Snorkeling in Phu Quoc: 6 tips for a safe and reef-friendly trip

Snorkeling in Phu Quoc: 6 tips for a safe and reef-friendly trip

Phu Quoc island has been an ideal destination for snorkeling and diving activities. The marine environment diversifies with lots of species of fish and coral. 

Therefore, many tourists visit the small islands of Phu Quoc every year. Lots of boats and speed boats pass through, and tourism activities affect marine life.

As a reputable local tour operator, John's Tours hopes that this article will help you get more awareness about the impact of tourists on marine ecosystems. After that, you can join hands to protect the environment of Phu Quoc with us.

1. Wear a full-body swimsuit instead of applying sunscreen

Wearing long-sleeve shirt when snorkeling (@Liên Lai)
Wearing a long-sleeve shirt when snorkeling (@Liên Lai)

Wearing full-body swimsuits not only protects your skin from strange creatures in the water but also limits your impact on the marine environment because you do not need to use too much sunscreen.

Sunscreen is your must-bring thing when you pack your bag for a tropical vacation on Phu Quoc island. It can reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer. However, the sunscreen will be washed off and enter the water when you join the underwater activities. 

Sun-protective clothing is the alternative way to protect both your skin and the marine environment. You can reduce the amount of sunscreen you use by applying it to only your neck, your face, and the backs of your hands.

Long-sleeve shirt, rash guard, and long pants swimwear help you avoid letting your skin touch poisonous sea creatures or make your skin allergic. John's Tours is grateful if you choose sustainable swimwear.

2. Choosing eco-friendly cosmetics

Free diving in Phu Quoc
Free diving in Phu Quoc

Hundreds of thousands of tourists explore the coral reefs of Phu Quoc Island every year. Therefore, our sunscreen choices have a huge impact on the beauty of coral.

Sun protection has two broad categories: 

  • Physical sunscreen (mineral sunscreen, sunblock) sits on top of the skin and acts as a barrier to the sun's rays.
  • Chemical sunscreen (or sunscreen) protects the skin by absorbing and scattering sunshine before it can penetrate the skin like a sponge.

Chemical sunscreens have oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate in their ingredients which harm the marine environment. These substances will bleach corals and directly affect the skin and shells of other sea organisms.

The best option is to choose eco-friendly, reef-safe sunscreen that contains free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, or parabens ingredients. John's Tours believes that everybody can save the coral and ocean environment with this single little effort.

3. Avoid touching coral reefs

John’s Tours' guide explains how to properly use your mask, snorkel and fins in snorkeling trip.
John’s Tours' guide explains how to properly use your mask, snorkel and fins in snorkeling trip.

Corals look like plants or rocks, but they are actually animals. Bright colors of corals come from a symbiont that lives inside the coral polyps called zooxanthellae. Coral polyps protect themselves and zooxanthellae from infection with a mucus layer - home to a rich microbiome, just like our own skin! 

When you touch coral, whether directly or accidentally, you damage this protective layer. This action exposes the coral to pathogens, and the damage will also trigger a stress response. When corals are stressed, they will expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues - eject their zooxanthellae, causing them to turn completely white. 

It is a “bleaching event” because the coral polyps will lose their color and become white without the pigmented zooxanthellae. When corals bleach, they are not dead immediately. A coral can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and vulnerable to death.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that we are practiced snorkelers. We must control our movements and position all the time without standing, touching, holding, sitting, or pulling the corals.

You ought to look at or photograph coral reefs at a distance of 20-30 cm. Dropping anchors in sandy locations or using moorings is a way to protect coral reefs. You should notice this thing when booking a snorkeling trip.

4. Learn more about your destination

Kim Quy Island
Kim Quy Island

Taking time to learn a little about your destination before making the trip can enrich the travel experience. Each tourist destination will have its own interesting things and regulations.

You can find out which island is untouched, uninhabited, and suitable for snorkeling as Buom Island, Dam Ngoai Island, Doi Moi Island, and Kim Quy Island. 

Therefore, when traveling to Phu Quoc island, please take some time to check the websites of the local tour operators to be fully provided with information and to fulfill the commitment to protect the environment.

In addition to information about common coral species in Phu Quoc Island, you will be updated with knowledge of marine environmental protection in general and coral protection in particular.

For example, we should stop catching or buying parrotfish. Parrotfish are colorful creatures that spend about 90% of their day eating algae off coral reefs. This almost-constant eating cleans the reefs and helps the corals stay healthy and thriving. Parrotfish also contribute to the sand on our beach.

5. Dispose of trash properly

Don't use single-use plastics (@Liên Lai)
Don't use single-use plastics (@Liên Lai)

Garbage debris can be harmful to coral reefs. When disposing of trash, do it properly in garbage cans to avoid trash being blown or washed away into waterways and oceans. All John's Tours private beach and boats on May Rut Trong Island are equipped with trash cans. Make sure you leave no trash behind on beaches, and never throw or leave any cigarette butts in the sand.

Reducing the use of single-use plastics is also an excellent way to protect the ocean environment. Single-use plastics include plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, take-out containers, and any other plastic items which we use once and then discard.

The best way to do this is to refuse any single-use plastics that you do not need, purchase and carry with you reusable versions of those products, including reusable grocery bags, produce bags, bottles, utensils, coffee cups, etc.

6. Avoid purchasing coral

Snorkeling in Gam Ghi Island
Snorkeling in Gam Ghi Island

One of the reasons people exploit coral is to make souvenirs for tourists or serve ornamental fish businesses. The fact many people don't know corals are living things. The increased demand has driven the destruction of this ecosystem.

Not only coral, but tourists also looking to buy fish, starfish, or natural products also threaten these species. Be a responsible traveler when turning down souvenirs of coral or marine origin. When tourists don't consume these items, the exploitation will also decrease rapidly.

With only the above six tips, you will realize that these little actions when snorkeling on Phu Quoc island have contributed to protecting corals and the marine environment!

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