Tony Bilby Scuba


When I was in grade school in the 80’s, I was obsessed with a national geographic book, containing large glossy color photographs, that chronicled diving throughout the world along with a history of how diving first began.  I was fascinated with how underwater exploration first started, the treasures unearthed from sunken ships, divers in their thick rubber suits with multiple tanks, and the beautiful coral that was alive and vibrant showcasing an underwater world at the turn of every page.

I was very young at the time so I asked my mother to read me the stories, captions, and air bubbled tales of sunken treasure and exotic marine animals whenever she was willing.  There were sharks, octopus, crabs, stingrays, eels, and beautiful color photographed families of creatures that lived within these coral cities under the ocean.

I decided I wanted to be a diver when I was older or at least learn and get the chance to scuba dive later in life.

When I was eighteen, a freshman in college, I took a diving class, studied in the classroom, dove in the pool, and then a murky mountainous river to finally get certified navigating a stretch of deep water with zero visibility using only a compass as my guide.  This was 1991, pre-internet, so no such things as dive computers; only manual dive tables, clunky equipment, and a thirst for adventure and the unknown.

Over the course of my sport diving, now as a middle aged man, I’ve logged a significant number of dives.  It seems over the decades I have experienced more and more death and darkness rather than the first eye popping, color filled, teaming with life dives I went on like at Looe Key Sanctuary in the Florida keys in the early 90’s.  Back then the locals were already telling me that diving was so much better in the 80’s.

It seems that Florida’s “dwindling” reefs, as they are referred to now, are disappearing at record speeds having been struck with a devastating coral bleaching disease, another impact of warming ocean temperatures caused by man-made climate change.

In just thirty years half of the worlds coral has disappeared.  What? And just in the last two years half of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, part of the worlds largest living and ocean organism, is now gone.

It’s insanity to think what we’ve done in just a few short decades.  The almost complete destruction of Earths most important eco-system. And, not surprisingly, most don’t seem to care.

Perhaps the coral deaths parallel much of what American society has become today.  What was once a vibrant land filled with opportunity, promise, attracting generations of great thinkers, engineers, philosophers, artists, writers, and people wanting to do good and make a positive difference has now become an overbearingly destructive capitalistic machine concerned only with profits at the expense of everything else including human life and the environment around us.

Perhaps we are too glued to our screens watching the latest unfolding of the greatest and trashy American reality TV show, American politics today, to realize that our destruction and greed has gone too far?  It’s time for everyone to wake up!

Today the colorful first dives only exist in my mind, a recreation that can’t be re-done except with the help of hollywood and some cinematic genius.

I hope that I’m not the last generation to have experienced the ocean reefs personally rather than a story from a not-too-distant movie in the future discussing the worlds biggest ecological disaster.

Tony Bilby



tony bilby in antigua


I visited Antigua a few years ago and enjoyed the still unspoiled natural beauty of the island! I stayed at a typical “all-inclusive” beachfront hotel that turned out to be great for the room and drinks, but not so great for food or culture, so we decided to venture outside the hotel for much needed change and adventure.

Antigua is pretty rural and as you’ll see when you travel across the island, the roads are small and rustic rolling across a landscape of many impoverished people with very little possessions or suitable housing. It forces perspective and a thought provoking challenge to those that believe that living in riches might make for a happier life than those living without, because for the most part, and what I found, was a seemingly happy local population.

As far as tourist destinations there’s Nelsons Dockyard, which is a good place to enjoy a stunning beach, but also brings the history that dates back to the 18th century and British naval officer Horatio Nelson. The beach is surrounded by lush vegetation, hills, mountains, and the historic buildings date back to the 1700’s. Not a bad days trip.

There is also stingray city where you can go to view stingrays and various sea critters.

I would definitely recommend sailing and taking at least one or a few catamaran day trips depending on how much time you have. The views of the island from the sea are breathtaking given the cliffs and dramatic backdrop of different and diverse geography around the island. Like any tropical destination, the ocean is clear and great for snorkeling and diving, but I definitely enjoyed and had the chance to get to know the locals as well.

Tony Bilby with wife and Russell at Russell's restaurant and bar

Tony and Claire with Russell

While on a day sailing cruise, my wife and I became friends with the family owners of Russell’s Bar and Seafood Restaurant. The first time we went we fell in love with the atmosphere and the food was incredible. Our second visit to the venue they had actually closed for a private family gathering, but to our surprise Russell and his family recognized who we were and invited us in to join in the family event.

Antigua is a great island to visit with great beaches and very friendly locals. Make sure to catamaran, tour a bit of the island, and make a visit to some of the local restaurants while enjoying the weather and peaceful vacation!