The Cost of Tourism

We were pained and shocked yesterday to find out that an unfortunate accident took the life of a local tour guide, 27, a father of three small kids. From what I understand he was swept off a rock at the Natural Pool, Arikok Park, by a strong gust of wind, fell into turbulent waters, and tragically drowned. The guide’s mom is a well-respected employee of De Palm Tours, and that company offered to cover all funeral costs, to help out.

The unfortunate event took place while we were photo shooting on board a Red Sail Sports catamaran, Baila, in the area of Spanish Lagoon, on the opposite end of the island.

We were tied up at Mike’s reef, named after the captain of the Tranquillo whose spot that is, and sailed away as soon as Tranquillo slipped into the bay, in the late morning.

That is such a pristine, amazing area of the island.

We sailed further down, past the still smoking dump, and back to Palm Beach at the end of the morning, having accomplished our photoshoot goals.

En-route we talked about the cost of tourism, conservation, sustainability, and a new term, coined just a few years ago, over-tourism.

According to our hosts, on a busy cruise ship day, with 3 ships in dock in the Orangestad harbor, there are about 1,000 snorklers at the Antilla wreck, and more or less 150 divers, all congregated in the exact same spot.

The Antilla, a cargo ship that was scuttled here in 1940 was once one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks, lying in the Malmok bay, in up to 60 feet of water, with a small part of its exposed above water. It became a popular diving and snorkeling destination, but over time, storms have broken the ship apart, and according to our host the wreck is slowly disintegrating and will soon have to be replaced as another underwater attraction, another near-lying wreck.

So, do all these people all have a good time, I asked, all taking a leek together.

No, was the answer. It is often too much.  And the three fish living in the wreck felt used and abused and intruded upon, and having unionized they moved to another less demanding job.  

You get my drift.

We will have to introduce some regulations. Soon.

The much-talked about, looming, Marine Park legislation.

Our hosts are of the opinion that some legislation has to be introduced, to help curb our appetite for adventure and fun, and to mitigate risks to people and our environment, but carefully and in stages, unlike the first sweeping introduction of AZV, was the comparison.

Don’t do it overnight. Pick a few areas first, write realistic regulations, enforce them, then move on further. We will need well trained personnel, and boats and materials, to police four areas to start, then take it from there.

But start somewhere.

Thank you, Red Sail Sports for a superb experience, we enjoyed everything especially the attentive and intelligent crew!


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February 22, 2019
Rona Coster