After spending some quality time with my new Schools to the Sea friends, Bruce, Mark and Sander from Buccaneer Diving in Kenya took me on a glass boat trip. I wasn't too keen on this type of trip but when they explained what it was I got all excited about it!
It wasn't the usual "touristy" kind of glass boat trip that you would expect from a tourist operator but rather a very interactive and educative excursion and this was all thanks to a collaborative effort to educate local glass boat operators and associated members within the Mombasa Marine Park through two "Sea Through the Looking Glass" workshops, a 6 month project partially funded by Project AWARE.
"Glass boat trips are a popular recreational pastime along the kenyan coastline" explained Sander Den Haring, Sea Through the Looking Glass project coordinator and PhD student.
"It is essential to ensure the sustainability of these excursions so that the marine environment is protected and livelihoods do not become threatened" Sander commented.
The Sea Through the Looking Glass project aims to ensure both sustainability and livelihoods by offering educative practices that the glass boat operators and associated members can use to safeguard future generations.
The training workshops consisted of various discussion groups, expert presentations (on marine life in the lagoon and reef, sales and hospitality, snorkel techniques and snorkel guiding) and role-playing scenarios. One of the main outputs of the workshops was the creation of a Code of Conduct developed by the participants themselves through guided discussions.
Each participants and boats who successfully completed the Sea Through the Looking Glass workshops and implemented the teachings of the workshops received a logo to differentiate them from those operators who haven't participated.
The two workshops were able to train 105 persons and one of the participants has now become a trainer for any future workshops. The efficacy of the workshops and the realization of the goals are determined by a PhD research project that is ongoing.
Additional workshops in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve are now scheduled but are still funding dependent.
I am really happy, despite my initial reticence, I was able to take part in one of those glass boat trips. I've learned a lot and I will definitely share this experience in other places of the world where glass boat trips are organized.
I have no doubt that the Sea Through the Looking Glass workshops are not only contributing to protect the local environment and people livelihoods but are also enhancing the experience for those going on these boat trips.
I am pleased I was able to observe and report on the very positive progress of this worthwhile project as part of my Sharks on Tour adventures. But I must admit I much prefer to see the sea and its inhabitants from underwater rather than through a glass bottom boat ... but eh! I must not forget that not everybody can swim like me!