In 2015, my college classmates and I journeyed to Oslob which was in the southern part of Cebu. We had one mission in mind that day and it was to see the whale sharks up close. Before we were ushered to our boat, there was a short talk about the rules we need to follow. After that, we were off to see them. Yes, the experience was unlike any other, but for me, it didn't really feel so good.
Some of the tourists that we were with clearly broke some rules. They went near the creature and touched its fins even if we were told to stay at least a meter away. When our group's turn was over, we went through the underwater photos we took and felt excited to share them online. But after a while, my excitement and awe were quickly replaced with a tinge of guilt.
We had fun supporting a harsh activity.
Later that year, I saw posts about how whale shark watching in Oslob is damaging their migration patterns and the creatures themselves. I don't know much about marine animals but this is what I understood from what I've read. Since tons of tourists go to Oslob to see them in person, locals have to feed them so they'll stay in the area. This conditions them to keep coming back because they know there are plenty of food. Ultimately, this affects their migration patterns. Other than that, some tourists break rules and touch or even ride the creatures. Since then, I've taken down my blog post about it because I don't want to promote the activity more.
This year, my high school friends and I went to Siargao Island. We were in Guyam, our last stop during our island hopping tour. I was swimming and admiring the place when I saw a small plastic soda bottle floating. I took it out of the water and looked for the nearest trash bag (while cursing the people who left it behind in my head lol). I then saw the caretaker of the island picking up trash left on the tables and even on the sand. Plastic bags, plastic cups, paper plates, plastic bottles of soda — he picked all of these things up and shoved them into a huge sack full of trash.
Seeing that pissed me off. These tourists who come to the island, take pictures and publish it on social media with captions like "Ahh living the island life" but leaving their trash for someone else to pick up for them is something to be furious about.
Traveling has become one of the top 3 goals of almost everyone these days. More and more people chose to set aside big life decisions and pursue travel.
"Travel is life" Sure, that's great. But with every place you go, never forget to be responsible.
Don't litter! Be mindful of your trash and respect the place you're in. It's that simple. You don't have to be a genius to understand that when you litter, there's a huge chance that it will end up in the ocean, harming sea creatures. When you see trash, pick it up and throw it where it belongs. If you're thinking of trying out an activity that involves animals, make sure to do research if it's something that won't harm them. Always abide by the rules set by the authorities. They are implemented for a reason.
Trash littered on the seaside of Boracay Island during the Laboracay event last May 1 (Video by Rone Saron)
On May 22, the United Nations, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and all the other environmental groups around the world will be celebrating the International Biodiversity Day. Their theme for this year is sustainable tourism (and how to travel while respecting the environment). This is something I deeply believe in, which is why when they reached out to me, I immediately jumped in and typed this post! I'm beyond glad to help them spread the campaign, reminding people to wander responsibly.
If you believe in this cause and want to spread the word too, you can connect your social media profiles to their Thunderclap Campaign which will automatically publish articles related to the cause to your profile. You can go the extra mile by writing about it too. Of course, walk your talk by actually practicing sustainable and responsible tourism.
As the saying goes, "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time."
Let this be your personal travel rule too 😄