ISV Practices Responsible Travel: Snorkeling

by Narelle Webber on Friday, 29 June 2012

Take a ride on a sea turtle? Snap off some staghorn coral for a souvenir? Pocket a conch shell for a decoration back home? Feed the fish your leftovers? Not on ISV’s programs!

Look but don’t touch or harass! Protect marine life by responsible snorkeling © used with permission by International Student Volunteers

Responsible travel means taking action to protect our environment, and in the tourism industry, tourists, activity operators and regulating agencies each have a role to play.  Part of being a responsible traveler and also a responsible tour operator, means that if something’s not right, you do something about it, and it’s not OK to hide behind ignorance or bureaucracy.  An example I have of this comes from a site inspection that I did in Fiji last year.

I was checking out a snorkeling trip to a site that many of our Australian and New Zealand program volunteers visit as part of the ISV Optional Excursion to Fiji. Our boat pulled up to the first snorkeling site where there were several other boats already; it was clearly a popular spot. Our guide handed us the gear with some instructions to “get in”.  I waited, but the information I was expecting never came…. Where were the “responsible snorkeling” instructions I was waiting for, that I knew by heart but still expected to hear from an activity operator who  takes hundreds of tourists  out to enjoy the coral reefs?

ISV created and distributed this flyer to its leaders, participants and operators © International Student Volunteers

On this trip I never received instruction on how to properly use my equipment and how to safely snorkel, not only to protect myself from getting scratched by the coral which can lead to bacterial infection, but also to protect the fragile reef that will break from the impact of my fins and die from the oils on my skin. I also saw other Fijian guides standing on the coral and feeding bread to the fish to attract them for the tourists.

I wanted to make sure that ISV groups were informed of how to protect themselves and the reef while enjoying its beauty and leaving it in a way that others who follow can also enjoy. So, I had a small idea and decided to do something about it.

We created this flyer last year and distributed it to ISV leaders in all our countries where we do snorkeling, and to any operator or accommodation who wants it.  It’s not rocket science (in fact I borrowed the tips from Coral Reef Alliance), but it lists practical and easy tips for snorkeling responsibly. We encourage all ISV volunteers to role model these steps on our program and all their future travels.  Even when other people might be doing the wrong thing, we can “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Gandhi was onto something.

Narelle Webber

ISV International Program Director

To learn more about ISV and our programs visit


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