This month the Dive Masters, DMTs, and a few customers from Sairee Cottage Diving completed clean-up dives at two dive sites in Koh Tao. The shop closed (like most of the island) for November as it was low season and monsoon season. The monsoon never really came, but the winds changed and blew a lot of marine debris into some of the bays on the east side of the island. The worst affected areas were Aow Luek and Hin Gnam, so we planned an afternoon boat to go and clean them up.
Signs were put out in the front of the dive shop, and all the staff was told to mention the clean-up effort to their students so that we could achieve a high turnout. In the end, we had so many people wanting to help that we had to turn a lot of people away due to lack of boat space. What a good sign for future clean-ups! Dive Master Paddy led Team One with volunteers, Nick and Sally. Dive Master Robin led Team Two, which consisted of DMTs, Jon and Liane, and student Charlie. Dive Master Gaz was in charge of Team Three, which involved volunteers Dennis and Michael Finally, Team Four consisted of volunteers, Samantha and Kevin, and Dive Master Lee.
Everyone met at the dive shop at 11.30am for a dive briefing about what to remove and what to leave behind as certain things had become integrated into the reef. We also spoke about what each diver should lift as their skill level varied. We decided that anything over a certain weight or size would be left behind but marked off on a map for a future trip. A quick lunch break followed, and then we headed out to the boat.
We arrived in Aow Luek and descended all together as one group. We then all headed out to the coast at slightly different angles to cover as much ground as possible. We collected almost all little bits of rubbish like plastic bags, straws, broken plastic, and rice sacks. Thankfully, there was nothing too big to lift on this trip so all the rubbish fit into our mesh bags. The worst type of debris was the plastic rice sacks. They would break up into thin strands when we tried to remove them from the coral. Some of the coral under the sacks were severely damaged, which means that the bags had been there long enough to destroy a few areas of the coral. This bay was not as bad as we had originally thought. However, it’s a big bay, so we may need to instigate another afternoon clean-up dive there.
The second dive site was Hin Gnam. This bay is within sight of the first, and Instructor Mia joined us on this dive. We expected this dive site to be in worse condition than the first site, but at first glance, it was spotless. This was not long lived because as soon as we got into the shallow water near the coast, there was a huge amount of plastic floating on the surface above us. We had half of the divers surface and collect rubbish there, while the others were just below collecting anything that started to drop down. Most of this rubbish was coming in from the bay where some building work is going on. Looks like we will need to plan another clean-up dive in a month or two once the construction is completed! That way we can properly clean up the dive site.
Once we arrived at the dive shop, we posed for a fabulous group photo and a well deserved beer(s). We are planning to host our next clean-up dives in mid January. We hope that you can come join us!