Learn and Play With Ecological Marine Adventures
Learn. Love. Protect.
This motto defines the work of Ecological Marine Adventures, owned by the Maready family of Topsail Island.
Their main mission is conservation education. EMA offers several (very affordable) camps, classes, and experiences that are sure to enhance your family vacation (read all about them below, and make sure to use the coupon code listed at the end of this post!).
We are so lucky to have this amazing company right here on Topsail Island. Not only does EMA work to protect our beautiful beaches and wildlife, they also teach locals and tourists about our unique ecology and how to take care of our little slice of earth.
Touch tanks. Fossil Digs. Ghost Crab Hunts. Paddleboarding. Snorkeling. Marsh Exploration. Microscopes. Shark Class.... and much more.
These are just some of the ways Ecological Marine Adventures teach children and adults all about conserving and protecting our oceans and environment.
Read on to learn more about this cool local company, how they operate, and how YOU can participate when you visit Topsail Island.
First, Meet the Maready Family!
Taylor, Amber, and their kids (oh... and their dog!) are the owners and operators of Ecological Marine Adventures.
"I'm actually a local here, born and raised. So, when I had the chance to get Ecological Marine Adventures up and running on my home island, it was a dream come true. Amber is originally from Virginia, but grew up in Fayetteville. She fell in love with Topsail about the same time she fell in love with me.
The absolute best thing that I see on a daily basis is the way a child's face lights up when they hold a sea star, when an urchin wiggles in their hands, or when they catch a monster Blue Crab.
Some of these kids spend most of their days, even on vacation, inside watching YouTube. So, when they get out there and experience the same things they are watching on TV, it's a pretty radical experience.
- Taylor Maready
Adventures you can have with EMA
There are so many things that vacationers should do at EMA!
First off, the aquarium is the best rainy day (or, everyone is too burnt to go back to the beach) activity. It’s life changing to hold a ball python, or have a sea star move in your hands.
Secondly, all of their summer camps are either 1 day or 3 days a week. So, you can drop the kids off anytime during the week for an adventure they will never forget.
Regardless of the amount of time you will be on the island, there are about 5 different classes, camps, or activities you can join. Additionally, SCUBA certifications are coming soon!
Here are details about some of EMA's fabulous programs:
Touch Tank Aquarium
"The aquarium is filled with information, ocean friends, smiling faces, fun, conservation education and more!
The touch tank adventure starts with a fossil dig followed by a shark station with real ancient teeth, microscopes, touch tanks and more, including a stingray and Tad Cooper (the Bearded Dragon who thinks he's a puppy)!"
Hours: Click here for most current information.
Cost: Under 2 FREE, Ages 2 - 17 $5, Ages 17+ $3
More about the Touch Tank Aquarium, from Taylor:
"Conservation education can't just end when it's chilly outside, So we have a full lab designed to let kids learn about animals even on rainy or cold days on the island. New this year is a brand new Touch Tank Aquarium, the first on Topsail Island that I know of.
The Touch Tank is open to the public allowing them to pet a Stingray, touch a Ball Python, and hold all sorts of amazing creatures. From Hissing Cockroaches to Purple Sea Urchins, the touch tank has a lot of things that you don't get to see very often.
We have a different approach to the whole touch tank idea than most, meaning that we operate the touch tank on a catch, study, and release program. There are a few animals who will have forever homes at EMA, especially ones who might be invasive in this area, but for the most part, all of our animals will live happy lives back in the ocean. We not only want to make it a positive experience for our visitors, but also for our animals.
There's more than just animals at the Touch Tank. We also have Digital Microscopes, Megalodon Teeth, and all sorts of valuable information regarding our very own island. It's not like other aquariums where you go in and have to read the signs under the tanks to understand what's going on. At EMA, we offer a true aquarium "experience" by giving you a tour of what we have to offer. We had a ton of people come last summer, so we added more tanks, activities, and even another room in the aquarium. 2020 will be an exciting year for the Touch Tank Aquarium."
Stand Up Paddleboarding
SUP + Science classes will teach adventurers and families about the local marine environment, while exploring it from a Stand Up Paddleboard!
Class will start with ground school where you will learn the basics (like how to stand on the board and hold your paddle). Then you will set off on the water learning about the exact environment in which we paddle.
All SUP and Science Classes will learn about the Intracoastal Waterway and all the amazing species that call that environment home.
Kids can be dropped off during your Topsail Island vacation for summer camp at EMA. They can try one day or several, and will not only have a blast, they will learn so much (yes, even while on vacation!).
Ghost Crab Adventures
Learn about Ghost Crabs, their habitat, their behavior, their "why" to doing what they do and, of course, catching and holding these super cool crabs! (read more)
FREE Community Classes
Grab a friend or two and join EMA every Tuesday at 1 PM for a free community class! You will meet on the beach just North of the Surf City Pier, in front of the Welcome Center, from June 2 - September 15 for an exciting adventure. Class is about 45 minutes long.
Each family must have at least one adult with their kiddos during class. All ages welcome and all ages are encouraged to participate! (Yes, you parents!)
All equipment and gear will be provided for you each week.
NO REGISTRATION NEEDED, JUST SHOW UP READY TO HAVE AN ADVENTURE! (read more)
Sunrise Beach Yoga
($10 DROP-IN OR $70 FOR THE 10 WEEK SESSION)
Sunrise yoga is a class to admire beauty, to welcome the sun, to start your day with gratitude and to get your toes in the sand before diving into your day.
Open to all adults and teenagers. New yogis should be 12+.
Younger yogis should have an established yoga practice and be able to practice on their own mat.
Every Thursday from May 28 - July 30 (6 - 7 AM)
Meet north of the Surf City Pier in front of the Surf City Welcome Center
More about EMA programs
EMA offers Summer Camps, Stand Up Paddleboard Excursions, and Ghost Crab Hunts all summer long, but they also offer Field Trips, In-Class Presentations, Homeschool Science Classes, After School Programs, and Toddler Science Classes year round.
"I've seen lives changed because of our work with EMA, mine included. I've seen how the conservation and protection of these animals has become a top priority for these children. I mean, it's pretty amazing to see children run down the beach to pick up trash without even asking them to do so. These kids are our future, and I have so much faith in them because of what I've seen while running EMA.- Taylor Maready
The Maready's believe that education is KEY.
People often want to do better for the ocean, for the planet, but it can seem like a daunting task to change their behaviors and habits. That being said, the Maready's don't stop with only educating our local area. They travel to Nicaragua to bring conservation and protection education to the locals there.
Taylor first traveled to Nicaragua back in 2010 to go surfing with a buddy, but he quickly fell for the local culture and people. Here is a little more information about that project, and how it relates to their work back on Topsail Island:
"Our marine science lab and sea turtle project down in Nicaragua got its start back in 2018. You see, in Nicaragua it's not unusual for the locals to eat sea turtle eggs. In fact, on most beaches, you will see men with machetes watching for sea turtles to come lay their eggs. As soon as the mama makes her way up to the top of the beach, gets comfy, and starts to lay her eggs, there is often someone scooping up the eggs and putting them in a plastic bag. It was pretty sad for me to see, but fortunately in the last 10 years conservation efforts have helped educate and teach locals about the vulnerability of these animals.
With that being said, it is no easy task to try and educate and guard all of the nests at the many Nicaraguan beaches, so it still happens quite often.
So to combat that, we launched a program that records essential data on the mamas, the nests, hatchlings and excavated nests.
It's pretty incredible to see this information because, well, there isn't much information out there about sea turtles in Nicaragua.
So, we wanted to ensure that we set up a program that can be sustained while we are here in North Carolina.
To make this happen, we personally spent 6 months with our team to develop the lab and all that takes place in and around it. We have a guard that watches the nests both day and night, a Director named Xelena, who is in charge of collecting all the data, working with the nests (relocating, if needed, etc.), working with the local communities to spread awareness and keeping our beach and it's bay free of trash and pollution.
Xelena is pretty much a superhero when it comes to turtle conservation. A pioneer in her own country.
To this date, we have documented the release of 3,962 hatchlings, which include 4 different species, some of which we previously thought were not in the area. It is really exciting.
I love the ocean. I love everything about it. I love traveling to new beaches and seeing different cultures. We live in an amazing world. I couldn't think of a better time to live here than now. We have the chance to make things even better for our beautiful planet, as well as for those around us.
The time for change is now. The time to be better is now. Conservation work can be hard, it can be tiring, but it is ALWAYS, always worth it. And with this beautiful island on our side, it is always fun." - Taylor
Receive 10% off most services provided by Ecological Marine Adventures by entering Coupon Code WARD2020. This code can be used online to book ghost crab walks, SUP and science classes, camps, and more. This code may also be used if you are making a phone reservation.
Exclusions apply (coupon will not be valid on SCUBA camps, merchandise, or the aquarium entry fee).
THANK YOU to the wonderful team at EMA for giving this inspiring interview and for working so hard for the creatures and environment of Topsail Island and beyond.
Stay tuned for a future blog post in which Taylor and Amber will share their best tips for traveling with little ones! After all, they are truly the experts!
What animal would you like to see next time you visit topsail?
Share your fave in the comments. 🦀