-taking views and a comfortable dive boat ― a few of the things that bring them back year after year. The resort’s beach-based location also provides flats fisherman with access to Bonefish and Permit just minutes away.

For reservations or more information:
Telephone: 1 (800) 899-CLUB (2582)
Outside the USA: (619) 563-0017(619) 563-0017
E-mail info@southerncrossclub.com
Website: www.southerncrossclub.com
Facebook:  www.facebook/SouthernCrossClub

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

The world’s 12 best places to snorkel with whales

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Whales have captivated our imagination for centuries and snorkeling with whales is one of life’s best experiences. Whether you want to meet them in the tropics or under the Arctic sun, there is a whale adventure for you. Here is our guide to the world’s best places to snorkel with whales.

HUMPBACK WHALES

Humpback whales are found at destinations worldwide, making them easy to spend time with. These huge whales are known for their spectacular breaches and complex song and are just as rewarding whether you watch them from a boat or get in the water.

  1. Tonga

If you want to snorkel in clear blue waters with humpback mothers and their calves, visit Tonga. It is one of the most popular places to swim with humpbacks, where you can choose from day safaris or longer trips. Just make sure you book early so you don’t miss out.

When to go: July to September.

  1. Moorea, French Polynesia

French Polynesia is the perfect place to combine a luxurious getaway with a humpback whale swim safari and world-class snorkeling. There are endless snorkeling spots, beautiful beachside resorts and numerous whales. If you want to try scuba diving for the first time, the diving in Moorea is ideal for beginners. The reefs are pristine, the waters are sheltered, and you can swim with Moorea’s famously friendly stingrays whilst you’re there.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

The Silver Bank marine reserve provides a safe winter haven for the North Atlantic humpback whale population whilst they gather to mate, calve and raise their young. There are various liveaboard operators that offer multi-day safaris dedicated solely to learning about and swimming with these charming whales. This is a great option if you want to immerse yourself fully in the world of whales.

When to go: January to April.

4. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Reef hosts tens of thousands of humpback whales each year and is also a migratory route for dolphins, dugongs and manta rays. Lacking the crowds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, it is the most peaceful place to swim with humpback whales in Australia.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia

Hervey Bay – the world’s first World Whale Heritage Site – has been called the whale watching capital of the world, thanks to its abundant humpbacks. This conservation-focused destination is just a 3.5-hour drive north of Brisbane and offers day trips to swim with the whales.

Time your trip right and you can also enjoy the annual Hervey Bay Whale Festival and Paddle Out for Whales.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Reunion Island

Réunion lies 550 km east of Madagascar and is a lesser-known humpback whale hotspot. With only a handful of people allowed in the water at any one time, it is a great destination for more intimate whale encounters.

When to go: August to September.

  1. Iceland

Iceland’s rich waters are a prime feeding ground for humpbacks and offer a unique whale swim experience. Wearing a cozy dry suit, you can spend hours admiring these whales in Iceland’s incredible gin-clear waters.

When to go: June to August.

 DWARF MINKE WHALES

These pint-sized whales grow up to 8 meters long and were only discovered in the 1980s. They might be relatively new to the whale watching scene, but they are wonderful to swim with.

  1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Known for being exceptionally friendly, dwarf minke whales create truly memorable encounters as they swim around you, under you and sometimes even between your fins.

Hop on a minke whale safari at Cairns and enjoy. Go snorkeling or try Great Barrier Reef diving whilst you’re there to experience the incredible wonders of this enormous reef system.

When to go: June to July.

SPERM WHALES

Weighing up to 50 tons and reaching 15 – 20 meters long, sperm whales are one of the most sought-after and impressive whale species to swim with.

  1. Dominica

The sheer drop-offs and deep sheltered bays around Dominica are perfect for sperm whales, and the females and calves stay there all year. After just a short boat ride from the coast, you will be swimming with these amazing animals in calm azure waters.

When to go: Year-round, though November to March is peak season.

BLUE WHALES

Weighing up to a staggering 200 tonnes, blue whales are enormous, and there are two great places you can swim with them.

  1. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the only places where you can swim with blue whales, watch them from a boat, or go whale spotting in small airplanes – which is arguably the best way to get an idea of their sheer size.

When to go: March to April.

  1. San Diego, California

Baja California hosts the largest population of blue whales in the world every summer and there are a small number of operators that offer blue whale swimming safaris from San Diego. With small group sizes and week-long programs, they are perfect for maximizing your time with these huge whales.

When to go: June to October.

BELUGA WHALES

Beluga whales are easy to recognize thanks to their bright white coloring and rounded heads. These highly social animals are one of the most vocal whales and gather in large groups in Canada.

  1. Churchill, Canada

Tens of thousands of beluga whales gather each year in Hudson Bay and the small town of Churchill offers unique trips to swim with them. You can enjoy close-up encounters with hundreds of belugas in the water, plus spot polar bears, moose, Arctic foxes and more whilst you’re there.

When to go: June to September.

If you can’t get enough of whales, read the SSI guide to diving with whales to discover even more destinations where you can meet these giants of the ocean.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

 

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Gear Reviews

Tried & Tested: Typhoon International’s Totland Dog Vest

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Typhoon say about their pet flotation aid: “Our Totland Dog Vest is bound to be a hit with canine crew members whose safety is just as important as that of the rest of the family.  The Totland Dog Vest offers the all-important buoyancy in an easy-to-spot bright orange tough coated nylon. 

It is easy to buckle up and has a handy haul out handle and lead loop attachment point, making it easy to help your dog on and off the boat.”

Test Conditions

  • Location: Trefor, UK
  • Temperature: 20 degrees C
  • No of Swims: 4
  • Equipment Used: Gucci the Golden Retriever
  • Test Equipment: Typhoon Totland Dog Vest
  • RRP: £20.95

Review

The Totland Dog Vest is available in four sizes, and having consulted the size chart we went for the XL to fit our big Golden Retriever, Gucci. He is a good swimmer, so for a day at the beach does not need an aid to help him stay afloat whilst chasing his favourite ball, but if we were taking him on a boat we would certainly be using one.

The vest was easy to fit and the neck fitting was padded and looked really comfortable. Gucci certainly put up no complaints at wearing it and was happy to charge up and down the beach with it on. It did not impede his movement (both running and swimming) at all. The handle is really useful for close control, as well as being essential if we were to have to assist him back onto a boat or river bank. There is an attachment for a lead too, so for those who are training their dogs to swim or worry about their recall, a long lead can be attached to let them swim and have fun and still be able to get them back!

The bright orange colour is great to being able to keep track of your dog if they swim further away from you than you would like too. The float kept Gucci nice and high in the water and he was keen to try it out over and over again! It is a tough vest with secure clips giving you confidence that your best buddy would be safe if caught out in a current. We will certainly be using this to give our nervous puppy some confidence as he ventures into the water in the future.

Visit www.typhoon-int.co.uk to see the full range and to find details of your nearest stockist.

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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