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A Life Aquatic: Exploring Undersea Maui with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment

Though long separated from childhood, I listen raptly to Erickson’s marine lessons, which continue from Ambassadors’ eco-conscious learning center at the resort right up until we enter Kapalua Bay.

My brain stuffed with facts, “Now it’s all about relaxing out here and enjoying the view,” says Erickson. But pooping parrotfish knowledge is entertaining at any age.

The author’s encounter with a collector urchin in Kapalua Bay. Notice its spike-collected coral treasures. Photo by Derek Paiva

Ambassadors of the Environment co-founder Jean-Michel Cousteau bursts into laughter when I recall my Maui ocean exploits to him a week later with childlike wonder.

“We make it fun. If it’s not fun, we lose the attention,” says Cousteau, of Ambassadors’ curriculum, which he helped create. “The beauty is that children absorb information and it never goes away. I remember things almost to the day, of my father taking me out to either scuba dive or snorkel or whatever. Ask me what I did last week and I’m not sure I remember.”

Cousteau’s father was, of course, renowned French marine explorer, scientist, filmmaker and multi-hyphenate Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who for much of his 87 years lived, breathed and, above all else, respected the ocean and all things aquatic and taught his children to do the same. A career ocean explorer, educator and avid environmentalist, Jean-Michel, 75, founded the Ambassadors of the Environment program with marine biologist Richard Murphy in 2008, largely to inspire in children what his father inspired in him.

The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is one of four properties in the global hotel chain offering the program. Ambassador activities at Kapalua, however, focus solely on Hawaii land and sea ecosystems, their relevance to Hawaiian culture and life in the Islands, and larger relationship to life on Earth. Naturalists trained in curriculum developed by Murphy and Cousteau—who update the activity menu and materials regularly, and annually visit each Ambassadors resort—lead all activities. Even better, you do not have to be a resort guest to book an activity.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
SLIDESHOW: Undersea with a camera on Maui
Ziplining at Kapalua
Mountain, sea and spa in one package at Maui’s Kapalua Villas

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