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

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Ambassadors activities include everything from a science hike in the West Maui Mountains above the resort and coastal exploration treks to a stargazing/navigation class and an evening tidepool hunt called “Creatures of the Night.” A Hawaiian wilderness “Survivor” class blends skills such as building a shelter with materials found in nature and learning how to eat in the wild with lessons on how early Hawaiians made use of their natural environment while also caring for its future. The goal of all activities is awakening a resolute passion in children to be better stewards of Earth’s natural resources and more attuned to living life sustainably.

Explains Cousteau: “Our goal is not just to entertain and educate the kids, but [prepare them for] the day they become the decision makers of the world. Hopefully, they will be making much, much better decisions than we have done. Already, we know that when they go home [from Ambassadors] they educate their friends, neighbors and parents to better take care of our life support system, which happens to be the ocean. That’s what it’s all about.”

Tidepool exploration at Kapalua Bay. Photo: Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

Peering beneath Kapalua Bay with Erickson, a trio of small, deep indigo fish with prominent white spots on their front and tail ends, swims up close to my mask as if inspecting me.

“Those are domino damsels,” says Erikson, as we both surface. “They think they’re a lot bigger than they are. They’re really territorial so they just swim up to you trying to defend their homes.”

She disappears underwater and returns with a gleaming, brown-spotted cowrie shell. It’s my first time seeing a cowrie shell with its resident cowrie sea snail still inside.

“This is pretty cool,” says Erickson, as we snap photos. “You don’t see these this close to shore too often. This little guy better hope a shell collector doesn’t find him.”

Erickson returns the cowrie to the bottom of the bay as I secretly hope the next humans it meets will be other environmental ambassadors like us. And younger ones, at that. 

Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment 
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Kapalua Resort • (808) 665-7292 • ritzcarlton.com

(This feature was originally published in the May/June 2014 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)

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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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