My Life In Adventure Travel: Alexandra Cousteau

'My favourite place is the place I've never been to'

First holiday memory?

I started travelling when I was about four months old, so I don't really have a first travel memory. We went on my first expedition to Easter Island and I was basically on expeditions from that point on. It's been a constant reality of my life.

Best holiday?

When I was 11, I joined my grandfather [the explorer and co-developer of the aqua lung Jacques-Yves Cousteau] on his ship Calypso in French Polynesia for three weeks. I loved the camaraderie of the crew, the incredible diving, just being on a ship.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I've spent some time in Scotland, because my brother lives in St Andrews – it's really lovely. Other than London and Dublin, it's the area I know best; I really love the little villages.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Something that I've learnt from my travels – and what influences my work right now – is how water connects all of us, in very intimate ways, whether it's culturally, or physically, or spiritually. It doesn't matter whether it's saltwater or freshwater: we're intimately connected to it and therefore to each other.

Ideal travelling companion?

My film crew would have to be my ideal travelling companions. I grew up on expeditions so I had a bunch of people around me all the time, sharing the excitement of the adventure and the crazy things that happen on expedition. There's nowhere I'd rather be than travelling. It's wonderful and I love it, but it is my work.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

On expedition, you have to be a bit of everything. In my free time, if I were to take a vacation, I'd escape to go diving somewhere very remote. I wouldn't sit on a beach because I don't like the sun so much.

Greatest travel luxury?

A sleep mask. When we're on expedition we have 17-hour days, so we sleep where we can, when we can. Sometimes it's in an airport, sometimes it's in a van, and so without a sleep mask I'm lost. I get tired and then I get cranky – and that's not good.

Holiday reading?

Most of the books that I read have an environmental focus. They tend to be non-fiction. If I really want to take a break then I like mystery novels. I have a penchant for Agatha Christie, like my father who also loved to read them on expedition.

Where has seduced you?

For me it's not the place that seduces me, it's the experiences and the people I meet there. Whether it's diving with humpback whales in Maui, drinking mojitos in Havana or [having] conversations with spiritual leaders in India or going on safari in Africa. They're all equal in the magic and the mystery that they offer. My favourite place is the place I've never been to.

Better to travel or arrive?

My favourite feeling ever is arriving in a place. Touching down, the first smells, the first sights, the way the light hits the trees, the way the air smells and the way the people sound. After a few days or a week you sort of acclimatise to it, but the first shock of a new place is what I'm truly addicted to.

Worst travel experience?

On our last expedition we were travelling round the world for 100 days: we were in Delhi, we were in South Africa, in Vermala, in Palestine, and everything was smooth as clockwork. Nothing went wrong. And then we got to the heartland of the United States, where there's a church on every corner. After two days there, our van was broken into and all our equipment was stolen.

Worst hotel?

In Honduras, in Utila in the Bay Islands. I was there for a coral reef restoration programme, and the only hotel they could book for us was absolutely awful. I walked in and turned on the lights and there were about 50 cockroaches in there. Within five minutes they were in my suitcase, my toiletries bag, in my shoes ... I ended up sleeping in a hammock outside.

Best hotel?

In the middle of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, which is probably the most beautiful place in the world. It's completely pristine; you can drink water from the rivers there. The wildlife is amazing; to drive five kilometres in one of those big 4x4s takes an hour because there are just animals everywhere. You stay in these beautiful safari tents and wake up to the Delta in front of you, with antelopes and kudu and elephants and giraffes just everywhere.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

My favourite dive spot is in Bonaire, in the Dutch Antilles; it's like swimming in an aquarium. It's been a marine park for over 30 years and it has the best reef in the Caribbean.

Best meal abroad?

In London actually, two days ago: we went to Amaya in Knightsbridge, London. The meal was light, there was a blend of flavours – it was a very modern twist on Indian food. It was such a refreshing change from expedition food, which goes from vaguely bearable to the worst of the worst.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I shower, I sleep and then I go out to explore – I take to the streets to get my bearings.

Favourite city?

Paris. It's where I watched my grandfather's editing team splice the film together when I was growing up; it's where everything makes sense and I can walk around and everything is as beautiful as it ever was. I'm always amazed by the beauty and the architecture and the culture. It feels like home.

Where next?

Next I'll be going to finish my expedition in Cambodia, Australia and Belize. I'm spending the first half of September climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Maybe I'll have a rest in November, but until then I'm pretty much on the move.

Alexandra Cousteau supports the Corona Save the Beach campaign, an initiative dedicated to the preservation of European beaches. For more information, visit coronasavethebeach.org. Videos from Cousteau's recent expeditions can be found at alexandracousteau.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice