Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s and Ocean Futures Society’s new educational program engages all ages.
By Leslie Dinaberg
It was one of those “I have to pinch myself to make sure this is really happening” experiences, walking beside environmental legend Jean-Michel Cousteau on an “ecohike” along the beautiful Gaviota Coast that borders the Ritz-Carlton Bacara. The impressively spry 80-year-old explorer and founder of the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit Ocean Futures Society has joined forced with the Ritz-Carlton Bacara to bring a new Ambassadors of the Environment program to the property.
Based on four principles—everything is connected, everything runs on energy, there is no waste in nature, and biodiversity is good—through various adventures and activities, the Ambassadors of the Environment program allows participants to discover the Gaviota Coast’s natural wonders both on land and sea, including kelp forest, a diversity of birds, the intertidal zone, and traditional Chumash culture.
The Ocean Futures and Ritz-Carlton relationship is longstanding (with programs in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Catalina Islands, Polynesia, and the Cayman Islands, among others), but the local program is new.
“I am very excited to have our newest Ambassadors program here at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, in my backyard,” says Cousteau, who lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Ocean Futures Co-Founder Nancy Marr. “This region is among the richest and most interesting in the world, with amazing natural wonders. With our great team, guests will have an amazing experience that both enriches and educates them.”
The activities—led by a team of naturalists personally trained by Cousteau and his longtime chief scientist, the charismatic Dr. Richard “Murph” Murphy—include options specially tailored to elementary school age children, young adults, families and adults. The onsite program supervisor Sara Welsh and her team are clearly stoked to be at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara. Having witnessed their infectious enthusiasm very clearly engage an often-jaded cadre of travel journalists, I can only imagine how excited the lucky kids and their families will be when this group leads them on new environmental adventures with programs like “Whale of a Tale,” “CSI: Coastal Scene Investigator,” and “Creatures of the Night,” among others.
“Having the advantage of being near Santa Barbara, there is a coastline there which is pretty unique on the planet,” says Cousteau. “We are helping people because of the knowledge that we are able to share, exploring and seeing what lives there whether they are birds or fish or kelp forests. … For me it’s a privilege not only to live here, but to make sure that the Ritz-Carlton is sharing all our knowledge and information with the young people, and their parents.”
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 1, 2019.