Published On: Mon, Jan 27th, 2014

Over 150 Attendees Explore Undersea Life at SnorkelFest 2014

volunteersGRAND CASE, St. Martin - Over 150 people of all ages arrived on Pinel Island on Saturday for a special day of fun and discovery at SnorkelFest 2014. The free, public event was created for both residents and tourists by the Les Fruits de Mer Association, and is the first of four Wildlife Discovery Events the Association will host in 2014.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that so many people came out to try snorkeling and discover the incredible underwater world of St. Martin at our first annual SnorkelFest,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes, “Pinel is home to a tremendous variety of fish, coral and other marine plants and animals, so it was the perfect spot!”

Blue skies and sunny weather set the scene for SnorkelFest to captivate attendees above and below the water. Over 70 people enjoyed free guided snorkeling tours and instruction from PADI instructors on the Réserve Naturelle’s special underwater trail, thanks to ECOSNORKELING. For some, it was their first-ever peek below the surface–for all, a chance to explore the island’s vivid underwater landscape.

Event-goers got the scoop on undersea life from a marine biologist, a local teacher, and other experts on marine flora and fauna at the festival’s Marine Life Discovery Station, hosted by Mark Yokoyama, Les Fruits de Mer co-founder and author of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of St. Martin. Visitors to the Station learned about the underwater life and habitats found on the Pinel snorkeling trail, the relationship of the reef ecosystem to terrestrial, mangrove, and coastal ecosystems, and the habitat protection and the scientific research that happens in the Réserve Naturelle from displays, signs, and exhibits created by Yokoyama and the Réserve Naturelle. Posters featuring fascinating facts about local marine animals like mantis shrimp, bluehead wrasse and hawksbill turtles proved especially popular.

SnorkelFest attendees also explored the sea from above, with free Stand-Up Paddle Board and transparent kayak activities offered by Caribbean Paddling. Kids of all ages participated in ocean-inspired art activities, including creative activity pages developed for SnorkelFest by a local artist and coloring sheets featuring local wildlife of the sea and coast.

Visitors also had a unique opportunity to learn about local flora and St. Martin’s special coastal environment on the Guided Coastal Walk. The Walks were led by environmental engineer Béatrice Galdi, who represents the Conservatoire du Littoral, an institution responsible for protecting coastal spaces, in both St. Martin and St. Barths. The tours took place along some of the Réserve Naturelle’s nature trails, which connect Pinel’s three beaches and provide spectacular views of nearby islands. A beach cleanup followed each of the tours, and SnorkelFest participants were able to remove large amounts of seaborne trash that had accumulated on one of the spectacular eastern beaches.

“We’re happy so many people enjoyed SnorkelFest–and that we had such an amazing team, especially the lifeguards and dive instructors that volunteered to make sure everyone was having fun safely,” said Yerkes. “And we can’t wait ‘til our next event in April!”

SnorkelFest 2014 was made possible by the hard work and talent of over 40 volunteers; the support of Les Fruits de Mer’s event partners, the Réserve Naturelle de Saint-Martin, the Conservatoire du Littoral, ECOSNORKELING and Caribbean Paddling; the in-kind donations of The Scuba Shop, Ocean Explorers, and Caribbean Liquor & Tobacco; and the generous sponsorship of Island Water World, Yacht Club Port de Plaisance, Delta Petroleum, The Summit Resort Hotel, Karibuni and Yellow Beach.

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