Kids Sea Camp: The new normal for family travel

Pondering a New (and Adventurous!) Health and Safety Normal in Family Travel

By Margo Peyton, President of Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures

Galapagos, Kids Sea Camp, family adventures, family vacations

Kids Sea Camp has been taking families on high adventure vacations like our Galapagos weeks for 15 years.

(This article appears on the the Family Travel Association website.)

The seas of the Galapagos always have a powerful surge and swell. The waves crash against a rough and rugged shoreline. The unbridled brutality of the sweeping volcanic landscape rises up from the rawness of the Atlantic Ocean in this remote part of Ecuador.

With this in view and in mind, I ask “You ready?” to my 16-year-old son. We’re sitting on the edge of a large rubber dinghy in 5mm wetsuits with hoods, gloves and full scuba gear.

“Let’s go!” he responds, his eyes beaming with excitement.

I smile, admiring this fearless kid. Here we are in the middle of heavy seas, 600 miles from the shores of the mainland, and he’s locked and loaded for one of the most exciting shark dives in the world.

With a sweeping gesture at the surrounding ocean, the dive instructor, who has completed his briefing, jocularly shouts “The pool is open!” His instructions are: make a military role off the dinghy, descend slowly to 60 feet and then swim through the heavy current to a rocky pinnacle, where we are to grab hold and wait. Wait for what drew us here – hammerheads and a few Galapagos sharks.

All the family divers on the small craft – parents and kids alike – shove regulators in their mouths, secure their face masks and roll backward into the choppy water. We swim and float down 10 feet, then 20 feet, then deeper to our maximum depth of 60 feet. It is calmer beneath the waves. I can see that my son too is pleased to be off the boat.

We edge over to the pinnacle and do as instructed. And, sure enough, out of the blue abyss they come – first a school of a hundred hammerheads, then, passing just a few feet above our heads, a large Galapagos shark. To cap it all off, as we do our safety stop in 15 feet of water at the end of the dive, a young 25-foot (that’s small!) whale shark glides slowly by, seeming to inspect us as much as we marvel at its grace and ease.

Establishing a New Normal

Some would say that what I’ve just described is terribly dangerous, for adults let alone children. Others might say that asking me to write about keeping children safe and healthy while traveling is, well, almost insane. But, while these kinds of adventurous experiences are fairly normal for my family and others with whom we have traveled, it is no less standard for us to take any child’s welfare and security very, very seriously, whether we’re trying challenging things or traveling to less remote and more sedate vacation destinations, such as Bonaire, Grand Cayman, St. Lucia and more.

And so, while we recognize that mainstream travelers are more preoccupied by (still important) safety and health considerations like how to stay hydrated and fed with reliable food and water, how to secure valuables, where to purchase trustworthy travel insurance and even when to apply sunscreen, we deeply wish that the notion of adventurous family travel – actually, of any kind of family travel – didn’t strike to the heart of their deepest fears.