The underwater eco-museum adventure in Cannes

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Raquel Romans at the underwater eco-museum in Cannes


We turned down Promenade Des Angles, Nice's waterfront four-lane avenue. It is flanked by a red stone walkway, five miles long, that curves under palm trees, past casinos and fabled restaurants. Traffic was light, and we drove out of the city with relative ease. We zipped up the ramp to the A8 motorway, and our driver flicked on the radio and turned up the volume, doing a world-class impersonation of the great trance DJ Paul Oakenfold.

Port Camille Rayon

Row of yacht at Port Camille Rayon, Cannes

Image: FORTLOC/Khalid Bari

We were heading to Port Camille Rayon, situated between Antibes and Cannes, with about 800 yachts parked in long white rows by the foothills of Préalpes d'Azur. The van stopped on Avenue Freres Roustan, and we walked the rest of the way down floating docks to a 72-foot Sunseeker Predator.

Maybe he was smiling because we were in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the South of France. And that's our business - introducing gorgeous places to discerning travelers. Lucky for us, this coastal stretch on the Cote D'Azur was slated for that cool day in late March.

The Yacht

Raquel Romans about to board Sunseeker Predator yacht

Image: FORTLOC/Khalid Bari

It's hard to appreciate the full majesty of the French Riviera by land. While you'll find plenty of shared boat tours, the best path is to charter a yacht.

We chugged away from the harbor on the deep blue water, and the light waves were handled with ease by the streamlined British vessel. We followed the coastline, rounding Pointe Croisette and its Russian Orthodox church, and aimed west across the Bay of Cannes, where the stars spend their summers. But it was still too early to be a hotbed for ocean-going yachts.

After a session with the hair and makeup artists, I slipped into a beautiful white bathing suit. The media team was gathered on the stern, gearing up with speedlights, cameras, and precision microphones. One of them fiddled with a drone remote control, calculating flight maneuvers for the flyover footage. Everything was state of the art, and they were all full of enthusiasm for the coastal scenery. I was ushered to the bow where the drone hovered above.

Raquel Romans on Sunseeker Predator yacht

Image: FORTLOC/Khalid Bari

The Sunseeker increased its speed on the crisp, deep blue waters, but my eyes kept looking out for the drone, modeling for which is another game altogether! I sat down on a light beige cushion. It was showtime - time to pose for the signature Fortloc Cote d'Azur campaign.

We stopped briefly at the famous La Pointe de L'Aiguille via a ride on a tender that had tailed us from the port for a quick shoot. The gorgeous pebble beach should be familiar to eagle-eyed movie buffs. It was one of the locations in Taxi 5 and the French art-house picture, Une Fille Facile. After completing a few lines at the beach, it was time to move on.

Raquel Romans at La Pointe de L'Aiguille

Image: FORTLOC/Khalid Bari

We sped off to the underwater eco-museum, a collection of sculptures by British artist, Jason DeCaires Taylor. Beyond the intrigue of being able to explore these remarkable pieces of art 15 feet beneath the surface, the museum seeks to draw attention to the declining state of the world's oceans.

The Underwater Experience

The underwater filming crew included Jerome Espla and his team from Poisson-Lune Productions, a Cannes-based underwater media production company. I had an expert diver, Ioana Stoicescu from Mesophotica, to help me navigate the museum. Mesophotica is an environmental consulting company with expertise in scientific scuba diving. Fortloc was paying whatever it cost to acquire absolutely remarkable footage.

Loana Stoicescu off the coast of Île Sainte-Marguerite


I put on a full-body wetsuit, jumped in, and buckled on a weighted belt. The water was freezing, and I thanked God for the wetsuit. Mind you, I live in Miami now and can't handle swimming without a wetsuit in anything less than 80 degrees! I did need some additional gear, like water gloves to fend off any frost-bite risks. On the other hand, Jerome's team looked very comfortable despite the temperature.

Beneath the surface were those world-renowned sculptures I'd seen only in photographs, glistening in the dappled light. One statue was of an 80-year-old fisherman, Maurice, with deep lines etched into his brow. His face spoke to the soul. I realized how much these waters must have changed during his life at sea. It evoked a timelessness and beauty but was also a cry for help for the world's oceans. I reached for Jerome's hand, and he helped me kick deeper, closer to the haunting carvings.

We captured some amazing photos and footage of the beautiful underwater art. But when we surfaced, we noticed French water police had arrived on the scene! What have we done now? Did we hire the wrong crew?

Underwater crew at Écomusee Sous-Marin


The officers stood up in their official tenders with consequential frowns. Crew from the water to the yacht spoke in hushed tones. We wondered if it could be our oxygen tanks within the perimeter. Jerome had permits for the tanks, so the issue would get resolved quickly, assuming that's what the fuss was about.

After much suspense, Alex, the production lead of the expedition, told us that boats are officially not permitted within the designated eco-museum. And Jerome's boat was 3 ft inside the boundary.

The police had further explained that we were amidst a finely balanced ecosystem, one which has been continuously degraded and polluted. This area is now strictly protected. And understandably so, now filled with mostly jellyfish, the coral reefs long vanished; this spot was the victim of careless activities of boaters in the past.

Sculpture at Écomusee Sous-Marin


After the police left, we returned to snap more photos and capture additional footage. We even had close encounters with gorgeous-looking jellyfish and a variety of other sea-dwelling creatures. Once we had all we needed, it was time to return to the Sunseeker yacht and prepare for the next adventure - a helicopter ride at the Cannes airport.

Under the late afternoon golden light, we chugged back to the harbor, shooting scenes from the yacht. This time, Elijah made it to the van, where the driver waited by the docks. Before I reached the door, I turned back one last time and looked at the clear blue waters. It was obvious to me that a trip to Cannes wouldn't be complete without snorkeling in the Mediterranean. It's an experience anyone will cherish, perhaps the most, from a trip to the French Riviera.

In my next post, I'll cover more things to do in Cannes.