Exploring the Cousteau Reserve

Remarkably, on World Reefs Awareness Day on June 1st, we found ourselves in the Cousteau Reserve in Guadeloupe. This place is a diver’s paradise, a sanctuary where you can plunge into the silent world once explored by the legendary Captain Jacques Cousteau himself. And yes, you can even meet the man in bronze, resting serenely at the bottom of the sea.

Captain Cousteau first visited the Pigeon Islands in 1959, bringing with him his latest invention—the diving saucer SP-350, affectionately nicknamed “Denise.” This was the first vehicle of its kind designed to explore ocean depths. Jacques-Yves Cousteau later wrote a letter to the Director of INRA ( France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment) requesting that the area be designated a protected marine reserve due to its exceptional conditions. Promoted as one of the best spots to witness coral reefs in all their glory, we arrived with tempered expectations. After all, 65 years of climate change and ocean acidification have left their mark on coral reefs worldwide.

Having dived in various locations from the Bahamas to the US Virgin Islands, we’ve seen firsthand the devastation of these once-vibrant ecosystems. Unfortunately, the story was the same here—a handful of live corals, but the majority were dead. The tropical fish were still putting on a colorful show, but poor Captain Cousteau had lost his hand! Who on earth would commit such an act of underwater vandalism?
Nevertheless, we had a fantastic time snorkeling around the islands. We even made a video to capture the beauty and the bittersweet state of the reserve. Stay tuned for more adventures and underwater discoveries.

A plot of CTD cast data with evident warming of water to almost 30degC