I’m still not sure it wasn’t all a delightful dream. Laying around in hammocks after mornings spent diving off remote islands in some of the clearest water imaginable. Snorkelling under our little stilt house on a sea that was teaming with life. Spotting seahorses, cuttlefish and scores of other tropical marine creatures that call this little slice of heaven home.
Of course this is not a natural paradise, it has been created by the people of Semporna in Malaysian Borneo whose whole lives revolve around the rich ocean they live on. Building unique houses over the shallow water on stilts everybody here gets around by boat. Unfortunately in recent years Semporna has suffered for its beauty. Any diver who’s worth their salt knows about Sipadan, a small protected island famed for its clear water and superb marine life. But with fame comes tourists, in their thousands. Although numbers to Sipadan are limited, dive trips to the surrounding islands aren’t. Now I hear you asking what’s wrong with that? We are all tourists of sort after all.
The problem is pollution, more specifically rubbish. It only takes a short walk along the shore of the main town in Semporna to see the scale of the problem; nappies, plastic bottles and crisp wrappers line the once pristine beaches. It’s not solely the tourists to blame, the town simply doesn’t have the infrastructure or the impetus to safely dispose of the waste created by the extra visitors and influx of new products. So it is simply thrown in the ocean, as it once was when everything that was produced and consumed was biodegradable.
Ironic isn’t it that something so beautiful is being destroyed simply because it is so beautiful.
“So what can we do about it?!” I hear you scream at your phone. Lucky for us one man has already taken it into his own hands. All we need to do to support him is choose to stay at his beautiful dive shop and enjoy the paradise he helps create. ND has an infectious love for the ocean that he subtly instils on all of his guests. He protects the small area beneath his shop with nets and believes to have the only large clams left in the area as they are otherwise collected on mass for food and handicrafts. Local children are encouraged to fish out recyclables that have washed over in the tide and been caught by the nets. Spreading the message early to the local people of the importance of a clean ocean.
There are few places that leave a lasting impact on a personal level. Places I will rave about for years to come to anyone who’ll listen. The world isn’t perfect and the story of over tourism, and people in general unwittingly destroying the beautiful natural world, is unfortunately all too familiar. But every now and then you find one person that cares enough about their little slice of paradise to do something about it. Sometimes that’s all it takes to leave a lasting impression on the world.
One person doing the right thing.
Want to know more ways to look after the environment? Check out my Top 8 Eco hacks.
Anyone who’s experienced this big wonderful world knows how important sustainability is. As a nature nerd and avid diver I’m always looking for ways to be greener. I share my eco travel tips here so we can all try to do our own little bit when we go away.