Get Into Your Sanctuary

Get Into Your Sanctuary logo alongside a spiny lobster walking across the reef
A spiny lobster leads the way into Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/FGBNMS)

Every year NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries hosts a Get into Your Sanctuary days to raise awareness about the value of our national marine sanctuaries as iconic destinations for responsible recreation. This includes events hosted by each and every site in the National Marine Sanctuary System over the course of a single week.

This year, national marine sanctuaries will be hosting both in-person and online celebrations, August 2-8, 2021. Virtual visits will take place on weekdays, August 2-6, and in-person events will take place over the weekend, August 6-8. So, wherever you are, you will have the opportunity to visit with more than just the national marine sanctuary nearest you.

But wait, there's more!

  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter all summer to learn about a different national marine sanctuary each week.
  • Tell us about your favorite activities in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary using #ILoveMySanctuary and #RecreateResponsibly!
  • Show off your own adventures in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary by entering the national photo contest. There are four different categories, including Sanctuaries at Home, so no excuse not to participate!

All summer long we'll be celebrating ways to Get Into Your Sanctuary.

2021 FGBNMS Events

We actually have several events lined up for Get Into Your Sanctuary days this year--a scavenger hunt, two virtual presentations, and a wounded veterans dive mission. Check out all of the details below!

Photo Safari Scavenger Hunt title on an image of a safari person with binoculars looking out between corals to spy overlayed photos of a fish, a crab, a sea turlte, and sea urchins
The Photo Safari Scavenger Hunt runs June 21-July 26. Winning images will be used to tell stories about the sanctuary during Get Into Your Sanctuary days in August. (Image: FGBNMS)

Photo Safari Scavenger Hunt
June 21-July 26, 2021

The 2021 scavenger hunt may have ended, but you can still join us to hear the stories behind the winning images at our Photo Safari Stories presentation on August 5th. (see below)


  1. Something Spotted
  2. Something Harmful
  3. Something Squishy
  4. Something Protective
  5. Something Curly
  6. Something Old
  7. Something Venomous or Poisonous
  8. Something Mesophotic
  9. Something Funny
  10. Something Research-related

Bonus Clue

  1. Know Before You Go - on social media

Photo Safari Stories
August 5, 2021

6 p.m. Central Time

This Get Into Your Sanctuary presentation will be stories about the winning photos from the Photo Safari Scavenger Hunt that took place June 21-July 26.

We'll talk about the animals, habitats, and situations that the photos bring to mind. You might hear about the natural history of the area and the creatures that live there, the research we do to understand and protect the sanctuary, or even funny stories and encounters we've had during the course of our work. We won't know which stories to tell until we see your photo selections.

Whether you helped us choose the photos or not, please join us to hear the stories behind them!

Register for Webinar

What's up Down Under? Discovering Banks and Seamounts in National Marine Sanctuaries
August 5, 2021
2 p.m. Central Time

Cordell Bank, Stellwagen Bank, 5 Fathom Bank, Flower Garden Banks.... these are not places with ATMS and bank tellers, these are some phenomenal ocean and Great Lakes treasures that rise up from the seafloor/lakebed and provide wondrous habitats. For Get into your Sanctuary Day, we will reveal these hidden, yet "solid," investments within national marine sanctuaries, highlight how they formed, and why banks and seamounts are incredible investments in biodiversity, not to mention how fabulous they are for exploration.. Join us on a regional tour to compare and contrast these sanctuary features. You're sure to leave with gratitude for the protection of these banks.

Register for Webinar

Presented by: Cordell Bank, Olympic Coast, Thunder Bay, Stellwagen Bank, and Flower Garden Banks national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Wounded Veterans Dive Mission
August 6, 2021

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is collaborating with the WAVES Project and Tre Charters to conduct a mission-oriented scuba diving experience for wounded American veterans. Participants will don scuba gear and dive into the sanctuary to once again serve their community and country by removing invasive lionfish as part of sanctuary stewardship efforts and helping to preserve and protect the natural resources of the sanctuary. Tools, lionfish removal training, and permits will be provided by FGBNMS.

**This event will be co-led by the WAVES Project and Tre Charters and is not open to the general public.**


Past GIYS Events

Here are a few highlights from past GIYS events:

Get Into Your Sanctuary logo overlayed on an image of a lionfish with fins flared

Lionfish: From Reef Raiders to Tasty Treats
July 31, 2020

On Friday, July 31, 2020 we partnered with The Kitchen Chick in Galveston, TX to help you Get Into Your Sanctuary in a mouthwatering way. Over 75 people joined us on Facebook for a live event to learn about invasive lionfish and why we are removing them from the sanctuary’s coral reefs. Then, we showed them what a tasty treat they can be, by cooking up the recipe below. As the folks at REEF say, let's Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em!

You can still watch the program video on the sanctuary Facebook page, any time.

Get Into Your Sanctuary logo overlayed on an image of Alicia and Michelle presenting a program in front of sanctuary banners

The recipe we cooked was Lionfish Veracruz from The Lionfish Cookbook created by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the result was quite tasty!. If you can’t get lionfish, that’s okay, other flaky, white fish will work too. Some sustainable seafood alternatives include vermilion snapper and golden tilefish. Download a copy of the recipe

A military veteran flyfishing in the sanctuary

Vet Into Your Sanctuary
August 4, 2019

A team of four boats from the Galveston Professional Boatman's Association and volunteers from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing volunteered their time to take military veterans for a day of fishing in and around Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary on Sunday, August 4, 2019. This was part of the nationally coordinated “Vet Into Your Sanctuary” event hosted by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and funded by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation with support from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Three men fishing from a boat

Anglers caught a variety of species on fly rods, including greater amberjack, cobia, strawberry grouper, mangrove snapper, barracuda, and king mackerel. Many of the vets used fly rods and flies they had created themselves.

Boats lined up at the docks behind Sea Star Base Galveston

Get Into Your Sanctuary
May 20, 2018

at Lasker Park Pool in Galveston

On May 20, 2018, Get Into Your Sanctuary Day was held at Lasker Park Pool giving us the opportunity to interact with people who already love being in the water. We set up display and activity tables near the pool where guests could learn about the sanctuary, scuba diving, fishing, sea turtles, and making reusable bags out of t-shirts.

Boats lined up at the docks behind Sea Star Base Galveston

The most popular activity involved identifying and counting laminated fish cutouts that were submerged in the shallow end of the small pool. Kids could dive down and try to identify the fish after viewing a basic fish id board set up nearby.

A boy wearing virtual reality goggles to view the sanctuary as a volunteer stands by to assist.

Get Into Your Sanctuary
August 12, 2017

at Moody Gardens Aquarium

On August 12, 2017 the Aquarium at Moody Gardens hosted Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary for Get Into Your Sanctuary Day once again. This time, our goal was to give everyone a 3D visit to the sanctuary. Virtual Reality goggles allowed visitors to 'see' the sanctuary up close and personal via several different photo sets they could access on their mobile phones.

A woman from Moody Gardens helping a young boy try on a full face dive mask as two women watch nearby.

In addition, Moody Gardens hosted an exhibit of dive gear used in the aquarium and in the sanctuary when their staff helps out with sanctuary research needs. Guests also had the opportunity to visit the aquarium's new Flower Garden Banks aquarium display. Volunteers and staff talked to more than 400 visitors during the event.

A dive club volunteer posing with a small child wearing his scuba gear and a paper dive mask

Get Into Your Sanctuary
June 25, 2016

at Sea Center Texas

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary celebrated it’s second annual Get Into Your Sanctuary Day at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, TX on Saturday, June 25th. About 500 visitors to this Texas Parks & Wildlife facility were treated to a fish scavenger hunt through the aquarium to locate species also found in the sanctuary; scuba gear demonstrations provided by local dive clubs; ocean conservation messages about marine debris and the need to reduce plastics; the sanctuary's Reef on the Road traveling exhibit on display at the aquarium; and, presentations about sanctuary expansion.

A father and child learning about marie debris at a sanctuary display table giving away reusable shopping bags.

Visitors also received a sanctuary themed reusable shopping bag to encourage more eco-friendly shopping practices.

A group of girls in Brownie uniforms wearing paper scuba masks and standing in front of a coral reef mural

Get Into Your Sanctuary
June 27, 2015

at Moody Gardens Aquarium

Since it's not easy to "Get Into" Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, we hosted our first Get Into Your Sanctuary event in the Aquarium at Moody Gardens, where we invited guests to pose in front of a sanctuary mural and interact with the sanctuary's Reef on the Road traveling exhibit.

A woman and a man releasing a sea turtle into the ocean from the back platform of a boat

The same day we took some local guests and volunteers out for a quick trip offshore on R/V MANTA to release some rehabilitated Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles for NOAA Fisheries. (All sea turtle activities were conducted under appropriate permits.)