What to Expect on the Trip
At Shedd Aquarium, it is our mission to spark curiosity, compassion and conservation for the aquatic animal world. Teen Science Expedition: The Bahamas provides high school students with an immersive learning experience that introduces them to marine biology by exploring the unique ecology and biodiversity of the Bahamas. Living and sleeping aboard Shedd’s research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II, expeditioners will explore coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests and more to learn about the lives of marine animals and the impacts of humans on these ecosystems. Expeditioners will step into the shoes of a marine biologist to learn about the relationships between these animals first-hand as they test field research methods in the clear waters of Bimini. The trip includes a visit to Shark Lab, where participants will gather data about Bahamian sharks and rays, and students will also connect with scientists from the Dolphin Communication Project to learn about the work scientists are doing to understand and protect these charismatic animals. Opportunities like night snorkels will give participants a chance to challenge themselves and make lasting memories with new friends. Expeditioners will leave with a better understanding of coral reef ecosystems, a clearer view of what life as a marine biologist is like and renewed compassion and curiosity for the aquatic animal world. Whether you are a marine science expert or just curious about animals and nature, this expedition will be an unforgettable experience!
On this trip, participants will
- Explore the features of Bahamian aquatic habitats with Shedd Aquarium instructors and scientists
- Practice conducting science experiments and methods in the field to learn more about animals
- Explore the culture of the Bahamas
- Participate in team-building activities that foster friendships and personal growth
- Have fun and make lifelong friends and memories
"Swimming with sharks, turtles and rays, among other things, is only paralleled by the memories made with new friends. The experience of doing fieldwork, gathering data, using scientific techniques and getting to be with the fish just really did it for me."
"It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced."
"Every day was a highlight because there was always something new to experience. One extreme highlight was the mangrove snorkel when I was floating over a southern stingray."
"I loved all the organisms that I saw and interacted with. There were so many animals I learned about for the first time that I was able to see crawl/swim right in front of me."
"My favorite thing about the program was snorkeling with the reef sharks in Triangle Rocks where I was able to come face to face with those majestic predators of the ocean. I also enjoyed being surrounded by people who shared the same love, passion and respect for one another and marine biology."
Each trip is unique! In addition to hundreds of beautiful tropical fishes and corals, past trips have seen sea turtles, eagle rays, ospreys and more!
This program is led by Shedd Aquarium’s learning specialists, who have years of experience facilitating learning programs in a variety of outdoor settings. Each instructor is Wilderness First Aid- and Wilderness Water Safety-certified. Families will meet instructors at the program orientation. The R/V Coral Reef II is captained by licensed Shedd Aquarium employees with years of experience.
Teen Science Expedition: The Bahamas is an 8-day, 7-night experience living aboard Shedd Aquarium’s research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II, which will travel from Miami, Florida, to Bimini, Bahamas. A day-long orientation will precede the trip, during which time parents and guardians can ask questions, and participants will receive snorkeling instruction from Shedd Aquarium’s dive safety officer.
Program cost includes
- Housing for 8 days and 7 nights aboard Shedd’s research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II
- Chef-prepared meals and snacks each day
- Guided snorkels with Shedd Aquarium’s experienced instructors
- Visit to Bimini Biological Field Station (also known as Shark Lab)
- Meeting with scientists from the Dolphin Communication Project
- Travel costs between Miami International Airport and the R/V Coral Reef II
- Snorkel, mask, flippers and personal flotation device
- Snorkel instruction from Shedd’s dive safety officer
- Travel costs to and from snorkel practice on the day of orientation
Airfare to Miami is not included. Once the program is fully booked, Shedd Aquarium will identify flights that participants can take together to Miami. This allows Shedd Aquarium instructors to meet all participants at the airport in Miami and travel with them to the R/V Coral Reef II. Shedd instructors will also accompany participants to the airport on their return.
Below is a sample agenda for the trip. Please note that due to unique opportunities, ocean conditions and other factors, plans might change.
Participants fly into Miami International Airport and are picked up by Shedd instructors, who travel with them to the boat dock. Participants board the R/V Coral Reef II, receive bunk assignments, call family, play icebreaker games and have dinner.
The boat leaves early in the morning for Bimini. The boat goes through customs, and participants and instructors explore the straw market in Alice Town. After lunch, participants go for their first snorkel at Cat Cay and Grassy Bay, where they might encounter sea turtles if they are lucky!
Participants snorkel the shipwreck Hesperus and participate in a beach seine to observe seabed animals up close. Participants meet scientists from the Dolphin Communication Project to learn about the cutting-edge science of dolphin social behavior and communication.
Participants snorkel through a mangrove forest and a seagrass bed, encountering and comparing the unique animals that live in each habitat. Participants perform a plankton tow and use scientific equipment to observe the microscopic ocean animals collected. They also perform a microplastics study and discuss the impact of these materials on aquatic animals.
Night snorkel! Participants survey invertebrates found in tide pools at Turtle Rocks, followed by a snorkel of the shipwreck Sapona. Later that evening, participants can opt into a night snorkel at the same location to observe nocturnal animals and their behaviors.
Shark Lab visit! Participants meet shark scientists and participate in techniques to observe sharks, rays and other marine animals. Afterward, participants go on an island walk around Gunn Cay to observe stingrays at Honeymoon Harbor to learn about the impact of tourism on their behavior.
After a day of snorkeling, science and exploration, the boat travels back to the dock in Miami.
Shedd staff members accompany participants to Miami International Airport for their flight home. If flights are delayed, Shedd staff members will remain with participants until they are safely on their way home.
Participants arrange their transportation to their home airport. They fly from their home airport to Miami International Airport. Shedd staff members pick up participants at the airport and take a shuttle to the R/V Coral Reef II. The boat leaves for Bimini, Bahamas, and returns to Miami at the end of the trip. Participants and trip leaders take a shuttle to Miami International Airport. Participants fly from Miami to their home airport. Participants’ families arrange for their return home from the home airport. The program fee includes the cost of the airport shuttles in Miami and the boat transportation. Flights are selected by Shedd Aquarium and paid for by program participants.
There is no such thing as a “normal” day on this trip, but here is a general idea of what you can expect once we are in Bimini:
7 a.m. Breakfast on the boat
7:30 a.m. Boat duties (updating captain’s log and species list, maintaining science equipment, etc.)
8 a.m. Snorkeling, science and exploration activities
12 p.m. Lunch on the boat
1 p.m. Journaling/down time
2 p.m. Snorkeling, science and exploration activities
5 p.m. Journaling/down time
6 p.m. Dinner on the boat
7 p.m. Games/Science and exploration activities
11 p.m. Lights out
The quality and quantity of food included on this trip is something that participants rave about! The boat has a talented chef on board for the entire trip who prepares all meals for participants daily. Hearty, healthy, teen-friendly meals and snacks are provided each day so participants can focus on learning and exploring. The chef can accommodate food allergies and restrictions, including vegan and vegetarian meals. Please notify us of these in the food preference paperwork during orientation.
Participants are assigned to two-bed cabins based on gender identity. Cabins include two beds, a sink and space for each participant to store a collapsible carry-on bag.
Yes, participants will have the option to shower on the boat. Freshwater supplies on the boat are limited, so participants will be encouraged to take quick showers only when needed to conserve water.
Orientation will include information about the trip, time for questions and time to sign necessary paperwork with guardians. After this, guardians will be released, and participants will try on snorkeling gear and travel to an indoor pool for a snorkeling lesson with Shedd Aquarium’s dive safety officer. Travel to and from the pool is included in the program fee. The afternoon will also include team-building activities so participants can make friends before the trip.
The participant and one parent or guardian are required to attend orientation. Legal guardians are only required to attend the first part of the day. Guardians will receive complimentary admission to the aquarium for the rest of the day. This is not an event for friends or siblings to attend.
Shedd Aquarium does not have its own parking lot. Plan to park in the Solider Field north garage for $25 (this rate is subject to change). Public transportation and carpooling are recommended.
- Reusable water bottle
- Swimming outfit
- Personal snorkel gear if you would like to use it (gear is also available to borrow free of charge)
Requirements to participate
Swimming and snorkeling
Hiking over uneven terrain
Standing for long periods of time
Lifting and carrying activity equipment
Being outdoors in hot weather or rain
Yes! Customs regulations on the R/V Coral Reef II require all participants to travel with a passport. If you do not already have a passport, apply for one as soon as possible; the routine application process can take four to six weeks. If you don’t apply for a passport right away, you will need to use the expedited application service that costs an additional $60-$75. Passport cards are not allowed due to potential travel restrictions. Go to www.state.gov for information about passport applications. Please bring your passport or a photocopy of your passport to the orientation (we suggest you make an additional photocopy to keep at home). Contact us immediately if you do not have your passport by that date. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM WITHOUT A PASSPORT.
Yes, if you are under the age of 18. Customs and Border Protection recommends a notarized note if a minor is traveling without his/her legal guardians. A notary public will be available during the orientation meeting. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE TSEB PROGRAM WITHOUT A NOTARIZED PERMISSION FORM. (Parent and/or guardian, please remember to bring your photo ID with you to the orientation for this purpose).
Yes! A medical history form and waiver is required. You must have your physician approve your participation in this program and also have your parent or legal guardian sign the form. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM WITHOUT A COMPLETED AND SIGNED MEDICAL HISTORY. If you do not bring the medical form to the orientation, please mail (do not fax) or email to:
ATTN: Juliann Krupa, Learning Programs Department
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Payment and airfare
No. Once we receive your payment, you are committed to this program and to making the payment in full and on time. If you decide to withdraw from this program, your payment will not be refunded. The success of this program depends on complete participation and payment from all registrants.
A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is due at the time of registration, and the remaining balance is due within 30 days of registration or by May 1, whichever is sooner. Registration can be completed on Shedd Aquarium’s website or by calling 312-939-2438. Please call during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.
To pay the balance by check, mail to:
SHEDD AQUARIUM SOCIETY
29017 NETWORK PLACE
CHICAGO, IL 60673-1290
Please include your confirmation number on the check.
Once the program is fully booked, Shedd Aquarium will identify flights that participants can take together into Miami. Participants are responsible for booking their own flights. This allows Shedd Aquarium instructors to meet all participants at the airport in Miami and travel with them to the R/V Coral Reef II. Shedd instructors will also accompany participants to the airport on their return.