By Suzanne Maxx ©World Team Now
Continued; Part 3
World Team Follows Fiji’s Lead
World Team follows Fiji’s lead in the Pacific Island Region as we journey through Eco resorts, transforming islands. Recent catastrophic events have put the spotlight on the vulnerability of islands to the forces of climate change and the world is taking notice. As World Team Now’s increasing focus is on islands and we write about their transformation and simultaneously work to chart a future, this blog becomes more relevant. Many islands are now facing a dynamic similar to what Fiji and other islands have already gone through— in the recent past, for example, four hurricanes have hit island regions in the United States territories and beyond. To re-develop these islands, in the same way, invites a repetition of earlier flaws in infrastructure development, especially considering the increased risks due to climate change. Instead, there is an opportunity in the midst of the crises to make different choices about how to restructure, a chance to evolve and learn from the past. In the process of restoration, Fiji’s leading Eco approach is of value to observe, including their different choices about energy ownership. The use and allowance of community renewable energy microgrids, and how to collectively give aid to one another is worth consideration. Together, let’s look at some islands resorts of Fiji.
Please read the first paragraphs in Part 1 for the context of this blog within the series.
So too, our love for the ocean is individual and our work with the dolphins and floating in the ocean is a personal expression, eyes around the world have been opened to the world within the ocean, due to the gifts that Jacque Yves Cousteau passed forward. There are sweet memories of how Jacque Cousteau inspired us with his words and actions at the U.N. ‘s Earth Summit and Global Forum in Rio in 1992, three years into the journey of the World Team.
The grand reopening of the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort (JMC), in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu, continues the legacy of ocean exploration that lives on for the whole Cousteau family, with educational programs and experiential activities related to everything that has to do with the ocean. Like sea glass that is tossed in the ocean’s current to become more luminescent and smooth over time, the resort’s transformation mirrors the fabulous recovery after the Category 5 cyclone, TC Winston. The JMC bears the Cousteau name, now an iconic brand for ocean exploration and education, thanks to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the Marine Biologist, Diver and Explorer, being a true pioneer for the oceans and all species that make the ocean their home.
The ocean philosophy of the Cousteaus, comes alive here at the resort, passing the love of the ocean forward to future generations. The Jacques Yves Cousteau said, “People protect what they love.” This resort and its programs help continue the legacy of giving back experientially, as Jacques Cousteau’s philosophy is more than mere words; “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.” The experiential educator Jacques Cousteau not only passed down his passion and love of the ocean to Jean-Michel Cousteau (his son) with his non-profit Ocean Futures Society, but his living legacy continues to inspire the next generation of The Cousteau Ocean Legacy. Each Cousteau family member contributes, with a diversity of personalities to express their love of the ocean.
“It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert” –Jacques Cousteau
Down to the next generation, to Aquanaut Fabien Cousteau, JMC’s his grandson, who now carries exploration to new depths with the newly launched Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center. Fabien continues his stand for the ocean as he champions sharks, and most recently broke his Grandfather’s world record, staying underwater for 31 days. World Team Now applauds the Cousteaus’ collective vision, for us each to use our lives, with the gifts we each have, to leave a legacy that embraces, each person, species and what can be contributed to the oceans and our common home. Jean-Michel too has done that and passed it forward. World Team Now aligns with Fabien Cousteau’s approach to ocean education and gave him the “Pioneer for the Planet” award for what he is envisioning now.
Celine Cousteau, Jean Michel’s daughter, is also doing her part to expand the family legacy with Cause Films and preservation of species on the land and under the water. Her works range from indigenous tribes in the Amazon to exploring possibilities on Easter Island. The legacy of the whole family continues passing forward a wealth of knowledge that has wisdom for us all. The extended Cousteau inspires family’s efforts altogether support our message; that there is a place for everyone.
The Cousteau lineage comes with political will that is a timeless call for the oceans, and humanity’s role in living with what dominates our planet. Cousteau’s stand was successful in influencing two USA Presidents, of different political parties, both to see the value of the ocean and to take action to designate, first, a 1,200-mile chain of Northwest Hawaiian Islands a Marine National Monument, and now, through President Obama, a four-times-expanded protected area of the ocean. Even the adjacent area around the JMC in Fiji has now become a Marine preserve and the Cousteau team is working to create more marine protected areas that will hopefully remain for future generations. Here is a chance to Explore the Pacific Island Marine Sanctuaries with Jean-Michel Cousteau (his most recent book),
In Fiji and other areas of the tropical Pacific, many villages have established marine protected areas where, in order to ensure a healthy ecosystem, the local residents don’t allow fishing. Enforcing the ban on fishing depends on community support for protecting the reefs, which are part of the local culture and can provide economic benefits through tourism and spillover of fish to the areas where harvesting is allowed.
At the Jean-Michel Cousteau (JMC) Resort, there is an ocean experience or program for every age. The JMC rides on the legend of passing the ocean wisdom of stewardship to all in the family, to explore, teach, research, and inspire others with ocean adventures, also in the luxury resort setting. Cousteau’s mastery in passing forward an underwater experience through television, film, and every source of presentation imaginable continues as the heart of the experiential education and woven through the resort experience.
While there, you can go for one of the extraordinary scuba dive adventures. More advanced divers can get their Dive Certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, some of the best scuba pros in the world. Leading ecological tourism, Jean-Michel Cousteau created L’Aventure, a flagship dive operation at the ocean side Fiji resort. A leading eco-advantage at the JMC is the resident marine biologist Johnny Singh, who does more than lead incredible scuba diving and snorkel adventures. In the evenings, he gives an educational slide show with topics that range from “Coral Reefs” to “Shark’s Biodiversity.” There are over a dozen dive sites to choose from, and one of the top ten dive locations in the world is Namena Island Reserve, an uninhabited protected area with a fish and bird sanctuary. On a Namena dive, there are fabulous opportunities to see larger species, including reef, white, and black tooth sharks, tuna, barracuda, and stingrays, plus hard and soft coral, which all add up to make this a world-class dive site.
The JMC leads with their numerous ocean programs, for youth and adults alike; diving adventures that now go beyond bringing back a wealth of information pass on stewardship of the ocean to inspire the next generation of aquanauts.
The region is full of beautiful tropical birds that are making a comeback. In the protected Namena Island Bird Sanctuary, you can spot the threatened Red-Footed Booby. These birds can dive up to almost 100 ft. to catch their ocean prey.
The Cousteau team is working to have more marine protected areas. Recently, the Nukubalavu Marine Reserve was formed for the next 20 years from a local initiative. Johnny Singh shared, “I’ve seen a lot of change in the last ten years, but I still see in October the southern Humpback and Sperm Whales which migrate from Australia—they are breeding and calving—and the Silver Spinner Dolphins can be found breaching year around.” Johnny explained that since 2002, with the Marine Protected Areas, the community fights to restock the reefs and repopulate fish. The Ministry of Fisheries has helped the comeback and Dr. Richard Murphy from Ocean Futures Foundation has been another knowledgeable source for their program.
Marine Biologist Johnny Singh © Photo By Suzanne Maxx
The lessons learned help JMC build a sustainable destination resort with systems that bio mimic nature, and use nature for balance. They use natural plants for pesticide control, which is a leading approach among Eco Resorts. The wastewater filtration system is designed to create a biodiverse natural pond and wetlands environment for natural self-cleaning. The drinking water comes from the village and uses four stages of advanced filtration, and ultraviolet light for purification. The Medicine Walk continues the legacy of Niumaia Kavika, a famous medicine man who worked there to pass on a wealth of knowledge about the use of local plants for their healing and beneficial properties.
Plants are key and the Mangrove Reforestation program works with the seeding and tagging to restore the ecosystems and prevent further coastal erosion. The Coral and Giant Clam Farms are two initiatives that support eco goals too. The coral fragments are collected, regrown, and replanted on reefs. The Giant Clam Farm protects the growing years of the clam in the ocean by re-planting them in protected areas to husband their aging. Giant clams live beyond 100 years, can weigh over 500 lbs. and are overharvested—being a sought-after delicacy has made them increasingly scarce.
There is a lot to take away from this Eco Resort about life’s systems, with age-appropriate experiential learning, which lives throughout all the fun ocean programs of the Cousteau family. The resort makes interactive marine biology accessible to all people of all ages, with programs for Adults, Bula, Teens, and 6–12-years groups. A Mama is customarily assigned to every child guest under the age of five years, for free, and families are well catered to beyond what they learn. At the JMC, all can be pampered, and learn about the ocean.
Organic Garden at JMC Resort © Photo By Suzanne Maxx
One thing that helps make JMC unique is Navia Navia, a private island that offers guests exclusivity and privacy, and can be rented for various amounts of time in order to spend sacred alone time in paradise with the one you love. The food at Cousteau is something to write home about. Fifteen years and growing, the organic gardens offer fresh local island vegetables, tropical fruit, edible flowers, and herbs growing on the two acres that are surrounded by island flowers and play areas. Both Fijian style farm- and sea-to-table make for pure culinary heaven, with a global influence. The organic garden is a rarity among resorts in the Fiji Islands, which gives JMC a healthy-body ecology lead. The culinary options are exquisite and scrumptious, with some of the best Asia-fused Pacific fare influenced by the talented Executive Chef, Raymond Lee. Chef Lee supervises the traditional Fijian “Lovo” feast celebrated every week at the resort, with delicacies cooked in the fire pit by hot embers covered with banana leaves. Lee offers a Junior Chef program where youths can harvest the plants for meals and learn about the cradle-to-cradle systems, including composting. The garden and children’s play area is a lovely venue to spend time in and around, with programs to support the growth of all.
Spa Bed © Photo By Suzanne Maxx
The JMC spa massage treatments follow suit, with all-natural and locally harvested coconut oil, gifted therapist hands, native Fijian plant essences, and the Bobo massage.
Eco is incorporated, along with luxury, in all the systems at the Cousteau Resort, in the Oceanside bungalow Bures that are replete with LED lights, solar on-demand hot water, and all the cushy comforts, such as a hammock and huge bath that are needed to thoroughly enjoy island life. Throughout the resort, efficiency is integrated with lighting motion sensors or timers on equipment, and the resort has a comprehensive recycling program. Read more about the sustainability efforts here.
Wedding © Photo By Suzanne Maxx
The Cousteau Resort is an ideal place to get married. There are many romantic wedding packages to choose from in an extraordinary setting, and it becomes more economical combining the honeymoon and wedding together at the same venue, with many wonderful activities that can add to the beginning of a loving lifelong adventure, including local fishing, touring in a glass bottom boat, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, volleyball, tennis, kayaking, eco-touring, medicine walking, and Fijian storytelling.
The JMC and the local village Nukubalavu balance the tourism industry that supports the local economy by employing villagers, and by having the charity Savusavu Foundation for the village support one another. In Nukubalavu we found; family. Most of the village of Nukubalavu is the driving workforce at the Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort. Guests staying at JMC get to visit the village and see the culture and extraordinary dance. One family from the village of Nukubalavu was instrumental in World Team’s entire journey with Fiji (soon we will share more about the extraordinary people that helped make the journey to Fiji next, but a special shout out to Iowane Ritova and Andrea Fono). I was welcomed to stay in the village and shared a Fijian feast of native delights. I learned of the village’s needs, for water, sanitation, renewable energy, and saw the opportunity for a future project for World Team Now. I met with the local Ratu in the village and shared Kava. We are thankful to the villagers, especially Iowane Rivota who has become a World Team member and has been active in supporting and sharing WTN’s efforts in Fiji. World Team Now gained another partner in the Village of Nukubalavu in our UN Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Sustainable Solutions Oceans Opportunities on Small Island States (SOS-IS).
A hermit crab race is a regular fundraiser event for the Savusavu Foundation striving to give back to the community through various efforts, including raising funds to help build a kindergarten teamwork is needed as all of the villages hard hit by TC Winston can still use support.
The staff at the JMC that keeps the native Fiji Bula genuine comes primarily from the nearby villages of Nukubalavu who live out the Fijian legend of consideration and love of others and bend over backward to make sure every child, adult, and mangrove, is respected and cared for in this Fijian island experience.
A population of 200 village staff work at the JMC. General Manager Bart Simpson explained, “Half of the villagers had lost their homes in the two tidal waves from TC Winston.” A local villager was running for higher ground as fast as he could and confessed, “By God, I think I’m going to die, my house is following me,” because it was being carried by sea 10 meters away from him.
The Cousteau architectural philosophy includes a lineage of interest to build with the ocean, which is the challenge these islands face at this time. To resist the temptation of a rock wall, and move up away from the sea to reclaim land is a challenge. Once the land is underwater there is a question about boundaries. Adjacent Boundaries of National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) is indeed a United Nations conversation about a sustainable future in a process for large ocean states like Fiji. There is a sustainable energy vision for the 25 Bures on the 17 acres at JMC, and future generations of staff, their kids or grandchildren, continue the legacy. “The Ocean is reclaiming land every year” explained Bart Simpson, the Resort’s Manager, who has noticed a change in the eight years since he arrived. Bart said, “Moving towards ecology affected by climate change and sea level rise, we have been losing land in a short timeline… True to traditional Fijian culture, the JMC strives to be sustainable, and multi-cultural.” The Cousteau family’s commitment to the ocean is to demonstrate innovative solutions, educate, and be stewards for all the species that find a home in the ocean.
Savusavu art © Photo By Suzanne Maxx
The Savusavu local arts and handicraft section of the Farmer’s Market share the locals’ use of natural resources, with unique handmade gifts that are sold by village artists, farmers who sell produce, and performing musicians. J. Hunter Pearls provides a rare opportunity to find that precious rarity of a pearl in its raw natural environment because the Savusavu Bay’s underwater oyster farm offers not just the oyster and the pearl, but also ocean wisdom. There are many gifts to take away from this region, but the value of a family’s legacy is immeasurable, as are the experiential souvenirs tattooed on the heart when learning to thrive with and in the ocean. This is ingrained in the Cousteau Resort experience and is a timeless present.
It is hard to leave the JMC without feeling like you are leaving home, a place where all belong.
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