Second day at the new job and I was diving in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Isn’t it amazing to be diving at the very beginning of a new job?! After seven days, I got certified as Rescue Diver. I never imagined I be diving with a job, and I also did not expect to realise my dream so soon, to live in Asia and travel while working for a cause I believe in.

Photo on the top left was taken in Apo island, Philippines. Photo on right was taken in Dauin, Philippines during my rescue diver course. The photo below was taken in Dauin, Philippines during some of the adventure dives we did. Photo credit: Bernd Zomerdijk

Photo on the top left was taken in Apo island, Philippines. Photo on right was taken in Dauin, Philippines during my rescue diver course.

The photo below was taken in Dauin, Philippines during some of the adventure dives we did. Photo credit: Bernd Zomerdijk

It was during the diving within the first weeks, that I also discovered a lot of the challenges with the diving industry, the dive tourism and its effect on coral reefs and related ecosystems, from destructive anchoring, stepping on fragile coral, damaging coral reefs with equipment to disturbing and affecting the marine life, etc. And did you know that some coral such as the honeycomb coral take 20 months to grow one centimetre? Looking at the different boats, the different dive tours, the snorkelers, I came to realise the scale of the problem. I was in paradise, I was enjoying, but I also was aware this paradise might not continue existing in such beautiful form and shape in future.

Leaving Apo island, Philippines after a day of diving

Leaving Apo island, Philippines after a day of diving

It did not take me long to get the link between what Reef-World does through the core program Green Fins and Climate change, a grand challenge I am working on for several years as a climate speaker and advocate. Protecting and conserving the coral reefs and related ecosystems, through sustainable dive operations, can prepare them to fight the ‘wicked’ climate change challenges.

I was also stunned by the work the small and motivated team of Reef-World is performing in bringing policy, businesses and communities together. The team is working directly with local communities, local and national governments, influencing policy and identifying clear solutions to local problems, and even helping countries to meet specific targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the other side, the team has a broad global perspective and understanding of marine conservation, and has developed strong relationship with UN Environment and other relevant stakeholders, with the aim to to protect our precious oceans and the marine life thriving in them.

A photo of the team together with the local community in Panglao, Philippines during a Green Fins training

A photo of the team together with the local community in Panglao, Philippines during a Green Fins training

I witnessed the different links of relationships and the value people see in the core program Green Fins, through visiting dive businesses in Negros Oriental and Panglao, Philippines, through participating in a training with the Philippines government where national actions where agreed, and currently I am in touch with UN Environment to work on strategic development of the organisation.

Photo of the Malaysian community, after being trained as Green Fins assessors

Photo of the Malaysian community, after being trained as Green Fins assessors

Now more than ever, the oceans need protection, and I’m motivated and grateful to be able to ride the journey. This is a unique opportunity to go deeper into marine conservation, explore Asia and everything it has to offer, explore the underwater world through diving and simply live a unique, exiciting and sustainable life.