Over the last week, I traveled out of Bangkok and into Koh Tao, Thailand. This paradise of an island houses a population of locals, partiers, and scuba divers being that the temperatures rarely waver below ‘mildly cool’ and the diving is relatively cheap. ‘Taxis’ rendered from repurposed pickup trucks willingly take you from one end to the other, staffed by some of the nicest people you will ever meet. This place is just beautiful.
Pausing for a minute to jot down notes from the last few weeks, I promise I will update everyone with more details from Korea, Hong Kong, as well as Bangkok. For now, please grant me the chance to talk about the conservation work I will be doing for Koh Tao with a UK based volunteer organization as a part of Project Iko.
As you know, Project Iko is an attempt to use world travel and freely available resources as a means to attain a bachelor’s understanding of Physics
Where does marine conservation fit in this? Well first, let me explain the program. The island I’m on could be circumnavigated by a boat in a few hours time. The roads are littered with gorgeous vegetation and everywhere there are signs of a tropical paradise. Spending my first five days on the island gaining scuba certification, I had the chance to see some beautiful coral, exotic fish, and sprawling sandy beaches.
Wonderful, except I simultaneously saw hundreds, if not thousands, diving, snorkeling and fishing above these fragile habitats. Of course, the problem isn’t the amount of people, as much as the amount of undue stressed caused by accidents and carelessness. Everyone I’ve dived with or seen diving has been extremely respectful and just as completely in love with the underwater world they would never purposely destroy it. But accidents do happen. One look below the water and alongside the beauty of the marine world, your eyes will also be me with white dying and dead coral, an overabundance of smaller fish (though this may not be an issue), and accidentally introduced predators.
So, what can be done? Well – happily there are many programs set up to help regenerate the reefs of the world. In Koh Tao, I was lucky enough to find a marine conservation group I could volunteer with. The group I’m with raises turtles, maintains heated coral nurseries, builds mooring lines (to discourage anchor dropping), and collects data on the wildlife of the area all while holding seminars, spreading posters and building awareness among the diving and snorkeling community of the island.
That is a mouthful.
Now what does this have to do with Project Iko? Well, many things. (1) Marine biology. Learning by doing, so much can be seen from aquatic life up close. Freeing a grouper from a tangled net gave me both an education on fish behavior, identification, and added research in the areas of biology and life sciences. (2) Diving and swimming are great sports – fitting my physical education bracket. and (3) I will have many opportunities over the next few weeks to showcase physics underwater, because the underwater world is a wonderful laboratory.
And (4)… Life is meant to be exciting. I could sit in a university classroom and enjoy a lecture. I could find pleasure in exercise at the gym. I could help the world through donations and micro-loans. Yes, I could do these things. I already do, actually. But I want something more. I want to combine my passions, interweave them, and leave behind a life that shows we can build a tapestry of passions and goals as individual as our own interests and ideals.
That’s why I’m in a room with no hot water, in a far away land, excited for the next dive.