Indonesia Expat

For Sharks? Sake, Take a Vacation

City girl Kathy Xu dreamt up a paradise trip to save sharks, help fishermen and promote conservation in Lombok, Indonesia. Her boat trip off Tanjung Luar, Lombok’s best-kept secret, should top your ‘off the beaten trail’ travel list. This is conservation we can get used to: come for the beaches, stay for the good. All you have to do to join in is take a holiday.

Kathy Xu is the founder of The Dorsal Effect, a winner in the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs programme in 2013. Her project helps fishermen and sharks by encouraging tourists to visit and explore secret beaches and pristine snorkelling in Lombok.

“People are often quick to associate sharks with just one breed, the Great White, thanks to the movie Jaws. I wanted more people to appreciate the many other species of less or non-aggressive sharks that one can swim with freely and revel in their magnificence. So, I started The Dorsal Effect to engage shark fishermen in an alternative source of livelihood so that they can stop hunting shark,” Kathy says.

Guests pay for an unforgettable experience in Lombok. The fishermen there take the guests out in their boats to pristine snorkel sites and amazing, secluded beaches, far away from the usual tourist areas. The fair wages the fishermen receive keep them away from hunting sharks.

“People like me who love sharks often get enraged when we see pictures of them being killed. But as I got involved in the lives of the fishermen, I came to understand that it is not their fault that sharks are dying,” said Kathy.

Since there isn’t a viable, alternative source of income for them, hunting sharks is the fishermen’s way of getting by, and it’s not without its hardships, including being at sea several weeks at a time because the shark population has been so depleted they keep having to go out farther and farther to hunt.

Kathy Xu started this social enterprise because she wanted to build a sustainable model for self-empowerment and she’s been amazed at the small transformations she’s seen in the fishermen. She sees them offering to help guests on their own accord, like putting a life vest on the head of a guest dozing off on the boat, showing her that they have taken ownership of the project.

So Kathy keeps encouraging them to make money from ecotourism instead of shark hunting.

Kathy says, “I am still far from my dream of seeing many shark fishermen make a full switch to ecotourism, more learn about sustainable fishing, sharks tagged and adopted, and coral reefs protected, first in Lombok and then in other shark markets around the world. However, with each boat trip that I bring guests on, I know this dream is taking shape.”

Someone who came on one of our boat trips recently told me, “We are only as big as the dreams we dare to live.” So Kathy dreams big, since dreaming small costs the same as dreaming big after all.

Visit: The Dorsal Effect

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