The Cayman Islands are recognized as the birthplace of Caribbean recreational diving, world-wide, a historic event that is attributed to Bob Soto, who established the Caribbean’s first dive operation on Grand Cayman in 1957.
Soto’s introduction into diving came during World War II when he went to work in the United States for the US Navy. He started as a diver tender on a salvage tug, progressing to assistant diver and then to hard hat diver. After the war, Soto joined the Merchant Marines, giving him the opportunity to dive in many places, such as the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the waters off South America. Returning home he realized that the underwater scenery in Cayman was ‘second to none’.
Soto established a diving school in the Cayman Islands for the tourism market. Soto created his own equipment and promotional diving videos to assist the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and diving clubs throughout the United States, as well as introducing the first “live-aboard” trips.
Soto, known as the “father of diving,” continues his interest in marine and environmental conservation and was instrumental in marine laws being put in place in 1986. He is very knowledgeable of the development of these islands and the constant geographical movement of the land and the sea. He continues to campaign for more stringent laws to try and preserve marine life. In 1996 he was given the ‘Marine Conservation Award’ for his valiant efforts. Soto was made a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his various life long contributions.