Filmmaker, explorer, and conservationist Fabien Cousteau—grandson of the famed Jacques Cousteau—carries on the family legacy of oceanic research and preservation through the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center. He shares his top Caribbean experiences and tips.
What are your favorite oceanic experiences throughout the Caribbean?
“We had the opportunity on one of our expeditions to dive on Flower Garden Banks—about 200 nautical miles south of Galveston, Texas—at night to experience one of the miracles of nature and see the coral spawning, which only happens once a year for two to three nights in a row. It’s the most fabulous thing to experience as a diver.
“Another would be the wonderful whale sharks that are sometimes visible off Bonaire. Being able to snorkel alongside one of these animals is quite a unique experience.
“Lastly, looking at humpback whales off the Dominican is another wonderful memory of being in the water in Marine Park and having these whales come up to you with their puffs. It’s something to be cherished because it’s very rare, and you have to be very respectful of these animals. If you go into the water, you have to be still and let them come to you, not the other way around.”
What do you hope to teach Caribbean travelers?
“It’s very simple. The goal of the voyage isn’t the destination, it’s the experience. When we go on vacation, we’re so focused on the end goal of sticking our feet in the sand and doing nothing. We forget we’re able to enjoy that blissful moment because of the efforts to make sure that the natural beauty stays that way. To be able to bring voyagers into a unique experience and delve deeper into the local flora and fauna, I think people walk away with a much better appreciation and maybe a better sense of stewardship of making sure that the next time they go back, those places will remain even more beautiful.
“Eat only sustainable foods and preferably locally grown or caught foods. Try to avoid buying bottled water and instead opt, if possible, for clean drinking sources that are not prepackaged and flown halfway around the world. If you have any questions, there are always apps that can help, such as the seafood watch app, which is free. Lastly, try to hire local people on these islands to show you some of the best that the islands offer. And that, I think, is definitely going a long way to help balance the impact that we have as voyagers.”
Why do you feel it’s important to follow your grandfather’s footsteps and focus on preserving and protecting the ocean and its creatures today?
“First of all, I’m passionate about the ocean and I’m passionate about kids and their future; both of those together are things my grandfather loved about his work and felt very strongly about. If anything, we’re facing many more dire situations today than we were when my grandfather was talking about these issues, like climate change, pollution, plastics, and all that. He’d been talking about those things since the ’60s and nowadays we’re facing challenges that are a lot bigger.”
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