Lunch + Learn: AN outdoor Immersion
By Suzanne Moss
The registrants are about to board The Nature Bus. This is a one-of-a-kind ecotour bus with a beautiful mission:
To be a vehicle for transformative, shared nature experiences;
To nurture peoples’ affinity for the natural world.
Why? Because if people fall in love with nature, they are more likely to want to protect it! It is that simple. Read on to see how this process plays out . . .
At 10:30 am on a beautiful, sunny morning in late August, attendees gather outside of REI (an outdoor recreation retail chain) in Virginia Beach, VA, enlivened as they congregate. They see some familiar friendly faces and some new ones. Today’s experience has the potential for new friendships. We have nature in common.
One-by-one, the people board the bus and buckle in. The on-board oyster expert greets them with a beaming smile. With an on-board screen for visual learners and a microphone, the MC/expert guide teaches guests about oysters – their interesting history dating back to 2500 B.C. through the early colonial settlers, going on to talk about the “Oyster Wars” and even “oyster pirates.” Guests learn about oyster diseases, habitat loss, and over-harvesting that devastated their population and was a detriment to the waters. The story takes a positive twist: there’s good news about restoration efforts, habitat establishment, oyster farming and aquaculture research.
As the participants near their destination, their new-found knowledge surrounding the plight of the oysters grip their interest. Today’s experience has the potential to change our hearts.
Along the way the bus stops at the Eastern Shore Welcome Center to pick up more ticket holders and for a snack/bathroom break. Next stop: VIMS Eastern Shore Aquaculture/Seawater Laboratory! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – this lab isn’t open to the public. But today, they’re allowing us inside for a fully guided, behind the scenes tour. The VIMS scientist will enlighten us about the most up to date research being conducted at this hatchery. We will have a new understanding of aquaculture, as well as the current endeavors biologists are taking to restore the oyster (as well as the hard clam and the bay scallop). Today’s experience has the potential to make us feel grateful for an intimate learning opportunity.
Back on board, our expert guide tells us we have only heard half of the story. There is so much more to learn about the oyster! What makes this species unique? What is interesting about their anatomy? We will learn what they eat and who eats them. We’ll learn which habitat is ideal for oysters to live in. The guests listen to the fun facts trying to commit them to memory; they’ve been told there will be an optional game on the ride back with a chance to win raffle tickets! Who will be the winner of the prize? Today’s tour has the potential for a fun and memorable experience, with lots of laughter.
For the full oyster experience our next stop allows us to taste them. Imagine: Alex Lambert of Lambert Shellfish aquaculture farm greets us himself. We wade out into the water and gather around his oyster bar. He explains his aquaculture operation, the nursery program, and we also see the processing equipment behind the scenes. Out at the oyster bar, he teaches us how to harvest and unclip a basket from the shallow water, dump it onto the water bar, and how to shuck the oysters. We slurp down the oysters, slathered in sauces, slice off some bread, and sip some spirits and sparkling wine. Simply scrumptious! Today’s tour has the potential for a full sensory experience of tasting oysters and enjoying spirits.
For those who have pre-ordered fresh oysters to take home, bags will be labeled with their name (arranged as part of the registration process and put into coolers aboard the bus).
As we ride back to REI, the on-board guide will lead the guests in a discussion of the day, play games, and encourage their customers to leave reviews for the memorable tour. Today’s experience has the potential for guests to walk away with life-time memories.
Today, participants had a shared outdoor nature experience. Maybe their level of concern for the wellbeing of the oyster and its habitat grew a bit today. Perhaps they felt a transformation in their heart. The guide takes this opportunity to tell the guests that there are several ways that they can get involved in a myriad of restoration efforts. Today’s experience has the potential for guests to get involved in future stewardship opportunities.
Suzanne Moss, owner of The Nature Bus, is a NATUREPRENEUR.
“Naturepreneurs” are business owners, doing business that not only serves people, but the planet as well. She offers a service with the health and well-being of the local flora, fauna and their habitats in mind, always using the Leave No Trace principles. Suzanne is a certified Virginia elementary teacher, a Virginia Certified Ecotour Guide, a certified National Association for Interpretation Guide, a Virginia Master Naturalist, and The Nature Bus has won the All-Star Award from Virginia Green. The Nature Bus tours visit nature-related businesses and organizations along the Virginia Oyster Trail (VOT), the Virginia Water Trail and the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail. Besides tours in Coastal Virginia, The Nature Bus tours are offered across the entire state of Virginia from sea to mountains. The Nature Bus is promoted by the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) as a recognized “green business” and uses the slogan Virginia is for NATURE Lovers! For more information about this tour, and others, visit TheNatureBus.com Email: info@TheNatureBus.com Cell/Text: 757-288-9595