Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Carmen Ellis, Founder of Majestic Whale Encounters

Carmen Ellis is the Founder of Majestic Whale Encounters, an eco-tourism company that provides whale encounters in Tonga, Tahiti and Norway.

This conversation is sponsored by graphic design platform Canva. Empowering millions of people around the world to design.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve come from a Zoo Keeping Background originally. I’ve always loved animals and always wanted to work in a profession where being with animals was a daily constant in my life.

Since I can remember I have always dreamt of whales and being in the ocean swimming alongside them. I have no ideas what the dreams meant except it was something I just had to experience. I’ve also always wanted to be help educate the public more on the plight of the whales, the ocean and the environment.

What better way than to take people to experience these animals in the wild in their own environment, and so I began Majestic Whale Encounters where guests could come from all over the world on small groups tours to swim with whales in different amazing locations.

After 5 years of operation, we now also include other animal encounters as well as just the ocean based ones.

I’ve always believed that if we’re able to form a true connection with the whales and other animals in their world we will then appreciate and want to protect and love them more. Our motto at Majestic is Love. Protect. Connect.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Most days at work for me involve the following (when not on tour):

I do the mum thing first thing in the morning. With a family of five, it can get hectic getting kids off to school. I also have a toddler that I try to balance work around during the days.

Thanks to day care a couple of days a week, an awesome club nearby that has a wonderful playhouse, naps and late nights, I manage to work full time hours (usually more on most weeks).

Work includes returning phone calls and endless emails, organising flights & accommodations for upcoming tours, taking online bookings, updating and filling out the many spreadsheets we have, research on future tours (which happens to be my favourite part) and the rest of the time will be spent brain storming with my business partner and working on networking and the many marketing campaigns we have going.

I’ll usually try to squeeze in a gym session and of course spending time with the girls. They are the reason I work so hard, so I don’t want to miss out on too many moments with them.

A normal day for me at work when away on tour in Tonga would involve:

  • After waking I head to the beachfront to check on the weather for the day and see if I can find any whales cruising past. I’ll head back to the house and go through any emails from the night before.
  • Then it’s time to meet my group of 8 at breakfast and give them a rundown of what we will be doing that day which generally will involve heading out on the boat for plenty of whale swimming, interaction and generally just having a great day in the sun swimming with whales in the beautiful Islands of the South Pacific.
  • After an amazing day out on the boat I’ll return back to go through any footage for the day and some more admin before organising their afternoon activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, one of our whale talks or sometimes the guests just enjoy cocktails and sunsets.
  • The last thing of the day is to have dinner with the guests and debrief over a fabulous day with the whales before doing it all again the next day. Have I mentioned that I love my job?

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes it does which is fantastic! Everything can be done online so as long as I have my laptop, phone and some internet I am able to work from almost anywhere. I think almost every café on the coast has become my office at some point.
This is perfect for me as this means I am always available for my guests and potential guests and can answer emails and phone calls no matter where I am or what I am doing while also being there for my family whenever they need me.

Without the flexibility I just wouldn’t have the work life balance that my family and I need.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance means everything to me, without it I wouldn’t be successful at what I do.

My whole business concept was originally planned around how my family can be involved and travel with me especially to places like Tonga and Tahiti where they can swim with whales and interact with our guests too.

The fact that I can also work from an office at home allows me to attend a lot of my kids school activities and special days when needed. It also allows flexibility with my husband as he is a paramedic and works shift work and weekends.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I try to set myself a daily challenge, and that is to not complain. It’s not always achievable but it really helps to keep me in a positive frame of mind and to appreciate what I have.

At Majestic we always endeavour to answer emails as soon as we can. There generally is not more than an hour or two before a reply. We try to stand out from the crowd by having a high level of customer service, it really is the most important thing to us. We want our guests to know they are important to us from the moment they contact. Even if our tour is not right for them, we always help them to find the answers they are looking for.

The first thing I do every day is wash my face and make my bed. Somehow this makes me feel like I can take on the day.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I have to say that Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a book that really inspired me to stop procrastinating and just go out there and do it. The way the book translated to me was that you need to find what makes you happy. Happiness is contagious and everyone around you feels it.

Happy Wife – Happy Life always comes to mind. So many women in particular give up their dreams to fit in with family and mainstream life, this book made me think why can’t we have both? Family and a job we love doing? This book really inspired me to go out and live my life with no regrets and have some of that rub off onto others around me

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Exercise. I find to work efficiently and think clearly especially when you’re overwhelmed with deadlines you need a bit of ‘you time’ and that means not thinking of work and totally switching off for an hour a day. So I put on a non-work related podcast and sweat it out to start the day off the right way!

Other than the obvious of keeping you healthy it is also a great stress reliever and aids in a better sleep, trust me no one likes a grumpy tired Carmen.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I would have to say Emma Isaacs. Emma owns Business Chicks, Australia’s largest and most influential community for ‘women in business’ providing them with connections, experiences and support on many different platforms.

Emma has 5 young kids with another one on the way! I just love that from a very young age Emma has always owned and operated her own businesses. She researched all the successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and is always learning new ways to go forward in her industry. A huge inspiration to women in business.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t give up on your dreams. Why can’t you have the cake and eat it too?

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” – Ella Fitzgerald.


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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.