Be Right Back–Gone Snorkelin’ (Week #4)
This was it! The culmination of numerous weeks of hard work both in and out of the water: the long-awaited Earthraging snorkeling trip! Ever since the school year started last spring, students have been coming by the ESL office to ask us when the snorkel trip would happen again. During this month of Earthraging, students from all grades have been excitedly accosting teachers at every opportunity to find out when the trip would be and who would get to go. This week, finally, their anticipation was satisfied. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Earthraging took a total of 60 phenomenal kids out on long-tail boats to see the beautiful reefs of Thailand firsthand.
Each day started with 30 students flocking to the ESL office before school began radiating excitement in their most colorful beach attire. A short bus ride through Khao Lak brought the Earthraging party to Thap Lamu Pier, where the students met the Wicked Diving crew and disembarked onto three longtail boats, each filled to the brim with exhilarated kids. From there, the boats cut through jade-green waters to anchor on a nearby island, Koh Na Yak, our home base for both days.
On Koh Na Yak, we distributed snorkel gear and prepared for our excursion to the reef. Before leaving for the offshore coral reefs, the kids got one more chance to practice their snorkeling skills on the island shore’s shallow waters, where students and staff were still able to spot anemone, clownfish, pufferfish, lionfish, and even moray eels! After any gear malfunctions were resolved, the group was ready to head out into the open water and brave the offshore reefs!
A few tantalizing minutes later, the Earthraging party anchored at the offshore reef, and students immediately jumped straight into the water. Here, students had their first opportunity to “du pakarang” (watch corals) and witness all the life flourishing amongst the coral structures. Confident students were even able to test out their duck-diving skills to get a closer look at the beautiful reef fish schooling between the coral heads a few meters below. Though the waters were at times intimidatingly choppy, every single student seized the opportunity to bravely explore the marine environment that they had so diligently learned about in the previous Earthraging sessions.
After the reef excursion, the Earthraging party returned to our home base island for some well-deserved lunch, provided by the hardworking and generous staff of RPKs very own cafeteria. Afterwards, students had the chance to explore further in the shoreline waters and to splash about on their very own private island. The kids also spent part of the afternoon scouring the beach to clean up the abundance of garbage that had washed up on its shores. While the amount of trash littering the beach was truly saddening, the students worked quickly, filling bag after bag with all manner of garbage, from Styrofoam fragments and sandals to plastic bags and tattered rags. We hope that this experience impressed upon the children the extent to which their immediate environment has been desecrated by our world’s failure to properly manage pollution and provided them with a poignant real-life example of the many dangers of human ignorance on our marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
By the time our boats returned to Thap Lamu Pier in the late afternoon, every student was worn out from a long day of excitement and activity. On the bus ride back to school, students happily chattered or peacefully dozed the whole way home. Seeing the students’ faces light up with excitement throughout each day made all the Earthraging team’s hard work feel worthwhile, and although the students were completely exhausted at the end of each day, we are all sure that it won’t be long before they are clamoring at our doorstep to find out when next year’s Earthraging program will begin.