Become a certified mermaid at these 7 vacation spots
The world's fascination with mermaids dates back thousands of years. Throughout history, seafarers have claimed to have caught a glimpse of one of these graceful creatures swimming through the sea. Now, The Points Guy has managed to snag an interview with one.
Elle Jimenez, known professionally as Mermaid Elle, grew up so enchanted by mermaids that she became one herself. Now, she and her "mermaid" sisters and brothers teach other humans how they can transform into mermaids at Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) mermaid courses in Florida, Hawaii, Spain, the Maldives and other popular vacation spots around the world.
PADI is the largest diving organization in the world, so it's safe to say there's much more to becoming a mermaid than flipping your hair and shooting mesmerizing looks from a rocky outcrop on the shore.
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Meet Mermaid Elle
It's hard to believe, but Jimenez wasn't always so comfortable flipping her fins in the water. While working as a video editor in the film industry, she was looking for something different than the traditional 9-to-5 job. A natural-born entertainer, she loved to dance and was trained in multiple disciplines.
"I've always loved performing in front of a crowd," Jimenez told TPG. "I love making people laugh and I have a good time just bringing a little bit of magic to their day."
Jimenez wanted to make entertainment her full-time job, which eventually led her to open her own dance and entertainment company in Miami providing everything from princesses for kids' parties to showgirls for more grown-up festivities.
Eventually, she was approached to perform as a mermaid for a child's birthday party. The parents didn't want a mermaid to just sit by the edge of the pool and chat with the kids about life under the sea. They wanted a real, live mermaid swimming in the water.
There was just one problem. Jimenez didn't know how to swim. In fact, she was terrified of being in deep water. She turned down the gig, but more requests kept rolling in. Being the savvy businessperson she was, she knew she had to get over her fear and get in the water.
How Mermaid Elle became a certified mermaid
For Jimenez, the first step in her transformation was getting her PADI scuba certification. "Scuba diving really opened me up to the underwater world," she recalled. That's when she first identified as Mermaid Elle (her "mersona") and developed a passion for the oceans.
Fast forward five years and Jimenez seems to be more comfortable in the water than out. She has performed all over the world and holds an official PADI Mermaid Instructor certification. Her connection to the sea and wish to inspire others to preserve its beauty has even become part of her shows. Through the Saving the Seas project, Jimenez raises funds and educates others on ocean conservation.
You can become a certified mermaid, too
If, like Ariel from "The Little Mermaid," you think the human world is a mess, you can join Mermaid Elle under the sea by taking a PADI Mermaid Course. You don't need any prior experience or certifications, and kids as young as 6 years old can participate in the classes. There are various levels of mermaid-ing courses to choose from, beginning with PADI's Discover Mermaid experience.
Discover Mermaid classes introduce participants to the world of mermaiding. The class is only an hour long and held in a shallow pool where you can get comfortable with swimming like a mermaid. From there, you can move up to Basic Mermaid, Mermaid and Advanced Mermaid courses; the final course takes place in open water.
Related: Easy Florida Dive and Snorkeling Trips for Kids
According to Jimenez, mermaiding courses teach many of the technical and safety skills learned in free diving classes, but with a monofin and tail instead of traditional swim fins. "It's very technical, but also artistic. Most people get used to it very quickly," she said.
"By the end of class, when people take off their tail and start to use their legs again, they feel like they don't even know how to walk anymore," she joked.
New mermaids go home with underwater photos to commemorate their experience and they can even purchase their own mermaid tail and monofin to continue their training at home.
The best destinations to find your 'mersona'
There are PADI Mermaid Centers all over the world, and many of them are located in popular vacation destinations. Taking a mermaid class with your friends or family would definitely make for some one-of-a-kind vacation memories and frame-worthy photos.
Ready to get your fins wet? Here are seven magical vacation spots where you can transform into a real-life mermaid.
- Cozumel, Mexico: During Merweek Cozumel, you can receive your PADI Mermaid certification while staying in a nearby hotel for three nights. Various packages are available, some of which are all-inclusive.
- Adelaide, Australia: Adelaide Scuba, a certified PADI Dive Center, offers mermaiding courses, as well as a kids' mermaid class if parents want to get away for a day of wine tasting in Australia's southern wine region.
- Florida: The mermaids of Mermaid Freedive offer a variety of courses in Vero Beach and weekend retreats at the natural springs in Live Oak. There are even kids camps and couples classes. Mermaid Elle is also located in the Sunshine State and recently bought a home on wheels to bring her mermaid courses on the road.
- Koh Samui, Thailand: Mermaid instructor Lukia Lu is in the process of opening Thailand's first-ever Mermaid Center in Thailand later this year.
- Maamutaa Island, Maldives: The PADI Dive Center at Pullman Maldives Maamutaa offers all levels of mermaid courses and mermaid photoshoots in the resort pool.
- Maui, Hawaii: Mindful Mermaids offers group and private mermaid classes in a pool at the Hyatt Regency in Maui.
- Tenerife, Spain: At the PADI Dive Resort Tenerife Diving Academy, you can learn to breathe, swim and post like a mermaid. Because this is a specialty course, participants must be 12 years of age or older and have basic swimming skills.