Scuba Junkie is an award-winning dive operator with resorts in Sabah, Malaysia, as well as Komodo and Sangalaki in Indonesia. Conservation of the local environment both above and below the waves has been at the heart of Scuba Junkie’s ethos from inception. It’s the No. 2-ranked Green Fins dive center in the world. The center also won the BlueGreen360 “Dive Operator of the Year 2017” award for its commitment to marine conservation and community engagement. The shops also have a dedicated conservation arm, Scuba Junkie SEAS, which runs six conservation projects.
Conservation does not need to be complex for dive operators. Through simple initiatives such as reducing environmental footprint, raising awareness of issues, and giving back to the local community, dive operators can meaningfully contribute to marine conservation. Scuba Junkie’s success shows that conservation and business can work together as a viable business model.
Divers are conservation advocates
The world’s oceans face many threats: coral reefs are suffering from climate change and overfishing. Marine life is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Pollution and plastics in the ocean are causing problems throughout the entire marine food chain, to name just a few.
But through this haze of problems two things have become clear: divers are passionate advocates for conservation issues, and dive operators such as Scuba Junkie are making positive inroads for local conservation. The more dive operators that become involved in conservation, the better the overall effect for conservation worldwide. The dive industry is, after all, a community of locally-based businesses, ideally situated to make a significant contribution to global marine-conservation efforts.
Scuba Junkie believes that regardless of level (dive operator, dive professional or fun diver) enjoying the underwater world comes with a responsibility to protect and conserve. Giving back to the ocean enhances the customer experience and benefits the business. Divers choose Scuba Junkie because of its environmental ethos, and some customers come back year after year. Most of Scuba Junkie’s positive reviews are about the staff’s passion and their conservation-minded ethos.
Going back to basics
Start with the basics: minimize the environmental footprint of your resort and diving practices. Scuba Junkie’s operations are as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible, as per the Green Fins guidelines. For example, all resorts have rainwater catchments to reduce reliance on local freshwater sources. They use solar heaters to heat water. Resorts have dedicated recycling stations, free drinking water refills for guests, and refillable cleaning products to reduce plastic waste.
Underwater, Scuba Junkie’s most important act of marine conservation is ensuring responsible diver behavior. All staff adhere to an in-house code of conduct to make sure divers don’t negatively impact the reef ecosystem. As a Green Fins member, Scuba Junkie has access to resources such as posters explaining the code of conduct in different languages, enabling effective communication. Divers are not allowed to touch or stress marine animals in any way. They also cannot collect any “souvenirs” from the ocean. Divemasters help all divers achieve proper neutral buoyancy as well.
It is easy to engage divers in these behaviors with the proper training. New Scuba Junkie staff are fully briefed on local marine life, environmental impacts and how to educate guests on the harm that irresponsible behavior can cause. Providing divers with this information enhances their experience far beyond the usual entry in logbooks.
Passing on the passion: raise awareness
Go beyond the basics. Raise divers’ awareness and draw attention to some of the issues threatening the species they love without being too pessimistic. Suggest straightforward actions that people can take, and inspire them to make a difference.
Begin by getting to know your environment and its local conservation issues. Share your knowledge with your guests and the local community through talks and small projects. For example, marine debris is a massive, worldwide issue but taking part in local beach and reef clean-ups can make a visible difference.
A major part of Scuba Junkie’s conservation work is raising awareness and getting people involved in their conservation programs. The shop encourages divers, staff, visitors and the local community to take part because conservation is most successful when many people are engaged.
On Pulau Mabul, guests can watch as we release turtle hatchlings. They can then “adopt” one of the hatchlings, allowing the hatchery to become a self-funded program. In Komodo, Scuba Junkie supports ‘Trash Hero Komodo’ and carries out beach clean-ups with guests and the local school. In Kota Kinabalu, Scuba Junkie has a local school conservation program that connects students with the unique biodiversity of their home by taking them snorkeling or diving and teaching them how to protect the environment.
Engaging the local community
Giving the local community opportunities to take part in conservation efforts not only improves the environment but also fosters good relations and partnerships. Scuba Junkie’s conservation weeks feature activities aimed at engaging local schools and colleges in conservation issues.
Dive operators must also support the conservation activities of local volunteers by donating boats, venues, time or money. Give back by enabling locals to become dive professionals, which in some places may otherwise be beyond their means. Scuba Junkie has a Local Divemaster Internship program, where the shop covers all training costs and participants receive a paid working contract after completion. This course emphasizes conservation, producing not just local divemasters, but local ocean guardians.
A reputation as a conservation-minded dive operator with a passionate, expert staff and high training standards sets Scuba Junkie apart. As more guests come to Scuba Junkie and get involved in conservation, more money cycles back into conservation programs, creating a positive feedback cycle. As we develop more programs, we protect more of the surrounding environment, helping ensure the area’s long-term health.
Dive operators make money from the ocean, so they should use some of their resources to help protect it. The dive industry relies on a healthy marine ecosystem. This means it’s an intelligent business decision to invest time and resources into marine conservation. Scuba Junkie proves that it’s possible for dive operators to make a positive impact on marine conservation while running a successful business.