Deepblu: Where are you based? How did you end up there?
Nicole Helgason: I currently live in Golden, Colorado, USA but I am originally from Vancouver, BC, Canada. I ended up living in Colorado after meeting my boyfriend online while I was living in Mozambique! Like most dive instructors I have been fortunate to travel the world teaching people to scuba dive.
What is the aim of reefdivers.io?
Reefdivers.io is a website where I share my experiences as a dive professional. My aim is to get people interested in scuba diving, share safety tips for new divers, and particularly pique people’s interest in looking at corals while they scuba dive. One of the series I am most proud of is my Coral Diaries series where I write coral identification articles.
This project is a huge and detailed undertaking, how do you find the time and energy for it?
I am the only one running the website. I’ve had a few guests posts but 99% of the work is done by myself, but Reefdivers.io is a labor of love. Once you start looking at the reef and really appreciating the corals, it’s hard to dive any other way. Even just knowing how to identify a few species will expand your perception of the underwater landscape. Sharing this vision and ability to experience the reef with new eyes is what keeps me going.
I try to commit myself to a weekly posting schedule from Monday to Friday. I am always thinking of new stories for the website and rarely a day goes by when I am not either writing a story, editing photos, or creating new content.
One of the biggest challenges with running a website is keeping up with all the social media channels. It’s tough to keep up with a daily posting on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Deepblu, and more. The possibilities are endless with new social groups, networks and apps popping up every day.
There are only so many hours in a day so my goal is to make creative, informative articles that people want to share. That way some of the work is done for me when people enjoy and share the content.
I have a coral identification group on Deepblu and love it when people send me pictures they need help to identify. This gives me energy and encouragement to keep going!
Any advice for people who would like to share their stories?
What are you waiting for! Find out what gets you fired up and start sharing. The best advice is to find the platform that works for you. If it’s sharing pictures or videos or writing, start with what makes you excited so it no longer feels like work.
Nikki’s Reef in Tela, Honduras
What are your favorite dive spots? Why?
In 2017, I set a goal to photograph and identify all the Caribbean coral species so this year has a heavy diving focus on the Caribbean. But Honduras catapulted itself to the top of my list. I’ve just returned from a two-month trip there and was blown away with the coral reef.
If I had to choose a favorite, I would have to pick Tela Honduras for a few reasons, but the main reason is that it’s a huge bay with only one dive boat. My favorite dive sites are usually the ones where no-one else is diving. That is how you know you’re somewhere special.
My plan was to spend 4 days in Tela, and after 2 days I quickly extended my trip by another three weeks. The reef was mind-blowing, with over 70% coral coverage. I had the opportunity to explore new reefs, and was even lucky enough to have a reef named after me!
As a writer, what story do you love sharing with other divers?
I am about to hit 300 articles on Reefdivers.io so there are lots of articles I like to share. But one story stands out: the story of Zambezi. I had the pleasure of working with Zambezi in Mozambique. He was a PADI Divemaster and I was inspired by his commitment and dedication to becoming a PADI professional. You can read Zambezi’s full story on my website.
What came first, writing or diving?
Diving, I started teaching in 2007 and never looked back. I started Reefdivers.io in March 2016. I never thought I would be a writer, but I had the opportunity to start the website and feel like I have a lot of information and knowledge to share.
Any other information you’d like to share?
It is important to recognize that corals are living animals that deserve more attention from scuba divers. Instead of sharing stories about dying reefs, why not share a message about appreciating corals while we still can? You can help by reading and sharing any of my coral identification articles, but most of all please enjoy my website and keep learning about corals!
I want to thank everyone who supports Reefdivers.io by liking my Facebook page, commenting on the website and sharing my articles. Thank you for helping me grow this community of coral lovers!
Nicole and a Drymonema Jellyfish