On Sunday the 3rd of June a team of 13 staff and fun divers at Sairee Cottage Diving took part in an underwater clean up of two of the Koh Tao’s most visited dive sites as part of Project Aware Dive Against Debris campaign. Led by Chris Fitzgerald we started the day with a briefing for what our plan for the day was and what to remove and also what rubbish had actually become part of an artificial reef. Chris informed us what actualy would be more beneficial to leave down there for certain marine life to live in and protect their young. We were then put in our teams first off was team 1 led by Chris diving with Alina who did her DMT with Sairee Cottage Diving and fun divers Heidi, Gaz and Adriana. Team 2 was led by Gordon McBride and he was with Kristoffer and Lillian our new dive master trainees. Team 3 was led by Rachel who was with Deano, Jono and Fred also currently doing there dive master training with Sairee Cottage Diving. Finally was Paddy Steele taking photos. After being put in to teams and informed what and how to remove any rubbish we had time for some food and got our gear ready.
Once on the boat Chris gave a group briefing to recap on the aim of our dives of the day then we split into our teams where the leaders Chris, Gordon and Rachel gave their own briefings on safety and the dive plan. Our first dive site was Japanese gardens a very busy dive site popular for open water courses with its shallow areas as well as some beautiful coral formations. We all headed out to the east of the dive site which gave us a chance to experience muck diving out that way and explore the less dived areas. We were shocked at the amount and range of debris down there. First thing found was a pack of Viagra hopefully dropped by accident rather than to help increase marine life. We had to be careful due to the amount of titan and yellow margin trigger nests but luckily no one was triggered. There seemed to be glass bottles everywhere but many of them were populated with small fish families, so it was better to leave them where they were. While picking things up we were followed by a striped remora that was trying to eat bits of paper we were clearing away which shows how important it is to keep our oceans clean. Eventually it gave up trying to eat paper and tried swimming up Lillian’s shorts while her boyfriend Kristoph kept a close eye on it. While taking pictures of the dive I found a tank o-ring, hopefully it was down there by accident but it goes to show that even as divers we make mistakes and must be very careful not to let things fall overboard. We found a lot of rubbish down there so the team leaders took the biggest bags for the safety stop as they are the more experienced divers and managed to keep perfect trim even while carrying there loaded mesh bags.
We had a 2 hour surface interval where we put all the rubbish into bin bags and discussed what we had seen down there while we had our snacks and drinks. Chris’s team where all laughing about the Viagra but also found batteries, a couple tyres and a tampon. Team Gordon found electrical wires, a breakfast bowl and a lot of screws &bolts but Lillian was excited to see a mantas shrimp so not all bad. Team Rachel found a lot of fishing lines still with the hooks attached, a rather pretty bracelet and a snorkel so we kept those. Deano found 3 dive camera boxes but unfortunately they were all empty. While picking up a glass bottle they found a baby octopus hiding inside. There was a lot of beautiful life out there and lots of macro life to find. There were a lot of anemones with Clark’s anemone fish ready to try and scare us off. During the surface interval we were entertained by Andy our dive master having a Muay Thai match with the boat boy and desperately trying to push each other off the boat. Just before we set off for our second dive site our enthusiastic Dmt Jono leaped off the boat and swam out to a plastic bag in the distance which sea turtles often confuse for jelly fish and eat. Classic Jono.
Dive 2 was at mango bay. We started the dive with a group photo with our Project Aware Banner surrounded by a huge school of scads. similar to Japanese gardens we were out on the sand cleaning up but luckily this site was not nearly as polluted but we did see far more marine life feeding in the sand which shows just how important it is to not throw rubbish over board. There were plenty of flat headed mullet fish, lots of types of rabbit fish and crustations all feeding out in the sand. There were a couple concrete blocks for mooring lines to keep the coral safe from anchors. One was covered with squid eggs which were nice to see and another had coral growing on one side and algae on the top that was being eaten by rabbit and parrot fish. During this dive we were bothered by a lot of blue streaked cleaner wrasse trying to clean us while we cleaned their environment. Thankfully there was not as much debris on this site but still team Gordon found some metal poles but did also find some stingrays out in the sand. Rachel’s team found a plastic bag full of old batteries clearly just been thrown off a boat with no care for the ocean. After laughing at Jono getting eaten alive by the cleaner wrasse and trying to fight back they saw an octopus curiously watching them from amongst the coral. Chris’s team found a lot of long pieces of electrical cable as well as another tyre. Also found was a dive weight again surely dropped by accident but shows we as divers must also take care not to drop debris overboard. It was sad to see all the bin bags piled up after the days diving but we all felt good that we had done something to try and fight against the pollution. The bags smelt so bad and all that junk had been sitting around some of our favourite dive sites polluting the waters and endangering the marine life that inhabits those waters.
Afterwards it was back to the dive shop for another group photo and a well deserved beer after a good afternoon clean up in aid of Project Aware Dive Against Debris.