Sharks continue to fascinate kids of all ages. Here are five ways to plan a family trip that incorporates sea-faring adventure and facilitates a greater understanding of our oceans and the creatures that live in the sea.
1. Summer of Shark, Princess Cruises.
If your crew is known to binge on the annual Shark Week programming, you’ll want to join the cruise line’s Discovery at SEA program, offered in partnership with the Discovery Channel, for a fully immersive experience honoring the great finned creatures. Expect elevators, restaurants and other public spaces decked out in shark style as well as themed events, culinary offerings and other shark-centric festivities.
Children and teens can head to the newly designed Camp Discovery where age-appropriate shark-themed activities will be underway, including shark face painting, the crafting of shark clay models and shark inspired jewelry. For those seeking more of an adrenaline rush, ask about the shark diving and whale shark encounters available during some sailings.
2. Cancun, MX.
Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks reach lengths of 40 feet and can weigh 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancún. Two at a time, along with a guide, you'll don a life jacket or wet suit and fins before jumping in for a swim with these plankton-slurping vegetarians. No touching is allowed (the mega-fish are considered a "vulnerable species") but you can swim alongside as they thrust forward their supersize square jaws and begin filtering everything in their path like a water-born vacuum cleaner.
Contact: cancun.travel; solobuceo.com.
3. Atlantis Resort. Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Slip, slide and walk among sharks at this expansive island resort where families have access to141 acres of adrenaline-pumping water play. Head for the Leap of Faith slide at the top of the Mayan Temple, plop in an inner tube and hang on for the ride. You’ll twist and turn through a tunnel, dropping almost 60 vertical feet, before emerging in a clear, acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. For those who want to stay dry, panoramic windows offer views of Hammerheads, Reef Sharks and barracudas. The more adventuresome can don specially designed underwater helmets and walk with the sharks inside their exhibit.
4. Cabo San Lucas, MX.
Join the trip to Cabo Pulmo to experience 300 species of fish, 200 marine invertebrates as well as Bull Sharks in what is called the world’s most “robust and healthy marine reserve”. For the more adventuresome (and those over 15) consider the Cabo Shark dive that includes swimming with silky, blue, smooth hammerhead and mako sharks. The organization’s founder and professional shark dive guide, Jacopo Brunetti, is an Italian marine biologist, PADI scuba instructor, and a shark behavioral expert. His goal is to encourage shark viewing and diving as an eco-sustainable activity.
Learning to scuba dive is a great way to learn about sharks and other creatures of the deep blue sea. Tom and Margo Peyton, co-owners of Family Dive Adventures, advise families to choose family-friendly destinations where the water is warm, clear and there is no current. They often recommend Bonaire, Grand Cayman and St. Lucia for beginners and early diving practice. The company provides group and custom dive trips and has certified more than 5,500 children during the last two decades. Ask about Kids Sea Camp, during which children and their parents learn about sharks, manta rays and the latest in global marine conservation. Contact:
Resource: Check out the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week programming for a massive menu of documentaries, videos, shark cams, virtual dives and “fintastic” facts. Contact: www.Discovery.com.
Set within the turquoise waters and world renowned coral reefs surrounding Key Largo, Florida, the Ocean Reef Club's OR SEA Diving Camp offers families an opportunity to discover the wonders of the world-famous Carysfort Reef, once navigated by famous undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.
This weeklong camp gives junior divers, ages 12 to 17, the chance to become PADI certified with lessons hosted by experienced instructors on the waters of the Atlantic. Participants will explore local ship wrecks and beautiful undersea life. Though Ocean Reef Club is a private, member-owned community, the camp is open to non-members. Check for updated schedules and pricing.
Many camps at Ocean Reef Club offer overnight options for an additional cost, which includes dinner, evening activities and accommodations in dormitory-style housing with their peers. Parents are invited to partake in the summer fun while the little ones are enrolled in camp with well-appointed accommodations at the oceanfront Inn available (children can also stay with parents). Parents will enjoy access to the many activities and facilities that Ocean Reef Club members enjoy, including dive trips through on-site Cristal Clear Charters.
Home to two state parks, a national park, and a national marine sanctuary, Key Largo boasts some of the most fascinating botanical scenery in the state of Florida.
For more information: www.OceanReef.com.