Homo Millennialus proudly presents an article by Vera Janssen: dive master traveler researcher extraordinaire! Enjoy the story of her experience with marine conservation at a travelling hotspot!
A large share of us 20-year-old-somethings have the time and financial capability to do so. Thus we arm ourselves with credit cards, the cheapest airplane tickets since the start of aviation and our newest iPhones and laptops. But while technology allows us to see the remotest areas of the world, the vast world of the internet has actually driven us all to the same places. Travelling these days is more of an extended holiday rather than an actual exploration for most people. We mainly care about taking that exact same picture of a beach/mountain/volcano as can be found on everyone else’s social media.
Living the Paradise Dream
Nusa Penida is one of these instagrammable islands where, after Bali’s complete touristification, popularity has surged dramatically over the past years. Historically an island where prisoners were sent off to, now a nature sanctuary which only opened up for the world to see five years ago. And it’s worth it.
Go for a hectic scooter ride and you are ensured of breathtaking views of rock formations, forests and beaches. Next to that, the island is slightly magical causing everyone to experience the oddest dreams and to lose a quarter of their stuff (although that could be the dogs). Most tourists spend two to three days here but I can still not get enough after living here for two months.
The core of my love for Nusa Penida is the vast beauty of its underwater world. In April last year, I had no idea what I would get myself into when signing up to do a dive master and research internship at the Indo Ocean Project.
Resurfacing after 100 dives in various conditions, I gained a large set of new knowledge about marine ecology and conservation. In the blue water, we research various species populations in the Marine Protected Area, place underwater cameras, and research occurrences of shark and manta rays. As the project is young, all of us dive masters are involved in the start-up of various research projects.
The coral reefs in Nusa Penida are one of the healthiest in the world. The currents can push divers around as if they’re nothing more than plastic bags. The wildest ride below the surface involved us climbing the reef from 18 to 9 meters. But more importantly, they mix warm with cooler waters protecting the corals from bleaching.
Coming here, my knowledge about the marine world was near nothing. Now, when I almost finish graduate school in molecular biology, I am considering to combine these disciplines.
About the plastic though, it’s not just us and the fish racing along with the currents. We encounter plastic debris on the beaches, under the surface and excessive amounts at the tourist hot spots on this island. The debris is mainly composed of single-use plastics such as bags, straws and bottles. Since December 2018, the government in Bali has set a ban on single-use plastics to be fully implemented in six months which hopefully will reduce the plastic accumulation on land. These are great steps. However, all of us share the ocean. So to reduce oceanic waste all countries need to act.
Unfortunately, the EU is only banning single-use plastics in 2021. And let’s not even talk about some other countries..
People asked me: ‘Are you not afraid of swimming with sharks?’, ‘Is it not scary to come close to manta’s? They are really creepy’. The truth is that I am actually more afraid of us, humans. We kill more sharks by fishing, bycatch and pollution than sharks would ever be capable of killing humans.
The few, almost never deadly, attacks that occur every year is broadly highlighted in the news. At the same time, the number of sharks that die each year which – because the meat is very cheap and low-quality – are dumped back into the ocean or put into processed fish, can be counted in the millions.
Due to their cuteness, manta’s and turtles receive more public admiration. But also these are suffering from targeted fishing, bycatch, plastics and pollution.
The Next Step
Let’s travel and explore while not forgetting to leave these pristine places intact for next generations to come. We should take the responsibility to use the technologies we have to recycle and re-use. It will make the surface a better place to live on and make for a better visit below the surface.
As the signs on Nusa Penida say: ‘Leave footprints and take only memories’.
Photo credits in order of appearance: Vera Janssen, Vera Janssen, Travel Daily Media.