One of the world’s most wonderful ecosystems can only be explored underwater. Visitors to coral reefs increase each year, playing a crucial role in helping to preserve these fragile habitats.
What is it?
Snorkelling and scuba diving are popular recreational activities, particularly at tropical resorts and coral reef locations. The primary appeal is the opportunity to observe underwater life and wild animals in a natural setting. Snorkeling is possible in almost any body of water, but snorkelers are most likely to be found in locations where there are minimal waves, warm water, and something particularly interesting to see near the surface. Deeper reefs are also good, but more favoured by scuba divers.
What you should know
- Coral reefs are facing an uncertain future so their conservation is more important than ever before. You can help to conserve these precious ecosystems by making the right decisions when booking your next scuba diving and/or snorkeling holiday.
- Many resorts now promote their environmentally friendly credentials, often practising energy conservation, recycling and the treatment of sewage and waste in responsible ways. It is always advisable to look into how your resort operates to ensure your visit has the minimum impact.
- You can choose coral friendly dive operations which practice reef conservation in a number of ways. These include giving environmental briefings, holding buoyancy control workshops, using available moorings rather than anchoring to fragile reefs, using wastewater pump-out systems and participating in local conservation projects. Anything that you take with you on the boat should be kept safe and disposed of once you return to the shore, not in the water, including cigarettes.
- If you are learning to snorkel or dive, then it is best to practice away from the reef until you feel competent at manoeuvring. It is always advisable to make sure equipment fits properly and does not need adjusting or it could cause damage to the reef when moving around. Some coral reef visitors are keen to take photographs or videos to remember their experience by. Equipment can often be cumbersome and affect mobility in the water, causing accidental collisions with the reef and marine life in order to capture the perfect shot. The use of such equipment should only be by those with advanced diving skills.
- Always pay user fees or make a donation when visiting coral parks and other marine conservation areas. This will ensure that your visit helps to conserve the area for wildlife and future generations. Some areas have local initiatives to monitor the marine environment and it can be educational to participate in these where possible. This can also include clean-up activities or volunteering opportunities to carry out reef surveys, conduct outreach programmes or help educate others about reef conservation. If possible, make a donation to the local conservation work. This could be monetary or take the form of donating used equipment such as cameras, dive gear or literature.
- Finally, speak to your fellow snorkelers and divers to ensure that everyone understands their part in conserving this beautiful natural resource.
What you can do
Follow simple guidelines to minimise your impact through diving and snorkeling:
- Never touch corals as the slightest contact can harm them and injure you too. Avoid unnecessary contact by choosing entry and exit points carefully and securing all equipment. Do not stand or rest on corals.
- Move slowly and deliberately through the water. Stay off the bottom and avoid stirring up sediment.
- Take nothing living or dead out of the water, except recent garbage.
- Never chase, harass, touch or try to ride marine life
- Choose responsible snorkel and dive operations which adhere to the guidelines above
Where is this applicable?
Many countries offer access to coral reefs. Some of the most popular include Australia, the Caribbean/Central America, the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hawaii, Florida, and countries bordering the Red Sea.