On the left is normal coral; on the right is bleached coral after exposure to sunscreen
I see divers and snorkelers slathering on sunscreen every time I go out on the Sea Rovers’ boats. Since there are only a limited number of dive sites at Menjangan and here in Pemuteran, it really worries me about the impact these chemicals may be having on the reefs. Here are some excerpts from an article from National Geographic and PADI. Click on the links if you want to read them in full.
The sunscreen that you dutifully slather on before a swim on the beach may be protecting your body—but a new study finds that the chemicals are also killing coral reefs worldwide.
Four commonly found sunscreen ingredients can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species. Even low levels of sunscreen, at or below the typical amount used by swimmers, could activate the algae viruses and completely bleach coral in just four days, the results showed.
The researchers estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10 percent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching.
So what’s a diver (or snorkeler) to do?
When it comes to sunscreen, any natural product (organic, biodegradeable etc) is better for the environment then the conventional one. Look for a brand that uses physical sunblocks such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead of chemical ones.
Read the label. A product advertising itself as “reef safe” doesn’t necessarily mean what it says. Always look at ingredient lists to make sure reef-damaging substances (such as oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate and 4-methylbenzylidine camphor, all of which have been shown to cause coral bleaching even at low levels) aren’t included.
Apply sunscreen at least 10-15 minutes before going in the water so that the lotion absorbs into your skin.
Now that you’re ready to make the switch to coral reef safe sunscreen (and human-safe), consider the 10 options below, all of which have a “1” rating from the EWG, and positive reviews from online consumers. The products below are not officially endorsed by PADI or Project AWARE; however, if you are reading this article in the United States and make a purchase by clicking a link below, a portion of your purchase will go to Project AWARE via the Amazon Associates program.
- Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin/Children, SPF 30+
- Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
- UV Natural Sport Lip Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Badger Broad Spectrum Sport Facestick, SPF 35
- ECO logical All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen, Original, SPF 35
- BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Raw Elements USA Eco FormulaSPF 30
- All Terrain KidSport SPF30*
I wear a thin wetsuit or dive skin whenever I’m on the boat (I do have a noticeable tan line that starts at my wrists; I could wear my gloves if it becomes too unsightly). I try to sit in the shade, and if I can’t, I use a towel over my head to shield my face from the sun. A broad-brimmed hat would also protect your face.
Some of the world’s problems seem so big that there’s nothing we can do; consider making this small change to do your bit to protect our precious coral reefs.
First shot of the dive–(decent composition, good exposure) sometimes I surprise myself
Dive guide Edy was tasked today with finding interesting subjects for 2 underwater photographers (Dave from London, and the photo wench) at Menjangan. Our first dive was at Box Reef, and the current was strong–both Dave & I tucked in our cameras and drifted along. Eventually, the current lessened and strobes started firing. I took the opportunity to frame both of them against the lovely wall for a couple of portrait shots.
Here’s Edy working on his modeling skills.
Here’s brethren Dave posing for the camera
After a surface interval including drinks and lunch, our second dive was at Mangrove. This was a much more relaxed dive with little current, great visibility and lots to see. I spent much of the dive trying to get a shot of a lone bumphead parrotfish who would have nothing to do with me–camera-shy I guess. So, after fighting with a subject that’s so uncooperative, it’s always nice to find a lovely anemone filled with false clownfish–always a crowd-pleaser and a great way to end a 73-minute dive.
There was lots of activity at this purple anemone.
It’s better than Christmas and my birthday put together
With my new Olympus OM-D E5 Mark II system assembled, the first objective was to try some wide angle shots. The dramatic walls of Menjangan (sites Dreamland and Pos II Belok Kiri) would be the camera’s baptism, and the trusty pirate crew at Sea Rovers eyed this new camera with much skepticism–not sure they had seen a system this large (and heavy) in awhile. But as always, they smiled and provided their trademark great service as they carried the massive load onto the boat.
Shooting wide angle is really challenging for me. My previous system didn’t have a true wide angle lens and therefore didn’t take great scenic shots. Now I had to dig into the recesses of my memory to remember wide angle basics–find a specific subject within the lushness of the reef, balance the strobe light with the sunlight, and shoot upward. Can’t say I did a great job, but I can no longer blame the camera for any less-than-stellar results.
In the next post, I’ll share the first macro and supermacro images taken with the new camera.
This was the first subject I tried to shoot.
Red whip coral always makes a stunning subject.
There were orange sponges everywhere on Pos II Belok Kiri
I loved the beautiful red underside of this anemone and the clouds overhead
If you use a weight belt
If you use an integrated BCD
To finish up this series, let’s discuss what is probably the easiest conversion to make–pounds to kilograms. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, so a good rule of thumb is to take the amount of weight you use at home and divide it by 2. Most people usually dive with a little extra weight anyway, so this should work out just right.
Having said that, if it’s your first dive in a long time, or if you have a brand- new wetsuit, this shortcut might not work for you. If it’s your first dive in awhile, you will probably be just a little bit unsure/anxious, your breathing will be affected and you will need more lead. After a couple of dives, you will be back in the groove and can take off the extra. If you have a brand-new suit, the neoprene bubbles haven’t been compressed yet. In both of these instances, make the conversion and add 1 more kilo.
If you are someone who has perfected your buoyancy and you have been diving recently, ask the DM if they have weights in half-kilo or one-and-a-half kilo sizes. Together, you’ll be able to come up with the right combination for you.
So, my metrically-impaired brethren, I hope you have enjoyed this series and found it helpful. Happy bubbles everyone!
Speaking as an American, when I hear the water temperature is 29 degrees, I momentarily freak-out until I remember that this is in Celcius. But even then, I’m not exactly sure what that means (if I don’t have my trusty Smartphone to make the conversion for me). So here’s a guide, plus some exposure suit recommendations from scubadiving.com.
||EASILY CHILLED DIVERS
||bathing suit or dive skin
||1-2mm shorty or full suit
|27° – 29°
||80.6° – 84.2°
||dive skin or 1-2mm shorty/full suit
||1-2mm full suit
|23° – 26°
||73.4° – 78.8°
||2mm shorty or 2-3mm full suit
||3mm-5mm full suit
|19° – 25°
||3mm – 5mm full suit
||5mm-7mm full suit
|15° – 18°
||59° – 64.4°
||5mm-7mm full suit
||7mm full suit + 2mm shorty
|| below 59°
||You are not likely in Bali
Currently the water temp in Pemuteran is 28-29 degrees. Only once in Bali have I experienced the 15-18 degree range–September 2015 down in the south at Crystal Bay to see the mola-molas. Last year it was much warmer and apparently not many molas were found due to the higher temperatures.
You can always contact the Sea Rovers office before your trip to decide what exposure protection you need to bring. Here’s a tip for those easily-chilled: invest in a hood; it’s small and light-weight and can make a big difference in your comfort level.