Penguins in the tropics! New submarines offer tourists dry, underwater rides
The Penguin is a compact semi-submarine with two floating hulls, a central underwater cabin and three large windows, which makes a dry, up-close encounter with bright colourful fish swimming around the reefs at two metres deep possible.(Vanessa Lucas, Seychelles Tourism Board)
(Seychelles News Agency) - For sea lovers wanting to discover the amazing marine life in the vast ocean around the Seychelles islands, taking a plunge into the crystal clear waters is the way to go.
A snorkelling or diving expedition, however, is not everyone’s favourite thing to do, leaving those who are not willing to get their feet wet to choose other options.
While glass bottom boats have long been an ideal choice, locals and visitors to Seychelles will now be able to also choose a ‘penguin experience’ to explore the underwater world of the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
The Penguin is a compact semi-submarine with two floating hulls, a central underwater cabin and three large windows, which makes a dry, up-close encounter with bright colourful fish swimming around the reefs at two metres deep possible.
The St Anne Marine Park, located about 5 kilometres from the Seychelles main island, Mahé, and one of the most popular snorkelling spot in the island nation, provided the ideal setting for the launching of a pair of these semi-submarines on Tuesday.
|The two compact semi-submarine pictured in the St Anne Marine Park on Tuesday. (Joena Bonnelame, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
The venture is being undertaken by Creole Travel Services, a local tourism business of the JFAlbert Group of companies, in collaboration the HLB company, a South Korean firm specializing in the manufacture of lifeboats, including the Penguins.
“These Penguins have been launched in the Maldives. They have five of those and 60 percent of their clients are Chinese visitors, because they love to discover. So it’s something good for Seychelles, which is trying to develop the Chinese market, but also for other groups like families and children who cannot swim,” the general manager of Creole Travel services, Guillaume Albert, told SNA.
The collaboration between Creole Travel Services and South Korea’s HLB Company was initiated by the Seychelles Honorary Consul in South Korea, who is also the brains behind the 2008 Eco-Friendly Marathon, which has now become an annual event.
The small vessels are also eco-friendly, as their motors run on battery power.
“The battery can last for eight hours meaning we can have a full day or twin half day operations on a full charge,” Roland D’Offay the director of operations at the JFAlbert Group of companies told SNA.
D’Offay explained that the two Penguins have been brought in as Creole Travel Services is in the process of replacing its aging fleet of glass bottom boats.
The initiative has been welcomed by the tourism authorities as an innovative way to increase tourism earnings.
“We need better yield from the Seychelles tourism industry. We can keep on bringing tourists but this will not increase the yield. To increase the yield we need facilities, we need activities. Bringing in the new Penguins is offering something new for the tourists,” the tourism minister Alain St Ange said on Tuesday.
|Tourism minister Alain St Ange, tourism principal secretary Anne Lafortune, Seychelles Tourism Board CEO Sherin Naiken and Joe Albert who set up the Creole Travel Services (CTS) company in 1998 exploring the underwater world in one of the new 'Penguins'. (Joena Bonnelame, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
It is hoped that Seychellois and tourists alike would be interested, with Creole Travel Services planning to offer night excursions and include educational programmes on the outings, to create awareness about the Seychelles’ marine environment.
According to Albert, the cost of one of the semi-submarines is around $115,000. The fee to ride on the new Penguins, hasn't been set yet. The penguins can carry 12 people at a time, eight on the main deck and four in the underwater cabin.