Gregorio Cañellas’ obsession with the sea is one of the first things he can remember. Born in Ibiza, his childhood was spent frolicking in the rocky shallows near Hostal La Torre, which was then owned and run by his grandmother. Speaking animatedly, he recounts fond memories of taking a fishing boat over to the island of Illa Conillera, off the coast of San Antonio, where his family would cook up a wild, outdoor feast and he’d feel like they were the only people in the world. In fact, many of his happiest memories revolve around the Mediterranean, which prompted him to create Meet the Sea.
“A person’s experience of the sea dictates their future, their understanding of freedom, their imagination,” he explains. “I spent a lot of time close to the water as a youth and it had a profound impact on me.” That connection is so strong that in all his 53 years, many of them spent abroad, he’s never missed a summer in Ibiza. That time grew into an innate appreciation and respect for the element that covers seven tenths of our planet and eventually led to a series of Meet the Sea boat expeditions that combine fun, exploration and education all in one package, what Gregorio dubs ‘edutainment’.
Meet the Sea boat trips are a celebration of all things that happen underwater but they’re also educational, igniting kids’ curiosity by bringing them into the water and giving families something new to experience together.
“My generation hasn’t been the best at protecting the environment,” he admits. “But sometimes I feel like younger generations are even more detached. Meet the Sea is a celebration of all things that happen underwater but it’s educational, too. It’s about bringing kids into the water and stoking their curiosity. It gives people the opportunity to do something new together as a family. It’s a priceless experience, really — hours of nonstop discovery.” Running throughout summer, there are a range of trips to choose from.
Family boat trips depart from San Antonio three times a week (or four times in July and August) and from Santa Eulalia twice a day on Sundays. Each Meet the Sea trip (with a maximum of 30 people) runs for a fun-packed four hours and is broken down into stages. First, there’s a 20-minute introduction (conducted in English, French and Spanish), and then anchor is dropped so that people can dive straight in and get involved (inflatables are also thrown overboard to hold onto). Kids are given snorkels and then they embark on a ‘snorkel safari’, seeking out various species of fish and sea creatures that have been highlighted during the introduction.
“Most kids don’t have any idea why the sponges in their bathroom are shaped the way they are,” Gregorio says. “And for the parents, it’s the first time they’ll see their kids holding something like a sea urchin. It’s so refreshing to see mum, dad and children enjoying a new experience together.” This is where Meet the Sea is different from other boat trips, because all of the information that’s shared on the excursion has been put together in collaboration with Helena Margot, a molecular and marine biologist, who also happens to be an expert diver and champion free diver.
“The first time I met Helena a few years ago, I asked her if she wanted to learn how to snorkel,” Gregorio laughs. “And she just played me until we met up! But later, she helped me design exactly what to say about each species and how to engage in conversations that aren’t too academic. It’s more about sharing interesting facts and talking about characteristics.” Kids can expect to come across posidonia, sea cucumbers and octopus on a Meet the Sea excursion, along with sea tomatoes, a red tentacled anemone that usually only comes properly to life at night.
“They tend to sit on the rocks at sea level,” Gregorio explains. “They’re bright red and during the day they stay closed but at night they open up and little bouts of electricity run through their legs and shock small fish — that’s how they hunt. I had never seen one active during the day but then one time I was out with a little boy who was fixated on one. He kept rubbing it and eventually it started to open — I couldn’t believe it! I was taught something there and then by someone of no more than five years of age. I do the same thing on every Meet the Sea trip now so people can witness it for themselves.”
Gregorio admits that often, the parents are equally as inquisitive as the kids, asking just as many questions. That spirit is welcomed regardless of age, and the Meet the Sea team is well versed in embracing everyone. Really young kids are given life jackets if they’re big enough and can play in the water with the inflatables and SUP boards or go on an onboard treasure hunt with a pirate, while teens tend to be taken off in a separate group to learn more about diving deeper with their snorkels or learning the basics of free diving.
Kids are encouraged to embark on a ‘snorkel safari’, seeking out various species of fish and sea creatures, while teens are taught to dive deeper with their snorkels or learn the basics of free diving.
No matter their age, everyone gets to experience the magic of the underwater drone that’s deployed to reveal the bustling world beneath them. “We send it overboard and show them everything as it goes deeper and deeper toward the seabed,” Gregorio explains. “Then we throw some food in for the fish so the kids can get a proper look and then go for a swim to get some underwater photos.” Kids are also given nets at the start of each Meet the Sea tour and told to fish out anything that shouldn’t be there. “It’s a powerful but simple message,” confirms Gregorio. “Pick up what doesn’t belong.”
Later, guests get to enjoy a roast chicken feast (or a vegetarian option), which is served on every Meet the Sea tour to ensure everyone has enough energy for all of the required swimming. And for parents who found themselves enamoured with the teachings, there’s now an exclusive adults-only sunset tour, on which underwater cameras are provided so guests can start snapping all the creatures they come across. “I really feel we’re doing something very good for families,” Gregorio concludes. “The best thing is when you see kids running back to tell their parents what they’ve seen — that gives me so many emotions! It reinforces my belief in the importance of family moments spent by the sea. I’m going to dedicate all the time I have to growing awareness about that. We can be the hub that people need to come and learn about the sea.”