This first week and a half of Green Fins volunteer placement has flown by in a whirlwind of meetings, greetings, assessments, training, letdowns, and feel good moments. All in all, you know you’ve made the right life choices when you head to the beach and you’re not sure if it’s for work or play.
The diving industry in Panglao is such a mixed-bag of the environmentally aware and conscious to the willfully ignorant and going to stay that way if it kills them – and us. I’ve had heartwarming interactions with local dive guides asking for more information, and how they can help. Even wanting to train with Green Fins so they can take environmental awareness to their hometowns, which they may have left because they couldn’t handle the destruction of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems by poor diving and industrial practice. And then the flip side, accusations that divers are doing good work conserving the reefs and why are we here looking over their shoulders? Basically, get lost…. Except that the average diver makes 6 contacts with the reef every dive. By the way, touching the reef is not good for it: equals coral death, equals problem. Multiply that by the number of divers in the sea every day, and we have a huge problem despite the diver’s possible best intentions, vis-a-vis why Green Fins exists. Yay!
Panglao itself is a bustling hub of international tourists. This diving destination has certainly been discovered. Cuisines of every kind, from French to German to local to Dunkin Donuts line the streets of busy Alona Beach. Massive resorts are cropping up every which way, and you can’t walk two paces without “tricycle mam, where you going?” or “snorkelling? Island tours mam!” Some respites still exist. I recently discovered The Buzzz Bee Farm, an organic, locally grown restaurant serving western and Pilipino dishes. Its prices are the same as other beachside restaurants of the area, but the food is the kind that feels good in your soul.
Getting to know the local community, how it operates, how decisions are made, what’s important to the people who live here is all such an interesting experience. At home I work with a science outreach organization, which is much the same process of identifying key aspects within each community to create relevant applications to their daily lives. Here, we can’t possibly expect divers from all over the world with varying levels of environmental education to automatically accept the Green Fins approach to diving and snorkelling. Finding the right inlets for each group that makes Green Fins directly applicable to their lives, and their reason for ocean recreation is integral to its successful implementation. Not to mention the most interesting part! What makes diver’s tick? Why did they start diving in the first place? Why do they continue to dive now? All these answers vary dramatically from person to person, and can illuminate aspects of diving I had not previously considered. Some think diving has a cool factor that rubs off on them by participating. Others are awed by the beauty or mystery of the underwater world. The answers are never the same, and so always interesting.
Stay tuned for more as I navigate my way through developing the Green Fins approach for specific cultures and emerging diving markets!