Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, has a message for you: Plant a fish. The third generation ocean explorer woke up late one night with an idea–if we can save the forests by planting trees, we can help save the oceans by “re-planting” aquatic species in degraded marine environments. The idea evolved into his foundation, Plant A Fish, which aims to empower and educate local communities through hands-on marine restoration experiences.
In the spirit of conservation and a shared love for the ocean, Cousteau and a handful of ocean conservationists, surfers, kite boarders, and other water sports enthusiasts, have come together to participate in the first ever “Water/Wo/Men” fundraising event (and companion event to the SLOWLIFE Symposium) held at Six Senses Laamu Island in the Maldives. Proceeds from the surfing event will benefit Cousteau’s Plant A Fish foundation, the Blue Marine Foundation, and Water Charity.
With over half the oxygen produced on Earth coming from the oceans, and with the seas also absorbing almost 50 percent of all the CO2 produced by humans, life as we know it depends in great measure on the protection of our water world.
“A century after the great parks of North America and Africa were created to save wilderness areas and wildlife on land, it is time to do the same with the oceans,” says Chris Gorell Barnes, producer of End of the Line, the award-winning documentary about the fate of the oceans. Joining Barnes and Cousteau at Water/Wo/Men are “Soul Surfer” Bethany Hamilton, kite surfer Mark Shinn, free diver Anna von Boetticher, and extreme wakeboarder Duncan Zuur, along with other water sports heroes and marine conservationists.
(A note to anyone reading this who loves surfing, diving, snorkeling, or swimming in an unspoiled coral atoll with great waves and reefs: This was the first Water/Wo/Men gathering held by Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives but it will be an annual event–resort guests are encouraged to join in and were given the chance to learn water sport skills from the iconic participants.)
It might all seem like just a really cool beach party, if it was not for making this event about a positive outcome for the planet. Six Senses hosted the gathering to ramp up global attention about the crisis facing our seas and to do something about it. It is a business philosophy that Six Senses wants to see spread across the entire travel and tourism industry.
“Global industrial growth, most of it very far away, has brought the Maldives to the frontline in the battle to protect the oceans. What happens to the Maldives and its 400,000 inhabitants may foretell the future of coastal regions around the globe. That is why events such as Water/Wo/Men are so vital. By offering an innovative opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Laamu Atoll in the Maldives with living water sport legends, our goal is to attract the attention of the global community and go from apathy to action in saving the planet,”says Sonu Shivdasani, the Chairman and Founder of Six Senses.
Big wave surfer, Takuji Masuda, put it more simply, “At the end of the day, it is all about kindness and caring for the Earth.”
After the watermen and waterwomen headed home, I decided to do some surfing myself at Six Sense Laamu, with Takuji’s word’s still echoing in my mind. While attending the SLOWLIFE Symposium on Soneva Fushi, and between the waves in Laamu, it has become clear to me that sustainable tourism is no longer an experiment. Six Senses and other innovative travel companies around the world have shown it can work to help protect nature and support the well-being of local communities. The real question is just how far can sustainable tourism practices take us toward a greener future, and will the mainstream mass tourism industry hear the message and also get on board?
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Costas Christ is an Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler magazine.