Good news can be hard to come by these days. It’s been a tough year, and we’re all holding our breath crossing our fingers an effective vaccine will be available soon.

For many of us, traveling to exotic places is one of the things we love (and miss) the most. The destinations we love miss us too. Many dive guides, boat captains and scuba instructors are suffering from unemployment.

  • Globally, one in ten jobs is tied to tourism, and 80 percent of tourism-related businesses are small businesses, including family operations.
  • The IMF (International Monetary Fund) reports top diving destinations including Costa Rica and Thailand are among the hardest hit.
  • Many Caribbean islands rely on tourism for employment. In Antigua, Barbuda, St Lucia, USVI, BVI, 66-90 percent of jobs are tied to travel and tourism.
  • In the Bahamas and Maldives, more than 50 percent of jobs are tourism-related.

Wait, isn’t this article supposed to be about good news? Stay with me, friends.

Divers, for the most part, have a positive outlook on life. For example, where some people see a cold, dreary lake, divers see an adventure. Divers also invest massive amounts of time and money to visit locations where sometimes…maybe…on a good day…at the right time of year…we might get to see a whale shark. So it’s really no surprise divers and PADI® Professionals found ways to seek adventure and save the ocean during a global pandemic.

If, like most of us, you could use a little good news right now, light a 2020 dumpster fire candle and bask in the glow of these eight inspiring stories from divers around the world. Help us celebrate their efforts to heal the ocean, support their local communities and each other.

Helping the Ocean Heal

The Zibel Dive Tribe & Dive Systems Malta

The Zibel Dive Tribe expects to collect more than 20 tonnes/22 tons of debris this year through their monthly clean-ups around Malta and Gozo. Dive Systems Malta supplies The Zibel Dive Tribe with free rental gear, and they also support Project Xibka, a clean-up program that finds and removes Abandoned, Lost, and Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) around the Maltese Islands.

Island TLC in Seychelles

On Silhouette Island, Seychelles, a massive rejuvenation effort is underway. With fewer guests to attend to, the staff of Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa are giving the island some much-needed TLC. The Hilton Resort was already a Green Globe-certified resort, but team members have taken it up a notch by:

  • Removing plastic bottles* and other waste from beaches
  • Cleaning up the interior of the island (not just the beaches)
  • Conducting debris collection dives at Silhouette Marine Park and Labriz Marina
  • Expanding their organic garden
  • Donating food to the Presidents Village Orphanage

*The resort doesn’t use plastic bottles, but they wash up from other places

New Marine Protection Zone 17x the Size of the UK

Tristan da Cunha, a remote island located about halfway between Cape Town South Africa and São Paulo, Brasil, is now the largest fully-protected marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean. The protected area is roughly 17 times the size of the United Kingdom and 90 percent of the 687,000 sq km/265,252 sq. mile reserve is off-limits to bottom-trawling, deep-sea mining and sand extraction. Rockhopper penguins and sevengill sharks are just a few of the many animals that will benefit from the new marine protection zone.

Giving Back to Mother Nature in Maine, USA

The Saco River is a popular recreation area about an hour northwest of Portland, Maine, USA. Unfortunately, many people who visit the river don’t care about its health. After one weekend, volunteers collected 336 empty beer cans and bottles, 92 soda cans and 15 rubber floats from the 24-hectare/60-acre park. At one point, the park closed because of crowds and debris.

A group of friends, many of them recently-certified divers, decided to take action. Since July they’ve made multiple trips to the river to collect debris and, in some cases, retrieve valuable items and return them to their owners. This local news article tells their complete story and will make you feel proud to be a diver.

Supporting Local Communities

Combating Hunger and Preparing for Better Days in Costa Rica
When Costa Rica closed its borders in March, the small town of Playas del Coco was severely impacted. According to some estimates, 85 percent of the local people relied on tourism to make a living.

The owners of Rich Coast Diving (Martin & Brenda van Gestel) jumped into action. They turned the dive shop into a food bank, collecting donations from ex-pats and other locals. Brenda also organized a clean-up effort called Colors Across Costa Rica, where locals could work community beautification jobs like trimming grass, painting, or collecting marine debris. Support their efforts via GoFundMe.

Trading Trash for Food in Sabah, Malaysia
Across the ocean in Sabah, Malaysia, Semporna Heroes conducted a similar program. At the start of the pandemic, Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge (and others) used their dive boats to deliver food to nearby islands. These food drops helped locals get essential supplies and avoid exposure to Coronavirus in Semporna town. Many of the food delivery volunteers were people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Lack of food wasn’t the only problem the Semporna Heroes helped solve. COVID-19 precautions meant trash wasn’t being picked up from local islands. The Mabul Trash Heroes collected more than 15 tonnes/16 tons of trash as locals traded five full bags of rubbish for a family food package containing rice, cooking oil, soy sauce, flour, sugar and fried noodles.

Let the Ocean Be Thy Classroom – Hawai’i
In September, Jack’s Diving Locker started a scuba school to supplement distance learning and help parents get back to work. Working in partnership with Hawaii County and the Nakoa Foundation, Jack’s Diving Locker offered a (CUT four-week) educational program where students learned about:

  • scuba diving
  • marine science
  • Ocean conservation
  • and traditional Hawai’ian sailing.

The program had flexible hours to accommodate individual distance learning schedules, and both breakfast and lunch were provided. Some students came in “bubble groups” and stayed in those throughout the program.

More than 120 scholarships were available for children of essential workers and families experiencing financial hardship. In an interview with Scuba Diving magazine, Jack’s Diving Locker co-owner Teri Leicher said, “We have parents that have literally been so grateful [for the camp experiences and childcare necessary to return to work] that they’ve been in tears,”

Wish you could go to scuba day camp? You can! Check out some of the Scuba School Extra Credit videos on Jack’s Diving Locker’s YouTube channel. Go on a sunscreen scavenger hunt, learn some fun facts about coral, or try making an origami humpback whale.

Encouraging Each Other 

Honoring Veterans – Virginia, USA
Patriot Scuba in Virginia, USA (@patriotscuba) hosted a Veterans Day Honor Dive on 11 Nov 2020. More than a dozen divers, many of them active or retired members of the armed services, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and underwater cleanup. View highlights in Patriot Scuba’s Instagram story, or read more about their event.

Lost GoPro Leads To a New Outlook on Life – Fujairah, UAE

Amidst the pandemic, Maria Wadera lost her job. She was stressed out and surrounded by negativity. So, she decided to invest in happiness – scuba courses with Bermuda Dive Centre in Dubai and the new GoPro Hero 9 Black with waterproof housing and accessories.

After completing her PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications, Maria was excited to experience deep diving in Fujairah, UAE. “I  wanted everything to be perfect,” she remembers.

Maria, dive shop co-owner Safdar, photographer Ruzai Han, and other divers made their first dive to 23-25 metres/75-82 feet.

“I was excited. I had amazing videos of the dive,” Maria said. “But in that moment of excitement, my camera slipped from my BCD and fell into the water. My tiny camera in such an enormous sea. All euphoria washed off in a second.”

The divers had to wait 50 minutes before getting back in the water, and the currents were changing course. Other divers were skeptical about finding Maria’s camera, but, Saddar said, “don’t worry, we will find it,” and photographer Ruzai agreed. “They will find it,” he said.

“The calm look on Safdar’s face brought me a certain peace,” Maria said. “It wasn’t about the camera anymore. I had been delaying my wallow in sorrow over my job, and a lot of other challenges the year had put me through.

“Safdar’s and Ruzai’s positive attitude and professional grace taught me an important life lesson. A positive attitude can change one’s perspective about life in general and bring a raging storm to a complete halt. No matter how anxious you are, a slight tap from a friend telling you ‘it’s gonna be ok,’ can instantly lessen the burden.”

After 50 minutes, the divers jumped in for operation “Search and Rescue.” After just 15 minutes, Maria had her camera back.

Looking for more good news?

We hope you feel a little better after reading these stories. If you’re looking for more things to read, or positive things you can do, check out these articles:

Inspiring Stories from Lockdown

Top 10 Books About Scuba Diving and Marine Life

16 Ways to Support Your Favorite Dive Shop

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