Tips on being a responsible traveller

Next blog post on responsible travelling with regards to marine life, by IYOR intern, Talia Wong:

By now, you’ve probably seen our social media post regarding the general guidelines and code of conduct for being a responsible traveller as developed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics.

If you haven’t, click here and it’ll redirect you to it!

Many of us probably love getting away from this urban pressure cooker life and “de-stress” by travelling to nearby and distant tropical paradises with white sand beaches and pristine waters i.e. Bintan, Bali, Phuket, Krabi, Boracay, Hawaii … the list goes on. And when we’re there, we’ll probably be doing some island hopping i.e. around Thailand’s famous James Bond islands and Phi Phi islands and of course, snorkelling  – I mean, the water is so blue, there’s so many fishes and an alive reef beneath, what are you waiting for?! Climb down the ladder or jump straight off the boat into the water!

In all that excitement, here’s some things we should remember before taking that jump:

  • Use reef-safe sunscreen
Photo taken from TheManual
Photo taken from TheManual


Bet you didn’t know that there are some chemicals i.e. oxybenzone in sunscreen that accelerates coral bleaching and slows net coral growth! I didn’t too, until this research paper came out. According to this 2015 study, up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reefs areas annually. And in an ever more polluted ocean, if we can reduce or remove any stressor that affects reef survival, we should. Good news is, Hawaii might become the first state in the world to ban sunscreens with oxybenzone in it! Switching up your sunscreen is as easy and fuss-free as snapping your fingers. Here are a few reef-friendly sunscreens you can look out for the next time you make an online/offline purchase, don’t say I never say:

Badger (we use this for The Dorsal Effect’s boat trips! 🙂 )


All Good

Mama Kuleana


P/S: You don’t have to go ham on your SPF. SPF30 (blocks out 97% UVB rays; no sunscreen can block out 100%) is the minimum recommended from the American Academy of Dermatology.

  • Do not step on the coral reefs
Photo taken from AllHawaiiNews
Photo taken from AllHawaiiNews


Most of the established coral reef system we see today take thousands and hundreds of thousands of years to grow and establish its size we see today. Massive corals typically have growth rates of 0.3 to 2 cm per year and branching corals grow up to 10 cm per year. Carelessly stepping or resting on them because you’re tired means destroying a living organism that’s been around way longer than humanity and the home and feeding ground of the fishes you see around you!

  • Do not touch or disturb any marine animals
Photo taken from BookYourDive
Photo taken from BookYourDive


Maybe it’s the first time you or your child see a lone starfish on the beach. Yes, I know they’re cute– go closer, take a photo with it. But please refrain from picking them up! Mishandling can hurt or even kill them i.e. taking them out of the water for too long or accidentally dropping them. Remember that they are living things too so please respect their personal space. Also, who knows you might chance upon poisonous species while snorkelling?

  • Feed the fish

(Guilty as charged… I wish someone told me this earlier!)

Photo taken from a TripAdvisor Review
Photo taken from a TripAdvisor Review


What’s wrong with giving them some bread or fish food? A-ha, you’re mistaken! While well-intentioned, you’re feeding them the wrong food. Feeding them un-natural food disrupts their natural feeding cycle. Reef fishes live and survive on the algae that grows on the reef. Fishes graze and keep reefs healthy by eating up the excess algae and prevents it from suffocating the coral.

  • Do not pick up shells
Photo taken from Care2
Photo taken from Care2

I used to do this all the time (ack!) because who can resist such pretty and delicate looking shells?? Guess what, these empty shells you pick up are potential homes or hiding place for crabs and other animals. So, think twice before picking up a shell just cause it’s aesthetically pleasing to you.

  • Do not litter i.e. plastic cutlery, bags, cigarette butts
Photo from Paul Kennedy, Getty; taken from National Geographic.
Photo from Paul Kennedy, Getty; taken from National Geographic.


Plastic and cigarette butts are very harmful to the marine environment. They can be viewed as food which the marine animals consume and eventually cause their starvation if they keep consuming litter. Plastic can also strangle and cause their death. Remember not to carelessly toss your cigarette butts into the ocean and not to bring single-use plastics the next time you’re out island hopping!


Travellers, keep in mind these are the places you paid specifically to visit! Paying a little more for a reef friendly sunscreen and giving a little more attention to your surroundings and your behaviour goes a long way in preserving the pristine natural environment.



“Corals – How Do Coral Reefs Form?.” Corals, 2017,

“How Coral Reefs Grow | Coral Reef Alliance.” Coral.Org, 2017,

Orenstein, Peggy. “Opinion | Is Your Sunscreen Poisoning The Ocean?.” Nytimes.Com, 2017,

Yuhas, Alan. “Slathering On Sunscreen At The Beach? It May Be Destroying Coral Reefs.” The Guardian, 2017,

#BeResponsible – “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

Blog post by IYOR2018 intern, Talia Wong:

Today we’ll be kicking off the series with #BeResponsible.

We’ll be talking about Ecotourism and Responsible Tourism and how The Dorsal Effect as an eco-based travel agency fits into it.

First, we’ll be revealing the defining traits of Ecotourism & Responsible Tourism, identifying their commonalities and differences.


The terms Ecotourism and Responsible Tourism have been used interchangeably, especially by tourist operators, mainly because the boundaries between these two terms are rather blurred since they are based on similar concepts such as soft tourism, ecodevelopment, appropriate tourism, sustainable tourism etc.

Ecotourism taps onto the appeal of the local natural, ‘undisturbed’ ecological environment with the emphasis on maximizing community benefits and minimizing environmental damage through an environmentally responsible behaviour. Fundamentally, ecotourism is still a form of tourism which aims to have its tourists leaving satisfied with the whole experience.

Screenshot 2018-01-09 at 10.00.05

Responsible Tourism has to do with the impacts of tourism on both the physical environment and social well-being of the local community. As such, Ecotourism is enveloped in this broader Responsible Tourism concept.

Screenshot 2018-01-09 at 10.02.01

Social engagement generally takes place due to an internal conviction related to socially based motivations. For example, if you’re an animal lover, you’ll be more inclined to donate money to an animal care foundation or more likely to volunteer at SPCA shelters. This is the same for tourism. By engaging the values of the tourist, we can enable change in their behaviour through physical work, social interaction or even financial compensation for environmental footprints.

Unfortunately, while the knowledge of an environmentally responsible behaviour comes from greater awareness and the possession of environmental knowledge, it does not often translate very well into the appropriate actions. This is particularly so during vacations when making a compromise between personal pleasure and environmental protection is difficult. (“We’re on holiday, why should we care?”)

For us, we believe that being environmentally responsible need not be confined to the eco site. In fact, such behaviour crosses into both the public and private sphere be it in an activist movement or just a pro-environmental habit you picked up along the way. It does not necessarily have to effect immediate and large-scale changes, it can be something personal and small if it is consistently performed that it becomes an automatic action.


Tourist numbers per trip are kept low
Tourist numbers per trip are kept low


Here at The Dorsal Effect, we have adopted a responsible ecotravel approach. The foundation of our ecotourism is based on the physical environment and the support of local shark fishers. With the help of YALE-NUS and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), we were able to conduct coral surveys and identify potential attraction sites. Tourists are not left out of the equation (cue, environmentally responsible behaviour) as they too play an important part in maintaining the site and sharing their experiences after.
Of course, we note that becoming environmentally responsible does not take place overnight. As an ecotravel agency, we seek to spark curiosity among tourists who come along on our trips which can then potentially pave the way for more responsible environmental behaviour in time to come.

Building a biorock together with Gili Eco Trust and ISS
Building a biorock together with Gili Eco Trust and ISS


The Dorsal Effect currently organizes 2 types of eco-trips – one catered for the public and the other for students.  The former itinerary involves a visit to the Tanjung Luar shark market and boat snorkelling trips which usually takes up 1-2 days and is usually part of the tourists’ larger holiday itinerary. The latter itinerary has more of an “eco-fieldtrip” experience with students not only visit the shark market and go on snorkelling trips but are also being taught to build bio rocks, collect beach trash, visit the local schools at Tanjung Luar and more.

The Dorsal Effect intends to focus more on students and has collaborated with YALE-NUS, ISS International School (ISS) and Singapore Management University (SMU) since starting the business.

In hopes of enabling pro-environmental practices, The Dorsal Effect wants to reach out to more schools and engage young minds who possibly hold future leadership positions.

For the school trips with YALE-NUS, ISS International School and Singapore Management University (SMU), we conducted a post-trip survey to identify areas we excel at and areas we can improve on.

There were three main takeaways from the eco-fieldtrips.

Firstly, a positive experience can influence attitudes and influence environmentally responsible behaviour. All students found the eco-trip to be enjoyable, meaningful and educational with 97% intending to commit to some form of action after the eco-fieldtrip with 56% intending to reduce their single-use plastic usage and 10% reducing their seafood consumption.


When asked about the direct influence The Dorsal Effect had on them regarding shark fin consumption, 80% agreed to avoid eating shark’s fin for the rest of their life.


Besides, the multi-sensory experience experienced through snorkelling, visits to the shark market, involving stakeholders, end-of-day debriefings and reflections offers a chance for the student to be more involved and connected to the Lombok situation and shark fin trade. Students have suggested for a longer eco-trip duration conducted under more informal settings to improve the experience. A student from ISS mentioned that she came “to do things not to listen in a classroom setting”.  After all, students and tourists, in particular, are voluntary learners. Long hours of sitting and lecture-style educational programmes are ineffective and not meaningful.

Lastly, the survey also sheds light on the potential emergence of a different kind of service learning trip that interacts with the marine environment and coastal communities.


“need for conservation is as much a human issue as … the survival of our planet”

As tourism in Lombok is still in its initial stages, it is more vital for the Indonesian government or the local government to make a conscientious effort to publicly manage assets, regulate operations and prioritise sustainable practices. For example, the government can support initiatives to reduce transport pollution and protecting eco-sites.

A suggested poster of things to do and what to avoid for the locals
A suggested poster of things to do and what to avoid for the locals


We have seen in recent times that with other fishers or locals seeing value in joining this new trade, many of them do so carelessly and irresponsibly, risk damaging the fragile marine environment. Examples of irresponsible behaviour include dropping anchors onto corals, unregulated tourist numbers at sites, littering, feeding fishes at snorkel sites, not informing tourists to refrain from touching, harassing marine life and picking shells without a care for the natural environment. Not only does it damage the environment, it risks the option of a viable alternative livelihood from the finning trade.

Moreover, research has shown that by publicly involving the government, tourists are more likely to be open and trusting to the idea of ecotourism which can favour the further development of responsible ecotourism.

For many of us, “travel(ling) more” is up there on our 2018 resolution list. However, there is frequently little mention about travelling more responsibly despite soaring literacy rates and environmental degradation being the talk of the town.

So, we urge you, why not make 2018 your year of responsible travel?

Till next time, we hope you enjoyed this entry (:


Björk, Peter. “Ecotourism From A Conceptual Perspective, An Extended Definition Of A Unique Tourism Form.” International Journal Of Tourism Research, vol 2, no. 3, 2000, pp. 189-202. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1002/(sici)1522-1970(200005/06)2:3<189::aid-jtr195>;2-k.

Chiu, Yen-Ting Helena et al. “Environmentally Responsible Behavior In Ecotourism: Antecedents And Implications.” Tourism Management, vol 40, 2014, pp. 321-329. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2013.06.013.

Diallo, Mbaye Fall et al. “Responsible Tourist Behaviour: The Role Of Social Engagement.” Recherche Et Applications En Marketing (English Edition), vol 30, no. 3, 2015, pp. 85-104. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/2051570715594134.

Fennell, David A. Ecotourism :Third Edition. 3rd ed., New York, NY: Routledge, 2008,.

Gagnon, Éric et al. “Donner Du Sens. Trajectoires De Bénévoles Et Communautés Morales.” Lien Social Et Politiques, no. 51, 2004, pp. 49-57. Consortium Erudit, doi:10.7202/008869ar.

Poudel, Surya, and Gyan P. Nyaupane. “Understanding Environmentally Responsible Behaviour Of Ecotourists: The Reasoned Action Approach.” Tourism Planning & Development, vol 14, no. 3, 2016, pp. 337-352. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/21568316.2016.1221851.

Rigall-I-Torrent, Ricard. “Sustainable Development In Tourism Municipalities: The Role Of Public Goods.” Tourism Management, vol 29, no. 5, 2008, pp. 883-897. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2007.10.004.

Stern, Paul C. “New Environmental Theories: Toward A Coherent Theory Of Environmentally Significant Behavior.” Journal Of Social Issues, vol 56, no. 3, 2000, pp. 407-424. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00175.

Yu, Chia-Pin (Simon) et al. “Measuring Residents’ Attitudes Toward Sustainable Tourism: A Reexamination Of The Sustainable Tourism Attitude Scale.” Journal Of Travel Research, vol 50, no. 1, 2012, pp. 57-63. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/0047287509353189.

Ziegler, Jackie et al. “But Are Tourists Satisfied? Importance-Performance Analysis Of The Whale Shark Tourism Industry On Isla Holbox, Mexico.” Tourism Management, vol 33, no. 3, 2012, pp. 692-701. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2011.08.004.


Earthfest2018 x TDE

The Dorsal Effect will be partaking in Earthfest2018!

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 13.17.20

Visit us at our booth and enjoy a day out with your family and friends. It’s going to be a awesome time eating and witnessing a future we can all look forward to. All you need to do is click here and you’ll have the ticket.   

Now, you must be wondering what EarthFest is all about. Here’s what we know!


At EarthFest, it offers us a glimpse into what our future could look like with the backing of science, a little innovation and an open mind – it’s not about giving things up! It prides itself as a low-waste festival that uses biodegradable & compostable cutlery sets and utilizes technology to distribute information!

Catered to people across age groups, gender and background, there is something for everyone. Sit back and enjoy live performances or walk around and look at the yummy spread of plant-based international food fair and local sustainable businesses! Participate in their hands-on workshops or take a break and listen to guest speakers.

Located at Marina Barrage which was awarded the Green Mark Platinum Infrastructure Award, the top award at BCA awards, it is one of the most beautiful sustainable buildings in Singapore and it is the perfect place to host EarthFest 2018! Its green roof is made of 100% recycled plastics & eco-friendly drainage cells and double-glazed glass panels reduced heat penetration and minimized the need for air conditioning system. Moreover, the Solar Park alone generates enough energy to power 180 average households in Singapore … and more!

So, what are you waiting for?

Join us on January 14 (Sunday) and be a part of EarthFest 2018 (:

Official Message from EarthFest:

EarthFest is having it’s third edition on January 14, 2018!  Just like the first two, it has been designed to be sustainable, fun, and inspirational for all ages!  Featuring a food fair of delicious international and new age planet-friendly foods, a Farmer’s Market of local businesses with more sustainable products, an eco-carnival of engaging low carbon games, as well as other various opportunities like talks, screenings, etc.  We will have over 120 stalls this year and expand into a third floor.  There will be something for everyone and all interests – all packaged in one of the most sustainable and beautiful venues in the world: Marina Barrage!


Highlights and additions to the festival this year include:

  • New bands on stage, including local artist Christiane Mikaela
  • Our first hybrid food truck will be part of the food fair
  • New talks and workshops curated by Green is the New Black!
  • PitchFest by Awesome Foundation – win $1000 for your sustainable project
  • NEA Exposition on Climate Change + Waste
  • Screening of Landfill Harmonic by Singapore Eco Film Festival
  • Singapore Really Really Free Market
  • Exhibition of the Green Warriors by The Wedge Asia
  • WWF Eco-School exhibitions
  • Bookswap hosted by Secondsguru
  • Used cooking oil collection for biodiesel production by Alpha Bio Fuels
  • Try e-schooter sharing by Popscoot


Are we really serious about sustainability?  This is how we’ll stand apart: Our food fair will use 100% compostable material – and we’ll actually compost it!  The food is all planet-friendly requiring less water, land, and food inputs to produce while still being delicious and healthy (and from some of Singapore most highly rated restaurants!)  We’ll feature only reusable bags and no pamphlets can be handed out – they have to do digital distribution!  And all that haze we’ve been breathing in?  Well that’s due to palm oil – so it’s banned at EarthFest!  More than that we’re the first comprehensive sustainability festival that unites many organisations and businesses together at once.  You’ll have access to information on fair trade, buying local, organic, responsible investing, planet-friendly and healthy food, transportation, biodegradable & non-toxic options, overfishing, waste, electricity usage, water and much, much more!  Most importantly, we’ll inspire you with the effective ways you can make changes to really make a sustainable and modern future possible!


Excited?  We are and hope you are too!  We hope to see you on February January 14, 2018 from 11 am to 4:30 pm for EarthFest!  The limited tickets are FREE and available at  You can also see all the businesses that will be there by visiting!  This is a community-based event – so if there is something YOU want to contribute or run, let us know and we’ll try to find a way to make it happen! Thanks to Singapore Press Holdings for being a sponsor this year!


Hope that we’ll be seeing you guys there!

TDE Background info recap

As we usher in the new year, we have our darling IYOR2018 intern, Talia Wong, with her second post giving a little bit of a recap on what TDE has done thus far:

The Dorsal Effect

IMG-20150830-WA0033 IMG_20160607_163315 DSC_0392

From giving talks on shark conservation in schools, executing The Dorsal Effect’s eco-business plan, giving pitches to obtain funding for The Dorsal Effect’s operations, collaborating with tertiary institutions i.e. NUS Tembusu College Steer team for reef surveys, organizing and embarking on the largest excursion with ISS international school and engaging the young, local community in Lombok in January and October in 2017; The Dorsal Effect has come a long way since its early days


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Indonesia, a maritime nation, home to at least 17,000 islands and rich marine environments and resources. Indonesia records the highest number of shark species of 111 out of 174 found within Southeast Asian region. For centuries, coastal communities have relied heavily on fishing to provide food, employment and income.

However, with the surging demand for shark fins in Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China since the 1970s, it provided local fishers another avenue of income and a tempting lucrative opportunity for foreign fishers and businesses to earn the big buck. It comes as no surprise that Indonesia is the number 1 shark-catching country in the world, accounting 13% of total globally reported sharks caught in 2011.


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Type in “Tanjung Luar Fishery” into the Google search bar and you’ll be surprised to find how this isolated local community, geographically located on the eastern coast of Pulau Lombok in the province of West Nusa Tenggara is one of the busiest shark and ray fishing and trading port of the region. Unlike the other ports in Indonesia where sharks are often caught as bycatch, sharks at Tanjung Luar are intentionally hunted and caught.

Accompanied with grotesque, graphic images and news headliners exclaiming declining stocks, illegal fishing of endangered species and an uphill battle to stop shark fishing … Tanjung Luar fish market is a place where no shark – juvenile or adult, endangered, threatened or listed as “no-catch” i.e. thresher sharks by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – is spared from the onslaught. Kathy witnessed remorseless businessmen circling and inspecting the fins of shark carcasses around 2 metres in length before negotiating a price. Thereafter, the equally desensitised fisherman hacked off and weighed the fins of the dead shark. With the fins highly prized by the international market, 1kg of fin could cost USD600, an exorbitantly inflated price relative to the rest of the carcass which costs USD 1.50 per kilo.

It was not long ago when sharks were mainly caught mainly in central and western regions of Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zones. Unfortunately, declining stocks and increasing pressure to meet demands have driven fishermen to fish elsewhere, shifting the “geographical catch frontier” to the eastern seas of Indonesia.

The booming shark industry at Tanjung Luar directly employs fishermen and boat operators; additionally, employment further extends to the fish processing, transportation, marketing and other supporting sectors i.e. boat building, fish gear manufacturing industries. On a good shark fishing season in 2013, captains could earn Rp 20 million (around SGD 2000) a month and the rest of the crew of about 4-5 will receive their portion from another Rp20 million. Evidently, moving away from the fin trade at Tanjung Luar through the implementation of shark fishing bans and changing existing livelihood is unlikely and challenging respectively.

While a National Plan of Action (NPOA) for shark conservation has been developed for Indonesia for 2015-2019, compliance and enforcement on the ground is a whole other ballgame and despite being in place for 2 years, it has not been proven to be effective.

Nonetheless, ground-up initiatives spearheaded by non-governmental organisations such as The Dorsal Effect, Gili Shark Conservation are gaining traction with greater international recognition and support systems. For instance, the international organisation, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), has been compiling data on shark species in Lombok waters.


boat on marengke reef_AH_photography

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What The Dorsal Effect seeks to achieve requires a readiness from shark fishermen to embrace Lombok’s natural wonders along with the ability to match and perhaps offer a more stable and at least an equivalent amount of income to replace their existing shark fishing income source. With the informed participation of a ground up movement, it will be the first step to making a change here at Tanjung Luar. Already, the tides are gradually starting to turn for this apex marine predator.

Currently, The Dorsal Effect is offering a sustainable and alternate way of life that lets local communities at Tanjung Luar stay connected to the ocean without destroying and destabilizing the ecosystem through responsible ecotourism. This is in line with the Ministry of Tourism’s plans to reform the tourism industry to become the key cornerstone of the country’s economy. Surrounded by beautiful crystal blue waters and ample marine environments, Tanjung Luar shows so much potential in attracting tourists.

With hope and perseverance, gears are moving for the shark community and call it far-fetch, but everyone here at The Dorsal Effect are holding on to the hope that our children will be able to see these graceful, silent predators.


Ali, Ahmad, and Annie Pek Khiok Lim. Field Guide To Sharks Of The Southeast Asian Region. Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), 2012,.

Lack, Mary, and Glenn Sant. The Future Of Sharks: A Review Of Action And Inaction. TRAFFIC International (Cambridge, UK) & Pew Environment Group (Washington, D.C.), 2011,

“Ministry Plans To Turn Tourism Into Indonesia’s Leading Sector | Jakarta Globe.” Jakarta Globe, 2017,

Pet, J. S. et al. (Field Report) Part 2: Lombok. Chemonics International & People & Nature Consulting International, 2012, pp. 81-100,.


Tull, Malcolm. “The History Of Shark Fishing In Indonesia.” Historical Perspectives Of Fisheries Exploitation In The Indo-Pacific, vol 12, 2014, pp. 63-81. Springer Netherlands, doi:10.1007/978-94-017-8727-7_4.