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World Wildlife Fund Good Nature Travel

filtered by category: Snorkeling

  • Date: 04 November 2013
  • Author: Cassie O'Connor, WWF

Wood is the source of life, according to Asmat tradition. Their creation story begins with a figure named Fumeripits, the first Asmat wood carver. His story begins as loneliness creeps over Fumeripits, who spends his days dancing alone. To overcome this feeling, he decides to chop down wood and methodically carve out human figures to keep him company; he also carves a drum after realizing that the inanimate carvings aren’t enough to fulfill his desire for company. Fumeripits begins to rhythmically beat the drum and slowly the figures creak to life.

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  • Date: 22 October 2013
  • Author: Tania Segura, WWF Travel

Go on a visual tour of Papua New Guinea with us! On the Voyage Around the Remote Islands of Papua New Guinea, travelers move from the low seas to the rims of volcanoes. You’ll get a peek at daily village life, cultural demonstrations and reefs that boast a staggering amount of coral. Within the Coral Triangle, there are more than 600 species of coral and 2,000 species of reef fish.

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  • Date: 30 August 2013
  • Author: Karen Douthwaite, WWF

They measure 40 feet, weigh more than 20 tons and can have a lifespan of more than 100 years. But to ensure that whale sharks continue to live out their full lives in the world's oceans, all of us, including travelers, have important roles to play. 

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  • Date: 04 June 2013
  • Author: Tania Segura, WWF Travel

The narrow wooden boat glides smoothly through the Philippine waters. Nervous tension hangs in the air; your eyes scan the waters for signs.

Signs of what?

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  • Date: 08 May 2013
  • Author: Tania Segura, WWF Travel

The peaceful waters surrounding the quiet Indonesian islands of the Raja Ampat Archipelago are a magnet for diverse and abundant marine life. This region contains more than 1,000 fish species and 100s of types of coral. The Coral Triangle itself is a marine wildlife hotspot teeming with almost 600 species of reef-building corals and housing six of the seven marine turtle species found in the world. For first-time travelers to the islands, it’s an incomparable sanctuary.

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  • Date: 19 March 2013
  • Author: Tania Segura, WWF Travel

Originally from Philadelphia, Lee Goldman’s journey has at last led him to the Philippines. Here Lee’s three passions bundle together perfectly--marine biology, conservation and guiding--bringing the underwater gardens to life for lucky WWF travelers.

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  • Date: 11 August 2011
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

Preparing for one of WWF’s highly sought-after snorkeling tours? Take a look at our packing list to make sure you’ve got everything you need before taking to the waters.

1. Mask
Taking the time to find a mask that fits your face well is critical. If you suction the mask to your face, without using the strap, it should stay put by itself. Any air leakage means it’s not a good fit.

2. Mask defogger
Goggle defogger can help prevent your mask from fogging up. Be sure to choose one that’s non-toxic, biodegradable and alcohol free, for your protection and for the safety of the reefs and their inhabitants. A simpler option is to spit into the mask and rub the saliva around before washing it out.

3. Snorkel
A critical factor in choosing the right snorkel is the mouthpiece—you want to make sure it feels comfortable. A “purge valve” is a nice feature on many snorkels that lets water out but not in. And you want to choose a snorkel that comes close to your head, which will prevent drag.

4. Swim cap or bandana
Not only will a swim cap or bandana keep hair out of your snorkel, but it will also prevent your scalp from burning on a sunny day. The surgical caps that doctors wear are an ideal type of bandana because the ties prevent them from slipping off. Pick one up from a medical supply company for cheap.

5. Float Vest
For the less confident swimmer, renting or purchasing a float vest is a great way to keep you buoyant and relieve any nervousness.

6. Wetsuit
Besides keeping you warm in cooler water, wetsuits also help prevent sunburns, offer protection from stingy particles in the ocean and provide buoyancy. Shorty wetsuits—ones with short sleeves and leggings that stop right before the knee—are perfect for water that’s just a little cooler than you could swim in comfortably, plus they’re easier to pull on and take up less room in your suitcase.

7. Rash guard
When the water is too warm for a wetsuit, a rash guard will provide the same protection from the sun and ocean stinging bits.

8. Biodegradable sunscreen
Choose a reef-friendly sunscreen, which biodegrades in water. That way you won’t be damaging the reefs you’re there to see.

9. Fins
For snorkeling, shorter fins are often desired—you can change direction easier and they’re not as heavy, making it easier to kick. If you’d like to try free diving, go for longer fins that will help you swim deeper faster.

10. Neoprene socks
Even fins that fit well can cause blisters on your feet, especially on the backs of your ankles. Neoprene socks provide comfort and can also help keep your feet warm.

For travel clothes and items featuring WWF’s logo, check out online apparel retailer New Headings.

Join a WWF snorkeling trip.

  • Date: 01 March 2011
  • Author: Marsea Nelson, WWF Travel

Whale sharks are not whales at all but rather the world’s largest fish, measuring up to 45 feet in length. Given their size, you’d think researchers would know a lot about them. But little is actually known about whale sharks compare with other species; researchers don’t even know how many exist in the world’s oceans. During a WWF tour, snorkelers have the opportunity to swim alongside this mammoth species.

10. With the exception of the Mediterranean Sea, whale sharks can be found in all temperate and tropical oceans around the world and migrate thousands of miles to different feeding grounds.

9. The whale shark has distinctive light-yellow markings (random stripes and dots) on its very thick, dark gray skin.

8. Despite their size, whales sharks are considered harmless and are often referred to as “gentle giants.”

7. It is thought that whale sharks may have a lifespan of 100 to 150 years.

6. The whale shark is a filter feeder and can neither bite nor chew. Although its mouth can stretch to four feet wide, its thousands of teeth are so tiny that it can only eat small shrimp, fish and plankton by using its modified gill rakers as a suction filter.

5. A whale shark can process more than 6,000 liters of water an hour through its gills.

4. A whale shark’s mouth is at the very front of its head—as opposed to the underside of the head like most sharks.

3. It is thought that less than 10 percent of whale sharks born survive to adulthood. Upon giving birth, the mother shark leaves her young to fend for themselves.

2. Whale sharks are slow swimmers, moving at speeds of no little more than 3 miles per hour.

1. The main threat to whale sharks is the growth of unregulated and unsustainable fisheries to supply international trade demands for shark fins, liver oil (used to waterproof wooden boats), skin and meat in East Asian counries.

Swim with whale sharks on a WWF tour.

  • Date: 31 August 2010
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

Snorkeling gives travelers the best of all worlds: The chance to see brilliant and vibrant seascapes without the expense and special training that scuba diving requires. In fact, many of our snorkeling guides no longer strap on their air tanks and descend deep below the surface in scuba gear, because there’s so much to see just below the surface

If you’re considering one of WWF’s highly sought-after snorkeling tours, the following tips are ideal to help beginners and advanced aficionados alike:

10. Suiting up: Most people think wetsuits are only for use in chilly water. But they serve multiple purposes: They’re great at warding off dangerous sunburns, they keep most of your skin shielded from stingy particles in the ocean and they provide buoyancy.

Shorty wetsuits are suitable for nearly all of WWF’s snorkeling tours. One important tip: Don’t forget to put sun block on the backs of your calves, which seems to be the No. 1 spot to burn when you’re snorkeling. (And choose a reef-friendly product.)

9. Floating around: If you aren’t a strong swimmer, don’t have the stamina to stay in the water for a long time or don’t plan to free dive, consider using a float vest (either one that goes around your waist or one that straps across your shoulders). They’re also very helpful in snorkeling spots where currents can be swift.

8. Take the waters: Most of WWF’s snorkeling trips take place near the equator or in other tropical destinations. That means the sun is strong and dehydration is common. Even if you’re immersed in water, its salt content will sap your skin of moisture. Make sure to hydrate with water, juice or other non-alcoholic beverages.

7. Flood insurance: If your mask floods with water while snorkeling, beginners can go above the surface to let the water out. An effective advanced technique, however, doesn’t require that you surface.

Merely hold the top center portion of the mask’s faceplate tight to your face—use the back of your hand to hold it steady. Then blow air out of your mouth. The air should force the water out of the looser bottom portion of your mask.

6. Keep your distance: Give marine life space and don’t approach too closely. Even if an animal approaches you—maintain a safe distance, and do not touch them.

This especially applies to corals. Some are toxic and can cause nasty cuts or even massive infections—not to mention that even an unintended kick to a coral head can damage decades’ worth of growth. During some of our snorkeling outings, the water over reefs is so shallow that you cannot even wear fins—follow your guide’s instructions when visiting these spots.

5. Test swim: Everyone should test out a new snorkel before going on a trip, but no one more so than a snorkeler with a prescription mask. It is common for small holes or tears to be created when a snorkel mask is being fitted with specialty lenses. Be sure to test it out with time to get it fixed if needed.

4. Cranium care: Wearing a swim cap or bandana around your head not only keeps hair out of your snorkel but also helps to keep your scalp from burning on a sunny day. An especially good style of bandana to wear is the one that surgeons don in the operating room—the ties prevent them from slipping off. Pick one up from a medical supply company for cheap.

3. Steamy moments: Like the inside of a car during a winter day, a snorkeling masks fogs up because you are generating heat. Prior to hopping in the water, wet the inside of your mask and dump out the water. Then spit into the mask and rub the saliva around before washing it out. This will prevent some degree of fogginess.

Special anti-fog gels are available on the market that work rather well; be sure to choose one that’s non-toxic, biodegradable and alcohol free, for your protection and for the safety of the reefs and their inhabitants.

2. Dive into it: Diving underwater and descending 10 to 30 feet is an advanced snorkeling technique that can add tremendously to the experience. Not only do you get a closer look at things below the sea, but you’ll also get yourself into a better position to snap photographs of supersized coral tables or take a closer look at a sea fan.

Diving while snorkeling requires that you learn to force your ears to “pop” to equalize pressure and swim below the surface more comfortable. You also need to practice expelling water from your snorkel by forcing a strong burst of air through the tube as you clear the water’s surface. Special “purge snorkels” are available on the market for those who want an extra line of protection against getting water in your mouth.

1. Don’t be touchy: Resist the temptation to pocket a pretty souvenir shell or seemingly dead sea star—it’s not ecologically sound, and it could even be illegal.

Join a WWF snorkeling tour.

 

 

  • Date: 23 June 2010
  • Author: Lee Poston, Director of WWF Media Relations

“Over there, over there!!!  Get your masks and flippers on!” our interaction officer, Embet Guadamor, yells. He’s standing high on the mast of an outrigger pointing southwest to what looks like open ocean. But it’s not open ocean to his eagle eyes. He’s spotted a dark, spotted mass under the water, and it can only mean one thing: We’re about to enter the realm of the whale sharks.

We quickly put on snorkels and masks and wait for his order to jump in. Once underwater, a swirling mass of bubbles, flippers, algae and plankton give way to an ominous sight. A giant hulking mass is heading straight for us, like a bus on a collision course. We wait a couple of seconds longer and then the mouth, wide open, comes into view. Like the opening scene in “Star Wars,” the massive, hulking body slowly and silently floats by in what seems to take minutes.

As we get to the end of the body, I realize that the tail is coming a little too close for comfort. I need to get out of the way quickly because getting swatted by the tail is about the only way to get hurt by what must be the most inappropriately named animal in the world.

The whale shark is the world’s largest living fish species, and it is just that … a fish. Whale sharks are filter feeders that eat plankton and algae and are about as likely to attack a human as William Hung is to win a Grammy. Little is known about their behavior, feeding patterns or reproductive habits. Because they range over vast areas, we don’t even know how many there are. And perhaps most importantly, they are classified as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

I came to Donsol, the Philippines, with a crew from ABC New’s “Nightline”—Correspondent Bill Weir and Producer/Cameraman Almin Karamehmedovic. They wanted to document one of the most successful conservation stories in recent history – how a sleepy fishing village was transformed into the undisputed “whale shark capital of the world.”

It’s a 40-minute flight, followed by 1 ½-hour drive to Donsol. But it’s a world apart from the traffic-choked streets of Manila. You are met at the airport by spectacular views of Mayon Volcano, the world’s most perfect cone volcano. And once you arrive in Donsol, it doesn’t take long to enter an underwater experience that should be ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

It wasn’t always this way. While the locals have known about the whale sharks for more than 100 years, the scientific world didn’t find out about them until 1998 when local scuba divers captured the first video documentation and alerted staff from WWF-Philippines. WWF then worked with the community and other conservationists and scientists to begin developing a scientific and ecotourism program.

Now the fishermen, who had previously been afraid of (or even hostile) to the whale sharks, are reaping major benefits and they are the whale sharks’ fiercest defenders. Thousands of visitors from around the world descend on Donsol every year to snorkel with the whale sharks, leaving behind millions of Philippine pesos that are shared equally among the community, boat operators, whale shark interaction officers and others. 

Over the course of two days, we swam with around 10 whale sharks, including a 25-foot behemoth that stayed with us for almost five minutes. We were careful to follow the guidelines written by WWF staff to ensure the safety of swimmers and the conservation of the whale sharks. No scuba gear is allowed – only snorkels – because WWF wants to limit time spent with whale sharks, and bubbles from scuba gear may disturb them. And we have to maintain a respectable distance from the fish, mostly for our own safety, but also so they stay near the surface. Getting too close usually results in them diving for deeper water.

WWF is documenting the sharks through a simple, but effective tool. Every day, WWF researcher Dave David dives with the sharks and photographs their gills. He then enters the photographs into a global whale shark database and compares each photograph with others by carefully aligning the gills and then comparing the spot patterns.  He then determines if it is a new sighting or an existing one because a whale shark’s distinctive spots are like a human fingerprint – no two are alike. In fact, anybody who photographs a whale shark can enter their photo into the ECOCEAN database.

David also works with scientists from around the world to satellite tag the sharks to help determine their behavior and migratory patterns. They can travel thousands of miles and very little is known about where they go, so by attaching satellite buoys on thin ropes to their bodies, we can get priceless data that will help determine how best to protect them.

It was hard to leave Donsol, its whale sharks and its people behind. I wanted to keep diving past the point of exhaustion because each encounter was unique and exhilarating. During one encounter, I was eye-to-eye with a whale shark who simply stared at me with an almost perplexed look, probably wondering why in the heck I found him so fascinating.

We hit a clear, plankton-free patch of water and sunlight just poured in and lit up the spots on his immense body. He stayed with me for about 45 seconds and then gently peeled off into deeper and darker water. While for him this encounter was probably like hundreds of others he’ll have in Donsol during the season, for me it was 45 seconds that will last a lifetime.

Join a WWF snorkeling tour.

See a video of whale sharks filmed during this outing.

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