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 difficult to make diving trip plans with the Covid-19 pandemic. In the world before the coronavirus, I was going to dive in the Philippines or in Indonesia... In the world after, I dive in Brittany in green and cold waters.
Diving despite the Covid pandemic
Really strange, this year 2020, whose weeks pass by at the morose rhythm of the "covid" count. Borders are closed, air links are limited... Like many traveler divers, I had to put away my desires for elsewhere. And I fell back on local waters. For me, it's Brittany...
Personal development practitioners call it "getting out of your comfort zone". I, the very big chiller, who used to only dive in warm seas during the vacations, re-immersed myself in the cool waters of the English Channel, in early June 2020, in the early days of deconfinement... 🥶
A course that I had planned before the health crisis, 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 authorized to work under pressure, and I marvel at having been able to dive into 16°C water without freezing to death and keeping my buttocks dry. Or almost. A trivial detail of ill-fitting collar that let water in the suit... 😂
I would qualify the experience as enriching, even if it was not exactly a pleasure, in any case far from the relaxation that I usually look for in diving...
This course being focused on safety, in addition to the rules related to professional diving we had to get used to the Covid-19 procedures: wearing a protective mask is compulsory at all times, including on the boat, systematic disinfection with virucide of the diving mask and regulator as soon as we get out of the water, complete disinfection and rinsing of the equipment when we return to the center... 😷
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:
During the course, 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 it's also nice, the green water. It creates a mysterious atmosphere...
I am assured that there is plenty of fun to be had in underwater photography in the Breton waters. I want to believe it and I even consider investing in a wetsuit in my size. (No desire to dive in wet in a sea so cold ... 🥶) And for a little "exoticism" compared to Brittany, there is the Mediterranean Sea. But a dry suit is a big investment, I still hesitate.
Not sure I use it much, indeed, given my lack of enthusiasm for the waters here and the limited seasonal weather windows in our latitudes... But that could change.
Well, having said that, I have been rather spoiled so far. I've been blowing bubbles for twenty years in places other than the pool or the English Channel... As a result, I've become addicted to distant seas, tropical waters, fishy waters, and the sites of the fabulous Coral Triangle... 😍
So, after spending a whole summer in France, dry and without any change of scenery for the very first time in years, I think that maybe it's 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 of the trip itself: borders can suddenly close because of new clusters, air links can be cancelled overnight, quarantines can suddenly be introduced...
To follow the evolution of the conditions of entry and transit of travelers, country by country, you can consult the regularly updated IATA (International Air Transport Association) click 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.
Left: flamboyant "soft corals" hanging on the drop off of Pescador Island, off Moalboal. Right: a cloud of purple anthias along the drop off of Pescador (Cebu, Philippines, March 2020)
Having already traveled to Asia in the past during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)I was not more worried than that about going diving. I wasn't shocked that my temperature was checked or that people were wearing masks at the airport. The mask is a "normal" accessory in Asia, it is a habit acquired a long time ago. We wear one whenever we have a cold to avoid contaminating others, or to protect ourselves from pollution in the big cities.
My stay in itself went smoothly, the coronavirus didn't prevent me from diving, and then I returned to France without any worries... Just before the confinementManila on March 15, 2020, just before the lockdown at home. 😅 Plenty of other vacationers weren't so lucky, and got stuck overseas, waiting for a flight home.
Today, this Covid pandemic makes me foresee a world where we will not be able to travel or go diving as freely as before.
Will the post-confinement recovery plans succeed in changing things? In its plan, France plans to devote 30 billion euros 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!
When Covid-19 is over, I imagine that many stringent precautions will still be maintained to prevent potential new outbreaks. In airports, in particular, hygiene measures and systematic sanitary controls will probably 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 this 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...
This strange period gives me a foretaste of what could be a world where, for ecological reasons, we would no longer go to the other end of the planet for vacations.
On the subject of the environmental impact of tourism, I invite you to listen below to this interesting podcast entitled "Can we be green and go on vacation? », by Lucas Scaltritti. He is particularly interested in "blue tourism" (vacations 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 we would always stay at home, between ourselves, within the borders of our own country or a neighboring country, with "local" escapes as our only horizon...
Like many people, I try 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 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?