When Disney Cruise Line guests arrive at Castaway Cay they are greeted with beautiful, white sandy beaches, and just below the surface of the crystal blue waters, the ocean is teeming with marine life, including swift-moving stingrays.
Guests can feed, touch and snorkel with gentle stingrays during a special adventure in the shallow lagoon of Disney’s private island in The Bahamas. Ken Knowles, island animal programs manager and native Bahamian knows these graceful creatures very well.
“As a little kid, I had two dreams. I wanted to be a scuba diver or a pilot,” Ken said. He’s now accomplished both!
Being surrounded by water in The Bahamas, scuba diving was a much more accessible hobby, and although the vast ocean made him nervous early on, scuba diving led to a respect for the environment and an eagerness to learn more.
For some guests visiting Castaway Cay, it may be their first time seeing the ocean. Younger guests are often skeptical about venturing into the stingray’s domain, but by the end of the experience – through education and hands-on learning, it can be hard to convince them out of the water.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know you can have that kind of impact on someone,” Ken said.
The team dives deep – no pun intended – into the conservation side of their hard work, explaining why and how they take time to preserve the local ecosystem.
“People come here to see the natural beauty. If we don’t take care of, or consider the earth and the things we do, this would not be possible,” Ken said. “We keep the animals protected. We use what we need. We recycle. We preserve.”
With more than 10 years working for Disney, he’s honored to mentor others through his experience.
“It’s a privilege to share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years with the future leaders of the operation,” Ken said. “But it’s also rewarding to have the opportunity to learn from new talent that join the team and to be able to combine our experiences, to make what we do better. We have excellent crew who are good at what they do.”
The guests and Ken’s fellow crew keep his days exciting and inspiring. He has immense pride sharing the beauty of his country – and the creatures of the ocean – with guests from around the world.
Disney has been investing in conservation efforts across The Bahamas for more than 25 years, supporting more than 20 organizations working to protect the ocean and the diversity of life it holds. Keep following along throughout April as we share more stories of Disney Planet Possible in action!