The Biggest Question…
No matter where you might find yourself as a recreational diver, in whichever country on this blue marble, if your heart is in the right place you will feel the same way I feel every time I dive and find garbage around my favourite reef. You might take it a step further and ask why is there garbage every where I dive these days? If that was all a simple cleanup campaign could make things better, for a while. The biggest issue is dive site integrity. We were all beginners at some point and I make no attempt in discouraging scuba diving in any way but what is really the point of taking a group of scuba divers on a pristine reef for an intro dive at 5m – 10m when they have no idea which way is up, the group is so large it can be confused for a carnival parade rather than a dive crew and of course the obvious question…why is there so much kicked up sand in my mouth!!!
Is Diving a bad thing?
That of course would be the easy way out which so happens to be the most destructive of all. We have all seen extraordinarily large dive groups rage havoc onto a dive area enough times to realise one simple truth. Not all scuba divers are created equal. More dives or less dives, more certifications or less certifications makes no difference if the core of the person is a the type of person that won’t really care to preserve for those that will come after himself, considering their dive a right they have bought for 30 – 50 Euro. Added to this is the fact that a dive site is altered by our presence alone, let alone any potential interactions whether outright destructive (ie. like hooking up to a reef to take a picture) or covertly so (ie. such as feeding the fish).
Scuba Diving has potential to be a life altering experience. Tremendous potential. It unlocks within each of us the spirit of exploration and inspires awe in all! Divers and Non-Divers alike! With great potential come great responsibilities. Scuba Divers left unchecked or poorly trained can generate accident rates to rival any highway and destroy reefs which are valued in the billions, not to mention the environmental issue of the fact that reefs and coral are one of the carbon scrubbing mechanisms of our planet. What one can say is that it falls to each diver to make and follow certain ethics that would ensure a dive site is maintained for future generations of divers. With this simple goal in mind no diver can actively be non-ecological. In fact quite the opposite. More often than not, scuba divers are champions of ecological issues across the globe!
What can I do you might be asking?
Do what we do. Make every dive a cleanup dive! Carry a bag with you and scoop up any garbage you can carry away with you while moving larger garbage harder to remove objects like long chains or other large debris to areas where you can spot and transport them out easily during your next dive or with help of more than one or two dive buddies! When you go diving and spot a large group of divers clumsily floating about underwater take the time to ask why their buoyancy was so off? Or why there were not enough supervision in their group? Pointing out the fact that their dive was neither safe nor supervised. There is no Scuba Diving Police (phew). Each diver must take care of his / her well being and that of his/her buddy. Make it known when you charted a dive guide for a dive site that you will not accept littering of the dive site, or feeding of fish or destruction of the local environment. Some say that “money makes the world go round”. Well, take advantage of this whenever possible. Take time to think which outfit you would rather dive with and reward them with your business if they follow proper ecologically sound scuba diving ethics. The rest will fall in line in time. Perhaps not overnight, but then again…why make a perfect world so quickly! We will learn nothing!
If you are like me (or like fish) and hate crowds as they generally wreck the experience, no pun intended, then there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Crowded dive sites are worthless. If it isn’t the frenzy of flashes from pictures being taken in all directions then definitely sand and gravel being disturbed making even visibility poor will ruin your day! Not to mention the fact that by the time you might get there half the fish are already so scared they won’t come out if you were made of bread yourself! Crowds are tricky and I dont really know how to advise you to do this in your local area but in Cyprus there is a really reliable way of avoiding them. All crowds disappear after 1pm. Most dive operations are from morning to noon usually so you are guaranteed peace and quiet if you dive in the afternoon. It goes without saying that if you notice people littering…there is only one thing you can do. Ask them to pick it up! Politely.
Keep in mind though that without private transport you will be hard pressed to avoid crowds. At least if you cant avoid the dive site fever, try and keep your group off the sand! Also keep in mind that some dive site are accessed via boat only. Such as the legendary MS Zenobia Wreck in Larnaca just off the coast from the Larnaca Fishing Shelter. Boats depart usually from the Larnaca Marina (near Foinikoudes Ave.) at 9am and return at 1pm. Some have different schedules. Shop around for what works for you. The reason I am mentioning this is simply to say that there is no way of avoiding the crowds on this one dive site due to location and logistics. Having said that, don’t worry about visibility! At 42m deep no one will likely be sweeping the floor down there!
Let us know what your dive ethic is in your area and how you feel are some ways to improve on it…