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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

TREKking Along, On Both Sides of the Road

Sea TREK is enjoyed all over the world, including some truly beautiful islands. Recently, we sent Director of Water Operations and Safety, Carl Hanson, off on a whirlwind tour of three separate, sunny locales: St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, and St. Maarten. Pure torture for poor Carl!

While Carl certainly gets the opportunity to spend time in some unique locations, he is also working hard to ensure that Sea TREK operators have everything they need. From training staff to ensuring safety standards, we can always count on him to keep our operators happy, and in turn, keep our guests happy! Here’s what Carl had to say about the islands and his whirlwind “tour”.

How long did you spend on the islands?

I spent two days at each of the three locations.

sea trek crew, grand cayman
Sea TREK Staff, Grand Cayman

What kind of work did you do while visiting each island?

My first stop was Grand Cayman, doing a typical site inspection, which includes checking on staff and answering any questions they may have, ensuring safety standards are adhered to, and reviewing updates in training. I also scoped out a potential site for a new Sea TREK operation!

St. Maarten was my second stop. I did a similar site inspection, but it was a bit different, since they are still recovering from the recent hurricanes and had to rebuild much of their operation.

Last was St. Thomas- it was nice to be back in the U.S.A! St. Thomas has not been operational since Hurricane Irma, and they incurred some staffing issues, as residents vacated the island. I spent time training brand new staff, and refreshing returning staff, to ensure the crew was ready to get back up and running. As of June 1st, Sea TREK will be fully operational.

How did you travel from one island to the next? 

Although the islands are not that far apart, flying from one island to the next is not always an option. Airlines don’t always travel from one to the next, and what should have been about two hours of travel ended up taking a full day. I began my journey flying out of Miami and arriving in Grand Cayman. I had to fly back to Miami to go to St. Maarten, even though those islands are pretty close together! To get to St. Thomas, I flew to Puerto Rico, then to the island.

Island of St. Thomas
Island of St. Thomas

What are some of the differences between these islands?

All of the islands were beautiful, but I found driving a bit disconcerting! In Grand Cayman, driving is on the opposite side of the road, compared to how we drive in the U.S. Much like in the U.K, the steering wheel is on the right. In St. Thomas, which is a U.S. territory, the steering wheel is on the left, but driving is on the opposite side of the road as what we’re accustomed to. In St. Maarten, a Dutch territory, they drive like in the U.S! This was pretty disorienting!

What animal did you encounter at each location?

In St. Thomas, we saw tarantulas; in Grand Cayman, blue and green iguanas (the blue are island natives while the green are invasive); in St. Maarten, we observed mongooses, which I have never had the opportunity to see before.

In the water, barracudas, tarpon, rainbow parrotfish, and yellowtail snapper are common sightings at all locations.

Sea TREK St. Maarten
St. Maarten

How are the islands doing with recovery from last year’s hurricanes?

In St. Maarten, hotels are beginning to come back. Up until just recently, only cruise ship passengers were getting in, as hotels were not available. The people of St. Maarten are unable to go to see a movie (no theater yet), but restaurants are mostly back in operation. In regard to Sea TREK,  the walkway, platform and decking have been rebuilt, with the help of other dive operations. Everyone really pulled together to rebuild.

St. Thomas has the advantage of being a U.S. territory, so FEMA has been involved, and their building is proceeding faster. There are still a lot of blue tarps, but things are progressing. Much like St. Maarten, communities banded together to rebuild. Restaurants are open, but some have relocated.

You certainly worked hard while visiting the islands! What did you do when you had down time?

In Grand Cayman, I went diving with the Sea TREK team and we visited the Wreck of Cali, which was an interesting yet easy dive. I saw the largest rainbow parrotfish I’ve ever observed while diving!

In St. Maarten, Sea TREK St. Maarten owner, Bobby Keough, and I went zip lining on the world’s steepest zip line called The Flying Dutchman. We also did the canopy zip line, which offers a 360-degree view of the island. It was a crystal clear day, and the views were spectacular.

In St. Thomas, we got to see one of Blackbeard’s castles, and took in stunning views. It was so clear that we could see some of the distant islands.

helmet dive with fish
Where's Carl? Sea TREK St. Maarten

Did you have any surprises while island hopping?

Besides the crazy driving?! Each location is so unique, yet they all have hard-working people who are intent on being successful. They are visionaries. On St. Maarten particularly, I felt like I was family. Everywhere I went, I was welcomed, and never felt like a visitor.

Where are you headed next?
It’s going to be a surprise…for all of us!

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Close Encounters of the Sea Life Kind

Sea TREKkers across the globe enjoy an underwater adventure like no other. Donning helmets, TREKkers walk underwater and encounter a wide variety of sea life. From the smallest fish to the largest of stingrays and sharks, participants visit with all kinds of calm, cool creatures!

While each Sea TREK experience and location is unique, we’ve got some repeat visitors that frequent our TREKs and wow our underwater guests. Here’s a helpful guide, so that you will know whom you’re hanging out with while under the sea!

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)

The Atlantic tarpon inhabits coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons and rivers. Tarpons have a swim bladder, very similar to a lung, which fills with air.  This gives the tarpon a predatory advantage when oxygen levels in the water are low. Tarpons can get seriously large! They have been recorded at up to 8 ft. in length and can weigh up to 355 lbs. They have bluish or greenish backs and possess shiny, silvery scales that cover most of their bodies, excluding the head. They have large eyes, and broad mouths with prominent lower jaws that jut out farther than the rest of the face.

Sea TREK seeing snapper

Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus) 

Easily identifiable, the yellowtail has a bright streak of color on its sides, running from head to tail. Adult yellowtails live over sandy areas near deep reefs, while smaller adults are found over hard bottom habitats, and juveniles live in seagrass beds. Yellowtail snappers are typically small, but can weigh up to 5 lbs. and measure up to 30 inches! The deep fork of their caudal fin helps them swim quickly through the water.

Yellowtails are often seen in schools, and create a vibrant, colorful atmosphere for TREKkers!

sea trek turtle sighting

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Who doesn’t love turtles? These docile creatures are among the largest sea turtles in the world, weighing up to 700 pounds! Their proportionally small head extends from a heart-shaped shell that covers most of the animal’s body.

Despite its name, a green sea turtle's shell is not always green. The smooth shell can be a blend of different colors, including, brown, olive, gray, or black. The underside is a yellowish-white color. Unlike most sea turtles, adult green turtles are herbivores, feeding on sea grasses and algae. Juvenile green turtles, however, will also eat invertebrates like crabs, jellyfish, and sponges.

Green sea turtles are classified as an endangered species that have undergone an estimated 90 percent population decrease over the past half-century.

Rainbow parrotfish (scarus guacamaia)

Colorful and clown-like, rainbow parrotfish possess deep green bodies, and orange fins with streaks of green extending toward the back and tail. Their teeth are fused to form a tough parrot-like beak, which it uses to scrape algae and other organic matter from the surface of coral. The coral is pulverized with grinding teeth in the fishes’ throats. Much of the sand in the parrotfish's range is actually the ground-up, undigested coral they excrete.

An unusual feature of parrotfish is that they are able to change sex, with young females becoming fully functional males. Rainbow parrotfish start off as either females or males (known as primary males). Females may transition to male (secondary males), depending on what is needed for reproduction within a given population.

cownose stingray during Sea TREK helmet dive

Cownose Stingray (Rhinoptera bonasus) 

Cownose rays are common and often spotted during TREKs. They are typically brown-backed with a whitish or yellowish belly. Although the coloration is not particularly distinctive, its shape is easily recognizable. Cownose rays get their name from their unique forehead, which resembles the nose of a cow.

Cownose rays grow rapidly, with male rays often reaching about 35 inches in width and weighing approximately 26 lbs. The cownose ray feeds on clams, oysters, and other invertebrates. It uses two modified fins on its front side to produce suction, which allow it to draw food into its mouth and crush the food with its dental plates.

Cownose rays are one of the most docile species of ray, which is why they are often used in touch tanks and aquariums. You’ll frequently see these friendly rays in aquarium Sea TREK experiences.

Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Though it may appear frightening, there’s no need to cue John Williams. The nurse shark, while huge, is typically not interested in humans, but prefers to dine on shellfish and coral. They are gray-brown and have distinctive tail fins that can be up to one-fourth their total length. Unlike most other sharks, nurses are smooth to the touch.

Nurse sharks are nocturnal animals that rest on sandy bottoms, in caves, or rock crevices in shallow waters during the day. A social animal, nurse sharks can occur in groups of up to 40 individuals.

While most fish, including sharks, must keep moving in order to breath, nurse sharks can remain motionless while resting on the sea floor.

sea trek puffer fish

Pufferfish (Tetraodontidae)

Look but don’t touch! Pufferfish developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water or air to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size.  Some species also have spines on their skin to ward off predators.

Pufferfish range in size from the 1-inch dwarf or pygmy puffer, to the freshwater giant pufferfish, which can exceed 2 feet in length. They have four teeth that are fused together that continuously grow throughout their lives.

Diet includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Some puffer fish crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks.

Sea TREK Sergeant Major Damselfish

Sergeant Major Damselfish (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Sergeant majors earn their name from their brightly lined sides, which are reminiscent of the insignia of a military sergeant. They are brightly colored in shades of orange, red, yellow and blue, and are characterized with forked tails and a nostril on each side of the head. One of the larger damselfish, the Sergeant Major often reaches lengths of six or seven inches, though some have been reported to reach eight inches in length.

Sergeant Major Damselfish are feisty, and can be aggressive toward other fish when protecting their nests. Perhaps they have earned their prison stripe exteriors.

sea trekker holds sea urchin

Sea Urchins (Echinoidea)

There are about 950 species of sea urchins, and they live in every ocean. Sea urchins come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the long and slender slate pencil urchin to the pincushion likeness of the purple sea urchin.

Sea urchins survive by primarily eating algae. They eat using a structure called Aristotle's lantern. It is made up of five hard plates that come together like a beak. They use their beak-like mouth to scrape rocks clean of algae. This scraping can wear down the plates, so new teeth grow to replace worn-down ones. Sea urchins move slowly, crawling with their tube feet, and defend using their sharp spines, which are sometimes toxic.

Sea Urchins have a rich fossil record dating back approximately 450 million years!

Arrow crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis)

The Arrow Crab has extremely long legs! The legs of an Arrow Crab can be more than three times its body length. It’s named Arrow Crab due to its triangular shape.

Like most crustaceans, arrow crabs shed their exoskeleton as they age. The new skin hardens with calcium carbonate, which is acquired from seawater and by ingesting their old shell. Arrow crabs are nocturnal and territorial, although they do enjoy the company of sea anemone.

sea trek dance with fish

While we can’t guarantee you’ll share your TREK with these specific ocean dwellers, we can promise you’ll have an amazing encounter with fascinating sea life, and a great TREKking experience! How many have you seen on your TREK?
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

PART 5: Tips & Tricks for Travel Savings

So many options, so little time! Planning a vacation used to be simple. You would call the airline, book your flight, then call the hotel of choice and do the same. But today, the Internet offers us additional opportunities to book travel, and perhaps save a bit of money, too. But with so many online options, how do you know what is actually going to save time and money, without adding a lot of frustration?

We tested several options, including a few popular online “discount” travel sites; direct-to-entity websites; and the old-fashioned way, calling on the phone! We used the same flight and hotel information, so that the comparison would be fair. While we can’t guarantee results would be the same with every flight and hotel combo, we can share our findings.

Our fantasy trip has us leaving Sacramento, California and traveling to Boston, Massachusetts. Our departure date is September 20th and we are returning September 23rd. We selected the Doubletree Hotel, Downtown Boston as our hotel of choice. We used the same United Airlines flight (selecting “non-refundable:” each time), and accommodations (two people, king room).

book travel on phone


Expedia provided two options, booking each entity individually, or booking a “bundle and save” package.

Expedia individual options: hotel: $873.47; airfare: $793.20 = $1666.67, “bundle and save” option $1634.38

Result: The “bundle and save” option was a bit better of the two, saving us a little over $32. The site was fairly easy to use, but we could not see the flight numbers for every flight in the list of options for our dates, so it took some searching to find the exact flights we were looking for. Additionally, Expedia partners with many other travel sites, and the constant pop-ups reminding us that we could go elsewhere were distracting.

EXAMPLE 2: PRICELINE.COM hotel:  $885.58; flight $793.20 = $1678.78

It was a bit annoying to try to find the same flight to compare apples to apples. Priceline does offer a bundling option, but it was not easy to navigate. We could not get the exact same flights we were searching for, so we skipped it.


Much like Expedia, Orbitz offers two options: booking hotels and flights separately, or “bundled”.

Orbitz, individual options: hotel: $873.74, flight $793.20 =1666.94

Orbitz “bundled” option: $1669.51

Result: Interestingly, the “bundled” option cost us an additional $2.57!


We went to the websites for both United Airlines and the Doubletree Hotel. Each site was very easy to use, quick and painless. We simply input the specifics and had pricing in no time! $893.20
doubletree website: $922.47
total: $1815.67

Result: While much easier to use, the $1815.67 total was quite a bit higher than what the travel sites offered.
Call for travel reservation


Call United Airlines:  $843.20 (includes $25 over the phone booking fee)
Call Doubletree Hotel: $922.47 = $1765.67


  • The quickest way to get the pricing was via the individual/direct websites for United and Doubletree.
  • What took the longest? Calling! 
  • Most annoying? It was a toss up between going to individual travel sites and calling on the phone. The travel sites’ constant pop-ups and ads were distracting. Calling required pushing lots of buttons before finally getting to a human.
  • Most affordable? The “bundle and save” option via Expedia. Savings between $32 - $181 compared to the other methods of booking.

It’s clearly worth the effort to shop around when traveling. Depending on your level of patience, savings can be fairly substantial if you spend some time researching your trip. What’s your favorite method to book a trip? 

Terrie Carrozzella is the Web Designer & Social Media Manager for Sub Sea Systems. Want to contact Terrie about Sea TREK helmet diving, Clear Lounge underwater oxygen bar, or FunCat electric catamarans? Email her here!

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Celebrating Mother's Day Across the Globe!

Springtime for most of us means flowers are in bloom, migrating birds return to backyard feeders, and for some, extra sneezes and tissues. It’s also the season to celebrate moms! This year, Mother’s Day in the U.S.A. is May 13th and it’s a day we honor moms, moms-to-be, or any woman who has influenced us throughout our lives.

The U.S. shares this special day with others who honor their favorite matriarchs with special treats and tributes. From Australia to Peru, traditions vary slightly, but all focus on that very special someone.

mothering sunday

The tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day began much earlier in England than it started in the United States. Named “Mothering Sunday”, the tradition began in the 16th century, and is considered to be the original Mother’s Day. The holiday has interesting roots! Initially a religious observation honoring a return to the church where one was baptized, in later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that families could gather together. The tradition of Mothering Sunday stopped with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in England, when work conditions and life patterns changed. In modern times, the original meaning of Mothering Sunday was lost and has taken the form and name of Mother’s Day.

Australia celebrates moms on the same calendar date as the U.S. Customarily, Australians don carnations as a symbol of love for their “mums”. A colored carnation signifies that a person's mother is living, while a white carnation is used to honor a deceased mother. Besides their own mothers, children honor their grandmothers and other women who love and care for them. As a mark of respect, children pamper their mums on Mother’s Day by treating them with breakfast in bed, and with gifts and cakes.


Ethiopian moms enjoy a massive celebration! Mother’s Day is an incredibly special day, honoring the love that a mother blends in her child’s life. Unlike other countries where Mother’s Day is a celebration of a single day, in Ethiopia, it is celebrated for three full days! Mother’s Day is not only a time to celebrate motherhood it also sets the tone for a new season. The three-day feast, known as “Antrosht”, includes massive meals with family and friends, and the preparation of traditional recipes of the country. Children bring the recipe’s ingredients while their mothers relax and enjoy the feast. Male children are responsible for bringing the meat, while girls bring vegetables, butter, spices and cheese. After the party, mothers and daughters rub each other’s faces with butter. After eating, families sing, dance and enjoy each other’s company.


Mother’s Day in Japan is called “Haha-no-hi”. Celebrated the second Sunday of May, children make it a point to get up early in the morning to gift their mothers with the sweet message,“Okaasan haha no hi omedetou“, and flowers as a token of love. Children also buy gifts for their moms, like pin flower silk kimonos, baby and mother kokeshi dolls, and fragrant cards.

“Muttertag”, or Mother’s Day in Germany, is observed on the second Sunday of May, with an exception for a year when Pentecost falls on the same day. Mother’s Day is then celebrated on the first Sunday of the month. Muttertag is celebrated with extreme merriment! The day has been specifically designated for showing love and respect to all the mothers of the Universe. Prior to World War II, it was a tradition to honor mothers in Germany with gold, silver and bronze medals. These medals were called “Karnickelorden”, and denoted the “Order of the Rabbit”. Children make it a point to honor their mothers by giving them cute Mother’s Day cards, unexpected surprises, small souvenirs and various other gifts. Members of the family plan to spend the day together preparing meals for their mothers.

mothers day peru

The Peruvian people organize dinners, lunches, trips and parties throughout the week in which Mother’s Day falls. The day becomes a celebratory moment and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Some really unique activities surround the celebration, including gathering at a graveyard over food and drinks to honor deceased Mothers. At the entrance gate of the cemetery, heart-shaped icons reading “Feliz Dia Mama” (Happy Mother’s Day in Spanish) are placed along with balloons. Peruvian children buy small gifts and cards for their mothers and read them poems, and families get together for recreation and high tea. It is not uncommon to see children of all ages going the extra mile, organizing surprise parties, preparing special meals and taking advantage of every opportunity to make their mothers feel special.

las mananitas

Mother’s Day in Mexico is celebrated on a fixed day, May 10th, and is celebrated in a highly colorful fashion. According to a custom in Mexico, sons and daughters make themselves present in the house on the eve of Mother’s Day. The day is celebrated with gusto, as churches in Mexico organize special masses. The highpoints of this event include an orchestra, which plays "las mañanitas", and the distribution of tamales and atole, the traditional early-morning meal, which is served to all local mothers.  It’s estimated that 200,000 extra waiters are put to work in Mexican restaurants for this special day, and families enjoy long tables piled with kilos of carnitas and barbacoa. A decent Mother’s Day lunch can easily clock in at five hours!

France’s version of Mother’s Day, or “Fete des Meres”, takes place in late May or early June, based on the Pentecost. It was not officially celebrated until 1950. On this day, moms relax and rely on their children to cater to their needs and to the chores. Gifts are given and short poems recited. A special family medal known as the “Médaille de la Famille” is traditionally gifted to parents. The day ends with a relaxing, celebratory meal.

Fete des Mere

Mother’s Day in Serbia, as well as several surrounding countries, comes with a fun and unusual tradition. Mother’s Day is part of a series of holidays — including Children's Day and Father's Day — which take place on three consecutive Sundays in December. On Children’s Day, kids are tied together and must promise to behave in order to be untied. The following Sunday, for Mother's Day, it's mom's turn to be tied up; to be set free, she must give her children treats and small gifts. Finally, the next Sunday, it’s the father's turn. He's tied up until he gives his family Christmas gifts. Then everyone sits together to celebrate Christmas.

These unique celebrations all have one thing in common. They all give moms a special day, meant just for her. What traditions does your family have, to show mom she’s special? Share yours below!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Here We Grow Again! Sea TREK, Sanya Atlantis!

Sea TREK Sanya Atlantis

Just back from a whirlwind tour across the globe, our Director of Water Operations and Safety, Carl Hanson, claimed some additional frequent flyer miles last week, as he traveled to Hainan, China, to visit our newest Sea TREK location– Atlantis Sanya! Carl, accompanied by Keenan Mayfield, Sea TREK Field Operations Specialist, checked in to train new Sea TREK staff and ensure flawless operating procedures were in place, prior to opening this exciting new entity!

Sanya Atlantis Sea TREK tank

Modeled after Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, the $1.74 billion Atlantis Sanya is an impressive and massive resort. Overlooking the South China Sea, the resort offers unparalleled excitement and larger than life experiences. The unique, ocean-themed destination features more than a dozen restaurants; a vibrant range of bars and lounges; a spa and fitness center; shopping; and luxurious accommodations.

The highlight of the resort is an incredible marine and water park, with adventures in every corner. Thrill rides and slides, dolphin and sea lion encounters, and diving opportunities combine with an aquarium teeming with over 86,000 residents, including sharks, rays and other distinctive marine life. The aquarium is the perfect environment for the soon-to-open Sea TREK attraction!

Sea TREK training, Sanya Atlantis

Carl and Keenan’s workweek in China included installation of the Sea TREK system, and the training of four new Guides and a Training Coordinator on everything from daily operations, to customer service and safety procedures. They administered a classroom session reviewing the Guide Manual, ran safety drills, and practiced mock-Sea TREK tours. All with a language barrier, a dab of jet lag (over 40 hours of total flight time), and a significant time change.

However, with all of the hard work and challenges, Keenan and Carl still managed to take in some sights and enjoy the area’s cultural offerings. They tried interesting foods like spicy pickled fish head soup, and another soup with a local spice or herb that numbs your mouth! They also “ate a lot of noodles” according to Carl.

sea trekker boardwalk tour china

The adrenaline junkies explored Atlantis Sanya’s Aquaventure Waterpark and went on an intense water slide with a floor that drops out, launching you into a near free fall! Keenan and Carl had the chance to experience a little Sanya nightlife, and they also checked out the small island of Wu Zhi Zhou. The island is bursting with activities, including Sub Sea’s FunCat electric-solar catamarans and two seasonal Sea TREK operations.

Sea TREK Sanya Atlantis

Atlantis Sanya officially opened to the public on May 1st, and the Sea TREK adventure will open in the coming months. We’re so excited to welcome Atlantis Sanya to the Sea TREK family. Be sure to check out their website for updates and more info:

Sea TREK Sanya Atlantis team

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