Groups like to visit the Caribbean because it's affordable, accessible and, above all, enjoyable. From Barbados to the Bahamas, they flock to the islands because of their sunny weather, swaying palm trees, warm waters and gorgeous beaches. And also: because of their novel wildlife. In particular, their marine life, which swims into visitors' hearts whenever they have the opportunity to experience it.
Because marine-life encounters are so memorable, meeting planners would be wise to keep them in mind when they're planning their next Caribbean event. Here are five such encounters that set the bar:
Wading With Sharks (The Bahamas)
The Bahamas' new megaresort, Baha Mar, is known for its massive size and spectacular amenities, including a 100,000-square-foot casino, a 30,000-square-foot spa, six swimming pools and more than 20 restaurants, bars and lounges. One of the resort's most surprising features, however, is The BEACH Sanctuary (pictured), an onsite conservation and ecological education center at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar where guests can interact with native wildlife in their natural habitat. Among the many available activities is an opportunity to wade into tidal pools to mingle with stingrays, sea turtles and nurse sharks.
An Underwater Submarine Expedition (Aruba)
If you want to see marine life, you'll be hard pressed to get a good view on the surface. That's why De Palm Tours in Aruba offers its Atlantis Submarines Expedition, which takes groups 130 feet underwater aboard a real submarine. Through the portholes, attendees will be able to see two shipwrecks, coral reefs and an abundance of colorful tropical fish -- all without ever getting wet.
Snorkeling Amid Pristine Reefs (Puerto Rico)
Although snorkeling isn't an especially unique activity, Puerto Rico's Palomino Island is an especially unique place to do it. An uninhabited private island off the coast of Fajardo, it's a locus of fun for guests at Waldorf Astoria's nearby El Conquistador Resort, which ferries guests there and back for a variety of recreational activities -- including snorkeling, which is spectacular thanks to the clear waters and colorful reefs that surround the island along with bright schools of tropical fish.
Swimming With Stingrays (Antigua)
Tropical fish may be pretty, but their "cool" factor pales in comparison to stingrays, which you can experience up-close-and-personal at Stingray City in Antigua. Guests take a short speedboat ride to a shallow pool with a white sand bottom that's surrounded by a beautiful coral reef. There, attendees can stand up or swim with the stingrays -- which Stingray City promises are "very friendly and gentle" -- while also feeding them, photographing them and snorkeling alongside them.
Saving Sea Turtles (Bonaire)
Worldwide, six of the seven sea turtle species are classified as threatened or endangered due to human actions and lifestyles. The Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire is home to three of those species: the hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles. Groups that want to contribute to these species' survival can do so by working with Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, a nonprofit whose mission is protecting and conserving endangered sea turtles. The organization offers several opportunities for hands-on education, including nest-monitoring excursions during which attendees will comb the beach for signs of sea turtle activity, and in-water surveys, during which attendees help the organization monitor sea turtle populations by snorkeling around Bonaire's coastline to find and count specimens.