Are YouTube sailing channels destroying the world?

Are we the problem? Should we keep the remote places we find a secret to protect them? Some say we should, some say we shouldn’t…Get ready, Jamie is in rant mode and he lets it all out in this week’s Q&A!

In Thursday’s episode, where we crossed the Equator, we also shared information about Mama Silvi’s tiny local resort, Ina Silvi Cottage. It’s tucked away on an island, off an island, off Sumatra island. It’s a remote spot and only the most intrepid of travellers will search it out. We loved it.

Over the years we have found a number of these special places and have always shared the location on our blogs and videos. The first time we saw the argument to keep remote locations secret was on a blog post from Sailing Totem, a family who have sailed round the world and have been to some unusual places. Behan (who writes the blog) was reprimanded on social media for publishing posts about places that should, in the opinion of some, be left alone.

“I cringe at the selfishness of hoarding information on special places. I think it’s unrealistic to believe that somehow, by sharing it, a place will become overrun and then suddenly “spoiled” for those who want it to be preserved as they first found it.” – Behan of Sailing Totem
Don’t tell us, we’ll find it ourselves!

Some cruisers prefer not to know about new places, and want to find new anchorages,

“…it gives the finder an extra thrill to think they have found something no one else knows about.”
“…don’t share, let us find it…”

The world is huge, and there are thousands of places to discover for yourself, but sharing info and experiences of locations is what cruisers do. When we have a great experience somewhere we like to share it so others may do the same. Conversely, if somewhere we’ve visited turns out to be dangerous or disappointing the rest of us want to know why and how.

Those of us who share our finds are not the first people to visit these places, or indeed publish details. We may sell them as ‘unvisited’ but they’re never undiscovered, there will already be info available somewhere – cruising guides, travel articles, Trip Advisor, the internet etc.

We recently posted information about a new cruising ground for us and received some great responses.

“Currently headed north along the east coast of Australia… As a cruiser, it’s exciting to know there’s something amazing ahead of us.”
“Some of the best places we have seen came from other cruiser intel…”

“We publish a LOT of cruising info, and never with an eye to ‘will cruisers spoil this idyllic place?’ We’re a community who help each other at every opportunity, and that includes sharing information.”

Even if we publish details of a location, how many who read our blog or watch our videos actually go there because of our contribution? Few, if any, probably. Most live vicariously through our stories, and may not have the opportunity to go there themselves. Some may be inspired enough by our work to go and check it out for themselves. We say that’s great!

“It’s not the cruisers that spoil these places, it’s the tour companies and ‘speed boat mafia’. I don’t think they are your audience anyway, so keep the videos coming!”

“Share the beauty and joy of finding it, but don’t give away the location”

We tried this once in a couple of early episodes. The holidaymakers Jamie met at Koh Jum said it is one of the best and least known islands in Thailand and that they would like to keep it that way. As a bit of a joke we bleeped out the name of the island in our video. Some of our YouTube viewers got annoyed about the whole idea of filming a beautiful place and not letting them know where it is:

“why the secrecy?”
“gotta say it’s a bit irksome, the blanked out island… not that I ever plan to go there, it just really rubs me the wrong way, kinda like rubbing it in big time”
“Not telling us where you are, and substituting a daft noise-over, is rather insulting to a loyal subscriber.”

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 “The world is small and over populated… be careful”

Yes, the oceans are full of plastic, our coral reefs are dying and we’ve all read that too many people on the planet is essentially the problem.

“A blogger or vlogger’s post isn’t going to change the march of tourism. But it might help shine a light on it…sometimes it can mean the environmental preservation of a stunning spot: an untouched reef or a pristine location…” Behan of Sailing Totem

In the past five years we have seen more careful planning along the Malaysian coastline where only some islands are designated for tourism, and many more are within controlled marine parks. 

And in Thailand we are starting to see beach and reef clean-ups, much of which is in motion because of the negative exposure the islands have had on (among other resources) sailing channels and blogs. Going forward, we hope beautiful spots like Koh Phi Phi Leh will be better managed to STOP ecological disasters.

There is still a long way to go, but we are already seeing a new way of thinking about the environment in Indonesia: fishermen used to dynamite reefs for their catch. With worldwide exposure this is now outlawed, and as cruisers we are encouraged to report it. The government has banned trawling in all its territorial waters to help maintain fish populations.

“…one of Indonesia’s tuna fisheries has become the first in the country – and second in south-east Asia – to achieve the gold standard for sustainable practices…” Guardian newspaper

Don’t spoil it for the local inhabitants!

This is perhaps the most important point, but the answer so far in 13 years of sailing has been an emphatic “Please tell the world about us!” It is this point, more than any other, which warrants Jamie’s rant. We won’t publish the full diatribe here, but these are the bullets:

  • Many of the locations we visit are run by local people who benefit from promotion and actually want us to tell others about their resort/restaurant/beach.
  • Who are we to deny these people that opportunity?
  • Who has a right to say you shouldn’t promote a location when it’s what the local people want?
  • I find the idea of ‘keeping it a secret to the special few’ arrogant!
  • Cruisers are not special, we have no ownership over the places we ‘discover’ in foreign lands.
  • And why presume that others will trash this beautiful spot? Why assume they will stand on the coral or hurt turtles?
  • The needs of the local people are greater than the wishes of the visiting cruiser.

Earlier in this post we mentioned Ko Jum in Thailand, where the holidaymakers wanted to keep the place a secret. BUT the local businesses wanted more visitors and complained of falling tourism.

At Pulau Asu, Mama Silvi was eager for us to show the world her small island so that more cruisers will visit, particularly in the ‘off surf season’ when it’s quieter.

We have just been anchored next to a beautiful eco resort on the island Pulau Macan, the owners of which were thrilled by the idea of more sailboats coming to anchor nearby (but more on this in a future post!)

“…We’ve tried hard to demystify the perceived dangers of cruising in Papua New Guinea, because of how much communities there can benefit from more visitors. We’ve published waypoints, shared our track files, and written extensively about how to access and enjoy some spectacular remote islands. Extending this information has brought very real benefits to these communities where successive visitors we connected with made a material impact on health and opportunities for residents.” Behan of Sailing Totem

As you may have guessed, we will continue to share information about the places we visit, unless expressly asked not to by the local residents.

What do you think? We would love to hear your views.

Peace and fair winds!

Liz, Jamie and Millie xxx


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