Protecting Our Reefs

Coral Reef Safe Excursion

We've aligned our snorkel excursions to be Coral Reef Safe. What this means is that we have organized a short but important training that explains:

(1) The damage that has been happening around the world
(2) Current efforts to restore
(3) What you can do to help the effort

Protecting Our Reefs

Our coral reefs are amazing and beautiful exploration opportunity. While they are teaming with life, they also have a delicate balance to their existence. Lately many reefs have been struggling from a combination of disease, pollution, and environmental change. While destruction from hurricanes and disease are naturally occurring events, they can still have a significant impact on the reef taking years to recover.

Pollution from sunscreen is one of the biggest culprits to damaging these delicate ecosystems. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate are the biggest concern, however there is more to the story. Even when a sunscreen is labeled “Reef Safe” it may not be completely true. There is currently no standard definition for what “Reef Safe” means.

An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash into reefs around the globe each year. Research is finding the highest concentrations around dive, snorkel, and swim spots. Research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that these toxins weaken or stress the immune systems of the coral. In turn, it can lead to bleaching, a disease that strips color out of the coral.

The Research

Ocean temperatures above 81.7° F (31 °C) usually cause bleaching. When oxybenezone is present, the coral bleach at 78° F. So climate change along with sunscreen are two issues that when combined further undermine coral from thriving.

In 2015 Research by Haereticus Environmental Laboratory conducted testing at different reefs around Hawaii and the USVI. Trunk Bay, on St. John, USVI was found to have the highest concentration of oxybenzone at 1.4 parts per million. They also toxicity effect in concentrations as low as 62 parts per trillion. https://haereticus-lab.org/sunscreen-chemical-threatens-coral-reefs/

We also reach the limits of what science knows, meaning if there has been no research on a particular sunscreen ingredient to prove it is safe or unsafe for the reef, then does this mean it is safe? In other words, ignorance of the law is not excuse.

Concentration of the ingredient in the area is also an important factor. Even in low concentrations, the sunscreen ingredients can have an impact on the marine life. Less harmful options include mineral based sunscreens. Here is a great article on reef safe sunscreen by Consumer Reports.

How to Protect The Reef

So, how do we do to protect ourselves and our environment? First step is to focus on dressing appropriately. Clothing can do a lot to protect our skin from the sun. It is also inert and doesn’t wash off. We are not advocating for full body coverage, but whatever is covered by clothing also doesn’t require sunscreen. Second, minimal sunscreen for those areas not covered. Last, choose a sunscreen that is environmentally friendly. Below are some sunscreen products that are coral reef safe, you can order directly from Amazon.

Restoration

Think Sport

 

Blue Lizard

All Good - Kids

What We Do

In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of our excursions, we’ve established a program to:

  1. We work with all clients to help them make informed decisions on sunscreen selection
  2. All our boats have sunscreen that is known to minimize damage to the reefs
  3. Training in advance on how to protect the coral while snorkeling or diving
  4. Some of the proceeds go to fund further research and reef restoration

SeaHorse Water Taxi vs. Ferry

You've been in transit between 10 and 14 hours already by the time you land in St. Thomas. To say you are tired and ready to get to your accommodations is an understatement.

We are asked regularly why someone would choose us over taking the ferry. Below is a comparison between SeaHorse Water Taxi and the public ferry. We've made even some of the biggest skeptics that private transport is the way to go in the future.

SeaHorse Water Taxi

It starts off the night before and you are still throwing a few last minute things into your bags before going to sleep. You've been planning this vacation for months now and you are ready for it.

The next morning before the sun is up, you wake up and head to catch your flight. You get comfortable and before you know it you are on the second leg of your journey landing in St. Thomas.

 

Your flight lands around 2:00 PM. You meet your driver in the baggage claim. Your group places all the luggage into his land taxi and everyone climbs into an air conditioned van sipping on beer and water.

Thirty minutes later you arrive in Red Hook and are met by the SeaHorse Ops Manager. Everyone is transferred into a boat with comfortable seating for everyone.

The boat speeds across the waves as the salty water mists the air. The captain pulls into dock near the customs office. The paperwork is already filled out and he collects everyone's passports. Everyone sits in the boat sipping another beer or some soda this time.

He returns shortly and you are on your way again. He pulls into the docs at BVI Yacht Charters next to your boat. It is now about 4:30 PM, and you are all set to continue your vacation.

The Public Ferry

It starts off the night before and you are still throwing a few last minute things into your bags before going to sleep. You've been planning this vacation for months now and you are ready for it.

The next morning before the sun is up, you wake up and head to catch your flight. You get comfortable and before you know it you are on the second leg of your journey landing in St. Thomas.

 

Your flight lands around 2:00 PM. You are relieved that you flight wasn't delayed or you might have lost a day of your vacation and spending the night on St. Thomas waiting to catch the ferry the next morning.

You find your bags and head outside. There is some commotion and a driver asks where you are headed. You tell him to the ferry and he points to a van. Your party puts all the bags into the back of the van and climb in along with eight other people. The van pulls out and the first group climb out and collect their luggage.

A few more drop-offs, then it is your groups turn to get out at the ferry terminal. You climb out and everyone pays the driver along with a tip, not knowing what is appropriate.

At the terminal you look around and find the ticket counter. It is staffed by a nice lady and she helps you get your tickets.

It is now about 4:00 when the ferry finally leaves the dock. It is nearly time to climb on the ferry, but there is a little bit of unsettled feeling hoping you are getting on the right boat. You board with the 100 other people heading to Road Town.

The roar of the engines propel the ferry forward. You are tired and seem to slip off for a spell, you wake up parched and are glad you bought the water at the terminal. You start filling out your paperwork for the customs office.

The ferry pulls into the dock at the customs office. Everyone...yes, all 100 passengers...line up and wait to get through customs. It is finally your turn. Quick exchange and a stamp and you are out.

By now it is about 5:30 PM. You gather your group together and find a driver to take you to BVI Yacht Charter. Everyone climbs in once more and you are on your way.

You check in and drop your luggage off at the boat, it is about 6:30 and everyone is hungry. You all head out to grab a bite and any last minute provisions before starting your vacation.

SeaHorse Water Taxi vs. Ferry

International Processing Fees

Published 2/22/2019, the information below is subject to change without notice.

We often get questions about the "international processing fees" charged for guests travelling to and from the BVI. They used to be called "BVI customs fees." Many changes have happened because of security changes resulting from 9/11 and governmental increases from both the BVI and the USVI.  We now use the more accurate term of "International Processing Fees." Today, many different cost go into the collection of $60pp (per person) required to enter the BVI, and $40pp returning from the BVI to the USVI.

We are  asked, "Do we have to pay this if we take the public ferry?" The easy answer is, "yes, but not nearly as much." Public ferries get a different rate on many of the inbound fees to the BVI. However, ferry passengers still pay $20pp departure tax from the BVI. These are paid by each person before clearing through the security gate at the ferry terminals.

Other fees for visitors using the public ferry system traveling in either direction are built into the ticket price. All private operators (US or British registry) have to pay different fees than the public ferry each time they enter and exit.

The fees charged to US registered vessels are broken down in part, as follows:

From USVI to the BVI

$16pp "BVI Cruising Permit Fee" (raised Aug 1, 2017)
$10pp "BVI Environmental Fee" (new Sept 1, 2017)
$25pp document prep and filing fee
$9pp built into the cost of per boat entry fee, per guest wharfage departing the secure port in Red Hook, and BVI immigration processing fees.
After hours, Sundays & Holidays also incur BVI immigration and customs flat rate fees.

From BVI to USVI 

$20pp BVI departure tax
$8pp USVI Port Authority dock usage fee in St John or in Red Hook.
$25-40 per boat USVI Port Authority fee (based on boat size)

Private land and water taxi service delivers less wait, more personalized service, and usually no lines...to wait in with 100 of your new BFF's (Best Ferry Friends).

Rapid Customs Processing

You're On Vacation

As we serve as a water taxi to both the BVI and USVI, we need to get our clients through customs. We need to know the rules and guidelines to rapidly get you cleared to enter the country.

Nobody wants to stand in line...well maybe there are those few who go to a magical kingdom and spend more time standing in line than on vacation.

We have developed our Rapid Customs Processing program to keep you on vacation as much as possible. While you are in the boat sipping your selected beverage, relaxing and chatting with friends,  our captain goes into the customs house. With your passport, the completed paperwork, and cash fees, he works with the officer to clear you through customs.

Customs Form Completion

You will need to fill out our online form in advance, it is located at RCP Form. We take the data and manually write it on to the customs for you. As we are doing this, we make sure it is filled out properly and we have all the information the customs house needs. If there are any errors, gaps, or issues, our experienced team will know before we get to the customs house and can address them.

We recommend filling out the information sooner than later, at least a week before your travel date. We do charge a $25 per person fee for not filling out the online form in advance of travel.

Ultimately, we want you to have a spectacular vacation!

SeaHorse Water Taxi