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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Sea TREK? Q and A with Carl Hanson




Sea TREK is an active member of several social communities. Our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts let us connect with our “fans” and encourage Sea TREK participation.  

Occasionally, we receive questions from followers regarding TREKking, and one question continues to arise- “Why Sea TREK when you could scuba dive instead?”

We brought this question, and a few other related queries, to our resident fish nerd, Carl Hanson, Director of Sea TREK Water Operations and Safety. Here’s what Carl had to share:

Q: What are the differences between diving and Sea TREK? Why not “just scuba,” instead of TREKking?

C: Diving is for people who already know they will enjoy being underwater; and it requires a special skill set and certifications. Sea TREK is geared toward people who may have never experienced being underwater. Some divers enjoy Sea TREK with their friends and family who are non-divers– so they can experience being underwater together!



Q: How is it possible to Sea TREK if you cannot swim? Aren’t you underwater?

C: Sea TREK is an underwater walking experience. The weighted helmets keep TREKkers on the sea floor. Guests begin the tour by getting in the water, shoulder deep. The method of getting the helmets on may differ by location (ladder, staircase, or beach), but participants never have to swim.


Q: How can I be sure I won’t run out of air during my TREK?

C: Operations using Air Centers have redundancies and backup air supplies in case of power loss. The minimum amount of backup air they must have on hand is enough to completely run a standard tour from start to finish. Some helmets are supplied directly from scuba air cylinders. The air flow into these helmets is calibrated to 1.7 cubic feet per minute (roughly 3 times the amount of air you need to breathe). Tours times are adjusted based on the size of cylinders. A typical 80 cubic foot cylinder at 3,000 PSI will last roughly 53 minutes. However, the operator knows the tour cannot exceed 25 minutes. This is to make sure the guest will never have an out of air situation. In other words, it just doesn’t happen!


Q: Do I need to equalize like a diver?

C: Yes and no. When descending into the water, you may feel pressure in your ears. You can equalize (clear) your ears the same way a diver would. Wiggle your jaw, swallow saliva, or pinch your nose and try to blow air out of your nose.
Equalizing your ears in a Sea TREK helmet is similar to being on an airplane. You can do all the same methods as a scuba diver, and you have the advantage of yawning to relieve the pressure. 


Q: How deep do Sea TREKkers go, compared to divers?

C: The maximum depth of a Sea TREK tour is 30 feet (about 9 meters, 1 atmosphere). However, most Sea TREK locations operate between 12 and 18 feet of depth (approximately 3.5 to 5 m, less than 1 atmosphere). 


Q: Can I get decompression sickness from Sea TREK? When can I fly after my TREK?

C: Yes, any time you are submerged underwater and breathing compressed air decompression sickness (DCS) can occur. The likelihood of DCS occurring to a Sea TREK participant is very low. Our Sea TREK standards ensure that participants never go deeper than 30 feet, nor do they stay under for more than 30 minutes. Also, we require all guests tot fill out a medical questionnaire before embarking on a tour, to ensure their safety.

Since our operators conduct shallow tours for short periods of time, the no-fly window is shorter than a normal scuba dive (4 hours minimum is required post-TREK, before flying). 


Q: What about scary sea life?

C:  Many operators use Sea TREK to educate people that sea life isn’t really scary! Stingrays are a common animal found at most Sea TREK locations. While other locations allow guests to interact with local sharks and eels. The Sea TREK guides have built bonds with these animals, similar to the bond you build with your dog, cat, bird, or whatever animals you have at home.

The ocean and its inhabitants are delicate and for many people “out of sight, out of mind.” Sea TREK brings non-divers into a place that the scuba community has been trying to bring awareness to for years. With more eyes on the world’s oceans, we can educate and improve the ocean environment and encourage conservation efforts.


Thank you, Carl, for sharing your knowledge of Sea TREK and answering the frequently asked question, “Why not just scuba?”

If you would like more information about Sea TREK helmet diving, or would like to find a location, go to www.sea-trek.com.  You can even chat with us live during normal business hours!


Carl Hanson is the Director of Sea TREK Water Operations and Safety at Sub Sea Systems, Inc.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Sensational and Stunning Stingrays!



Who glides through the ocean with the greatest of ease? The spectacular stingray, that’s who! These comely creatures are popular to aquarium visitors and divers alike, due to their elegant appearance and friendly dispositions.

While they may not resemble your finned friends in your tank at home, stingrays belong to a group of fish called elasmobranchs. There are around 200 different stingray species in total, and fossil records suggest that rays date back to the Jurassic period, 150 million years ago. They are unique in that they have no bones in their body – their skeleton is made up of cartilage (the flexible stuff that your ears and nose are made from!). Because of this, stingrays are closely related to sharks, as well as another kindred spirit, the manta ray.

Stingrays aren’t just ocean dwellers, they can be found in lakes and rivers alike. They feed on crustaceans, small fish, snails, clams and other small creatures. They use a super set of senses to search for food. Special gel-filled pits across the front of their face, (called Ampullae of Lorenzini), allow them to pick up electrical signals from other animals when they move. Their eyes are on the topside of their body and their mouth and gills can be found underneath, so in the darker depths or murky rivers, this electromagnetic sense is especially useful for searching for prey. They uncover prey by blowing water out through their mouths and flapping their "wings" over the sand. Like sharks, rays have a conveyor belt of teeth that will constantly be replaced throughout their lifetime.


Baby stingrays are born fully developed and look like miniature versions of adult animals. They are fully proportioned, and are naturally good swimmers from birth. This helps them find food on their own right away, though mothers still stick around to provide protection until around age three or so. Did we mention they also look like cute raviolis?

Stingrays are known for the barbs on their tails, but they are actually very docile and social creatures. They can be found individually, in pairs, or in loose groups (called a “fever”). If threatened, they can raise their tails like a scorpion and stab predators with their venomous barb. However, they are more likely to swim away from predators. Normally, they act kind and gentle around humans. Our Sea TREK operator at Xcaret in Cancun, Mexico can attest to the friendliness of rays. Local resident, Stubby the Stingray, loves socializing with TREKKERs! Named Stubby due to her short tail (perhaps lost in a battle with an envious shark), Stubby swims around divers and guests on a daily basis, just for the fun of it!

Sadly, numbers of stingrays are in decline. Overfishing, habitat loss and climate change are the major threats to rays. They are also hunted for their gill rakers (used for feeding), for use in Chinese medicine. Currently, 107 species stingrays are classified as threatened. Fortunately, a number of organizations are working to protect stingrays from their threatened status.  The Leonardo DiCaprio foundation supports the protection of stingrays and sharks through a collaborative partnership with several other conservation groups. Read about their efforts here. Additional strategies to protect rays are being developed via the Global Priorities for Conserving Sharks and Rays program. Read about the program here. 


If you’d like to meet a stingray and experience firsthand their docile and friendly demeanor, sign up for the Sea TREK with stingrays program at one of our facilities:

http://www.xcaret.com/sea-trek-stingrays-cancun.php
http://www.xelha.com/sea-trek-stingray-xelha-park.php



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Thursday, February 1, 2018

2017 Reef Alliance Award Winner



Each year, Reef Alliance (a conservation program sponsored by Sub Sea Systems) and its partners participate in the International Coastal Cleanup, a conservation effort founded by the Ocean Conservancy. This worldwide cleanup event resulted in over 18 million pounds of trash removed from beaches, oceans, waterways and coastal areas in 2017 alone! Read the 2017 report here.

The International Coastal Cleanup is just one of many volunteer events that Reef Alliance members participated in throughout 2017. Members also focused on conservation, education and proactive efforts within the community. In recognition of this hard work, Reef Alliance selects one member as the recipient of the annual Reef Alliance Award. We are proud to announce that OdySea Aquarium is the recipient of the 2017 Reef Alliance Award.


OdySea Aquarium, located in Scottsdale, Arizona hosted and participated in multiple cleanup events throughout the year. Their team worked hard to keep debris and recyclables out of our waterways and oceans.

OdySea contributed to a number of presentations and programs involving local grade schools and universities, such as a STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) Pro Live! Broadcast, and a conservation presentation at the University of Arizona. These remarkable efforts sought to educate children and adults alike about the challenges our waterways and their inhabitants face, and the ways in which we can all contribute to maintaining a healthy ocean environment through conservation and sustainability.



OdySea also hosted its first annual Conservation Expo, featuring local rescue organizations and sustainability groups. Over 20 local organizations were part of the event, including the PhoenixHerpetological SocietyLiberty WildlifeArizona Game & FishThe PhoenixZooAudubon Arizona, and the Center for Native & Urban Wildlife. At the expo, the team debuted a 15-foot hammerhead shark that was created out of more than 2,500 recycled plastic bottles, aiming to spread awareness about the amount of plastic that goes into our oceans. Approximately 7,000 future conservationists attended the free event!




Sub Sea Systems is proud to honor OdySea Aquarium’s commitment to supporting a variety of programs at the local, regional, and global levels, to educate and inspire guests about aquatic life and conservation. Read more about OdySea’s efforts here. OdySea will receive a beautiful trophy and marketing materials to assist in promotion of the award.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

How to Choose a Watercraft That's Right For You!




There’s nothing like a day on the water!
Whether you are simply floating along with friends or prefer an action-packed activity, there are many options to consider when selecting a watercraft or boat. From party boats to electric catamarans, the choices can be overwhelming!  The craft you choose will be an investment, so the better educated you become on what is available, the more likely you will be happy with your decision. This article summarizes several boats and personal watercraft, to help you save time and money, so that your water adventures will be fun and memorable!


Pontoon Boats
We’ve all seen them cruising around lakes: pontoon boats—often referred to as party boats—offer many attractive features. They usually cost less than a power or sailboat, and are extremely spacious, with plenty of extra room for stretching out.

Depending on the size, pontoon boats can hold anywhere from 6-17 people. You could cruise with friends during the afternoon, then, by simply adding a camper enclosure, you can spend the night on board. Pontoon boats are slow, which might bore high-energy kids quickly. They are also awkward to turn, difficult to dock, and heavy to tow.


Sailboats
Many boats are pretty, but sailboats have an extra special something. The subject of many artistic efforts, sailboats show off clean lines, swooping overhangs, and sexy curves. When was the last time you saw a painting of a bunch of powerboats? If you’re the attention-grabbing type, a sailboat might just be the ideal status symbol. Sailboat owners often create their own communities and sail together, affording opportunities to create friendships, business partnerships, and even a friendly competition or two!

Sailboats are costly. New models can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Add in insurance, taxes, mooring, storage, and the trailer needed to tow a large boat, and the investment is definitely something to consider. Sailboats can be physically demanding, and require a specific skills set and education, to maneuver safely.


Powerboats
If you’ve got a need for speed, but also want to spend time with family and friends, a powerboat offers both. Whether cruising the lake or towing kids around on inner tubes, a power boat can be a great choice if you need a flexible option. Power boats can travel enough distance to allow you to fish “farther out” than a regular fishing boat, although the cost of fuel may be limiting. Powerboats can also offer many creature comforts, such as onboard bathroom facilities (a.k.a. “heads”), kitchens, and comfortable seating. Of course, the more “extras” included, the higher the cost.

Powerboats can be expensive to maintain. Most have two engines, which means there are more parts that need attention and potential replacement. The larger the boat, the more difficult it may be to dock, store, and tow. Insuring a power boat also adds to the cost, and licensing is required in most states. Many bodies of water do not allow power boats, due to conservation concerns.


Jet Ski/WaveRunner Personal Watercraft
Fast and thrilling, PWCs (personal watercraft) fulfill the need for speed. PWCs provide freedom and maneuverability that is unparalleled. The jet propulsion feature and lack of propeller provide a smooth ride. PWCs are easier to store. Most models can fit in an average garage, and they are easier to haul, due to their lighter weight.

PWCs can be dangerous, especially for those who are new to riding or have limited agility. PWCs don’t have brakes! They are not marine life friendly, so PWCs are not welcome on all bodies of water. Insuring a PWC can be a challenge, as their safety record is less than stellar. With the horsepower of a large outboard engine and the acceleration of a motorcycle, PWC are not toys, and taking one out on the water requires skill and understanding of how the craft operates.


Recreational Kayak
Kayaking can make you feel one with nature. With the ability to go on almost any body of water, a kayak can be beneficial to mind, body and spirit. There are thousands of nooks and crannies, bays and coves, inlets and outlets, tributaries and streams that are accessible via kayak. Shallow areas are not a problem for kayaks, and you can launch one practically anywhere. Kayaks are easy to tow, easy to store, easy to clean, and are relatively inexpensive. However, kayaking has its limits. Unless you are in excellent physical condition, kayaking can be tiring.

While fishing from a kayak is possible, it can be awkward, and limited storage makes taking home your catch a challenge. Kayaking does not offer protection from a change in the element, such as a sudden rain shower or pelting sun; and they can become uncomfortable on long trips, as body movement is limited.



FunCat® Electric-Solar Catamaran
A FunCat is an electric-solar catamaran, meant for relaxation and fun on the water. FunCats are easy to maneuver, easy to dock and easy to tow. The controls are so simple, just about anyone can drive. FunCats are battery or solar operated, and are environmentally friendly. Ideal for families or seniors, the FunCat allows for an enjoyable day on the water without the noise of a boat or the added cost of fuel. Children love FunCats because they can drive! An optional bimini shade protects from damaging sun rays, and rod mounts make FunCat ideal for fishing.

An added benefit to a FunCat catamaran is that it can be taken on even the calmest of lakes, including those that do not allow motorized boats. If you can access the water with a trolling motor, you can use your FunCat. FunCats have limited seating, but a family of four can still sit comfortably aboard. The quiet FunCat allows for quality time with family and friends, talking and sharing time on the water in comfort.

There are many options and things to consider when choosing a watercraft. Making a pros and cons list of your own, with must-have options and the accessories you’re dreaming about will help you determine what will work best for you and your family. Once you whittle down your list, consider renting for a few hours or even a few days. Renting can give you a feel for how the craft handles, and whether or not the investment will be worthwhile. If you would like to rent a FunCat, go to this link for available locations.

Chat with us about FunCats! Go to funcats.com and access the chat in the bottom right corner. 


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Friday, January 19, 2018

INTERVIEW! FunCats Product Director, Keenan Mayfield




Sub Sea Systems is known for its amazing Sea TREK and Clear Lounge underwater experiences. But, we also love spending time ON the water! Our FunCat Electric-Solar Catamarans offer family fun on the water. They're easy to drive, dock and store. What's more, FunCats are a fantastic rental product for boat rental businesses!

We interviewed Keenan Mayfield, FunCat Product Director, to learn more about FunCat catamarans and its "boatload" of features! Check out the video featuring Keenan!


Boating season will be here before you know it! Get in on pre-season savings on Funcats! Click the link below and chat with a FunCat rep today! You'll be having fun on the water in no time!


funcats click to site

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Announcing the 2017 Sea TREK Operator of the Year!



Each year, Sub Sea Systems gives special recognition to an outstanding operator by selecting the Sea TREK Operator of the Year. While we appreciate all of our operators, we want to give extra kudos to one operator who has gone above and beyond over the past year. Whether it is through innovation, growth, or phenomenal service, each Operator of the Year has made exceptional contributions to the success of the Sea TREK program.

Our 2017 Operator of the Year is (drum roll, please)....

Atlantis The Palm, Dubai!

With two TREK locations, 11 helmets, 11,500 guests for the year, and 20 Guides, Atlantis The Palm has had an amazing year. The operator also scored the highest marks in tour quality, staff professionalism, marketing efforts, innovation, community outreach and overall commitment to the Sea TREK program. Here are some of the award-winning highlights from Atlantis The Palm:


The original Sea TREK experience, called Shark Safari, is located in Aquaventure Park in an aquarium at the base of the infamous Leap of Faith waterslide and iconic pyramid. Not only do the adventurous TREKKERs catch a glimpse of the waterslide guests zooming by in a clear-acrylic tunnel, but they also are surrounded by various shark species while accompanied by a professional Guide. Educational and fun, this version of Sea TREK includes interacting with seven different shark species and six different rays!

In 2017, Atlantis added a second Sea TREK location (called Aqua Trek), in its Ambassador Lagoon in the Lost Chambers Aquarium. The Ambassador Lagoon is one of the world’s largest man made saltwater aquariums, with 11 million liters (nearly 3 million gallons) of water, and over 65,000 marine creatures. TREKKERs in the Lagoon have the unique (and innovative) opportunity to Sea TREK at night! Sub Sea Systems assisted by providing custom helmet lens clamps fitted with powerful LED lights. Brave participants can TREK the dark exhibit, shining their light at the aquarium residents who come out at night, adding a spooky aspect to a typical TREK.



In May, Atlantis The Palm launched “A World Away From Your Everyday”, a campaign organized by the Guinness World Records committee. Partnering with a local radio channel, presenter Stu Tolan submerged three meters into the Ambassador Lagoon while wearing a Sea TREK helmet, and produced the longest underwater live radio broadcast on record. The Channel 4 host concluded the underwater broadcast after an incredible 5 hours, 25 minutes and 25 seconds – successfully breaking the previous record by almost an hour! Stu had this to say about his experience:

“I have been lucky enough to participate in some incredible stunts during my radio career, but this was truly an amazing challenge and attempting a Guinness World Records title is a total world away from my every day. The team at Atlantis were incredible to work with and the support from my team at 104.8 Channel 4 made the whole challenge an incredible team effort!”

Of course, like all of our operators, Atlantis The Palm offers superior service to its customers.  Reviewers on TripAdvisor give high marks to both the Shark Safari and Aqua Trek experiences. Wonderful comments include “memories to last a lifetime.” 



An experienced diver said, “My daughter had some difficulties getting into the water, but the lady helping at the surface could not have been more helpful and encouraging. She was able to get into the water and had a broad smile on her face when she was there…” 

Ebrahim K shares, “…Staff members worthy of mention at the Shark Safari: Randy, Evan and Franklin: thanks for your professionalism and competence… We felt safe at all times despite having countless sharks and stingrays all around us. You guys are a true asset to your employers!”

Char711 said, “I booked the Shark Safari and it’s still today, the best experience of my life… it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

Jasmine S writes, “We did the Aqua Trek for the first time and were a little nervous in the beginning, but the team did a commendable job in making us feel more comfortable underwater. Definitely would recommend to friends and family.”

Atlantis The Palm is also involved in a large community effort that was organized in January 2017, the UAE Food Bank. Atlantis The Palm is one of 96 hotels that donates their excess food and provides volunteer help with food distribution. The Food Bank serves low-income families and laborers within the community.

We are proud to have Atlantis The Palm, Dubai as a partner and Sea TREK ambassador, and look forward to the continued growth and success of the program!

Want to see what the TREKKING opportunities at Atlantis The Palm look like? Check out the videos below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JhW73EpsbE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPedPTjS56o&t=24s


You can read up on Atlantis The Palm’s Sea TREK adventures in the following articles:

https://www.dailystar.co.uk/travel/adventure/404668/Swim-with-sharks-in-exotic-Dubai-waterparks

http://www.timeoutdubai.com/sportandoutdoor/features/33889-shark-safari-in-dubai

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2017/5/dubai-radio-hosts-achieves-longest-underwater-live-radio-broadcast-in-atlantis-t-472465


Or visit their website at https://www.atlantisthepalm.com/marine-water-park/aquaventure-waterpark/shark-safari. 



Congratulations Atlantis The Palm, Dubai – the 2017 Sea TREK Operator of the Year!



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Friday, January 5, 2018

Sub Sea’s New Year's Resolutions!



There’s something refreshing about starting a new calendar!  A new year can bring new possibilities for growth and self-improvement. Many of us reflect on the year that has come to a close, and determine ways to improve our lives over the next 12 months. In fact, approximately 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

At Sub Sea Systems, we have determined some opportunities for the coming year. Here's a list of our 2018 New Year's resolutions!

1. Get personal! This year, we'd like to continue to increase our "transparency" online and share more about our team, behind the scenes, and our company culture, via our social channels and newsletter.



2. Share more videos – Whether it's an underwater TREK, a quiet cruise on a FunCat, driving Aquaticar in our new test tank, or creating something new in our facility, we'd like to share it with our audience in an engaging format.


3. Go live – stream more live broadcasts to our followers on social media. We’ve seen a lot of excitement around live broadcasts of Clear Lounge parties and Sea TREK excursions! (links)


4. Explore new destinations – we're working hard to bring new Sea TREK, Clear Lounge and Aquaticar destinations to you in 2018. To give you a hint.. Asia, Africa and a new Caribbean island destination are on our lists!

5. Release the latest version of the Sea TREK helmet – NexGen – with a whole list of new features– such as a new lens clamp, integrated air flow calibration, roto-molded shoulder weights, and more!

6. Stand up more! 90% of the computers at the SSS office are mounted on bases that allow staff to sit or stand while working. This year, we're committed to standing more often! Standing offers numerous benefits.



7. Exhibit at a new trade show – we've gotten a head start on this one, and signed up for the DEAL Show in Dubai in April. DEAL is a massive show for the theme park and amusement industries. We will be traveling over 8,000 miles and spending approximately 19 hours in the air, to attend and exhibit all of our products: Aquaticar, Sea TREK, Clear Lounge and FunCat!

8. Increase our social footprint – grow both business and individual connections via our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Continue to connect with others in our industry, to improve our visibility.

9.  Promote existing locations – Increase visibility of Sea TREK, Clear Lounge and FunCat locales, by sharing their stories and social content.

10. Less dog treats and people food handouts (ya, right!). It’s hard to say ‘no’ to those cute beggars!

What are your resolutions for 2018? Tell us below!




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