My fellow trainees, very busy marking a position, with a surface parachute. (Trébeurden, June 2020)
My fellow trainees, very busy marking a position, with a surface parachute. (Trébeurden, June 2020)

Traveling and diving in the world after Covid

#Brittany #Philippines

  Between Two Journeys

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

It's hard to make diving travel plans with the Covid-19 pandemic. In the world before the coronavirus, I used to go diving in the Philippines or Indonesia... In the post-coronavirus world, I dive in Brittany, France, in green and cold waters.

Diving despite the Covid pandemic

Really strange, this year 2020, which weeks are going by at the gloomy rhythm of the "covidees" countdown. Closed borders, limited air links... Like many travelling divers, I had to put my desires for overseas destinations on the back burner. And then I turned to the local waters. For me, local means Brittany (North-West of France)...

Selfie with cap, anti-Covid mask, dry suit... Diving in Brittany in the next world. (Trébeurden, June 2020)
Selfie with cap, anti-covid mask, wetsuit... Diving in Brittany in the world according to the coronavirus. (Trébeurden, June 2020)

Personal development enthusiasts call it "getting out of your comfort zone". I, the ever freezing girl who only dives in warm seas during the holidays, jumped back into the cold waters of the Channel at the beginning of June 2020, with the lifting of lockdown restrictions... 🥶

It was at Trebeurden Dive Activity Centre (Côtes-d'Armor), during a professional training course to get the Certificate of Qualification for Hyperbarism (CAH) Class 1 Mention B (up to 30 meters).

An internship that I had stalled before the health crisis, in order to be able to do underwater photography in the future with my journalist's cap in a safe and legal environment. And, incidentally, to learn how to use a dry suit.

Mission accomplished: I am now officially allowed to work under pressure, and I marvel that I was able to dive in 16°C water without freezing to death and keeping my buttocks dry. Or almost. A trivial detail of an ill-fitting collar that lets water into the suit... 😂

I would describe the experience as rewarding, even if it wasn't exactly fun, at least far away from the relaxation I usually look for when diving...

As this course was focused on safety, in addition to the rules related to professional diving, we had to get used to Covid-19 procedures: wearing a protective mask at all times, including on the boat, systematic virus-killer sanitization of the diving mask and regulator as soon as you leave the water, complete disinfection and rinsing of the equipment when you're back to the diving centre... 😷

Of course, it is constraining, but you get used to it. No choice anyway. To dive, in this pandemic context, we must respect these precautions.

On this subject, I refer you to the very complete documentation published by Alain Foret on the French site Plongée Plaisirwith recently updated downloadable sheets. See also the FFESSM and DAN websites, which summarize the current recommendations concerning the Covid:

→ Plongée Plaisir - Coronavirus and Diving Information
→ FFESSM - Post-confinement recommendations related to the Covid-19 epidemic
→ DAN - Covid-19 and Diving Operations

Green and cold waters

During the internship, I was allowed to take with me my camera once during one of our underwater "workcamps". Obviously, it is not exactly the same atmosphere as in Indonesian or Philippines waters… 😂

But green water is nice too. It creates a somewhat mysterious atmosphere...

My fellow trainees, very busy marking a position, with a surface parachute. (Trébeurden, June 2020)
My fellow trainees, very busy marking a position, with a surface parachute. (Trébeurden, June 2020)
My fellow trainees, very busy marking a position, with a surface parachute. (Trébeurden, June 2020)
Green water is nice too... Anyway, that brings me a change of ambiance. (Trébeurden, June 2020)

I'm assured that there's plenty of fun to be had in underwater photography in the waters of Brittany. I'm willing to believe it and I'm even considering investing in a wetsuit that fits my size. (No desire to dive in wet in such a cold sea ... 🥶) And for a little "exoticism" compared to Brittany, it remains the Mediterranean Sea. But a dry suit is a big investment, I'm still hesitating.

I'm not sure I use it much, indeed, given my lack of enthusiasm for the waters here and the limited seasonal weather windows at our latitudes... But that could change.

Traveling and diving after the Covid?

Well, that said, I've been pretty spoiled so far. I've been doing bubbles for twenty years now in places other than the swimming pool or the Channel... As a result, I've become addicted to faraway seas, tropical waters with lots of fish, the fabulous sites of the Coral Triangle... 😍

See all diving trips

So inevitably, after having spent a whole summer in France, dry and without any change of surroundings for the very first time in years, I tell myself that it is perhaps the end of an era.

We're not going to be moving again anytime soon, into the next world. Covid is still there. And it may still be a long time. For Asia in general and Indonesia in particular (my favorite dive destination of all), it likely won't be this year 2020. 😭

COVID-19. Can we travel to Indonesia from France? As of this writing (June 7, 2022), foreign travelers are again allowed to enter Indonesia without quarantine. There is no need to present a PCR test upon arrival if one is vaccinated. The 30-day tourist Visa on Arrival (VoA) is reinstated at all airports (500,000 IDR, about 35 €, renewable once), the B211A-tourism visa is also valid again. The following are still required: a certificate of vaccination with two or three doses for at least 14 days (one dose for the Johnson & Johnson), an insurance covering Covid-19 (for an amount of at least 13 400 €), as well as the registration on the application PeduliLindungi for smartphone (iOS or Android). For regularly updated information on the health situation and tourism in Indonesia, I invite you to visit this page of BaliAutrement agency.

At the beginning of September 2020, not all borders are closed to diving travellers from France, however. Several European and Mediterranean destinations are accessible, as well as French Polynesia, Egypt and Mexico for instance, for more distant destinations. But you still have to prove that you have a clean bill of health, with a recent health survey or PCR test.

What is problematic is the uncertainty about the journey itself: borders may suddenly close because of new clusters, air links may be cancelled overnight, quarantines may suddenly be introduced...

To follow the evolution of the conditions of entry and transit of travellers, country by country, you can consult the IATA (International Air Transport Association) clickable map, which is regularly updated:

→ IATA - Covid-19 Travel Regulations Map

But I can't complain too much: I'm lucky to have been able to go diving in Philippines late February-early March 2020, when the coronavirus was not yet a barrier to travel. At that time, however, Chinese and Koreans were already unable to travel. This had a huge impact on the tourism sector in the Philippine archipelago, where they represented a large part of the clientele.

The spectacular Moalboal sardine bank in Cebu practices social distancing from humans. No coronavirus underwater, you can dive without fear...(Philippines, March 2020)
The spectacular Moalboal sardine bank in Cebu practices social distancing from humans. No coronavirus, underwater, you can dive without fear... (Philippines, March 2020)
Diving despite the coronavirus... Here a coral reef full of life, photographed in the bay of Sogod, in Leyte. (Philippines, March 2020)
A coral reef full of life, photographed in the bay of Sogod, in Leyte. (Philippines, March 2020)

On the left: flamboyant "soft corals" clinging to the drop off the island of Pescador, off Moalboal. On the right: a cloud of purple anthias along Pescador's drop. (Cebu, Philippines, March 2020)

Having travelled to Asia in the past during the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)I wasn't more worried about going underwater than I was about going underwater. I wasn't shocked that my temperature was controlled or that people wear masks at the airport. The mask is a "normal" accessory in Asia, it's a habit I've acquired for a long time. We like to wear one as soon as we have a cold so as not to contaminate others, or to protect ourselves from pollution in big cities.

My stay in itself went smoothly, the coronavirus did not prevent me from diving, then I returned to France with no worries... Just before the lockdown in Manila on March 15, 2020, just before the lockdown in France. 😅 Many other holidaymakers were not so lucky and found themselves stranded abroad, waiting for a repatriation flight.

Today, this Covid pandemic makes me foresee a world where we will not be able to travel or go diving as freely as before.

My flight back to France on March 14th. The plane has just taken off from Manila, the atmosphere has changed compared to my outward flight, fifteen days earlier. Entire rows of passengers are now wearing masks. The stewardess will put hers on shortly afterwards. (Philippines, March 2020)
My flight back to France on March 14th. The plane has just taken off from Manila, the atmosphere has changed compared to my outward flight, fifteen days earlier. Entire rows of passengers are now wearing masks. The stewardess will put hers on shortly afterwards. (Philippines, March 2020)

Containment that's good for the planet?

The almost total paralysis of air traffic and tourism, together with the global slowdown in human activities, has made it possible to postpone from 31 July to 22 August the day on which the Earth's annual resources are exceeded. But the impact on global warming is rather derisory: even with two years of containment, we would only gain at best -0.01°C in 2030. However, it is urgent to use all the levers to limit as much as possible this ongoing disaster...

Will the post-confinement recovery plans succeed in changing things? In its plan, France plans to devote 30 billion out of 100 to ecology and energy transition. To be continued...

Update, March 2021. On the topic "Is Covid-19 good for the climate?" I add below this interesting video broadcast by The World March 29, 2021 which shows that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions remains limited:

I remember well my amazement when we began to understand that this epidemic that appeared in China had become a pandemic. That the overwhelmed health systems, the travel restrictions, the confinements, the quarantines were affecting the entire planet!

At the AirSwift check-in counter in Cebu, an employee checked my temperature. Wearing a mask was not yet mandatory... (Philippines, March 2020)
At the AirSwift check-in counter in Cebu on March 11, an employee checked my temperature. Wearing a mask was not yet mandatory... (Philippines, March 2020)

When we're done with Covid-19, I imagine a lot of stringent precautions will still be in place to prevent further potential outbreaks. At airports, in particular, hygiene measures and systematic health checks are likely to remain the norm...

With this forced immobility of almost six months due to the coronavirus, I am starting to miss diving trips.

I am nostalgic for those moments of absolute wonder when I immerse myself with my camera on a reef teeming with life. Of that exhilarating feeling of freedom when I am far from home, at the end of the world. And the inexhaustible pleasure of discovering new horizons, of confronting a culture different from my own...

In any case, this strange period gives me a taste of what a world could be like where, for ecological reasons, we would no longer go to the other side of the planet for holidays.

When you travel to dive and photograph coral reefs, it means tropical, far away destinations. And we feel rather guilty about the huge greenhouse gas emissions associated with long plane journeys... Because of the CO2 in excess in the atmosphere, the ocean warms and acidifies, corals bleach and die.

On the subject of the environmental impact of tourism, I invite you to listen below to this interesting podcast (in French) entitled "Can we be green and go on vacation? », by Lucas Scaltritti. He is particularly interested in "blue tourism" (holidays by the sea), but winter sports are not left out .

So in view of the climate emergency and the depletion of fossil fuels, wouldn't it be better not to go far away? Forget about the Pacific or Indian Ocean islands, for example, since we can't go there by train? And learn to appreciate again what we have close to home? Like the cold green waters of Brittany, for example? I say this without irony.

But I still find it hard to imagine a world where one would always stay at home, among oneself, within the borders of one's own country or of a neighbouring country, with "local" escapes as the only horizon...

Like many people, I try to reduce my carbon footprint in my daily life (food, energy, transportation). But for my diving trips, it's more complicated. For me, underwater photography is a passion, not just a hobby that can be replaced by another one, and I am well aware that I am not really ready to sacrifice that.

So, when it will be possible again to travel more or less freely in the post-Covid world, I hope to be able to leave again. Maybe less often. But, who knows, maybe much longer?

🤔

  Between Two Journeys

  Philippines: Sogod Bay [Leyte] + Moalboal [Cebu] + Pangatalan [Palawan] - March 2020

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  1. I have the chance to live in the PACA region and so this summer I dived in the national park of the Calanques de Marseille. The calanques of Morgiou, Sormiou to name but a few, with rental of a cabin in Callelongue, a tiny fishing port.

  2. Hello Corinne,

    So that's it, you've moved on to scuba diving, congratulations!

    Strangely yes, it's possible to make beautiful pictures in cold and dark waters (I invite you to read the article about Laurent Miroult on my blog and you'll see what I mean 😉 )
    Obviously, I'm not entirely objective. I did my first dive of my life in a cold (very cold) quarry in the middle of winter and I still enjoy those environments.
    On the other hand, it is imperative to have a waterproof suit that suits your morphology and a high-performance sub-combi.

    Concerning diving after the covid, I've been thinking a lot about it lately and writing about it (to be published). On the other hand, I have the chance to go soon to a hot (very hot) destination this week... if the test done yesterday is negative. I admit that between remorse and passion, it's a complicated cognitive conflict. But here it is a question of being able to concretize my project of 2021...

    From the year 2022 (still a little waiting), I decided to leave less often, but for longer periods.
    One day, maybe we'll dive together here or somewhere else?

    I'm kissing you.

    1. @ Helen: soon to be a hot destination? Awesome!! It's still much more interesting than quarries and gravel pits, right? 😉 I'm sending you lots of good vibes for your current and upcoming projects! We still don't know what 2021 and the following years will bring us, but the idea of going away less often but for longer is more than attractive... The concern for most people is to fit the "longer" into the periods of leave granted by an employer... I'd like us to be able to dive together one day soon, we'd have a lot of fun 😉

  3. Arrrgh... Pescador's drop. That's cheating, you were only allowed cold, green pictures. 😉

    Concerning the so-called more serious subjects, one can be initiated to other pleasures than diving (i.e. there's no such thing as diving in life) but it's certain that discovery and change of scenery will always be a driving force, to each his trade-off, but I will never exchange the emotion of discovery for the practice of a habit in "at home among oneself".
    And then you answer this dilemma in your article in an almost numerical way but without repeating some of the teachings. Fortunately, there were still a few airy mouse holes left to satisfy everyone's vices: elsewhere...Georgia for me (the real one, not the orange impostor's), I was almost the only imported rat on board.

    Anyway, don't count on me to blame you for taking a long look to see if the Pacific is still as blue as it was. 😀

    1. @Ludovic : yes, it's cheating, I admit, but I couldn't decently illustrate this article only with green water... 😀 But you're right, there's not only diving in life, there's underwater photography too... 😉

      I would never have thought of Georgia, that's for sure, but it's not exactly a diving destination... In the meantime, I'm going to keep dreaming of Pacific blue, that "blue color that hurts your eyes". Someday I'm gonna go back and get a lot of peepers, that's for sure. Above water and underwater. For as long as I can...

  4. Hello Corinne, I'm glad to see your captivating stories again! I think you're brave to go into cold water; this summer I did two dives in a quarry in Quebec and I froze my cheeks and forehead. So the dry suit will not be for me... I was lucky enough to leave for Cozumel in November, but the next trip has an unknown date. As soon as we can travel again. It will be several more months before we can return home.... if no more tiles fall on our heads. We are getting older so our time is precious. I wish you to be able to return to your passion which is diving and photography. I enjoy reading and re-reading your articles.

  5. Hello,
    to follow up on your post after Covid, and after a cancelled trip in mid 2020 (paid and not yet refunded), we went to dive in Bonnaire in November 2021. To situate, it is an island near Aruba and Curacao and is not subject to storms and hurricanes. Moreover, it is a Dutch commune, but you need a passport and some dollars.
    Except for the diving, there is nothing, well yes: rocks and cacti.
    It's very special, all the dives are done from the shore and in total autonomy, no dive master or other dive leader.
    So we must be careful ... but there is only a little current. but who says no current, little fish
    A road goes around the island with the sites marked on big yellow stones....
    We took a pack (car + equipment of diving + unlimited bottles).
    It's true that diving when you want, without having an imperative of time, it's royal. you take two tanks per person, you don't rush, you have time to put your equipment (which is in the pickup) but it's you who cleans it, etc. When you're done, you go to the drive and you change your tanks for full ones (the system is great)
    in short, it's diving, besides, you only have to look at the waist size and the hair color of the divers.
    It's better than nothing these days.

    1. Your comment is a bit cheeky: when you say that it's better than nothing, that there are a lot of white heads and fat people, it's insulting. You may have had the chance to go during the pandemic when many of you were not even able to consider a diving trip, except for the white heads who had a flexibility that the young people did not have.
      If you have done the 1000 steps site, you should know that you have to be in good shape to go down and up these stairs to get access to the dive site. There are sites where you can see manta rays and sharks; they are exposed to the wind and the current, so they are not so easy!
      Life in Bonaire is simple; unique and worth visiting at least once in a lifetime

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