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.
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 and managed several 5* dive centres before settling down in Bohol. Brett has been at Sierra Madre Divers for seven years and is the in-house Platinum Course Director.
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 life, subsequently getting work as a dive professional in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, and Malapascua Island.
Now he has built his home in Bohol, and is manager and instructor at Sierra Madre Divers. He 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 German.
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, came to Sierra Madre Divers to learn to be a dive professional, fell in love with Bohol, and stayed!
Bernard 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.
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* 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.