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 in the time of the coronavirus
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)...
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... 🥶
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's restrictive, but you get used to it. No choice anyway. If you want to dive in this post-coronavirus world, you have to comply with 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 files. See also the FFESSM and DAN websites, which summarize the current recommendations:
During the internship, I was allowed to take with me my camera once at one of our underwater "yards". 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...
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.
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... 😍
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 may last for a while. For Asia in general and Indonesia in particular (my favorite dive destination of all), it likely won't be this year 2020. 😭
COVID-19. When will we be able to travel to Indonesia from France? At the time of writing (May 2021), foreign tourists are not allowed to enter Indonesia. Indonesia's borders remain closed to visitors (except for holders of diplomatic or service visas, and residents with Kitas/Kitap permits, subject to health checks). Only the following is possible domestic tourism (also with health checks): Bali reopened on 31 July 2020 to visitors from other provinces (or to foreigners already in the territory), Raja Ampat on August 22. For recent and 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:
But I can't complain too much: I'm lucky enough to have been able to go diving at 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 barred from travelling. This had a huge impact on the touristic industry in the Philippine archipelago, where they used to represent a large part of the clientele.
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 lockdownin 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.
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 of "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 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 travel far? Forget about the islands of the Pacific or the Indian Ocean, for example, since we can't get there by train? And relearn to appreciate 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 ready to sacrifice that.
So, when it will be possible again to travel more or less freely in the post-Coronavirus world, I hope to be able to go back. Maybe less often. But, who knows, maybe much longer?