Owned and operated by Frank and Tammy Cummings since 1988, V.I. SNUBA Excursions is the oldest running SNUBA Operation in the world! Before launching their own SNUBA operation, Frank Cummings, a “surfing and sailing waterman from the Monterey Peninsula”, worked for Columbine International – a company whose tools and connections eventually assisted in the building of SNUBA rafts in America. Hooked immediately on the idea of launching an underwater activity that bridged the gap between scuba diving and snorkeling, Frank opened the first SNUBA Recreational Center on the island of St. John in the U. S. Virgin Islands. After proposing the SNUBA dive system to the U. S. National Park Service and receiving permits to conduct SNUBA at Trunk Bay in the Virgin Islands National Park, SNUBA was finally offered as a shore excursion tour on Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Holland America cruise lines. Today, V.I. SNUBA Excursions provides SNUBA guests the opportunity to enjoy the warm, crystal clear blue waters from both St. John and St. Thomas – and Frank and his family are doing exactly what they set out to do when they moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands all those years ago!
When asked about their favorite story from the islands, both Frank and Tammy talk fondly of raising their daughter to be a SNUBA Guide. Kaitlyn started riding the SNUBA raft when she was 3 years old. A life jacket, floppy hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and a stripped down Barbie Doll were essential gear for the ride. From Frank, “I fondly remember looking up from 10’ to 15’ deep and watching the Barbie Doll guided by my daughter’s hand, porpoising through the water.” At the age of four, she calmly asked a gentlemen clinging to the edge of the SNUBA raft what was wrong. When he replied he was a little scared she responded “Oh, you’re okay, you’re a big boy”!
Looking for some good old fashioned advice when visiting the islands? “Old fashioned manners are worth their weight in gold”, says Frank. “A ‘Good Morning’ or a ‘Good Afternoon’ will almost always result in a dazzling smile and a friendly demeanor while abrupt rudeness will turn off most islanders in a hurry!” can be.
Frank, “SNUBA is an incredible tool that enables people to conquer their fear of diving in a safe and easy manner. SNUBA Guides must have a certain demeanor – Patience and calmness are an absolute must, combined with a genuine kind regard for people. With that, you know you’re in the best of hands when you SNUBA with V.I. SNUBA”!
Late this summer, our own Alex Edelmann took to the water to meet with a few of our SNUBA operators, connect with old friends, and SNUBA with sea turtles. We told him to snap as many pictures as time would allow, and snap them he did. It would be unfair NOT to share these with you; and so what follows is a photo diary of Alex’s trip across the Caribbean. We are absolutely blessed to borrow the world’s oceans as our playground……
At SNUBA, our mission is to provide our Guests with an unforgettable three-dimensional oceanic experience. We consider ourselves blessed to borrow the world’s beautiful oceans as our playground. As a result, we consider the interaction with our oceans and coral reefs very responsibly.
While there are several causes for irresponsible underwater destruction and pollution – it’s our vow to never be one of them. We’re proud to train and work with SNUBA Operators and Guides around the world who share our respect for oceanic ecosystems and are passionate about conducting SNUBA tours with guests in a manner that maintains the protection of sensitive coral reefs and fragile sea life.
We’re fortunate to live in an age where there are several environmentally conscious choices that we can make; choices that impact both life below the water’s surface as well as above it – which is why our relationship with Kind Traveler makes so much sense!
SNUBA is honored to be one of several companies that sponsor Kind Traveler – the first ‘Give + Get‘ hotel booking platform that transforms travelers into a financial force that benefits communities, the environment, and animals. So what does this mean? In exchange for a donation to a local or global charity, travelers are given an exclusive rate to book directly with some of the world’s best hotels and unique properties! Additionally, 100% of the donations raised on the Kind Traveler platform are given to charity! Considering the size of the travel industry, Kind Traveler has tremendous potential for positive global impact.
Kind Traveler is completely different than other online travel agencies, primarily because of the way they book hotels and the manner in which they ‘profile’ hotels. Kind Traveler has created a unique technology that sends the traveler’s information from Kind Traveler’s site directly to the hotel’s booking engine to complete the transaction. This direct booking provides a significant value for the hotel and traveler, allowing them to communicate directly with each other – before, during and after their stay. In terms of the hotel profile, Kind Traveler highlights the property’s local charitable affiliation and ‘Kind Factors’ – the term Kind Traveler uses to explain how the hotel is impacting individual wellness, sustainability, and community. This unique way of telling the hotel’s story communicates a commitment to corporate social responsibility, at a time when transparency is expected!
“Our win-win platform offers solutions for everyone,” said Kind Traveler CEO & Co-Founder Jessica Blotter. “For travelers, they become warriors for good and support hotels that are making a positive impact in the world – while receiving exclusive hotel rates. For hotels, they cultivate new relationships with cause-minded consumers and take another step towards corporate social responsibility. For charities, they receive 100% of donations and a new, sustainable channel for fundraising.”
As a sponsor of Kind Traveler, SNUBA wants to do our part to help support Kind Traveler’s mission. Looking to book a SNUBA tour? When making your travel plans, please take the opportunity to ‘travel kindly’! For more information, please visit www.kindtraveler.com!
We’re excited to shine our OPERATOR SPOTLIGHT this month on Brian Heustis, Owner of Shoreline SNUBA® in Hawaii! One of the qualities that make our Guides and Operators so special is the passion they have for sharing SNUBA with their guests. A waterman at heart, Brian has passion in droves! Shoreline SNUBA operates in Maui with five resort locations and three boats. Shoreline SNUBA also operates on the Big Island with two resorts and two boats. For more information on Shoreline SNUBA, check out their website at www.shorelinesnuba.com !
I’m a waterman. I’ve lived near or on the water (a boat) for all of my life. I started off playing around in the San Diego surf as a kid and instantly became hooked. Surfing is still a huge part of my life. I got certified when I was an early teen and from that moment forward, I knew diving would somehow be a big part of my life – I didn’t know how or when, but I just knew. I got my SNUBA beginning when I was asked to start the SNUBA program for one of Maui’s largest snorkel boats.
Learning SNUBA from the ground up felt difficult at the time, but looking back, I believe this is the main reason why Shoreline SNUBA is so successful. The situation allowed me to forge my own path and learn through trial and error – which I think is the best way to learn. I’ve been leading SNUBA dives since the early 90’s and still do at least a couple times a week. Every diver remembers their first time breathing underwater. For me, being part of that is not only a huge responsibility but an honor. I, and all my guides, know that making a guest’s SNUBA experience an exciting and positive one determines, to a large part, what their relationship to the ocean and being underwater will be from that dive forward.
I’d say the biggest factor is passion. Passion is what I look for in a Guide. Passion about the ocean, and most importantly, passion about sharing it. This starts at the top and infects everyone. Another quality that all my Guides have in abundance is empathy. They understand that, just because to them (SNUBA) is second nature, doesn’t mean it is for everyone else. They remember their first time breathing underwater and how exciting, yet strange, it can be. All Guides really want to make the SNUBA Adventure enjoyable for everyone, no matter what their experience level.
The guiding principle for Shoreline SNUBA is we allow every guest to experience SNUBA at their own pace and depth. We never put pressure on anyone to dive any further than they want to. We have taken thousands of people who never actually go under the water but have the time of their lives. Our goal is FUN! I still love guiding and do it weekly to keep myself fresh and in touch with our guests. Shoreline SNUBA is also the only operation in Maui that does both land and boat based SNUBA dives. Shoreline SNUBA operates in Maui with five resort locations and three boats. We also have an operation on the Big Island with two resorts and two boats.
Both ways are an awesome way to experience SNUBA. I ask guests a few simple questions to determine what fits best. Is SNUBA diving your main goal? Is everyone in your family/group planning on SNUBA diving? Has everyone snorkeled? Does anyone get sea sick? Is SNUBA diving at a particular spot (Molokini, Honolua Bay) important to you? Does a 5-hour boat trip sound exciting? I believe that if a guest has not snorkeled, their SNUBA experience would most likely be better “off the beach“. They are simply walking in off the beach into very shallow water and can practice there before venturing out to deeper water. It really is up to our guests to decide what fits them best. I’m just glad we can offer them both!
I have taken people with no arms or legs, blind, and with terminal illnesses (Make-a-Wish Foundation). I have a lot of memorable dives, but for me, I feel taking people who are physically impaired, as well as kids, is very rewarding. Wheelchair bound people truly get to experience freedom and weightlessness all at the same time and you can see the joy all over their face. With kids I get to turn them on to something that covers 2/3 of the earth and turn their fears into curiosity.
The way they look at the world is never the same and I get to be a part of that. How cool is that!? I’ve actually taken a 12 year old kid who, 11 years later, came back to Maui and ended up working with me! He said his SNUBA experience changed his whole life. He went to college for a Marine Science Degree and wanted to do only one thing: Dive for a living.
At Shoreline SNUBA we never guarantee a guest they will see something. It’s actually an inside joke that, when a guest says, “I’ve waited my whole life to see a turtle“, we know we definitely won’t see one! That said, everyone will see beautiful coral, lots of tropical fish, maybe a turtle, octopus, eel, manta ray or even a reef shark. One nice advantage of SNUBA diving in our winter months (Dec-Feb) is the great chance they will be serenaded by Humpback whales during their dive! I think people should SNUBA simply for the incredible experience of breathing under water, and view marine life as the “icing on their cake“!
The next time you visit Maui, be sure to book a SNUBA tour with Shoreline SNUBA! Everyone at Shoreline SNUBA believes the best part of Maui is the part that is under water! Mahalo!
In our latest edition of SNUBA Operator Spotlight, we caught up with John Flynn of Sand Dollar Sports. From Whale Sharks and Ironman competitions – to breakfast burritos and the beautiful ocean views of Cozumel, this is a great interview and one we hope you’ll enjoy!
SNUBA: Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement with ‘Sand Dollar Sports’ and how the business has expanded over the years?
John: I’ve been with Sand Dollar Sports for more than 25 years. We’ve grown from a 10 employee snorkel tour to a company with multiple venues and tours with more than 120 employees
SNUBA: Tell us a little bit about Cozumel and the surrounding area and how it might differ from other vacation spots in Mexico. What advice would you give families looking to spend time here?
John: Cozumel is the jewel of Mexico. It is the home of all three branches of the military: The Army, Navy and Air Force are all based here. It’s safe and peaceful, stunningly crystal clear warm waters entice all that visit. We have a 60km dedicated bike path for very safe bicycle touring. Beautiful white sand beaches and calm waters that grace the western side are perfect for family beach activities. While the east side provides an open ocean experience with sprawling beaches and plentiful surfing locations.
SNUBA: Is it true that you run marathons and participate in Ironman competitions? Please tell us a little bit about your exploits: How long have you been doing them, how frequently do you participate, and any amazing memories or successes you can share!
John: I have been participating in Triathlon competitions since 2011. Prior to that I did individual bicycle, swimming and running races. In 2011 I began to pull it all together. I have competed in 3 – 70.3 Ironman competitions. On the last 2 of those occasions I came in 3rd place and qualified for the world championships. I have competed in 25+triathlon competitions. During a two and a half year period 2013, 2014 and 2015 I had a streak of 13 consecutive podiums and qualified for 3 world championships, both ITU and Ironman. I will be participating in the ITU World Championships taking place here in Cozumel, Mexico from Sept 13-18 2016 in the Olympic Distance competitions.
My most memorable competition was my first ITU triathlon in Cozumel. I had been able to hold on to 1st place through the entire race until km 8.5 on the run, when the 2nd place tried to pass. We both broke into a sprint for 100 yards until we were both spent. It was back and forth 5 times before the finish line. I thought I had him at the end when I sprinted by with 100 meters to go, somehow he found the strength to pull off one more sprint with 30 meters left and passed me at the finish line. I had to settle for 2nd that day but WOW what a race!!
SNUBA: What types of special foods are native to the area that a visitor absolutely must try? Are there any favorite restaurants in the area that you’d recommend?
John: Many of the native foods originate from the Yucatan or Yucatecan food. Chicken Pibil or freshly caught fish are a must try while visiting. “Sunset” Restaurant and Bar, La Choza or La Mision are some of the best restaurants on the island and a must visit.
SNUBA: On your website, we see a lot of pictures and information about whale sharks. Tell us a little about these amazing creatures and what it’s like to actually see these animals!
John: The Whale Shark experience is truly a bucket list item. These are amazingly docile fish and being in the water with them and swimming along side of them is absolutely inspiring and at the same time humbling.
SNUBA: We know that you offer several activities to your guests, SNUBA being one of them. What sets SNUBA apart from snorkeling or Scuba Diving and what experience can a visitor expect when they SNUBA? What types of sea life can they expect to see? Can older adults and children also be qualified to SNUBA?
John: Snuba is very user friendly for the entire family. It simplifies the complexities of diving into one simple program that’s fun and safe. The depth you are able to submerge to is controlled by the length of your air hose and you are professionally guided by certified snuba guide and PADI Divemaster. The Sunset beach location has an amazing diversity of juvenile reef fish and coral formations. We are also the location of the “Golden Diver Award”. Jacque Cousteau, Roman Bravo and others have their bronze busts permanently on display just off shore in shallow water.
SNUBA: Last but not least, is there a favorite story or memory that you can share related to your Adventure Business?
John: There are so many, but my favorite memories are always the kids and their shear joy when returning after the Snuba experience with us and the guides. The smiles on their face and the excitement in their voice. It opens an entirely new world for them.
Since 1973, Trilogy Excursions has been committed to operating premium sailing catamaran tours of Maui and Lãna’i that lead the industry in Hawaiian hospitality, safety standards, and ecotourism. Family owned and operated by the “Sailing Coon Family”, Trilogy has been awarded numerous accolades; most recently ranked by TripAdvisor as the #5 Tour Company in the U.S. A. and #1 in Hawaii. Selective in its amenities, Trilogy’s addition of SNUBA in 2009 to its repertoire has been a huge success. SNUBA allows Trilogy guests to swim eye-to-eye with fish, cruise with sea turtles and get a closer view of marine life without the interruption of retreating to the surface to breathe. Trilogy’s professionally trained SNUBA guides make this safe, patented-underwater diving system, a fun and easy way to take ones snorkeling experience to the next level without extensive certifications. Trilogy Excursions is known for its daily snorkeling and sailing excursions most notable their all day tour to the private island of Lãna’i. The founding members strive to benefit its families, employees, islands and community. For more information on Trilogy visit: www.sailtrilogy.com.
At SNUBA® International, we take great pride in working with operators all of the world to help make each and every SNUBA experience a memorable one. Our latest video showcases the Scuba Caribe team as they lead a series of SNUBA adventures ‘Off the Boat’ in the area of Bayahibe, Dominican Republic.
From the deck of their boats to 20 feet below the surface, the dive team at Scuba Caribe does an amazing job treating their guests to a safe, fun SNUBA experience. What are you waiting for? Make SNUBA a part of your next vacation get-a-way!
In part 3 of our SNUBA Operator Spotlight interview with Oscar Ortiz, Cabo Expeditions, he’ll tell us what makes SNUBA special and he’ll also share his favorite SNUBA memory. Enjoy!