We scuba divers must seem like a weird bunch to our land-loving friends and family. We spend days travelling around the world to our chosen destinations, ridiculous amounts of money on fares, fees and equipment just for minutes underwater with creatures like sea slugs.
It’s hard to explain to people who have never experienced the underwater world how getting up early in the morning, hours on choppy seas struggling into a damp wetsuit and dealing with washing machine currents is worth the effort. And how to explain how excited I get about something that sounds so unappealing – muck diving – my activity of choice this Christmas?
Firstly, it’s not always an effort, I’ve had many boat trips on calm water, hanging out with friends or contemplating gorgeous views. Secondly, even if the journey was less than idyllic, the feeling of descending into another world full of amazing colours and creatures is hard to beat. Breathing deeply underwater with no outside chatter is serene meditation. Precious minutes gazing at manta rays are worth the most arduous journeys. Even hovering over mud, sand or even rubbish has its rewards – creatures like aliens beyond the widest imagination are lurking for those with the patience to look.
So here I find myself, on a ‘busman’s holiday’ – taking a break from Green Fins diving duties in Moalboal with more diving in Dauin. It’s a different kind of diving though; on Green Fins dives there is rarely the luxury of looking around, as we have to focus on the divers and guides. It’s such a treat to be able to focus solely on the marine life and to take photographs so that I can share some of the things I see. It was photographs of coral reefs that made me want to learn to dive and I believe they are a powerful way of inspiring others want to protect something that they have never seen. It’s ironic that it is often photographers who are so fixated on getting their shot that they do more harm than good. Hearing dive guides tell of a pygmy seahorse that was discovered on a sea fan only for it to be destroyed by all the contact, or seeing divers stirring sediment or breaking coral in an attempt to get closer is heartbreaking. Yes it’s nice to get a close up of a turtle, but is it worth it if you cause distress to the animal?
This is one of the reasons why I believe Green Fins is so important – training guides to give good environmental briefings, correct buoyancy and intervene when customers are irresponsible is crucial to minimizing damage to reefs. Instead of diving being a threat, it can be an opportunity. Divers, (weird or not), want to protect coral reefs and they can be ambassadors for their conservation.
One of the most alarming things I’ve learned on the ZEP was just how at risk reefs are. It is estimated that by 2030 99% of the reefs in the coral triangle, the heart of biodiversity in the world, will be under threat. In 2011 only 17% of the reefs in this region were protected, and of that only 3% effectively protected.
On the positive side, I have been so inspired by the passion of so many dive centre owners, managers and dive guides and of divers themselves. There is hope. This is why I chose to include this infographic from Save Philippine seas in my presentation to dive centres – “No effort is wasted. If we are the problem, then we are the solution”.
So on my return to Moalboal, I will continue to try to share my passion with others and inspire them to do what they can. In my holidays I will continue to find peace and joy, (those essential Christmas ingredients), underwater. Hovering over sand watching the changing colours of a flamboyant cuttlefish may not be your idea of fun; but whatever your idea of fun is, I hope that you have a flamboyant Christmas too xxx