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)

Travelling and diving in this post-coronavirus world

#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 in green and cold waters.

Diving in the time of the coronavirus

This year 2020 is a very strange year, whose weeks go by at the gloomy rhythm of the "covidees" countdown. Closed borders, limited air traffic... Like many traveling divers, I had to put my desires for abroad on the back burner. And I went back diving into the local waters. For me, local means Brittany...

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, reimmerged myself in the cold waters of the Channel at the beginning of June 2020, in the first days of the deconfinement... 🥶

It was at Trebeurden Dive Activity Centre (Côtes-d'Armor), during a professional training course to obtain the Certificate of Suitability 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 is 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 virucide disinfection of the diving mask and regulator as soon as you leave the water, complete disinfection and rinsing of the equipment when you return to the centre... 😷

Of course, it's limiting, but you get used to it. No choice anyway. To dive into this post-coronavirus world, we have to take these precautions.

On this subject, I refer you to the very complete documentation published by Alain Foret on the French site Plongée Plaisir, with recently updated downloadable files. You can view the FFESSM and DAN websites too, which summarize the current recommendations:

→ 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 at one of our underwater "worksites". Of course, it's 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 wet suit that fits my size. (No desire to dive with a wetsuit in such a cold sea ... 🥶) And for a little "exoticism" compared to Brittany, you still have 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.

Travelling and diving after the coronavirus

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... 😍

→ View all my 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 won't be travelling again anytime soon, in the next world. The coronavirus is still there. And it's going to be a long time coming. For Asia in general and Indonesia in particular (my favorite dive destination of all), it will likely not be this year. 😭

COVID-19. When will we be able to travel to Indonesia from France? As of the date I edit these lines, foreign tourists are not allowed to enter Indonesia and in the latest news, Indonesia's borders will not reopen until 2021. The Indonesian government prefers for the time being to focus on domestic tourism : Bali reopened on July 31 to visitors from other provinces (or to foreigners already in the territory), Raja Ampat on 22 August.

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 entry and transit conditions for 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 enough to have been able to go diving in the Philippines at the end of February 2020, when the coronavirus was not yet a barrier to travel. At that time, however, the 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 share 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-off. (Cebu, Philippines, March 2020)

Having travelled to Asia in the past during the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), I wasn't worried about going for a new diving trip at all. I wasn't shocked that my temperature was being monitored or that people were wearing masks at the airport. The mask is a "normal" accessory in Asia, it's a habit people have acquired for a long time. They wear one willingly as soon as they have a cold so as not to contaminate others, or to protect themselves 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, the coronavirus gives me a glimpse of a world where you won't be able to travel or dive 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)

Is lockdown 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 delay the day on which the Earth's annual resources are exceeded from 31 July to 22 August. But the impact on global warming is negligible: even with two years of lockdown, we would gain at best only -0.01°C in 2030. Will post-lockdown recovery plans succeed in making a difference? In its own, France is planning to spend 30 billion out of 100 to ecology and energy transition. To be continued...

Health crisis and climate change

I remember my astonishment, when it began to be understood that this epidemic in China had become a pandemic. That overwhelmed health systems, travel restrictions, lockdowns, 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'm beginning to miss diving trips. I get nostalgic for those moments of absolute wonder when I immerse myself with my camera on a reef teeming with life. I miss that exhilarating feeling of freedom when I am far from home, at the end of the world. And I miss this inexhaustible pleasure to discover new horizons, to confront myself with a culture different from mine...

These strange times give me a foretaste of what the world could be like if, for ecological reasons, we no longer travel to the far end of the world for holidays. When you travel to dive and photograph coral reefs, that means flying to tropical, faraway destinations. And you 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 faced with the climate emergency and the depletion of fossil fuels, wouldn't it be better not to go any further? Give up the islands of the Pacific or Indian Ocean, for instance, since we can't go there by train? And re-learn to appreciate what we have close to home? Like the green and cold waters of Brittany, for instance? I say this without being ironic.

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 a lot of people I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint in my daily life (in 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'm well aware that I'm not ready to sacrifice that. So, when it will be possible again to travel more or less freely in the world after the coronavirus, I hope to be able to to go abroad again. Maybe less often. But, who knows, maybe much longer?

🤔

  Between Two Journeys

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

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