Could you give us more insight into the Ambassadors of the Environment program and its purpose at the resort?
The Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program is an education program dedicated to engaging people of all ages with their natural and cultural environment, both above and below water. The partnership with the resort is unique to the Ritz-Carlton and is based on the legacy of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s organisation, Ocean Futures Society, with the Ritz-Carlton Maldives being the first to run the program in the Asia-Pacific.
We engage guests with the local marine environment and the world as a whole; through fun & interactive games and activities, as well as excursions to all corners of our beautiful lagoon. This program is so valuable, because it is led by scientists who are extremely engaged with our local environment and what it can teach us. We bring guests on a journey of discovery and share with them what we can see. There are few other opportunities to be so directly involved with marine research and conservation.
What are some of the environmental programs that you introduce at the resort for the children and what kind of knowledge do you impart on them whilst there?
We have a wide variety of engaging and fun activities for the children, highlighting important topics within sustainability and the environment. For example, we lead beach walks to collect ocean trash that wash ashore, sometimes from distant countries. We teach how these can be repurposed, with the children designing fashion pieces, culminating in a fashion show.
Additionally, our Cities Under the Sea Snorkelling excursion is a favourite for children. We give a brief presentation about the different forms of life here on the reef, and how they support each other and the ecosystem as whole. Children have the opportunity to ask questions about marine biology or their favourite animals and learn about their importance to the environment. We then head straight out to one of the many beautiful reefs which is only a short boat ride away, to see the reef for themselves & to experience interacting with the animals in their natural habitat.
Do you see these programs having an impact on your guests? I.e. Do you find them becoming more mindful?
Guests are keen to learn and are often shocked or in awe by the facts they hear. It gives guests the opportunity to ask all of those questions they have about the local environment, about the marine species they spot around the resort, and about the ocean as a whole. Additionally, it opens up conversation about how we as individuals can be more ‘sustainable’ and environmentally aware, with many guests taking away important messages that can translate into their ‘real lives’ back home.
What are you most proud of since the program was introduced?
We are most proud of the way it enriches guests’ stay and has meaningful impact. They come away enthused about the environment and our coral reefs. We are especially proud when we are able to change certain misconceptions, for example that all shark species are dangerous to humans. Additionally, this is the first resort to host a drone research program, with guests joining naturalists as they pilot a flying drone over the reefs surrounding the resort. They can learn first-hand about the wildlife, including pods of dolphins, turtles and sharks, marine debris, such as ghost nets and plastics that wash up onto our reefs, and the team’s ongoing research using marine conservation technology.
What work still needs to be done? What are your biggest priorities and challenges?
The drone research projects are ongoing and will be for the foreseeable future. This work will enable us to understand more about the wildlife surrounding the resort, to gain further insight into how and when the ghost nets drift onto our reefs and how we are able to detect ocean plastics with drone technology.
Our biggest priorities are to continue engaging both new and returning guests with the environment, the local culture and of course our coral reefs.
We will always face the challenge of monitoring and removing marine debris from the ocean; this is not an issue that will improve much over time, so we must be proactive in our protection of the reef and the wildlife here.