Remember that first experience of snorkeling through warm, crystal clean water and looking down into a world of vibrantly colored corals and endless marine life. That’s what hooked me decades ago. Today our coral reefs are threatened as never before. However, by following some simple steps you can become a reef-friendly traveler helping to protect our coral reefs.
Make Sure Your Travel Operator Is Eco-Certified
Begin at the beginning when you first start planning your trip. Do your research and find the best eco-certified dive operator or resort at your desired destination. Is that live-aboard eco-friendly? They should have that information on their website, if not ask questions and if they don’t answer those questions appropriately, cross them off your list, there will be plenty of others that will be proud to tell you about their programs. Check the reviews that previous guests have offered. By cross-checking you can avoid operators that are simply green-washing. (photo – Eric Madeja-WWF)
There are services available like Green-Globe that certify eco-resorts and have listings on-line. Plus, Blue Ocean will shortly have an eco-resort/operator directory available that will provide you with options. You can check through our past articles for leads, for example see our recent article; Sairee Cottage Diving Koh Tao a Model for Eco Tourism.
Leave Plastic At Home
Remember to protect marine life and be reef-friendly by leaving your single-use plastic items at home, instead use reusable alternatives for toiletries, etc.
Remember that many third-world travel destinations do not have adequate waste removal infrastructure, meaning that those plastic products that you discard might end up in the same ocean that you are swimming in. Better than leaving single-use plastic bags, etc. at home, consider discontinuing their use altogether. (photo – Greenpeace)
Remember that many countries are facing up to their plastic pollution issues, so beware that you do not bring plastic items to a destination where they might have strict laws against them. For example Kenya is now heavily fining providers of plastic bags. If you must have a straw for your cocktail, your eco-resort may not offer them, so, bring your own reusable substitute, its a good habit to get into.
Search our past articles, Banning Throw Away Plastics is just one of the many we have written addressing single-use plastics.
Make Your Next Trip More Meaningful as a Citizen Scientist
Catch the newest wave in travel. Try voluntourism and pitch in; help restore a coral reef; replant a mangrove forest; monitor fish or participate in beach clean-ups. There are many travel destinations that offer conservation activities to their guests. When you become a citizen scientist you can learn, have fun and do something great for mother nature. Bring your family along, they can all become citizen scientists. It’s a very positive learning experience that can be shared by kids and adults of all ages.
See the voluntourism suggestions in our recent article: Coral Reef Gardening: Try Voluntourism when next in Paradise.
Practice Reef-Friendly Dive Techniques
You’ve taken that long trip, you’re unpacked and finally dipping your toes into the sea. Practice ocean-friendly diving practices whether scuba diving, snorkeling or simply swimming. If wearing fins, watch where they go, don’t damage coral or stir up sediment that can smother coral.
Use Reef-Friendly Sunscreen that will not harm coral
Make sure that you are using biodegradable, eco-friendly sunscreen and shampoos, they are available and easy to find at your local mall or on-line. Blue Ocean keeps track of many reef-friendly products, start by checking out: Use a Sustainable Sunscreen that won’t Kill Coral Reefs.
In the next few months Blue Ocean will make many of these products available directly through our website.
Leave Seahorses in the Sea
Resist purchasing souvenirs that when manufactured have harmed the coral reef. Items made from seashell or coral or sea fans are taboo, and whatever you do, don’t buy anything using the desiccated bodies of tiny, adorable seahorses. Worldwide populations of seahorses have been decimated by their use in souvenirs and in traditional Chinese medicine.
Sustainable Seafood Only
It’s almost irresistible, you’re at an open-air restaurant on the beach, the palm trees are swaying in the light breeze, there may even be a Tiki lamp lighting your tropical cocktail, the one with the little umbrella in it. You think, wouldn’t some really fresh seafood be the perfect choice for dinner. But remember that it only gets really perfect if that seafood is sustainable.
Don’t help the seafood pirates that are decimating certain species of highly desirable seafood. Much of that fresh seafood comes directly off the coral reef you have been swimming over and many of those species help to keep the reef healthy. For example, parrotfish and grouper are important reef fish that maintain a balanced coral reef ecosystem.
There are good sustainable seafood guides that are easy to understand and available on-line. These guides help to develop an understanding of what seafood species are sustainable, in season, and what are the appropriate fishing practices that should be used in catching your dinner. See our article: Sustainable Seafood: A Smorgasbord of Ideas.
We want today’s young divers to experience the same spectacular reefs that were experienced decades ago, they can if we incorporate reef-friendly practices into our travels. Have fun on your next tropical island adventure, just remember to leave your paradise, a paradise for the next traveler.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
Related Blue Ocean Articles:
Summit: 2015, Citizen Science, Dive Tourism as tools for conservation, The value of coral reefs. Local activism and engagement.
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