Giving back.

The shore is sprouting mangroves.

26th July 2022

Kralendijk, Bonaire – Kralendijk, Bonaire via Corporal Miess

As a species we take a lot from this earth. Materially we remove oil from its deep bedrock and repay the earth by returning Co2. Emotionally we witness amazing natural phenomena like the setting of the sun and then discard our rubbish polluting the World. On Ruffian our environmental footprint is tiny*, but we still have a footprint and thanks to Bonaire we’ve been able to give something back to make the world a better place.

Using our new found diving skills we were about to give something back by venturing underwater in ‘Dive Friends Bonaire’ quarterly ocean clean-up dive. Adding a special dive friendly refuse sack to the ridiculous amount of kit that is needed to go diving we took to the water with over 90 other divers. Like a scene from James Bond in Thunderball, en-mass we waddled into the sea and then gracefully descended to the base of cruise ship dock.

The cruise ship dock is usually off limits for divers and everyone was keen to explore, but our focus wasn’t on fish and coral, it was on plastic and trash. We were sadly disappointed that cruise ship passengers** hadn’t discarded Rolex’s or diamond necklaces but had deposited every form of rubbish imaginable. Beer bottles jostled for space with plastic cups, discarded packaging threatened to envelop everything, while car tyres seemed ambivalent to the reefs attempts to absorb them. Tying all this together in one unholy mess was miles and miles of fishing line that wrapped itself around every man-made object while everything that could grow, grew into it.

Slowly we filled our bag and cleaned the reef until the extra weight threatened to pull us into the deep. Around us every diver was having the same buoyancy struggles and almost in unison we all headed to shore. Emptying and sorting our treasures, the scores told us we’d removed 400kg of man-made detritus. We’d given something back, but it truly felt like a drop in the ocean.

Knowing that the reef near Ruffian was a little cleaner we headed off with Ross and Louise on ‘Blue Mist’ to a corner of the island that we knew would be untouched. Far from civilisation and with no sign of man ashore the water was pristine and as we jumped in the reef was too, but there was another reason why things were so perfect; the current.

As the soft coral wafted in the strong current they gave a serene view, while we paddled with all our might to make headway. Using every trick in the book we slowly made progress and after 30 minutes of witnessing the serene scene gradually change it was time to turn around. Where we had slowly looked at black corals and fish foraging, we now passed them in a blur. Within minutes we were back at ‘Blue Mist’ exploring the shallows while the deep water whizzed by us.

We hoped that that sea would give back to us as we once again dived with the legend that is Bart*** we were searching for a seahorse. We had high hopes as he had insider knowledge, great conditions, the prefect spot and he knew the habitat they preferred. Floating effortlessly just above the seahorses’ favourite home, we focused and searched, and searched and focussed. The seahorse remained elusive by either having scarpered away or deploying camouflage that would have made an army sniper jealous.

Not wanting to give us a view of a seahorse, the underwater world gave back in other ways. In the deep blue water coral grew in incredible formations and the sun shone through, highlighting man-made structures, making us appreciate its power and strength. The wonders continued in the shallow water as Barracuda chilled while having their teeth cleaned and soft corals gave shelter to turtles and crabs.

Thinking that before giving up a seahorse, the ocean was wanting something more, we joined the Mangrove Maniacs in replanting the mangroves that protect the island. With trucks full of juvenile plants, we had the simple task of wading in to the shallow ocean waters and giving them an environment, they could thrive in. This environment consisted of simply piling rocks onto their roots and stopping them washing away. Apparently mangrove plants are nearly indestructible and would be happy in their new rock strewn home. Slowly they would then transform the rocky world into something that not only protects the island, but also helps the environment and gives shelter to all sorts of marine life. They just need a helping hand to start. Once again, we gave back but it felt too little and too late.

Bonaire, even with us trying to give back, has given us more than we could have hoped. The underwater world has shared its secrets with us (although not all of them) the sun has shone and mercifully there are no hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic.

* All our electricity needs, a paltry 30kW/month, are met by solar power, we only use c.90 litres of diesel and c.5.5kg of propane a month for motoring and cooking.

** Its not fair to blame the cruise ship passengers for all the rubbish, it was clear to us that everyone that uses this dock is culpable, even the goods that we buy in the supermarkets are delivered here.

*** Thanks again go to the legendary ‘Aquaman’ Bart for taking us to his secret spots, sharing his island with us and exuding knowledge and competence.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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