Ask the TAFEA Tourism Office

dreamstime_117477Vanuatu has some great opportunities for snorkelling, but remember these tips to help you make the most of your experience and protect our fragile environment.

  • At low tide, you will need footwear to access the good spots.
  • If you are a beginner or a Jean Jacques Cousteau, remember, swim with a buddy.
  • Don’t deprive yourself of this opportunity even if you can’t swim – you can snorkel – so do it!
  • Please be aware, there are sometimes rips. Beaches in Vanuatu are not supervised.
  • Leave the coral as you found it. It breaks easily, please don’t walk on it with your fins. Look for rocks or sand to stand on.
  • Suntan oil or creams don’t mix with snorkelling equipment; it is hard to remove when in the water.

The absence of, or ill fitting equipment will definitely spoil your snorkelling experience, so don’t risk it. Purchase snorkelling equipment from your own country and bring it with you or buy good quality gear in Port Vila. When your holiday has finished, do something really wonderful… give it (or even better, ask your children to give it) to the local people as a thank you gift for their hospitality. The provision of gifts is common in the Melanesian culture as long as it is done in a dignified manner. Often, resort equipment gets damaged by past guests, they may not have your size mask or fins, or all the equipment may be used by other guests when you want it.

Every year our turtles, dugongs, coral, fish, invertebrates and other marine species die needlessly due to the carelessness of travellers and locals alike.  Our beaches, mangroves and reefs are desecrated.  How?

Rubbish!  Tin cans will last 50 to 100 years.  Aluminum cans 80 – 100 years, polluting beaches.  The innocuous plastic six-pack packaging rings has 450 years to kill, the polystyrene cups and packaging will have a little longer; 500 years.  The inescapable death trap is of course the discarded fishing line which will be around for 600 years.


What happens to these items and many others?

  • Seabirds eat small plastic pellets and bits of Styrofoam mistaking them for food such as small fish or squid, which can then cause the birds to die.
  • Fish, turtles, and other marine animals can get entangled in derelict fishing gear such as gill nets; this gear can continue to catch fish many years after being lost or discarded.
  • Turtles mistake plastic bags and balloons for one of their favourite foods; jelly fish.  When they do, they die a slow and painful death of gut blockage.
  • Marine animals that encounter nets and other fishing gear may drown, lose their ability to catch food, and be more susceptible to disease and predators.
  • Seabirds that get covered in oil often die because when they try to clean themselves, they ingest some of the oil, which poisons their liver, kidneys, and intestinal tracts. The oil also destroys the insulating and waterproofing properties of their feathers.
  • Whales, sharks, and dolphins see garbage such as bait box straps and six-packs packaging rings as an item of curiosity and become tangled up or strangled to death as a result.
  • Oil can destroy sea grass beds, mangroves, corals, crustaceans (crabs and lobsters), mollusks (giant clams and troches), and other reef organisms by smothering them and cutting off light and oxygen necessary for their survival.

How much garbage is out there?

While no one knows for certain, one figure indicates that over 450,000 garbage plastic bags were thrown overboard everyday by the world’s ships in the 1980’s.  Walk along any beach in Vanuatu and you will see the results.  It has become a major problem – our problem. Let us do the right thing, and set an example to the indigenous communities as they are equally guilty, albeit in a smaller scale.

What can I do?

It is up to each person fishing, snorkeling or diving with a marine operator to ensure they take their responsibilities seriously, making sure that they are not polluting (have a look at the wake created, is it mixed with oils or fuel?). Are they making all possible efforts to with sufficient signage & rubbish collection, ensuring their operation is 100% green? Throwing trash overboard is against the law, and morally despicable.

Come to see our pristine marine world, be green on our blue, and make sure future generations will enjoy the same.

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