Destructive divers not welcome
There were two boats at the Coral Gardens when we went diving there today, ours and another group’s. Even though there was a buoy in the area, both boats lowered anchor dangerously close to the coral colonies. One of the boatmen said the buoy was too far out, is why.
But, what about the beautiful reefs…?
And guess what? At a depth of around 40 feet I saw an overturned brain coral — a huge one! — uprooted and ruined.
I managed to stop myself from debating with the boatmen and the dive masters, because this problem isn’t simple. These boat operators have been so used to anchoring wherever it’s convenient that getting them to change their ways will necessarily involve convincing them; not forcing them.
There’s a simple solution: affix buoys closer to the dive entry points. However, who’s going to foot the bill for that? And who’s going to make sure nobody tampers with the buoys? The local government of Samal (Island Garden City of Samal), it seems to me, doesn’t have any environment conservation mechanisms in place. And their main industry is tourism!
It was rather frustrating for me this morning, as I contemplated on how complicated and convoluted Davao Gulf’s problems are. But in the afternoon, I was at least able to do something about another matter.
After lunch, the dive masters chose Dapia Wall. There was another group of Koreans today, but older this time, and there were only three of them. My Taiwanese dive buddy and I dove with them. Immediately, on our second dive, I noticed that two of the Korean divers each had a plastic box in hand, the kind used for storing food. I hoped they were only going to harvest sea urchins.
To my chagrin, I saw one of them attempting to capture some fish! And to make matters worse, this guy anchored himself onto a table coral under one fin and the other fin hooked behind a sea fan!! I thought I was going to faint.
After seeing these callous divers poking coral quite forcibly with sticks on our first dive, that atrociously destructive behavior was all I could stand! I approached him and gestured for him to leave the fish alone and to stay away from the coral. That totally ruined the dive for me, because I ended up keeping an eye on those two with the plastic boxes. (Thankfully, neither of them got any fish.)
The guy I reproached was audibly miffed when we surfaced. Ask me if I care. If he doesn’t come back to scuba dive in Davao, GOOD RIDDANCE! We don’t need destructive tourists coming here and ruining the very future of diving in Davao.
There were three elderly Japanese nationals on board as well. Before the first dive, one of the dive masters asked me to help him explain the basics of scuba diving to the Japanese, none of whom could speak English. They were going to have an intro dive at a maximum depth of 30 feet, at Coral Gardens. After doing my best translating the dive master’s spiel, I inserted a little bit of my own. I asked them to enjoy the sights but to please not touch the coral. Right away they answered in unison, “Naturally.”
On the lighter side, I saw my first pufferfish today, and a cuttlefish, which turned angry black on me before it scooted away. Then there was a remora swimming on its own. I think it was trying to attach to my belly!
So, I’m finally done with my check-out dives for SDI Open Water certification. I’m finally going to get a scuba license!
Before I end, I’d like to leave you with another picture by Steve de Neef, a Belgian photographer/diver/surfer and conservationist who is contributing much to raising awareness of the beauty of the Philippines’ seas.