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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Responsible Tourism - Sea TREK Ecotours!

Now more than ever, awareness is building about the negative affects that humans can have on our oceans and waterways. With a focus primarily on plastics, companies and individuals are decreasing their carbon footprints by turning away from plastic straws and containers and increasing production of biodegradable and recyclable packaging. In the US, many states have enacted legislation regarding the use of plastic bags.

Additionally, consumers are seeking out more sustainable seafood choices and supporting organizations that work to protect our oceans, such as Ocean Conservancy and Reef Alliance. Websites like 40cean also allow visitors to partake in quick and easy activities that help make a difference.

As humans become more sensitive to ecology and the wellbeing of our planet, an interest in ecotourism has dramatically increased. According to Sustainable Travel International, roughly 105.3 million sustainable U.S. travelers prioritize vacations that are dedicated to giving back to the environment.

Ecotourism is making significant positive contributions to the environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing of destinations and local communities around the world. Ecotourism is also an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development.

So what is ecotourism exactly? The World Conservation Union (IUCN) describes ecotourism this way:

"Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples."

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize physical and behavioral, and impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors, that help raise sensitivity to host countries' environmental and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous people in the community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.

SeaTREK locations across the globe take extra care to ensure our oceans and sea life remain pristine and protected. Our tours give guests a unique view of the underwater world and provide educational opportunities, while protecting inhabitants. We teach travelers that sea life isn’t scary and that the underwater world needs our help to continue to thrive.

Our operations are built with consideration for marine life, including precious corals and fishes. Our operators in open waters ensure that any elements added to tours are eco-friendly.

Sea TREK trails & walking underwater
Trails are created around coral, not over or through, taking care to create enough distance so that guests can see, but not touch the coral formations. The same trail is utilized for each tour. Studies conducted in California concluded that the impact of TREKKERs walking on a sandy seafloor is comparable to the natural movement of sand due to tidal movement and/or the disturbances caused by marine life such as stingrays and invertebrates.

Railings and Ladders
Railings are put into sandy areas utilizing sand spikes, which do not damage the environment. Ladders in open oceans do not touch the ocean floor and are stored on boats, not left behind. Floating manifolds provide ropes that do not tangle or cause damage to sea life.

Artificial Enhancements
Statues and objects placed into the ocean environment provide more than just fun photo opportunities. Artificial enhancements also create habitats for sea life, giving them “free housing” while taking pressure off the natural reefs. Fish take advantage of the enhancements, allowing them to thrive. Artificial enhancements often reflect local history, providing an additional educational opportunity.

Want to know more about our dedication to the ocean environment?  Check out our program,
Reef Alliance, or join our staff and clean up beaches and reefs during the annual Coastal Cleanup.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Preparation is Everything!

Each year, thousands of guests don helmets and take an underwater Sea TREK or enter the giant human fish tank known as Clear Lounge.  They meet new sea life friends like giant turtles and stunning stingrays, or play jenga and shoot bubble guns at fellow helmet divers.

But what happens before participants enter the water?  Both Sea TREK and Clear Lounge have requirements that ensure your activity is not just memorable, but comfortable and safe. While each location may have its own specific prerequisites, there are certainly some consistencies.

Sea TREK – Prepare to be Astounded!

Before guests take a TREK, they need to do a little preparation on their own. Typically, guests bring a bathing suit, their own towel, eco-friendly sunscreen, an underwater camera or money for photos... and their eyeglasses or contact lenses! Eyewear is perfectly fine for TREKking. If guests have long hair, wearing it pulled back helps keep the ends dry. Some TREK locations provide wetsuits, swim shoes (booties or crocs), or guests can bring their own water shoes or crocs. Since Sea TREK is a walking tour, comfortable and sturdy footwear is definitely necessary.

Another important prep piece is participation in an orientation briefing. During the briefing, Sea TREK guides share safety information such as hand signals, equalizing, and proper breathing techniques. Guests get acquainted with their guides and are given the opportunity to ask questions. Guides may also offer interesting facts about the sea life that might stop by for a visit, or they might share info about the ocean environment and conservation efforts being made in the area.

Clear Lounge Underwater Oxygen bar – Prepare to be Energized!

Cruise ship travelers and residents alike love the excitement and energy of Clear Lounge. But, there are some preparatory steps to follow before stepping into the tank and taking on this incredible adventure. Guests can access on-site changing rooms for changing into their own swimwear. They are encouraged to also bring their own towels and sunscreen, although these items are available for purchase onsite. Lockers are available to keep personal items safe and secure, and showers are nearby, offering a quick rinse off. A brief safety video provides guests with info on how to utilize the helmets to breathe in the cool, clean O2. Guides prepare participants by answering questions and sharing details on what exciting features will be found in the underwater lounge. Guests then ascend a staircase and prepare to take the plunge!

From the reviews of both Clear Lounge and the SeaTREK locations, it’s “clear” to see that each offers unique underwater experiences, with both safety and comfort in mind.

Do you have a Sea TREK helmet diving or Clear Lounge question, or want to share your helmet diving experience? Post it below!
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

TREKker Trifecta!

The Sea TREK underwater helmet diving experience is enjoyed by travelers across the globe. In fact, with operations from Guam (Underwater World) to Spain (Sea TREK Spain and Diving Stones Benidorm) and new operations in Australia (Reef Magic) and the Dominican Republic (Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach), more and more vacationers are able to take amazing underwater journeys.

We receive wonderful feedback from our guests who often say, “we’ll be back” or “can’t wait to do another Sea TREK!” but occasionally, we find guests that just can’t seem to get enough TREKking. Rick and Sherée Niece fall into that category. Rick and Sherée recently took their third TREK! Here’s what they had to say about their underwater helmet diving addiction.

Where was your first Sea TREK?

Our first time for helmet diving was in 2002 at Coral World in St. Thomas. To say that the experience was exhilarating would be a major understatement. Although we had snorkeled several times before, helmet diving was an amazing adventure in a new world. We didn’t know what to expect, but this helmet dive beat whatever it was, by 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Coral World St. Thomas

Were you on a cruise? If so, which cruise line? 

We were on the Millennium, a Celebrity ship, for the Ultimate Caribbean Cruise.

Who accompanied you on your TREK?

Just the two of us for this one.

With so many vacation/excursion options, why did you select Sea TREK for your activity?

We were intrigued by the concept of helmet diving. The excursion description was well-written and enticing. We had already experienced snorkeling, catamaran sailing, and island tours, so this sounded like a great opportunity for unique memories.

What was the best part of this first Sea TREK?

Aware that we novices were a bit nervous, the crew was reassuring and calming. They explained each step of the dive and what we should expect. The easy path, an underwater walkway with a variety of sights to see, was beyond description. Exhilarating and spectacular come close.

DePalm Island Aruba

Where was your second TREK?

Our second TREK was in 2007 while sailing Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. Accompanied by Sherée’s parents and Rick’s father and brother, we did the helmet diving in Aruba. Because we had described our 2002 TREK adventure many times over, everyone wanted to experience the thrill themselves.

What was different about this TREK?

It was March and the water was chilly, so we wore wetsuits. We remember the walk as being a bit steeper than our first one. A sunken plane within our view was memorable!

Where was your third TREK?

The third TREK was in 2018 in Grand Cayman while sailing Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. My other brother and his friend joined us for the helmet diving. They had seen our pictures from the first two adventures and were not about to miss out on the fun!

What was unique about this TREK?

We loved our guide who led us to the boat. She professionally covered all of the safety features while we gathered, and she was funny, friendly, and personable. Her husband was the boat’s captain, and he and the crew were exceptional. One thing that made this dive unique was the diver who led the TREK. He taught us underwater sign language, and we communicated frequently. He performed amazing tricks, like blowing gigantic underwater bubbles. We were fascinated. Unfortunately, the tricks don’t work in a bathtub!

Out of the three Sea TREK’s, which was your favorite and why?

All of our adventures were terrific. The first time for anything is always memorable. The second TREK with six family members was great because we were able to experience it with loved ones. But, the most recent one stands out for us. If we had to pick a favorite, we’d go with that. Although we don’t know when or where it will be, we are looking forward to our fourth TREK!

We appreciate awesome adventurers like Sherée and Rick, and we can’t wait to see where they will Sea TREK next!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Play Underwater at Clear Lounge Cozumel

Clear Lounge Cozumel is a place where Cozumel vacationers and locals alike can enjoy a unique opportunity to play underwater! Whether its shooting bubble guns or writing messages to friends “on the outside”, guests have given rave reviews to Clear Lounge Cozumel. In fact, CLC is one of the top-rated Cozumel activities on TripAdvisor! For two years in a row, Clear Lounge Cozumel has been honored to receive the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. In fact, CLC is rated five stars out of five, and is one of the top activities enjoyed by Cozumel travelers! 

clear lounge underwater cozumel

Stepping into Clear Lounge is like stepping into the future. You’ll feel the weightlessness of the underwater world all around you, while the colorful lights and bubbles, mixed with refreshing, aromatic oxygen exhilarate your senses. It’s a whole body, multi-sensory experience! Once you have entered the underwater lounge, you’ll have a chance to shoot targets with a high-powered bubble gun, have your picture taken in the underwater photo booth, and play a round of underwater Jenga.
Outside of the Lounge, guests can enjoy the awesome O2 bar, or down a fruity, oxygen-infused smoothie while observing guests playing in the human fish tank!

One of the reasons that CLC is so successful is due to its outstanding team of dedicated employees. The Clear Lounge Cozumel team works hard to ensure each guest has an unforgettable experience. Leading the CLC crew is Leisa Herrera, Site Manager. Leisa and her crew shared some info with us on why CLC is such a great place to work:

Q: What is your role at Clear Lounge Cozumel?
LEISA: I'm the Site Manager. When you love what you do, you do not work! I take care that everything works well, so that the guides give their utmost in each tour and so the people enjoy our activity to the fullest!

oxygen bar- clear lounge cozumel

Q: How long have you worked at Clear Lounge?
LEISA: I've been here since the opening (April 2015)! Clear Lounge Cozumel is like my baby- I have seen it grow and change. It has been a great experience in my life!

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about Clear Lounge?
LEISA: All! You forget everything and just have fun, like a child! It’s an easy way to have fun and find peace.

underwater lounge in diving helmet

Q: What is the first thing that people do when they get into the tank?
LEISA: Feel the weightlessness of their bodies (sic) in the water. It's wonderful!

Q: What is the last thing that people do before exiting CLC?
LEISA: Tell us “thank you” and talk about the beautiful things they experienced! For many people, it is their first underwater experience and they leave super happy!

Q: Have you had any notable/famous guests at Clear Lounge?
LEISA: A reality show actor from Mexican television (Enamorándonos), and Diego Pons Cristiani, a well-known travel blogger. Although the reality is that each person is very special to us!

shark photo underwater lounge

Q: Which prop gets the most attention from guests?
LEISA: The “like” prop is the favorite (maybe for Facebook, hehe)

Q: Which photo background is the most popular? 
LEISA: The shark is the favorite!

Q: What smoothie flavors are available? What is the most popular? Have you added any recently?
LEISA: We have strawberry, mango, piña colada, and two new ones, coconut and banana. The favorites are strawberry and mango!

smoothie bar cozumel

Q: What O2 scents are available? Anything new? 
LEISA: Each guest can choose his or her favorite flavor. We currently have mint and watermelon. We change the two flavors every 3 months.

Q: How many people work at Clear Lounge?
LEISA: 7 wonderful people!

Q: What jobs do staff members do at Clear Lounge?
LEISA: 4 guides, 1 smoothie girl, 1 cashier, and me.

clear lounge staff

Q: Who has worked at Clear Lounge the longest? 
LEISA: Asael, one of our guides. He loves what he does and transmits it to guests! 

Q: Who is the newest member of the staff? 
LEISA: Karla, The smoothie girl! A charismatic girl who is very smiley!

It’s  “clearly” evident that Leisa has great enthusiasm for both her job at Clear Lounge Cozumel and for her team! If you would like to experience Clear Lounge Cozumel for yourself, contact Leisa at or visit

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Take a Journey With...

Sea TREK is an amazing underwater experience. While donning a helmet, participants submerge in an aquarium tank or walk on the bottom of the ocean floor, and observe breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife.

Many Sea TREK helmet dive locations offer the opportunity to have your photo taken during this unique journey. Utilizing their unique talents and skills, photographers click away and take once in a lifetime shots, so that guests can share their stories with friends and family, and take home remarkable keepsake of their underwater adventures.

Sea TREK at Reef Magic is fortunate to work with Kat Rowan of Ocean Blue Productions. Kat takes amazing photos of TREKkers as they walk underwater water and meet new fish friends. Here is what Kat had to share about her unique background and exciting job!

What is your background?

My education includes a Bachelor’s Degree (with honors) in Marketing, from The University of the West of England. I have worked in the tourism industry for over 10 years. I instantly fell in love with the underwater world after my first scuba dive in Thailand, back in 2012. I then started my path to become a Dive Master on the famous Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and have since worked on the Greek Islands and the Maldives.

I am now back working on the Great Barrier Reef...the reef I call 'home'.

Describe your job 

I capture memories on their once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Great Barrier Reef!  When I first jump into the water at the Reef, I’m greeted by Wally! Wally is our famous big, blue, slimy resident, a Maori Wrasse. He loves to pose for the camera. I swim around with Wally all day, taking underwater photographs of him with our snorkelers, scuba divers, and Sea Trekkers. It’s a great workout and a lot of fun!

How long have you been an underwater photographer?

I have been a member of the Ocean Blue Productions family since June 2016.

How did you first become interested in underwater photography?

I had no previous experience in photography before joining Ocean Blue. However, once I started, it was mesmerizing- you see everything from a different perspective. My underwater buoyancy also improved tenfold! Perfect buoyancy is definitely the number one trick of the trade!

What is the best part of your job?

The people I meet. Passengers come from all over the world to visit the Great Barrier Reef... They have amazing stories to tell. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how happy all of the guests are when they see their photos at the end of their's a great feeling!

What is your favorite animal to photograph?

Wally, of course!

What about your job do you think people would be surprised to learn?

That I spend 80% of my time underwater swimming backward, not forward!

What do you do in your spare time?

I have recently purchased my first home, so I like to spend my time renovating our new house. I also love taking my dog to the beach, and binging on numerous series on Netflix.

What kind of advice do you give those who wish to shoot photos underwater?

Buoyancy is key! Also, if you are looking to purchase your own camera equipment, rent out a few different cameras and try them out first. This gives you a good feel for the camera before you invest the money.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Part 6: Tips & Tricks for Travel Savings

For many of us, summertime means family fun! A break from school, enjoying outdoor activities, and spending time together means building memories that can last a lifetime. When it comes to exciting travel destinations, theme parks are often at the top of the list. What kid (or kid at heart) wouldn’t want to dance with a famous mouse or take a wild ride on a crazy coaster?

teacup amusement ride

But visiting theme parks can really break the bank if you’re not aware of the added costs once you’ve passed the gate. In addition to tickets, there are snacks, drinks, souvenirs, and other expenses that can bruise your wallet. Here are a few tips that can keep your adventure fun and budget-friendly.

theme park lunch spot

Save on Lunch and Snacks
While not all parks allow you to tote in your own food, many do. Pack a cooler with an ice pack, and store your lunch in a park locker. Locker rentals are usually only a few dollars, and that’s well worth the cost, compared to spending $60 or more on hamburgers for a family of five (and, you'll save valuable park time by avoiding long waits at food counters). Contact the park beforehand, to ensure they allow you to tote your own. If bringing your own is not a viable option, consider splitting a large meal, or having a big lunch instead of an overpriced dinner. Lunch is often less expensive than post-sunset meals.

You might not be able to bring coolers into the park, but you can certainly keep a packed cooler in your car for a little afternoon tailgate party. Tip: Lay a damp towel over your cooler, so the ice won’t melt as fast.

drinks at theme park

Water is Free
Before you pull the trigger and buy that $8 bottle of water or overpriced soda, check in with onsite restaurants and quick-service spots. Often, these spots will give you water for the asking. In fact, some states require that water is offered at no charge anywhere that food is served.

Sign up for Promos
Make sure you sign up for theme park newsletters, follow park social media accounts, and download park apps for offers and promo codes. Theme parks frequently offer coupons for dining, added attractions, and shopping, as signup incentives. Checking out travel blogs and podcasts ahead of your trip might also offer you money-saving ideas and offers.

AAA office discount theme park tickets

Membership Has its Privileges
If you are a member of a Costco, Sam’s Club, AAA or AARP, you might find discounts available to you via your membership. Since they are able to buy in massive quantities, many of these clubs offer park ticket prices or gift cards for parks, at a discount.

Additional savings can often be obtained via discount websites, such as Groupon or

theme park souvenir shop

Wander Outside of the Park for Souvenirs
Theme parks frequently have stores just outside the gates, and they carry the same merchandise for a lot less. Plan a shopping day at the end of your vacation to hit up those stores for your keepsakes. You can also save money on items like sunscreen, snacks and other park necessities, by visiting stores outside the park before you go.

kids at hotel pool

Visit During Off Hours
If you start your day at the park early, not only can you get a jump on the rides before the lines get long and the temps soar, you can be done earlier, which means you can eat at home, or on the road at a reasonably priced restaurant. Or, consider spending some time at the hotel pool in the morning and head into the parks later. Some parks will discount tickets in the evening hours, and you’ll save time by enjoying the rides while other visitors are watching the parade or fireworks.

save money at theme park ride

Upgrade Your Ticket for More Fun at Less Cost
If you had fun during your day at the park and think you want to return in the near future, stop by a ticket window and inquire about prorated discount pricing for a return trip. Many theme parks offer season passes for a relatively small price over the cost of 1-day or weekend admission. For example, a major theme park in Virginia charges $70.00 for a one-day pass or $168.00 for an annual pass. Annual passes often come with bonuses, too, like free parking or dining discounts.

Do you have a travel savings tip or trick? Share below!

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Super Spectacular Sea Sponges!

What living organism has no head, eyes, brain, arms, legs, ears, muscles, or organs? It’s the super spectacular sea sponge!

Sea sponges are very basic and primordial animals. They can be soft or hard, harmless or poisonous. They've lived on earth for around 500 million years and are frequently found hanging out in coral reefs. There are over 5,000 species of sponges living in the marine environment, and they are even found in freshwater lakes and rivers!

For centuries, scientists debated as to whether or not sponges were plants or animals. At one time they were considered as coral, then as “half-plant and half-animal” organisms. Everything about their life cycle is far more akin to that of a plant. They grow like plants, and since they have no organs or brain or nervous system, they are not self-aware, cannot think, and feel no pain of any kind. However, sponges do have a reproductive system, an immune system, and they can sneeze! They are able to move, and they have genes. They also capture and ingest their food source.

Sponges are relatively simple, multi-celled animals. They do not have tissues or organs like some animals do, but they have specialized cells to perform necessary functions. These cells are in charge of digestion and reproduction, and they filter in water. The skeleton of a sponge is formed from spicules, which are made of silica (a glass-like material) or calcareous (calcium or calcium carbonate) materials.

There are two types of sponges. Encrusting sponges, which typically cover the surface of a rock, and free-standing sponges, which possess more inner volume compared with their outside surface area. Free-standing sponges can reach gigantic proportions. For example, the barrel sponge, a large tropical sponge, can grow large enough to fit a whole person inside! Sponges come in a wide variety of shapes and a rainbow of colors.

Natural sea sponges possess remarkable powers of regeneration and have the ability to re-grow lost parts and pieces broken off by water currents- the epitome of sustainability! In fact, studies have shown that areas harvested actually increase in their population density.  Once cut, a sponge will re-grow within a few years, often to become bigger and healthier than it was originally.

So, what is the benefit to an organism that seems to have so little going on? Sea sponges have many uses. In the marine environment, they provide food for hawksbill sea turtles and several species of fish, including angelfishes, wrasses, and pufferfish. For some species, sponges provide over 70% of total diet. They also offer small fish a place to hide from predators. Sponges are harvested for human use in the cosmetics, home décor, and home care industries, and are utilized in many natural and organic products. They are earth-friendly, thanks to sustainable harvesting. Unlike their synthetic counterparts, natural sea sponges contain innate enzymes and minerals that help prevent the development of odors, molds, and bacteria. They are also a hypoallergenic product since they are always naturally processed and contain no artificial ingredients, harsh chemicals, or toxins of any kind.

So, the next time you’re headed to the paint store or to a relaxing bubble bath, consider the natural sea sponge as a companion!

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