We talked to Will about the stunning natural environment that surrounds the Ritz-Carlton, the AOTE program’s unique offerings, leading some of his favorite guest activities, and what lessons guests take home with them below.
HotelChatter: What is it about the Laguna coast in particular that makes it a
perfect spot for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment
Will Steinriede: The Laguna coast has some truly amazing beaches and rocky shores that not only provide magnificent scenery but also allow easy access to one of the most bio diverse ecosystems in the world, the Kelp Forest. Another great aspect of the Laguna coast is that it lies right along Gray Whales migration paths in the winter to spring, Blue Whales and Fin Whales summer to fall, with the occasional Killer Whales and Humpback Whales. This makes for some of the most spectacular eco-adventures in the world!
HC: How does the program fit into the resort’s overall commitment to the environment and community?
WS: The Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program is open not only to guests of the Ritz-Carlton but also to the public. So while the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel and Ambassadors of the Environment work together in producing less waste, using environmentally sound materials, planting organic herbs to be used in the resort’s restaurants, planting a native landscape, and using renewable energy sources, anyone who wants to can come have some fun and learn to do the same.
HC: What are some of the special excursions and experiences that you love sharing with guests personally?
WS: My favorites are whale-watching and snorkeling. To go out on a boat and actually witness a 90-foot Blue whale spout water 30 feet up into the air with a thunderous exhale and then raise its fluke (tail) up into the air before taking another 5-10 minute dive, or a mother Gray whale and her calf swimming side by side along the coast leaves you speechless. Snorkeling over the rocky reefs and along the kelp forests seeing so many different types of animals from the bright orange Garibaldi to the clever Two-spotted octopus that can change both the color and texture of its skin in the blink of an eye has you always looking for more.
HC: What do you want guests to take home with them after spending some time with the naturalists?
WS: I hope that after experiencing our program at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel our guests will leave with an appreciation for the environment that will bring them back into it and grow the more they experience it because a lot of what you hear about the environment these days is the "doom and gloom" of what’s happening or is going to happen if we don't take care of it. I think it was said best in Jacques Cousteau's The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: “...fear is the second-best motivator. Love tops it...," and we protect what we love. After that, if they leave with some of the knowledge about the ecosystems or organisms that we've passed on to them then that's just icing on the cake.
HC: In general, why do you think eco-tourism has become such a big trend?
WS: I think eco-tourism has been catching on because people are realizing they can go out into nature and not only learn a few things but have a ton of fun while your doing it. The Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment here at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel offers many ways to have fun eco-adventures including tide pooling, hiking, snorkeling, whale watching, body boarding, and even cooking.
[Photos: Ritz Carlton]