If, like me, you are going through a bit of a spring clean, it represents endless possibilities, and probable “i’ll just keep this until I have time to do that thing” mentality. But some fantastic, classy ideas nonetheless.
Be sure to check them out” http://pinterest.com/unconsumption/
This is my latest article on environmentally responsible scuba diving and the Green Fins work I’m involved in!
We scuba divers are by no means the greatest threat to coral reefs, but we do cause damage, and it can add up. However, we are also the most passionate ambassadors for the reef. Let’s make choices that reflect the respect we have for the ocean.
You can get PADI certified on the island. There’s (unfortunately) tonnes of dive centres - 12 at the moment, and more being built this year. It’s too many really, a lot of diver pressure on the Thresher Shark sites.
You need to be PADI Advanced Open Water (one level up from your first dive course) diver to go to the shark sites - they are deeper than 18m so you need to do the Deep speciality dive. Conditions aren’t always the easiest, and a new inexperienced diver can do a lot of damage to the coral. Also you don’t really want to be freaking out at 24m. Try and get some experience beforehand and work on your buoyancy.
If you do want to see the Whalesharks - it’d be better to go to Donsol - it’s not in Cebu but it’s an experienced industry with good regulations. Oslob (which is on Cebu island) is a relatively newly discovered site where they feed the whale sharks.
Whilst the government is getting their act together and conservationists, scientists and other parties are all arguing about how best to proceed, the number of visitors is getting a bit out of control. Already there reports of whale sharks getting injured due to collisions with boat propellors and people touching and riding the whale sharks.
I’m planning on writing a long piece about it when I’ve collated a bit more information.
I apologise if this all sounds quite negative. Malapscua is a great island, especially if you spend more time around the village and less time on the tourist beach. The people are great, and the diving can be too (not just the sharks but the macro on other sites as well **go to Gato Island**).
It will be amazing - have fun, just be aware of the impact you have as a tourist and a diver.
Fish Feeding: Evil at it’s most innocent?
Fish feeding is common throughout the tropical tourist spots of SE Asia (and I’m sure the world). I have seen families tottering to jetties with so many loaves of bread they could retire a baker. And what do they do, chuck it on the surface of the water. It then erupts with squabbling damselfish, usually the Indo-pacific Seargeantfish like in the photo above, fighting for the easy meal.
I myself have been snorkeling when a well-meaning boatman has thrown bread in my vicinity. The chaos that ensued around me was intimidating. I could feel the brush of slimy scales on my legs, and couldn’t see through my mask for black stripes zipping around gobbling up the bread. An unforgettable experience without a doubt.
But if you take a moment to think, you might remember any good nature reserve instructing you not to feed wild animals. It’s no different in a marine environment. There is no underwater baker these fish frequent when we aren’t so generous with the yeasty delectables. Bread is not their natural food.
Algae is. Apart from the distress on the fish’s digestive systems (oh no! Carbs!), feeding them changes their behaviour. Instead of grazing algae off the reefs hard surfaces, making room for new coral growth, and preventing algae from out competing the coral for space and resources (all of which are essential for a balanced Coral Reef ecosystem), they are hanging around anything that makes a splash on the surface: a person, a cab, a cigarette butt.
Feeding fish means they will no longer fulfill their ecological niche. It’s like removing a link in the food chain. Throwing the food web into chaos. The act seems innocent enough, and most people won’t think past the excitement of being overwhelmed by nature, but as is so often the case, we have unforeseen consequences on the environment. Something, perhaps, we shouldn’t take as lightly as we do.
Let’s face it, the best chance you have of seeing a turtle hatchling is at a hatchery. So affected are the nesting sites of sea turtles, that many have some sort of set-up for egg relocation. And a great way to generate income for hatcheries is tourism. But there is a very clear line between right and wrong here. And so so many hatcheries are doing it wrong…
Don’t support hatcheries that do the following:-
- Keep a hatchery if the eggs can be left in situ… they are just doing it for the profits.
- Keep hatchlings past 24 hrs of emerging from the nest
Many believe that keeping hatchlings until they are bigger and “stronger” will allow them a fighting chance against predators. In fact, it is completely counter-productive. Turtles, over millenia of no parental guidance, are born with natural instincts to follow on hatching. Once out of the nest, they orientate themselves towards the brightest horizon…in a natural environment, this would be the sea at sunrise and sunset (when natural hatching occurs). At this point they have the last of the energy from the yolk to jettison across (and away) from the reef and it’s predators and head towards the deep blue. Keeping hatchlings means they lose these instincts. Hatchlings released after a few months are seen hanging around the reef - where they shouldn’t be until years later.
- Keep hatchlings in water
As soon as turtles are in water they start swimming, expending all the energy that should be saved for propelling them away from the coral reef.
- Allow extensive access to hatchlings
Remember, if you are truly committed to turtle conservation, you’ve got to realise that the less you interact with wild turtles the better. Be wary of hatcheries that charge for photographs, charge for releasing a hatchling, and let people hold/kiss/breath on hatchlings.
Be wary of hatcheries that:-
- Release turtles straight into the water
Female Sea Turtles have an uncanny ability to return to their beach of ‘birth’ to lay their eggs when they reach sexual maturity. How they know where or how to return after over 20 years on the open seas is not fully understood. Some theories include the recognition of chemical signatures of the sand. Hatcheries should be releasing hatchlings at the height of a natural nest and letting them make their way to the sea on their own.
- Don’t excavate the nest
This is an absolute necessity. Any egg shells, dead hatchlings, wet sand MUST be excavated. If left, it is a hot house for bacteria infections that can spread to other nests, and will attract predators to the hatchery.
- Release different batches of hatchlings at the same place
Nature isn’t stupid. If you release bucket loads of hatchlings in the same place, you create a feeding station - somewhere predators know is an easy meal, completely rescinding all the efforts of the incubation period.
Many hatcheries are set up by well meaning individuals who lack the scientific background. It may seem like common sense to keep something until it’s big enough to stand up for itself, but the links between ecological processes are a little bit more complicated than that.
Ask if they have heard or are following IUCN protocols which aim to synchronise conservation efforts between hatcheries, to best affect the different species.
I LOVE muck diving, and this video says everything I would want to say to anyone who gives it a go!
The inventors of tree-free Banana Paper, Coffee Paper, Mango Paper, and more!
A male macaque monkey named Kai Lek plays a toy guitar during a show at the Monkey Theatre on Koh Samui, Thailand.
I hate seeing things like this on holiday. I used to think it impressive, then I learnt how poachers devastate wild families of primates in order to catch one, train it, and have it perform ‘cute’ tricks. Now it seems cheap and masochistic.