Twenty or more fun and educational eco-tours set off from Heritage House, a traditional Caymanian cottage, each week. Discreetly tucked away in the grounds of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment programme was one of the pioneers of eco-tourism in Cayman and something of a hidden gem.
Based on the oft-quoted concept that “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught,” the Ambassadors tours aim to take guests out into nature and to introduce them to different ecosystems and local traditions, explains Programme Manager, Kirstyn Werner. In so doing, participants gain a greater appreciation for the nature and culture of Cayman, and a greater willingness to preserve it.
It’s a common misconception that the 20 or so eco-tours are for children exclusively. There are certainly many tours suitable for children aged four and over, and while enrolling youngsters in evening tours can give parents a chance to enjoy a dinner out, there are also plenty of tours that will entertain and inform adults too.
Indeed, private tours, for families, birthday parties or even corporate events can be arranged. “Participating in an Ambassadors of the Environment tour can be a great corporate team building exercise,” says Nancy Harrison, Marketing Coordinator at the Ritz-Carlton. “We can always cater special programmes.”
It’s worth noting that special rates are offered to residents, which represent a 15 per cent discount on regular rates. Tours therefore start from $56.
Because the programme is staffed by graduates of environmental studies, zoology, marine biology and other naturalists, the tours are led by experts who share their wealth of knowledge with guests. However, because participants are having so much fun searching for stingrays, learning survival skills, kayaking through mangroves or conducting water-based experiments, they barely notice how much they are actually learning about sustainable living.
Twenty or so tours cover the natural and cultural wonders of the islands–from bugs and birds to cooking and history. An all-time favourite is the Underwater Photography Snorkel, which is suitable for all ages, and takes participants out on to a reef to not only witness, but capture images of, the incredible variety of marine life. For the truly adventurous, the Night Snorkel tour arms them with waterproof flashlights and introduces them the nocturnal life on the reef.
Whatever you choose to do, rest assured that every aspect of the Ambassadors tours is informed by a genuine love of nature and commitment to sustainability.