Sea Trek: An Amazing Experience
When I first got to the Sea Trek experience at Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, I noticed that the diver was engaged in conversation with some boys who were asking all kinds of questions. He answered them knowledgeably then said to me after they left, “That is my favorite part of my job”, and I knew what he meant. He loves his diving and wants to inspire others to love his craft. This is Howard Halperin and he made the whole diving experience at Schlitterbahn magical.
I said to myself, “Okay, this is a pretty big tank and it looks really deep but you can do this.”
You can’t really tell how deep down the diver is because of a lack of depth perception due to the water. He looked like he was rightthere but somehow I knew he wasn’t. It seemed to me from the top of the tank he was kind of deep.
I figured I was not going to chicken out on this and noticed the lifeguard by the wall ready at a moment’s notice and felt safer knowing he was there. This guy seemed ready to jump into action if he was needed and was very cognizant of his surroundings.
This is a very popular activity and people were ready to jump right on in and experience deep sea life but Schlitterbahn asks you to answer some health questions honestly and sign a waiver. Those with medical conditions are asked to note them so that they can be screened properly.
The other diver, Mike, was very knowledgeable and answered every question he was asked. He made sure everyone knew their hand signals and how to behave in case of emergency. He answered every single question this guest could think of… and well.
Andres was the instructor who explained the process of what we were about to go through and explained the magic of the helmet that would allow us to enter the magical world of deep. He gave us instructions calmly and explained what to do in case of emergency. Apparently, Howard was not a few feet away as he seemed from the top of the tank, in fact the tank was HUGE and there were 100,000 gallons of gulf water being piped in there. He spoke in a calm, patient tone and that helped calm our nerves. We were instructed on how to adapt to the changing water pressure, hand signals and other essential bits of knowledge. I figured as long as I just did what he said, things would be alright.
South Padre Island is on the Texas/Mexico border so we often have visitors from Mexico come up who don’t understand much English. Thankfully, Andres was bilingual and they were given their instructions in Spanish. The Sea Trek is not a quick joyride but one where you must listen to, respect and obey the instructions you are given by the Schlitterbahn employees and it was a good thing Andres had that skill so that they could understand what to do in spite of the language barrier.
Once they feel you understand what to do and how to do it, the trained employees watch carefully as you go down the ladder.
They then secure you with this magical helmet. The helmet allows you to enter a wonderfully different world.
You have two trained professionals accompanying you down into the depths so that is very reassuring. I followed their instructions down to a t as far as adjusting to the changing pressure. They were patient and that made me feel better.
I gently hit the bottom of that cavernous tank with that magical helmet – the magic is how you can keep breathing comfortably at the bottom of a tank so far deep down with so many gallons of water all around you. Down there, movement was slowed but not laborious. Silver air bubbles bounded up towards the surface chasing each other as if in a playful game of tag. The fish seem to not mind you, as you intruded on their world. You are way farther than you could ever imagine when you see the tank from the bottom. I was nervous but breathed in and out comfortably and even deeply in that helmet and nothing fogged up, nothing went wrong; I was in another world and surviving. The people on the surface have no clue how cool it is down there with all the stuff they have for you to discover. They think you are just walking around a tank but they can’t see what you can see.
Your friends and family up there have no clue how cool what you are experiencing is.
I touched a velvety smooth stingray that was the most beautiful copper color I had ever seen. (Of course, the barb was removed. Schlitterbahn did their best to make sure that this was as safe as it could be.) The perfectly harmless stingray felt just like velvet and they put it right in front of us. The kid who was next to me looked funny with this thing that resembled an old 1950’s movie I saw called, “It Came From Outer Space,” and I laughed remembering the movie poster. You CAN laugh in these helmets and survive. I was smiling the whole time.
He did a “crab attack” where we were allowed to hold hermit crabs and feel them as they came out of their shell. The sensation is much different when you feel it underwater as opposed to on land. The second I no longer wanted to feel the crab’s pricks on my palm, I gestured and Howard took it away. Those guys were so good at making sure you were never uncomfortable at any time.
You get to see a pirate down there in full pirate costume and get really close to him. There is a ship you walk around with “rusted” sides as it was a shipwreck that the pirate obviously manned. You walk like a spaceman in this different yet beautiful world as many big fish investigate you while the smaller ones dart around in quick spurts. The diver, Mike, began to do “magic tricks” with his gloves on. He wears gloves because the fish can bite him and they do know that he is the one feeding them so they are attracted to him more than us. He fed the fish right around us and it was so cool being in their world.
I followed the kid and one diver as we made our way to the exit, reluctantly, might I add but I will never forget the silver spheres constantly changing shape as they rose to the surface. Howard was behind me and before we climbed up the ladder he had to do an “Armstrong” and jump with no gravity pulling him down. This reminded me of how lucky I was to be in their world. When you come out of there, you want to explain to people what you just experienced but you can’t. How do you tell someone how ice cream tastes or what the water at Schlitterbahn feels like on a sizzling hot day? How do you tell someone what it felt like to have thousands of gallons of water rushing under you at the Boogie Bahn or what the drop feels like in your stomach as you free fall on a ride? Even the people there on the surface have no clue how awesome it is down there.
After we got out, Howard showed me the names of the types of fish that were in the tank with me (ALL were donated by local fishermen.) That tank was pure saltwater from the Gulf but it was perfectly clear. Most people think the water is murky because all they have ever experienced is the water on the beach that is constantly stirred up by the waves, currents, winds, etc. This was certainly an eye-opening experience for me (all puns intended).
Even as I was leaving Howard began to answer questions from another curious guest.
I am very blessed to continue to meet the nicest, most intelligent and interesting people on South Padre Island. Count Howard Halperin as one of the Island’s people you must meet. If you are interested in getting certified in scuba, I would definitely suggest contacting him at 479-530-1246 for he made my first venture into the deep one of wonder and sheer awe. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.
If you have not tried the Sea Trek experience, YOU MUST!! It is safe, cool, affordable and AMAZING. If you did this, you would be one of the few who can say they did it as there are only THREE Sea Treks in the world: Orlando, Dominican Republic and here on South Padre Island. It was totally safe and they were there with you every step of the way… literally. With this first venture, you can go on to scuba diving or exploring more of the underwater world. It is very affordable at $25.00 and the experience is priceless. I want to go back and do it again soon. You really must experience this to make your visit to South Padre Island truly incredible and if you live here, this is certainly one thing that you MUST experience.