Meet the SMD crew
It all started in 1987, when Laarni Lehtonen started diving the deep waters of the Indian Ocean off Somalia. After many years abroad, Laarni returned to her homeland, the Philippines.
Together with her husband, Pertti Lehtonen, Laarni started a small diving facility in a container at the Mapald Yacht Club on the outskirts of Iligan City, Mindanao. The dive centre was named Sierra Madre Divers, after the mountain range in Luzon where Laarni and her family originated.
A year later, they moved to Bohol, where the first diving centres were then only operating out of the city of Tagbilaran. In 1995, Laarni obtained PADI instructor status, becoming one of the first female Filipino dive instructors.
Laarni and Pertti then began their dive education business in Bohol in a dug-out cave at the Bohol Tropics Hotel.
In 1998, Sierra Madre Divers moved to a small shop on Alona Beach, becoming one of the first dive centres on the island of Panglao.
Sierra Madre Divers was awarded PADI 5-star Instructor Development status in February 2013.
When Bas started diving 20 years ago in Greece, he thought that the underwater world was the best place to be! He became a Dive Master and Instructor in Dahab, Egypt, because he loved to share his passion for the beauty of the sea.
Bas moved to Koh Tao in 2009 and started to teach IDCs as part of the Dive-Careers network. He trains instructors from Thailand to South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Italy and India! His training experience in many different locations and incredible employment network is a great asset.
Bas speaks English and Dutch.
In 2001, Brett was backpacking and missed his flight to Nepal. He ended up doing his open water course in Koh Tao. He pursued his dream of diving with whale sharks, visiting the remote Lakshadweep islands of India, and the cold waters of New Zealand.
Brett was partner in a successful liveaboard diving company that operated all over the world, and managed several 5-star dive centres before moving to Bohol. His dedication to professional diver training has its origins in the firm belief that every new diver is a new protector of the sea.
Brett speaks English and Mandarin.
While in Australia in 2006, Raphael explored the underwater world for the first time and completed his open water course. What he experienced there sparked a love of diving and the life in the ocean for him.
In 2010, he decided to make it his career and worked as a dive professional in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, and Malapascua Island. Now he is the manager and instructor at Sierra Madre Divers and loves to see the happy faces of his students who are just as excited to see and explore the whole new underwater world like he did in Australia years before.
Raphael speaks English and (Swiss) German.
Paul did his first try dive in Turkey in 1998 and finally got certified in 2002. He loved diving so much that he become a dive instructor in 2004 and has never looked back since. He is a technical diver with a very specific focus in conservation.
Having worked and dived in the cold-water quarries of the United Kingdom, to Egypt, Madagascar, South Africa, Bali and Hong Kong, his expertise is in challenging diving circumstances such as cave exploration, search and recovery, rescue and coral reef monitoring.
Paul speaks English.
In 2005 when studying in Singapore, Heini spent a weekend learning to dive in Malaysia. After that, scuba diving and the underwater world became her favourite hobbies. In 2010, she decided to leave her hectic life in the media industry behind, change the office desk to the ocean and long Finnish winter to equator’s eternal sunshine.
Heini taught diving and managed a 5-star diving resort in Indonesia for many years before arriving in Panglao in 2016 where she now lives with her husband, dog and many many cats.
Heini speaks English and Finnish.
Bernard was a French chef for 18 years, living between France and Australia. In 2013, he did his open water course during a vacation in Indonesia and immediately fell in love with diving. In 2015, he left his kitchens behind and came to Sierra Madre Divers to train to be a dive professional.
Bernard fell in love with Bohol and stayed! He loves the beauty of the dive sites around Panglao and tries to keep them that way and protect them. He loves teaching and transforming people’s lives just like it happened to him few years ago.
Bernard speak English and French.
When Anton first tried diving in 2010 he was intrigued by the mystery of the ocean and always felt a desire to return. As the F&B Manager for Ethihad Airways, he felt that he was destined not to be limited to the ground, and in 2016, he came to Sierra Madre to change his mile high life for a his career in the deep blue sea.
After his training and graduation, he decided to stay with the SMD family and continue to spread his love for the underwater environment with others. Anton treats his students like his babies and he loves to watch them grow and thrive.
Anton speaks English and Russian.