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Can you travel the world, experience its wonders,
appreciate its beauty and still be environmentally conscious?

Author: Maureen Pfaff

Is it possible to be environmentally conscious and lower your personal impact on the environments around you while still travelling the world? Can you truly be a sustainable traveler? Answering this question is critical. Whether you are having this discussion with yourself or within your community of travellers, knowing how to traverse the globe while reducing your impact is more important now than ever before. Perhaps being up close and personal with the beauty of nature and interacting with the marine species that share this planet causes people to think more urgently about the impacts of humans on the environment. Or perhaps it’s seeing the impact that is already happening to these animals and ecosystems.

Whatever the case, understanding how to be a sustainable watersports traveller is critical. It is estimated that by the 2030’s, 90% of the world’s coral reefs will be in danger due to human-related activities and ocean warming. This means every action which makes a positive difference is important, and every action with a negative impact should be discouraged.

Where do you begin when looking to become a sustainable watersports traveler? Ask yourself these questions before heading out on your next adventure.

6 Questions for the Sustainable Watersport Traveller

How can I offset my impact?

  • Stay in lodgings that line up with your values: many large hotel chains make a significant negative impact on the environment when they develop and build their resorts. They are also extremely resource intensive (estimates indicate resorts create one kg of waste per guest per day). Choosing a small, locally operated hotel or a residential rental (AirBnb) would go a long way to reducing your impact on the local environment.
  • Purchase carbon offsets: Carbon offsets are a way of counteracting the carbon emissions that you create while you are travelling.  Carbon offsets will invest in reforestation, carbon capture and other projects to work towards reducing your carbon emissions to net-zero.
  • Use reusable travel tools: bring reusable bags, utensils and bottles to reduce the amount of waste you create. The likelihood that coral will become diseased goes from 4% to 89% when it comes into contact with plastic. Don’t add to that problem by creating plastic waste.
  • Support the local economy: support the local economy financially. Buy locally-made souvenirs. Eat at local restaurants. Hire local tour guides. Keep as much of your dollars in the local community as possible. For a sustainable watersport’s traveller, keeping money in the hands of those who have a vested interest in the health of the local environment is always a priority.
  • Choose companies that offer environmentally friendly travel options: support airlines that are making positive changes by flying on an airline that is committed to making an environmental difference by offsetting its negative impacts. The carbon impact of one flight can be the equivalent of going car-free for one year, so choose your airline carefully.

What travel operators are making a positive difference?

The activities you choose to engage in while you are travelling will determine the type of impact that you have on the local environment. Choosing eco-conscious travel tour companies like, will make a noticeable difference in your environmental footprint. GBR Biology, a division of Experience Co, is a great example of how a company can offer great experiences while caring for (and educating about!) the environment they love and work in. Who is GBR Biology?

GBR Biology is a dedicated team of marine biologists, educators and cultural education rangers working on the Great Barrier Reef out of the Cairns region. We have a passion for site knowledge and being the best at what we do through a deep understanding of the locations we visit on the reef. With a foundation of site-specific knowledge, we are able to monitor and conduct research that enlightens us to the presence, abundance and behaviour of the local marine residence. We can then share that with our valued guests during their reef visit! We work closely with scientists and conduct multiple research projects as pioneers in the tourism sector. With a focus on bringing research into the daily activities of marine biologists on the reef, and collecting long term data sets about our sites. Working within the education space, we engage with schools and educational institutions to immerse students in the understanding of the reef and its inhabitants.

GBR Biology’s focus on reef interpretation allows our guests to understand the reef and create a passion or love for an ecosystem that they may not have understood before.This education leads them to be a responsible visitor within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and active global citizens in reducing the impacts that they have on our environment. We educate our guests on the World Heritage Values of the reef, impacts to the reef, and our resilience-building networks, resulting in an understanding of the ecosystem dynamics and showcasing the reefs overwhelming beauty.”

“See the Reef, Love the Reef, Protect the Reef.” – GBRMPA (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)

Choosing companies that care, like GBR Biology through Experience Co, reinvests your travel dollars into initiatives that create a positive impact on the local environment.

What activities should I be involved in?

Make sure that you are choosing activities that are not destructive to the local marine environment. Some marine leisure activities such as water skiing and anchoring large boats out in coral areas have a larger impact on marine life than snorkeling or free-diving. Be cognisant of the disturbances that you are likely to cause during your watersports activities.

What kind of gear will help me achieve these goals?

Did you know that 300 million tons of plastic are created every year, and that every year 14 million tons make it into the ocean? If being a sustainable watersport’s traveller is a high priority for you, every decision you make counts. Where you go, how you get there and the gear that you wear when indulging in your watersport’s activities. Companies like Parrotfish have created high-quality, UPF rash guards that are made from recycled plastics. Using recycled plastics means less plastic in landfills and in the oceans. That means you can be protected from the sun and the underwater critters, all while looking great and helping save the oceans that you love so much. On top of that Parrotfish has eradicated plastic across their supply chain, with 100% compostable packaging and gives back to the planet by being a 1% for the planet member.

What is a small choice that makes a big difference?

Did you know that regular sunscreen is toxic to coral? There are a dozen or more ingredients that are commonly found in sunscreen that damage coral reefs as well as marine wildlife. Simple choices that can make an out-sized impact include seeking shade during the high-UV exposure times, using UPF (UV protection factor) apparel and using chemical-free sunscreen. You can also choose to protect yourself through rash guards and therefore reduce the overall amount of sunscreen you’ll need.

How can I become engaged in the process?

Use your vote to make a difference for coral reefs around the world. Becoming engaged in groups that take these matters to their political leaders

internationally helps. If you live in Australia, take the issue to your elected representatives and tell them you want to see action that will protect the reefs from damage. If you live in another country, show your support through petitions, activism and funding for these important causes.

Photo: Parrotfish

How Do You Ensure That You Are A Sustainable Watersports Traveler?

Now, more than ever, every decision you make counts. It is in the best interest of yourself, the reefs, the oceans and the entire planet to make conscious choices about your watersport travel adventures. That means the tour companies you use and the diving gear you wear. Check out Parrotfish for your sustainable rash guards and make sure to use for your next adventure.

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