A new word has entered our vocabulary, especially those of us who are involved in the travel industry either as travel agents, vacationers or resort operators. The word is ecotourism. We see it in articles and advertisements. There are even international conferences on ecotourism. So, what is it or what should it be?


Ecotourism is not the opening of vast new virgin areas under the guise of keeping it clean. My first view of this was that a few tour operators who were running out of places to send people decided they needed to open new unspoiled lands but could not figure out how to do it, so they came up with a word called ecotourism and a lot of people fell for it. Many more jumped on the bandwagon calling themselves green hotels, claiming they were environmentally aware because they put a water reducing shower head in one room. That isn’t true for all but there will always be unscrupulous people who take advantage of anything, anywhere.

So, what should ecotourism be? It must be an educational process in areas that tourism is already established. Education for both the citizens and for the visitors, participation in the preservation of our earth and more specific our own lands and homes. To simply say here is a whole new world you can all visit now but be careful, will not work. Everyone must realize that our world is a natural resource that in some cases is being abused and in our children’s children lifetime it might not return to its natural state.

Unfortunately, the word greed comes up too often where money far outweighs any concern for ecology. Once we have disturbed this very well-balanced nature it is a difficult road to revive it. Nature has always had methods of checks and balances and preservation. Without sounding too demeaning, it has not been until the introduction of modern man that these balances have been disturbed and, in some cases, sadly enough destroyed. If man does destroy himself through this neglect, only ourselves will have suffered because the plants, the other animals, and the minerals will all continue without us.

Ecotourism As A Teaching Tool

The importance of using ecotourism as a teaching tool cannot be emphasized enough. Here exists a great opportunity to show people how important our earth is and how they can help while having fun and enjoying a vacation. Ecotourism is not a license to drive our four wheeled vehicles where no man has gone before and make sure we take our beer cans back with us. No! Far from it. Ecotourism is saying don’t drive your car there at all. Leave it alone. Leave it to nature. Ecotourism is saying drive where you used to drive but look at it from a different view. Help erase where man has ravaged. Help clean up. Help preserve. This is so not only so we and our future generations can enjoy it but also so every living thing can go on undisturbed.

Perhaps ecotourism is not even the right word. Maybe words like respect; concern; care; are what we should use. Maybe even fear – fear of what could happen to our fragile earth. Let all of us anticipate that not only will tourism continue for all of us involved but it will continue down a new path where everyone in this industry will not only take steps to go beyond keeping our environment clean and undisturbed but start to clean up where we have gone wrong.

Bruce Bowker


Exploit Completely Our Total Outdoor and Underwater Resources inSystematic Manner


This article was inspired by many things – having seen islands change, knowing what they were like, what they are like now and what they might become. Also inspiring were photographs in a dive magazine of a “new” area, totally unexplored. The reef was so beautiful and solid, not one dead coral anywhere, that I wondered how long it would take to ruin it because of promotion. Everyone has to see this perfect reef – and trash it. Not intentionally but now boats go over it, an occasional drop of oil, a tin can, a dragged fin…

From breathtaking to polluted ecosystem

Two hikers trek through a previously unexplored region of a vast forest only to stumble upon a lake so beautiful that they both are lost for words. It is surrounded by mountains that take their breath away. A waterfall built by an angel cascades down into the lake. The animals, never having seen or smelled man, are not petrified of his presence. So impressed are the hikers that they tell their friends, who tell other friends. Soon the area has a steady stream of hikers. New paths are trampled into the forest and lake shore. Charcoal is left behind by some campers along with an unintentional piece of litter.

The area becomes famous within a small group but not easy to get too. Always out to make a profit, a travel agency starts helicopter trips making it available to everyone, not just the physically fit hikers. The noise and sight of this huge machine causes many animals to permanently leave the area. Other animals are fed by campers which causes an unnatural relationship. The lake, whose abundance of fish never saw a fishing line, has monofilament “growing” around underwater branches. A few more pieces of litter appear. No one liking litter, the helicopter brings in a few 55 gallons drums so the litter can be piled in one area only. One camper, seeing that the drums are too full, burns them. Another seeing that burning seems to be acceptable burns them again, weakening the drums. After a time, they rust and collapse spreading garbage everywhere.

Soon other agencies are promoting the area and more people arrive. Articles appear in the travel section of major newspapers. Larger campsites are cleared to handle the ever-growing numbers. Sections of land are sold off with a promise of “limited development”. It does not take too long before the first small lodge is built. Still difficult to get to, a small road is cut through the forest and another log cabin lodge goes up. These become very profitable, so another larger lodge is built which is more like a hotel. Limited development is allowed to increase- to a new limited level.

A few people begin to comment that nature is being disturbed and the area is changing. Toilets are flushing every day, the smell from the lodges’ restaurants fills the air and off-road vehicles can be heard all day long. Not wanting to lose their investment and with others knocking at the door to get in, a confrontation begins between conservationists, the lodge owners and those who specialize in vacation travel. Most travel agents and hotel owners never paid much attention to the radical conservationists, so they were at a loss as how to fight. A clever person came up with some ammunition and called it “Ecotourism”. There, that would keep everyone quiet. We have developed this lake under the name of eco-tourism. Has it helped the lake? Not at all. Has it returned it to its natural state before those two original hikers discovered it? No, and it never will.

Effects of Eco Tourism

With ecotourism, new hotels open calling themselves “green hotels”. The pollution in the area has grown out of hand. Boats are now motoring on the lake and there is talk of the largest hotel yet to be built by a huge chain. It has only been 20 years since man first set his eyes on the lake but now it is totally dominated by him. The animals have all left and much of the lake shore is covered in homes, condominiums, and hotels. The lake is now chemically polluted and most of the fish are gone. What have we done?

Were jobs desperately needed in this area? Were new jobs created for local people who were starving? There were no local people, so no jobs were needed. It was a simple case of developers and profit seekers who came and have long gone. They don’t have to see the lake anymore. They are looking for new lakes.

Caribbean islands are the same. They have suffered heavily from over development. One island, which was world famous for its pristine reefs and excellent diving, attracted so many divers, that the reefs suffered and now, the very thing that attracted everyone in the first place has been nearly ruined by those people who came to see it. The destruction was not caused by direct contact as much as the need for more hotels, which in turn means more sewage and garbage. Unable or even unwilling to pay for a sewage treatment plant, more and more pollutants found their way to the reefs.

As the popularity grew for the island, its limited local population was unable to fill the jobs being created. Foreign workers arrived. Housing was needed. More foreign workers came to help build houses for the foreign workers. The schools were filling too quickly with this influx, and soon more were needed. Who would build these schools? More foreign construction workers. Population nearly doubled in a very short time. Little things like traffic, which were never even thought about, suddenly became a problem. Crime increased. With all the different backgrounds, clashes in social norms and customs cropped up. The local population began to lose its identity, and many did not like it. This dislike was expressed openly both through words and in many cases physical actions.

As the population of the world grows and travel becomes routine, the old favorite places have become so overdeveloped and overcrowded that many people won’t go there anymore. The travel industry, in order not to lose any money, must open up new areas for people to exploit. And the same thing happens again. It’s a domino effect. So, unless we can vacation on Mars soon, there will be little left of the earth as nature intended it.

All of this development was done in the name of progress. Are progress and growth synonymous? Progress does not always equate with development and development cannot be done ecologically. No matter how careful one proposes to be, a bit of nature is always lost. Expansion, development and growth do not guarantee success. A pond can function perfectly for centuries without ever getting larger. It does not stagnate because of lack of growth. If man comes along and unnaturally dredges the pond, removes tons of earth from its boundaries and makes it 4 times as large, it may be the end to that entire ecosystem.

Ecotourism As A Teaching Tool

Ecotourism is not the opening of vast new areas under the guise of keeping them clean or educating the public. If we are to even use the word Eco Tourism, it must be defined as an educational process and applied only to areas where tourism is already established. Education for both the citizens and for the visitors. It is participation in the preservation of our earth and more specifically our own lands and homes. To simply say “here is a whole new region you can all visit now but be careful”, will not work. Everyone must realize that our world is a natural resource that in some cases is being abused and even in our children’s children lifetime might not return to its natural state.

Unfortunately, greed causes money too far outweigh any concern for ecology. Once we have disturbed this very well-balanced nature it is a long process to revive it. Nature always has had methods of checks and balances. It has not been until modern man that these balances have been disturbed and, in some cases, sadly enough, destroyed. If man does destroy himself through neglect, the plants, the other animals and the minerals will all continue without us.

The importance of using eco-tourism as a teaching tool cannot be emphasized enough. Here exists a great opportunity to show people how important our earth is and how they can help while having fun and enjoying a vacation. Ecotourism is not a licensee to drive our four wheeled vehicles where no man has gone before and make sure we take our beer cans back with us. Far from it. Ecotourism is saying don’t drive your car there at all. Leave these areas alone. Leave them for nature. Eco tourism is saying drive where you used to drive but look at it from a different point of view. Help erase what man has done. Help clean up. Help preserves. This is not only so we and our future generations can enjoy it but so every living thing can go undisturbed.

Perhaps ecotourism is not even the right word. Maybe words like respect, concern and care are what we should use. Maybe even fear, fear of what could happen to our fragile earth. It is not only keeping our environment clean and undisturbed but to start to clean up where we have gone wrong.

After all the development and increase in population, will it all be worth it? Perhaps the current generation, who went to that lake for the first time, could argue they enjoyed seeing nature at its finest, for a short time. One could also argue that some people made lots of money by risking their investments, so they deserve a profit. But what about generations to come? Nature will return itself to its original condition and begin again with whatever it takes. Will man still be around to see it?

When a drug addict overdoses, unless he gets proper treatment, death is the result. Once in the hospital the treatment is usually swift and positive. When nature is overdosed, there is no hospital, and the recovery can be hundreds if not thousands of years. In the case of the drug addict, the symptoms are obvious. Nature’s problems can go unnoticed or worse, left to fester due to apathy until it is too late.

Bruce Bowker

Ran Out, Chased Out and Just Plain Out. And You Call This Diving?

As a land locked youth in New Jersey, with the closest water being the Delaware river, and that was within walking distance, the opportunity to dive usually meant the river, or a bathtub. Going to the Jersey shore for a dive was almost exclusively out of the question.

How It All Started

My interest in diving started in the mid 1950’s with the family taking vacations to Florida. Back then, the 2 1/2-day drive was an experience within itself. I even remember cows on the road in some forgotten Georgia town. But the real thrill was finally hitting the Florida border. We were close now, but not as close as it sounded. Florida is one heck of a long state!

Getting closer to Ft. Lauderdale, we would pass the occasional dive store and I would just stare. In the window would be a small yellow tank with straps, lots of straps and maybe a 2-hose regulator. Even while at the hotel, getting to a dive shop was not easy. A 9-year-old is not allowed to drive in Florida. Not sure about Georgia though. Being 9 though, it wasn’t difficult to make friends. With our green masks with plastic lenses and green rubber fins, we would play frogman in the pool all day or look a 3-inch fish in 3 feet of turbid water at the beach. Once I even saw a small barracuda but was told by my mother not to mention it or my sister might not go in.

My non-vacation diving time was spent watching Sea Hunt every Saturday night. Even during a great summer game of bicycle tag, I would quit (to remarks like “chicken”), to go home and watch Mike Nelson. Never missed an episode and always dreamed of those 200 feet visibility. Many years later I would see it first-hand.

Each year we vacationed for 3 weeks in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida up until 1965. By then I had my own tank and a Scuba Star regulator which by today’s standards would be deemed unbreathable and unexhalable. Still, it was mine and the dives at Pennecamp and off of Ft. Lauderdale were beyond description. I was in heaven. Even though I had quite a few dives in New Jersey I will never forget my very first dive in tropical waters. The site was directly out from our hotel from where I had actually watched the dive boat numerous times with my father’s binoculars days before.

There wasn’t much of plan. The man who had given me some additional lessons the day before said follow me and that’s what I did. I had no watch or pressure gauge, just a J rod to pull when I thought it was needed. After about 10 minutes I was told we should head up. I pulled the rod just because I thought I should and went back to the boat wondering why we all quit after such a short time. On the way back one of the other divers, who did not have a watch either, asked how long the dive had been. The leader of our pack said 45 minutes and my jaw dropped. In my mind it had really only been 10 but the overwhelming beauty and experience just left me with no sense of time.

Quarries In New Jersey

Back in New Jersey, my area had numerous quarries, most of which were either off limits or a gray area of legal use. Almost all were hangouts for drinkers, swimmers and whatever else people did in and around these secluded places. One summer I recall preparing for days for the journey to a quarry which had always looked interesting, but signs said, “No Entry”. It was actually a quarry in a quarry. We had to climb down a rather difficult path to get to the water. It was hot, really hot and we had to make 2 trips hauling gear. When we finally started to suit up, a voice came across from the other side. At first, we couldn’t see anyone. Then the person became clearer. There was something about the clothes he wore and his general appearance. My friend Steve looked over at me and said “cop”. We made it back up with all gear in one trip, wetsuits on and sweating, threw everything in the car and floored it.

We went back again next summer and to our surprise had probably the best quarry dive ever. Visibility was an astounding 60 feet or better. The overall depth was never much, and we had an opportunity to follow railroad tracks, enter what was probably a mess hall, swimming in the rafters, around a steam shovel and generally enjoy a perfect dive. Even after surfacing, not a soul around. The next time was not so great. Expecting good visibility again and our driver promising he would go down a steep road, we packed up and headed off. When the guy with his ’57 Chevy saw the incline and the state of the road, he said no way. Great! So, we hauled everything down including a little blue and yellow rubber raft which I was so anxious to use. Upon arriving at edge, the water was as thick and green as anyone could every dream. If you wanted to get pea soup, this was it. Hot as could be, dehydrated and near death, we hauled everything back up the road and headed to Jimmy’s Custard Stand where I chugged down 2 large orange drinks none stop. I have never been that thirsty before or since.

There’s another quarry that no one was allowed in, but we thought it would be easy to go anyhow. This quarry had slot machines dumped in its eons ago as part of an illegal gambling cleanup. At the time the police threw the machines in, no one thought there would be recreational divers in a few decades. Steve and I thought we would at least look at the place before trying to get in. One Saturday morning we drove nearby, parked the car and started to walk back the road. We got less than halfway before we were formally stopped by someone who must have been some sort of authority. I still have never even seen this quarry.

Of all the quarries, Stewartsville, NJ was the most used by everyone and anyone. Some summer days, especially the middle or end of the week, diving was not too bad. Weekends were of course loaded with swimmers and sun bathers. But one day, after getting a few friends together for a dive, we found someone had dumped a few truckloads of dirt to block entry down the road. So, another favorite spot was supposed to off limits. No problem just knocked down a small tree, some bushes and drove around. The road and quarry were such that unless someone came all the way back, no one could see what was going on. Steve, Ron and I made many dives there.

Wonderful Dive Spots Outside Of New Jersey

Not only New Jersey had these wonderful dive spots, but Pennsylvania, just across the river, had a few also. One was Wind Gap, a very deep slate quarry. I dove there only once to what was then my greatest depth, all of 80 feet, swimming under a ledge of some sort with visibility just enough to see the diver’s fin, which I was all but holding on to, in front of me. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later a young boy drowned while diving and that quarry was shut down. This obviously scared a lot of people and better steps were taken to keep everyone from all quarries. Stewartsville now had a gate with no way around it.

As my quarry “expertise” grew, I heard of new quarries to conquer. Oxford had a supposedly good one. Off limits of course but remote enough that access would be clandestine. Another dive buddy by the name of Bob had a plan to have a small tire tube tied to a rope so we could use it as a down line. Another long trudge with our gear and sweating more water that the quarry had, we suited up, sweating more and went in. Overweighted, overheated and inexperienced we soon found the small tube coming down along with us. This upset Bob who suddenly looked like he wanted nothing more that to get back to the surface at almost any cost. My first reaction was to drop his weight belt, but he somehow made it clear that these were too expensive and even though things were getting worse, we both managed to kick our way back up, exhausted but not drowned.

My second dive at Oxford was a bit better. A different buddy and the weather not as hot. We had an interesting dive with zip visibility until we swam under a layer of algae, and it just opened up. The depth was around 60 feet by then and a sheer wall presented itself going down to an unknown depth. We swam along a bit and pretty much ended our uneventful dive.

I got a call from that same buddy, can’t remember his name, who said there was a quarry down around Trenton somewhere. So, we packed up and headed off. When we arrived there were some rather questionable characters, both male and female swimming (sort of) or whatever. The quarry itself was small and the road back, remote. Shortly after submerging, visibility poor, we ran into a car that looked newish. We were able to rip off the rear license plate and after some underwater communicating, tried to open the trunk, both not wanting to think what we might find. We couldn’t so we had no worry about what could be in it. That was the highlight of the dive but on the way home, driving toward Flemington we stopped at the State Trooper Headquarters to show them the license plate. It was made clear that we should not have been diving there but they took the plate anyhow. We were warned never to go back, and we didn’t. Later we heard that it was a stolen car, so we did a bit of good in finding it.

Another quarry dive I remember making was at Raven Rock. This was the smallest water hole I had been in. Again, swimmers were around, and they warned us it was a bottomless pit. Strange but it seems all non-divers think water is a bottomless pit. It was Steve as a buddy again. Visibility was zero, light was really poor from a rock overhang. We grabbed hold of each other so we would not separate and went down feet first. Dark turned to darker and darker to black. All of 10 minutes bottom time and we said, “No way”.

Becoming A Dive Instructor

My quest to become a dive instructor made it necessary to get a recognized certification so I signed up for an evening class NAUI course at a local school. This led to helping out in future courses which lead to a quarry near Frackville PA. The instructor in charge was very good at teaching but apparently not so good a paying bills. He was banned from most dive boats in New Jersey and New England and most local swimming pools. So offbeat quarries seemed the only option.

The Frackville quarry with no trespassing signs was well hidden from any road so all the cars and divers were more less safe from the authorities It was the smaller of the quarries in the area, shallow but remarkably unique. For some reason, still unknown to me, it was crystal clear. 250 feet plus visibility clear with absolutely nothing growing it except for a weird green cloud not more than a few feet in size the middle at the bottom. It was a typical gray slate quarry but not a single speck of algae anywhere except for that cloud. No one seemed to suffer any ill effects so it must have been safe. That was around 1972 so I am sure by now the quarry is either a housing development or ruined with garbage.

In 1973 I arrived on Bonaire. Out of cowardice or being spoiled, not sure which, I doubt I will dive in quarries again. I do have a friend Harry in Alpha, who I think has dived that quarry with the slot machines. Maybe if he can get me in, I’d try one more quarry dive.

Bruce Bowker

Better Air Consumption

Many divers have a contest for who can stay down the longest or come up with most air. One diver I know hung around in 20 feet of water the entire dive just to win! That’s OK I suppose as long as they enjoyed the dive and saw a fish or two. Other divers simply want to improve their air consumption and have a longer dive.

There are so many ways to improve air consumption and one of the first is to listen to those who have experience and good suggestions. I cannot count how many times I have tried to help other divers who simply said,” I have been diving for 20 years and nothing helps. I use a lot of air”. On the other hand, I have had divers say” I have been diving for 20 years and thank you for your suggestions. I cannot believe how much I have improved.”

The first question in my mind is how many dives is 20 years. Is that one week a year for 20 years which is a total of 20 weeks of diving. And how many dives during that week? Someone who has only been diving for 6 months could have infinitely more experience than some who say they have been diving since 1981.


Read my articles on weights and BCD wars. Getting oneself correctly weighted and balanced can improve air consumption dramatically. Nothing uses air as much as carrying too much weight around and swimming in an inefficient (unbalanced) manner. Another suggestion is simply don’t go as deep. The shallower you are the less air is used. Many divers enter the water already tired from struggling to put on the equipment or hurrying to keep up with others. SLOW DOWN. There is no need for you to keep up with the person who gets suited up the quickest. Actually, if it is a group the faster ones should slow down a bit to accommodate the others.

The same thing goes when underwater. Watching an efficient diver, you see a nice easy breathing pattern. Watching a diver who is kicking inefficiently or jetting all over the reef, you see huge volumes of air being used. If you see a lobster there is no need to yell, swim frantically to you buddies to tell them and then swim frantically trying to find the lobster again. If no one is near enough to show them, simply tell them about it after the dive. I have watched divers get so excited about trying to tell everyone that they float to the surface because of all the air going in and out of their lungs.

I have seen small people go through a large tank in 30 minutes. Large people go through a small tank in 60 minutes. So size is not an excuse. If you have noticed, I have used the word efficient many times in these few paragraphs and efficiency is a big key in using less air. How you achieve that is up to you. If you read, practice, watch and listen you are on your way.

These are just a few of the ways to help. Watch other divers and see how efficient or inefficient they are. Then apply the efficient methods to yourself.

Bruce Bowker