The thing I love most about diving is that moment after you have entered the water, when you first poke your head under the waves and get that glimpse of what lies below. Often other divers are fiddling with regulators, spitting in masks and fussing with fins to appreciate that quick time. That first look never fails to cause a tingle of excitement to run down my spine.
It was during one of these moments that I decided that the ocean seriously needs our help. The seafloor that was spread out before me was littered with rubbish, the coral was grey and lifeless and the fish few and far between. By this time I was a student at the University of Queensland where I studied Geography. I started narrowing down all my subjects towards marine conservation and the more I learnt about the plethora of issues challenging the health of our oceans, the more hopeless and despairing I became. I was officially a doomster.
In the process of finishing up my degree, I joined the leagues of confused, pessimistic university students thrust into the world. Uni had given me all the facts and figures but had failed to give me the other side, the ray of light, the quick fix solution! Or maybe I had just slept through that class…
I can’t claim that since then I have lost my negative outlook but I have decided to be a part of the solution. A solution that is going to be long, complicated and exceptionally multidimensional.
Which brings me to present day. I have been accepted as a volunteer science intern at a not-for-profit organization in the South-West of Madagascar for nine-months. ReefDoctor is a small UK based, tropical marine conservation organization, which conducts coral reef research and implements marine resource management principles. ReefDoctor also raises community awareness, conducts an education program and does a multitude of social development work with the local fishing community. The Bay of Ranobe, which is the focus point of the organization, is the 3rd largest coral reef system in the world.
Reefdoctors have a myriad of important objectives and goals but what struck me about the humble organization is their persistence to work alongside and with the local community. The staff and volunteers of Reefdoctor live alongside the Malagasy in simple reed huts with no electricity and no running water and consume a simple diet of rice and beans.
Oh and did I mention that I will get to dive twice a day!
As I am packing and preparing to leave (and stocking up at Adreno!), I am delighted that I will be able to share this adventure and journey with you. My greatest hope is that for generations to come, divers will have that moment where they peek through the waves and see a beautiful, spine-tingling panorama below.