Etiquette For Travelers: 6 Rules for When You're on the Beach

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

etiquette for travelers beach edition

We Travel, We Care is a series of essays discussing and exploring issues related to travel and tourism.
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The Philippines is a beautiful country. And during summer, its beauty shines more specially. For one thing, our country is not lacking in the beach department. Our islands are so spectacular, diverse, and incomparable. Yet, sometimes, I think we do not fully understand how lucky we are. It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, but in the case of the Philippines, it is neglect that the former spawns. Sometimes, even worse: apathy.

After writing about the basic Etiquette for Travelers, and the 6 Places in the Philippines That Could Disappear, and have these well received, I now feel even more compelled to continue using my platform to create better travelers out of Filipinos, especially now that summer is here, and our beaches become even more vulnerable to irresponsible visitors.

So, when packing your vacation essentials, never ever forget these 6 simple rules for when you're on the beach:

1. MIND THE SUNSCREEN
While sunscreens prevent sunburns and protect us from skin cancer, most of them have active ingredients that result to coral-bleaching. According to a study that appeared on online journal "Environmental Health Perspectives," popular sunscreen brands have four ingredients in common: paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative. These ingredients are said to activate a dormant virus in a reef-building algae, causing it to explode and spill viruses to the water. Zooxanthellae, the algae, provide a coral with food and contribute to the organisms' vibrant color. Without them, the coral turns white and dies. Recent studies have also shown that sunscreens are toxic to sea creatures and disrupt the ocean's food chain.
etiquette for travelers beach edition

So, use sunscreen sparingly and properly. Lather a small amount and only on exposed body parts. Wait at least 30 minutes before going into the water so that your skin could absorb most of it. This way, you'll maximize its benefits and minimize the damage to the reefs.

2. STAY AFLOAT
We all want to get a glimpse of the fascinating underwater world, but next time you go snorkeling, mind where your feet are. Do avoid prodding and stepping on reefs. Think of the corals as your pride. You wouldn't want others to step on it, right?
etiquette for travelers beach edition

Not only is stepping on corals damage the organisms, doing so is also dangerous to humans. A cut from a coral can easily be infected and you'll never know what kind of poisonous creature is chilling on its surface.

3. ENGAGE IN MINIMAL-IMPACT ACTIVITIES
Parasailing, wakeboarding, and banana boat rides sure are fun and exciting, but bear in mind that the motor oil and gasoline that power the boats needed to facilitate these activities seep into the water, contributing to pollution. If done responsibly, cliff-diving, free-diving, snorkeling, and kayaking all could give the same exhilaration without the negative side effect.
etiquette for travelers beach edition

Furthermore, by no means should you feed sea creatures in their natural habitat. It makes them dependent and disrupts ecological balance.
etiquette for travelers beach edition

Lastly, and to be specific, when you want to go swim with the whale sharks (butanding), do it in Donsol, Sorsogon. Unlike in other places (I'm looking at you, Oslob), where these gentle giants are wrongly treated like pets and are being abused, the people of Donsol leave the whale sharks in their natural state, opting for "chance encounters" and doing away with the "trap-and-barricade" method.

4. LEAVE SEA CREATURES ALONE
In the same logic as not scooping sands and pocketing seashells, not touching sea creatures help keep our oceans healthy. It's completely unacceptable to remove a creature from its natural habitat for the sake of a selfie. You're not cool for posing with a baby dolphin in your arms; you're a murderer.
etiquette for travelers beach edition

5. OPT FOR REUSABLE FOOD CONTAINERS AND UTENSILS
I got this piece of great idea from a fellow adventurer (shout out to Ms. Guada Paredes).
etiquette for travelers beach edition

When packing your food and eating at the beach, avoid using disposable "styro" food containers and plastic utensils for your baon. Choose containers that can be reused. This way, you'd have less garbage to worry about and you'll save money too!

6. ALWAYS KEEP IT CLEAN
Don't just leave your trash on the shores where the waves could easily carry it back to the ocean. Don't throw garbage, however small, in the middle of the sea? Don't be so irresponsible then get angry when you hear news of a place deteriorating because of man-made filth.
etiquette for travelers beach edition

I don't get why people find it hard to mind their trash. As travelers, shouldn't our natural reaction to seeing beautiful places be to help it remain pristine? To preserve it, protect, and make sure it stays this way so we'll get to enjoy it in the future? So, why are we still struggling with improper waste disposal?

Listen, enough with leaving cigarette butts, beer bottles, aluminum cans, plastic utensils, and candy wrappers on our shores and our oceans. The beach is not an ashtray, and it's most definitely not a dumpster! Clean up after yourselves. Don't be a jerk. It's not that hard.
etiquette for travelers beach edition

There you go! These are some of the (previously) unwritten rules that travelers should follow when going to the beach. I'm sure there are many more, but simple things like these can create a ripple effect. Imagine if all of us comply. How great would that be?
etiquette for travelers beach edition

Do you have any more tips to becoming a responsible traveler? Share them in the comment section below. And don't forget to spread the word by sharing this and using the hashtags #EtiquetteForTravelers and #WeTravelWeCare.

Also, do check out the travel guides to awesome less-traveled destinations in Celineism's Spread the Impact series.

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