Martha Watkins Gilkes


For over 30 years Martha Watkins Gilkes has been a dynamic leader in dive retail operation, training, education, photojournalism, historic shipwreck documentation and marine conservation. Martha is based in Antigua, West Indies, where she owns and operates two diving businesses Fanta-Sea Island Divers, a retail scuba diving shop providing training and certification and Fanta-Sea Island Excursions, a travel company specializing in exclusive travel to remote dive locations throughout the Eastern Caribbean and world wide. She is a leading diver/explorer of the Eastern Caribbean, having explored and documented shipwrecks on 14 Caribbean Islands and worldwide and is the author of Diving Guide to the Eastern Caribbean and Shipwrecks of the Caribbean.

She has published numerous articles and photographs and is featured in Diving With Legends, a unique book sponsored by the Swiss Company, Doxa Watches, featuring some of the world’s top professional divers and legends of the diving world.

Martha has logged over 12,000 dives in a wide variety of marine environments and has numerous instructor and specialty ratings in scuba diving. She is considered one of the premier underwater guides in the Caribbean and has led underwater expeditions for such notables as Stan Waterman, Teddy Tucker, and the late great Peter Benchley. From 1981 until his retirement in 2013, Martha  worked as an underwater model and photo and dive assistant to Stan Waterman on locations around the world as well as with several noted British photographers.

For 10 years she served as President of the Barbados based Eastern Caribbean Safe Diving Association and played a key role in obtaining the first recompression chamber in the Southern Caribbean. She serves as the Diving Liaison Officer for the Historical and Archeological Society of Antigua and Barbuda and holds membership in The Historical Diving Society, American Society of Media Photographers, the Explorers Club, and is a Platinum Pro 5000 Diver. She served as President of the Women Divers Hall of Fame (WDHOF) for 4 years and  since 2008 has served as  Fund Raising Chair for WDHOF.

One of Martha’s most important contributions to diving is marine conservation, for which she has been an outspoken force throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Martha serves as Public Relations Officer (since 2001) of Antigua Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation (ABITPC), an environmental organization, and led 3 national clean ups of Antigua and legal action which resulted in the Government of Antigua rescinding a license to capture 12 wild dolphins annually and the eventual closure of an inferior captive dolphin facility on the island of Antigua. She is a major player in local, regional, international conferences against dolphin and whale exploitation. Her advocacy speeches to protect ocean inhabitants can be heard on radio and television newscasts.

In 2006, Martha was listed in the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Who’s Who of Women and the Environment, and she co-produced, with HAMA Productions, the Caribbean documentary, Whaling in Our Waters.” The anti-whaling cause has been one Martha has been very actively involved in which has included the production of 3 Public service announcements aired throughout the Caribbean

In May 2009 Martha was presented the Wyland Ambassador Award for her environmental work. It was awarded by Wyland after she implemented and organized the painting of a life size marine mural in Antigua by Wyland. The event included 150 school children on the island of Antigua painting with Wyland. With the event’s main focus on marine conservation.

In November 2010 she was presented the Wyland Icon Award, which recognizes the achievements of those who have made a positive difference for the underwater world. The award was founded by internationally acclaimed marine artist Wyland in 2002 to acknowledge individuals who exemplify the adventurous spirit of the ocean and inspire others to do the same and has been presently to only 25 people. She was the 6th woman to receive the award and joins such notables as Jacques’ Cousteau, Lloyd Bridges, and Robert Ballard of Titanic fame.  From  2010 –  2013  Martha served on the  board  of  SHARK SAVERS.   In 2011, she was honored as Diver of the Year in Environment at Beneath the Sea’s Annual Convention.