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Monday, January 27, 2014

Announcing The 2013 Sea TREK Operator of the Year — Sea TREK De Palm—Aruba




Last week Sub Sea Systems announced our Sea TREK operator of the year. After careful consideration of all of the outstanding operators, we narrowed it down to a select few… and then nominated Sea TREK De Palm—Aruba as the 2013 award winner. This annual award is determined based on Sea TREK operators' tour quality, staff excellence, innovation, community outreach and complete commitment to the Sea TREK program. 


Sea TREK De Palm excels in all of these areas. Their tour creativity and innovation is inspirational. The location boasts an abundance of wildlife including: green eels, eagle rays, sea turtles, squid, and a colorful variety of reef fish, sea stars, and anemones. The location has been enhanced unequivocally by the sinking of large, decommissioned vehicles. In addition to a large bus and an airplane, Sea TREK De Palm has an underwater café complete with wine bottles. While the novelty of these additions makes the tour more entertaining and distinctive, the vehicles also take pressure off of the natural coral reefs in the area. The enhanced environment stimulates new reef growth, attracting a variety of sea creatures, and fueling prosperity for the local businesses and employees.



Enhanced environments, such as sunken vehicles, give sea creatures — big and small — a place to live. The ocean is teeming with life, but the abundance is seen most clearly in a reef environment. The eco-system allows for a vast variety of creatures to live in symbiosis. The vehicles give a basis for the growth of many varieties of coral, anemones, and sea fans. These creatures provide homes for a richness of fish, and sea animals. ‘Artificial’ reefs take pressure off of the natural reefs by allowing many species to grow their populations without exhausting natural resources.



The artificial reefs allow for the local economy to grow as well. The eco-tourism brings prosperity to the island, and spreads awareness about ocean conservancy and reef preservation.

Sea TREK De Palm has also faced many challenges this past year, and has confronted them with confidence and innovation. Due to recent local construction and mud runoff Sea TREK De Palm’s dive site had extremely low visibility, causing inoperable conditions and weeks of canceled tours. Instead of succumbing to the challenges, Sea TREK De Palm took the opportunity to seek a new location, and plans to develop a site on the opposite side of the island. The new location features a sandy pathway and beautiful coral ‘trees. ’ The crew also plans to open another underwater café, and a variety of new surprises along the way. Sea TREK De Palm hopes to continue to use their original location when conditions allow.

Sea TREK De Palm had a record month in July with over 674 TREKKERS. The staff is always receiving fabulous accolades, and the tour is renowned as a “must do” on the island.

Ranked #2 on TripAdvisor, with over 2,600 5-star ratings, participants share:

“Sea TREK is phenomenal!”
“We decided to do the Sea TREK underwater walk…Walking along the
ocean, interacting with the animals and seeing the sights was one in a million.”
“…Experience of a lifetime and would do it again and again.”
“By far one of the most amazing things I have ever done!”
“Simply fantastic! Thank you so much… or should I say ‘masha danki!!!’”

Congratulations Sea TREK De Palm—Aruba! We cannot wait to see your new location!

For more information please visit www.depalmtours.com or www.sea-trek.com 

Follow Sea TREK® Helmet Diving's board 2013 Sea TREK operator of the year on Pinterest.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

The Stingray Bay Program — Swim with Stingrays!


Imagine: You are going to see stingrays. Correction: you are going to swim with stingrays! 



You have heard about Steve Irwin the crocodile hunter, and how a stingray was the cause of his death. You have also heard good things about stingrays, so you decide to sign up for the Stingray Bay Program. You and a group of others file into a briefing area that sits in front of a beautiful shallow ocean lagoon. People of all ages (even kids as young as five!) are waiting along with you. You can feel the nervous energy in the air. You feel a sense of fear trickle down your spine, and wonder if you should have signed up for a different activity. Just as you think you can’t take the tension any longer, a stingray trainer walks out into the center of the stingray pool and welcomes everyone to Stingray Bay. He starts out by addressing the fears that are on the forefront of our minds.

“Stingrays became very popular in September 2006, after the incident that caused the death of the famous Croc Hunter “Steve Irwin”. Today you have nothing to be afraid of, because we have surgically removed the barbs from our stingrays, so we can guarantee that this is going to be a very safe experience.”

He then holds up a stingray’s barb, while other crewmembers pass around similar barbs for you to examine.

“The barbs look just like this one; the pain they cause is considered to be number 10 in the countdown of the worst pains ever felt by humans.”

 “If you look closely, you can see where it is in the tail that the barbs normally grow.”

“Stingrays do NOT attack people, but I would like to give you guys a tip, so you don’t get hurt by stingrays if swimming or walking in stingray infested water. Just do what we call ‘The Stingray Shuffle’, and the stingrays will steer clear.”

As he is saying this he is gently holding a stingray. He then begins to point out the anatomy of the beautiful animal.

“Now we can see the eyes located on top of their heads. Right behind the eyes there are two holes called spiracles, and they are used for breathing.”

He turns the stingray on it’s back!

“Here you can see: the mouth, the gills and the sexual organs.”
He rubs the docile creature’s belly!

“…And enough talking, let’s make small groups to enter the water, and follow the trainers’ instructions.”

You split into small groups of four and enter the water with a trainer leading the way. Half of you stand to the right of the trainer and half to the left. The trainer hands out some fish.

To you he says, “Please feed the stingray!”

and to everyone else, “Please pet and feel the stingray’s skin.”



You find yourself fascinated, and the creature seems to enjoy the attention. The trainer points out all of the stingray’s organs, and explains their behaviors, habits, and the importance of their existence. He also talks about Reef Alliance and ocean conservancy. You begin to pet the tips of the stingray’s wings. They seem to respond to your touch, and their velvety slick texture is so different than anything you have felt before. You completely forget your fear, and feel an intense connection to these beautiful animals.




You then get to pose for the photo of a lifetime! A true token of the experience! The trainers release everyone for a time of free swim and snorkeling with the stingrays. You watch them fly through the water with their velveteen wings, and as you exit the pool you swear that the stingrays are waving goodbye. Your euphoria follows you home, and you spend hours regaling the story to your family and friends, but the words are not enough. You plan to bring everyone you know back to Stingray Bay.

Stingray Bay strives to increase education and awareness about stingrays through its entertaining, hands-on interactions. In general, the public’s fascination with stingrays is also marked with trepidation and misunderstanding; often intensified by media hype, movies and common misconceptions. Such feelings cause many people to ignore and/or avoid these remarkable creatures. In an attempt to dispel these false fears and instill a new wonder for stingrays, Stingray Bay encourages its guests to actually interact with these animals—hands-on!

During the experience, guests can touch, pet, swim with, and feed these intelligent fish. As participants spend time with the animals and face their fears, they also learn about the rays’ eating habits, anatomy, habitat, and the importance of the animals’ roles in their eco-systems. This intimate introduction between guests and stingrays provides a significant connection for the guest, increasing their knowledge and compassion for the animal.

Participants have shared that the experience is emotional; their poignant interaction with the rays leads to a newfound respect and appreciation. Each and every guest walks away with the knowledge that stingrays are peaceful and playful creatures. As they say, knowledge is power; and the benefit of spreading knowledge to Stingray Bay guests results in a powerful trickle down effect. The knowledge and enthusiasm shared by our guests disseminates to friends and family back home, creating greater awareness, appreciation, and ultimately strengthening conservation efforts for these incredible animals.

Here is a list of locations that offer the stingray interaction program. Check back for announcements about new locations opening soon!

Dolphin Cove, Jamaica            
Ocean Adventures, Dominican Republic      
Sea TREK® with Stingrays, Mexico
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sea TREK at De Palm in Aruba: Take an imaginary tour


Imagine: You walk toward a ladder that descends 20 feet into the depths of the ocean. You have already had a briefing explaining the steps you need to follow. You are going on a Sea TREK helmet dive at De Palm Island, Aruba. The balmy Aruba air barely stirs, and the salty water lightly laps against the dock. As you descend the ladder a Guide places a futuristic Sea TREK helmet on your shoulders. You focus on stepping down the ladder, making sure to follow the hand signals and directions from the briefing.

As soon as you step off the ladder you gasp in awe… You are breathing air under water! Your hair is not even wet! You laugh to yourself as you walk a little down a trail to allow more TREKKERS room to join you on the sea floor.

As you adjust to your fascination with breathing under the water, you begin to notice your surroundings. An octopus lingers near the ladder, his curling tentacles clutching a mossy post of the dock. You watch as his body texture and color change dramatically.

As you turn to share your discovery with the other guests you are overwhelmed with an array of sea life: coral, sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemones, sea feathers, and arrow crabs. There are so many different creatures!





The Guide leads your group onward. You see an eagle ray gracefully glide 5 feet above.



Then you stop at an underwater airplane! The sunken plane has become a thriving home to various corals, sponges, and fish!



Your Sea TREK Guide steps in front of you and squeezes some fish food out of a bottle. Suddenly, you are engulfed in a cloud of colorful fish, darting and racing about you, trying to grab the last piece of food. The beams of sunlight glint off of their opalescent scales making you feel as though you are actually a part of this school of fish.



Eventually you pull yourself away from the smooth, sliding, glitter storm, and find a happy sea turtle swimming along the bottom of the sea. You watch him until he is out of sight.

video


As you walk farther along the Sea TREK trail, you find yourself at an underwater café! You sit with other TREKKERS on the seats of this sunken café table, and offer a silent toast with a wine bottle as a photo is snapped of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.



You see many more amazing species: parrot fish, porcupine fish, trumpet fish, banded coral shrimp, and even a school of silverside fish.






As you head back toward the ladder you spy a spotted eel, snarling at you from his little cave, and then a rosy, ethereal squid flies through the blue of the sea.



As you exit the water, and the Sea TREK helmet comes off, all you can think is “wow! My friend’s back home are never going to believe me!” Luckily you have the photos and the vivid memories to prove it… and maybe someday you’ll be able to invite them along for an unforgettable TREK in this magical underwater world.



For more information on Sea TREK with De Palm Tours, Aruba, visit: http://www.depalmtours.com/sea-trek
Images courtesy of De Palm Tours, Aruba
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sea TREK®— an accessible activity that tops bucket lists




If you don’t know what Sea TREK is we encourage you to check out our website — (and maybe some of our locations’ websites) to see pictures and read about the experience — but the basic description is: walk and breathe underwater on a helmet diving tour. Every Sea TREK Location is different and each location offers some pretty amazing experiences including the Dolphin TREK program, where you walk underwater while dolphins swim around you, or Sea TREK in an aquarium with thousands of fish, rays and turtles. If you can imagine what this might be like, you will probably want to add Sea TREK to your bucket list! Along with your sky diving fantasy and your down under walkabout, your bucket list may have a lot of things that you dream about, but you may be limited to what you can actually check off. For example: you may need specialized training, specific skills, or you may be restricted by age or health. What sets Sea TREK apart is its exceptional accessibility. This experience of a lifetime is enjoyed by participants of nearly any age (8 to 93+) who have no specialized skills (just walking and breathing).


A story from Dive Chronicles (a niche dive magazine) is displayed prominently on our corporate headquarters office walls. The article is called, “The Day My Daughter Became a Fish” and it is written by J. Keefe. The article holds a special place for us because it is what Sub Sea Systems is all about — sharing a memorable life experience. The article regales the tale of a very curious eight year old with a passion for the sea. She was too young to learn to scuba dive and too frustrated by snorkeling, as it did not allow her to stay with her fish friends long enough. She watched videos and learned all about different species of fish, but remained too far above them to make friends. That is when her family discovered Sea TREK. Sea TREK allowed the little girl to make friends with a lot of colorful fish, and her family was able to experience it right alongside her, sharing in the little girl’s elation as she walked side-by-side with her new fishy friends.  Eight years old and already fulfilling dreams, made possible by Sea TREK.



Young and old alike have checked Sea TREK off their bucket lists. Our oldest participant to date is 93 ½  (when you’re a kid the half-year counts, and then when you are in your 90’s it counts again!). While on a Caribbean cruise, Mr. Anderson elected to don a Sea TREK helmet for his first walk underwater.  After his stroll under the sea, surrounded by beautiful ocean creatures, he was exuberant and raved about his experience to the captain of the cruise ship. He shared that it’s not often you find something that you’ve never before experienced in over 90 years!



In addition to welcoming guests of all ages, Sea TREK can also accommodate a variety of other special circumstances. For example, one very common problem is the high number of guests who wear prescription glasses or contact lenses (Studies show that an estimated 75% of people in the United States wear glasses or contacts). These individuals cannot wear glasses with a mask, and usually cannot wear contacts in the water– therefore their visibility and overall enjoyment of the incredibly beautiful underwater world is extremely impaired. The solutions for divers and snorkelers who wear glasses are not ideal and can be very costly. Sea TREK, however, is completely prescription eyewear friendly. Your face and hair remain dry throughout the entire tour, and there is plenty of room in the helmet for you to comfortably wear your prescription glasses or sunglasses. Sea TREK truly lets you see the beauty of the sea.



Still not convinced about the accessibility of Sea TREK? Perhaps several highlights from TREKKERS around the world would be a more compelling testament. These amazing stories have been shared with us over the years from guests and Sea TREK operators worldwide. 

Miami Seaquarium generously offers monthly Sea TREK tours to veterans from the Miami VA Recreational Therapy program. Both the vets and the staff look forward to this program every month (we think the staff actually looks forward to it more than the vets!). One veteran (and loyal Sea TREKKER) shares, “my experience with Sea TREK was remarkable. As a disabled veteran with PTSD, this made me feel normal and excited again. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt excited over anything.” Another veteran says, “it was an amazing healing feeling of utter peacefulness and beauty underwater…”

Also at Miami Seaquarium a man and woman — who are both, blind, and do not walk well on land— did Sea TREK, and both exclaimed that walking underwater was much easier! Furthermore, an ex scuba diver and diagnosed narcoleptic who hadn’t been able to dive in over 3 years, was able to participate in Sea TREK thanks to the attentive staff and safety divers at Miami Seaquarium.

Troy, a Sea TREK business associate from Guam, did Dolphin TREK at Xel-Ha in Mexico. He was nervous like many people are when they try new things, but he was even more nervous because he removed his prosthetic leg to participate. He said he felt very stable, and he enjoyed the experience immensely. The dolphins had fun, too!



Sea TREK has helped a lot of people fulfill their dreams and add a couple more check marks to their bucket lists. The Sea TREK experience is a memory that will last a lifetime. To do something so profound and understand its value at that moment is what we love to see and hear about. If you haven’t added Sea TREK to your bucket list, then add it now! It will be an experience of a lifetime, and you CAN check this one off!

For more inspiration, check out our Bucket List board on Pinterest!

Follow Sea TREK® Helmet Diving's board Bucket List! on Pinterest.




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