Women We Love: Ellen Cuylaerts

By Kate Shapland
Image of Ellen Cuylaerts

Ellen Cuylaerts relocated from Belgium to the Caribbean in 2009. And recently to UK.  She has a master’s degree in modern history and education. After a career in IT she home schooled her 2 gifted teenagers and took up scuba diving in June 2011.  Soon she became a Master Scuba Diver and combined it with photographing the wonders of the underwater

Ellen’s main drive is shooting images that contribute to achieving goals in conservation of marine life and education about the importance of our oceans and preservation of clean water. She tries to capture her subjects eye to eye so that the viewer would be drawn in.

Ellen has received numerous awards for her pictures. Ellen’s work has been exhibited in Paris, St. Petersburg, Valencia, Marseille and New York. June  2017 she addressed heads of State on World Oceans Day at the General Assembly of the United Nations highlighting the plight of photographers and filmmakers engaging in protection of the oceans. She curates the UN WOD Photo competition and developed a Charter of commitments regarding ethics for UNWOD and Unesco/IOC.

As a Fellow Explorer International she became a member of the Flag & Honours Committee of the Explorers Club, having a front seat at future explorations! Since 2018 she loves to dive in the silence of caves and in 2019 she was inducted in the Women Divers hall of Fame. November 2021 she was part of an all female cave exploration team in the jungle of Quintana Roo to gain a better understanding of the underground aquifers.

Who or what is your inspiration?

Nature inspires me in everything i do. Watching fauna and flora, feeling the elements on my skin, landscapes and skies, it all makes me happy, grateful and appreciative, even in dark and difficult moments. Further I get a lot of inspiration in the books i read, musea and exhibitions. I believe that we are a sum of all our experiences and when you stimulate your senses, you feel deeper, sense deeper. Sometimes it has a downside too, as it’s hard for me to close my eyes to some ugliness going on, but overall I choose to live to the fullest and use all my senses.

Do you have a leg-care routine?

Yes absolutely, I started using Air-Lite years ago after I discovered it on a BA flight and was having issues with restless legs on a long haul night flight. I loved it immediately: the texture, the smell. It became a habit buying it on my way to or from the Caribbean where i lived at the moment. I bought the Cellu-Lite at Harrods and again I was hooked after using it just once. Since I relocated to UK, I choose the subscription on your website, the Cellulite Plan and started using the Lymph-Lite every single day, combined with the oil and the cream, my day can’t start better!

Further more I love walking, riding my bike, dancing, all activities that are kind to my legs, i need them for work, and while working, the conditions are sometimes harsh: extreme cold, extreme warm, jungle, mosquitoes, long dives, heavy gear carrying. That is the reason I’m kind to my legs when I can be.

Heels or trainers?

Mhhh both. I prefer heels for the esthetic, and I’m vertically challenged, 161 cm. I don’t have a huge collection of shoes and boots ,I do not buy new ones every season, I buy them to keep and buy nice quality. But I can really enjoy discovering the perfect pair, admiring them in the store, trying them on and realizing this is a fit for life, haha! My favorites are a leather ‘floppy’ Chanel boot, super soft leather, the perfect height heel to walk distances and steel feel woman, a very discrete fabric tip, black on black. But….i also love my sneakers made from recycled fishing gear, Adidas, Parley for the Oceans. They fit like gloves and are the perfect travel companions.

What’s the best 3 pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

Be kind to yourself
Let is go (if you can not control it, cannot change it)
If you can dream it you can do it

What’s the next big or little thing on your list?

My next big thing that is coming into fruition is a trip to the Desertas Islands in Madeira. I was supposed to go there onboard of a scientific team expedition vessel 3 years ago, but due to funding issues it did not happen yet. I applied for a permit now, on my own, and the Portugese/Madeira authorities have issued  it. Hopefully I’ll find Mediterranean monk seals.

Follow Ellen @underwaterellen