Local business owners prepared for reopening

LOCAL BUSINESS READY FOR REOPENING – Barbara and Paul Darville (insert), proprietors of Celebrity Eco Adventure, Deadman’s say that despite the challenges as a result of COVID-19, they have maintained their property and continue to care for and properly keep their pigs. The couple assured that they are ready to open as soon as the ‘green light’ is given. (PHOTOS: BARBARA WALKIN)

For Celebrity Eco Adventure proprietors, Barbara and Paul Darville, caring for and maintaining their 19 pigs, the business property in Deadman’s Reef; and keeping five employees on staff, has been expensive.

However, according to the couple, it is the way of business, particularly in the COVID-19 era.

The Darvilles’ swim with the pigs, snorkeling, kayaking and tour beach-side business has been closed since March of this year.

The beach which was once filled with guests under umbrellas, sitting at picnic benches, and others enjoying the swim with the pigs and the water, was quiet. There were no umbrellas out and the benches were neatly stacked.

But, they both say, the facility is ready to open whenever the proverbial green light is given.

“We were closed from March 24, 2020 because of the pandemic, but we have the animals, the pigs, and we have to take care of them even though the business is closed,” said Mrs. Darville.

“So, we have the trainers and guides come in daily to feed, clean, exercise and care for them, and that has been going on for the past eight months.

“So, here we are right now waiting for the cruise ship, airlifts and tourists so that we can open up, but in the meantime, this is what we have to do,” she added.

Mrs. Darville reiterated that Celebrity Eco Adventure is ready to open anytime. “We are ready … the equipment, the premise, everything is ready.”

Currently there are 19 pigs at the adventure site – three fully grown adults, mediums range sized and six small animals.

Excitedly, the couple added that one of the female pigs is expecting, which is an additional cost, along with the $3,500 monthly feed and care for the animals.

They noted that they have two vets who look after the animals. “Every three months, the pigs get checked … as you know their diet is important, just as well as their care.

“It is a hefty bill, but this is what we have to do. All the money that we’ve made in the business, we are now putting back into it.”

Prior to the worldwide pandemic, the property employed 14 full-time staff members for the restaurant and activities – snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with the pigs – and catered to some 300 guests per day.

“Our staff worked seven days a week.”

Unfortunately, the numbers were cut to five since the pandemic. However, the proprietors noted that staff members will be returned as soon as the business can open.

Having overcome the controversy lodged on social media in late 2018 regarding the care of the pigs, the Darvilles, said that the small cay out at sea, a short distance from the shore, where the pigs like to rest, is no longer being utilized.

“The pigs, when they finished the tour, would just naturally swim out to the little cay and we would just let them go. However, at the end of the day the trainers and guides would bring them into their pen.

“Them being out there created an unwarranted uproar, which persons did not get the real facts about, but thankfully we are past that now and as you can see they are being well taken care of,” said Mrs. Darville.

As for their COVID-19 safety measure preparation and protocols, Mr. Darville said, they are prepared.

“When the first announcement was made that the country would reopen, we ordered all of our sanitization products and everything we will need. Things are ready,” he stated.

He noted that calls – local and international – come in everyday for tours.

“Presently, we have groups locally, and overseas calling, but there is COVID, the traveling measures, and, that we are also in hurricane preparedness. That is why we have all the equipment and benches stacked up.

“But as soon as the season is ended we will set up and be ready for the arrival of guests. So, after November 30 we will put out all the equipment, but as for now, the guys come in to keep everything intact,” said Mr. Darville.

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