Diving (responsibly) is one of my favorite activities to do when I’m traveling. In fact, I tend to pick my destinations based on whether or not they have good diving spots. I got my PADI Open Water license on Gili Trawangan, a small island west of Lombok. Once underwater I immediately fell in love with the silent beauty that is found in the ocean. Enchanted by the colorful coral reef I encountered numerous turtles, nemo’s and even sharks: I was hooked!
Where I got my information
At the time I was doing my internship on Bali, where friends recommended me to sign up at dive center Blue Marlin. During my 4-day course they did not only teach me how to dive, but also how to dive responsibly. We talked about causing no harm to the oceans treasures and committing to environmental conservation. The dive center has received the so-called PADI Green Star Award. This shows that the organization demonstrates a dedication to conservation across a wide range of business functions, including water conservation, energy use, environmentally friendly transportation practices, optimized waste management and so on.
Who inspired me to write about this
Besides Blue Marlin, an Indonesian dive instructor in Tulamben, Bali, also taught me about ocean conservation. Aged 76, he had over 2000 dives (!) all over the world. Talking about his adventures, he informed me about the changes he saw over the years. Coral bleaching, extinction of species, excessive pollution – it’s real and happening right now, in these beautiful turquoise oceans you like to go for a swim. He believes that by teaching people how to dive, the awareness on these issues will rise and divers will commit to environmental conservation, so that dive sites can return healthy year after year. And I like to believe the same thing.
So what exactly do you do different when you take the environment into account being a diver? Well, here’s a list of what I have learned from this wise Balinese dive instructor and the dedicated international people working at Blue Marlin.
- Don’t. Touch. Anything.
I’ve seen people trying to catch fishes on dives, or bumping their oxygen bottles into coral reefs. It is unnecessary and you are directly damaging the beautiful ocean world you enjoy so much. The reef is permanently damaged and the fishes stressed. It is best to have a dive position where you keep your arms straight along your body and your hands on your back, this also the most comfortable position to dive. Pay attention to your dive instructors’ positions, they are most likely all keeping their hands on their back to assure a smooth movement. Also be aware of your equipment; keep your gauges and alternate air source so they don’t drag over the reef or other vital habitat.
- Collect trash
Okay, so there is one exception on touching stuff. When you see trash underwater, grab it and take it with you. Dispose it once your back on surface. You might have saved a few fishes from swallowing it!
- Stay educated
If you did not dive for a longer period, go on a test dive with a professional instructor. This way you’ll get used to being in the water again and refresh your memory considering skills and knowledge. You can also learn more through a course of Project AWARE: ‘A global force of divers mobilizing to protect our ocean planet in more than 180 countries and territories’.
- Be picky on dive centers or resorts
There are a few things you should check a dive school on when selecting one. First of all, does the place look like it’s taken care of and maintained? You want your equipment to be in good condition. Secondly, does the staff look trustworthy? If you question their professionalism, you can ask for their PADI licenses. When you want to sign up for a course, ask how big the classes are. In order to provide you of individual assistance, a group (with one instructor) should not consist out of more than 4 students. Also, see if the organization has any green awards or proof of environmentally friendly operations.
- Spread the word
As a diver, you see the underwater results of carelessness and neglect. Set a good example in your own interactions so that others can learn from you. Don’t be afraid to give someone advice to dive better/more responsibly. Their love for the ocean is probably just as big as yours, so they may appreciate your tips.