What’s an Aqaba trip over Eid Ul Adha without some snorkeling at the coral beds off Tala Bay of the Red Sea? It’s your chance to star in your own National Geographic special. Get knocked out by the natural beauty, then repulsed by the manmade trash.
A glass-bottom boat ride to the reef gives aerial views of Coke cans, toothbrushes, a golf club and bra, all snuggled in a Where’s-Waldo-like panorama of over 400 species of hard and soft coral.
It gets worse when you finally dive in. Candy wrappers float by lazily along underwater currents. Was that a clown fish that brushed up against me? Or just a newspaper some clown tossed away? The plastic bottles are as prolific underwater as they are above.
It is a chicken-egg riddle of monstrous proportion: thousands of visitors head to the seaside during the holiday, dumping money into local economy, but also dumping trash.
Who gets assigned as clean-up committee?
Over the Eid Ul Adha holiday some eighty kilograms of trash was collected from the Gulf of Aqaba in a campaign organized by the Aqaba Marine Park. Alerted by divers in the seven-kilometer Aqaba Marine Park to new accumulations of debris over coral beds, the park, in cooperation with local dive centers, launched a voluntary clean-up.
This noble effort needs to be expanded and bolstered with support from others who benefit directly from the tourist tsunami. What role do you see for luxury resorts, aquatic sports centers, and Aqaba’s Chamber of Commerce in maintaining and protecting these underwater treasures?
Slap some Dead Sea mud on my face anytime, but I’ll pass on the floating candy wrappers.