Cruise Tip #27 – Sunscreen and Coral Reefs: What You Need to Know

Why Coral Reefs Matter

Coral reefs are some of the most vibrant and biodiverse ecosystems on our planet. They are often called the “rainforests of the sea” due to their incredible biodiversity and the vital roles they play in marine ecosystems. Coral reefs provide habitat and food for countless marine species, protect coastlines from erosion, and support local economies through tourism and fisheries.


However, coral reefs are facing numerous threats, including climate change, pollution, overfishing, and physical damage. As cruise enthusiasts, it’s our responsibility to minimize our impact on these fragile ecosystems.


The Sunscreen Conundrum

One seemingly innocent product that can harm coral reefs is sunscreen. Many sunscreens contain chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to be harmful to coral reefs. When swimmers and snorkelers wear sunscreen and enter the water, these chemicals can wash off their bodies and end up in the ocean.

Research has shown that even small amounts of these chemicals can have detrimental effects on coral health. They can disrupt the coral’s reproduction and growth, making them more vulnerable to disease and bleaching events.


Choosing Reef-Safe Sunscreen

The good news is that you can still protect yourself from the sun while being eco-conscious. Opt for reef-safe sunscreens that are free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead, look for mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. These sunscreens provide excellent protection without harming coral reefs.


Remember to apply your sunscreen at least 15 minutes before entering the water, as it needs time to bond with your skin and be effective. Reapply as needed, especially after swimming or sweating.


Additional Tips for Eco-Friendly Cruising

  1. Limit your use of single-use plastics: Cruise ships used to generate a significant amount of plastic waste. Not so much anymore. Bring your reusable water bottle, straw, and shopping bag to minimize your plastic footprint.

  2. Participate in eco-friendly excursions: Choose tour operators and excursions that prioritize sustainability and responsible tourism practices, such as snorkeling trips that educate participants about coral reefs and their conservation.

  3. Respect local wildlife: While snorkeling or diving, maintain a respectful distance from marine life and refrain from touching or disturbing the coral and animals. Follow all guidelines set by your tour operators or local authorities.

  4. Dispose of waste properly: On your cruise ship, follow proper waste disposal procedures, especially when it comes to items like batteries and electronic devices that can harm the environment if not disposed of correctly.


In conclusion, your cruise can be an unforgettable experience while also being mindful of the environment. By choosing reef-safe sunscreen and following eco-friendly practices, you can help protect the delicate coral reefs and marine life you encounter during your journey. Let’s cruise responsibly and ensure these incredible ecosystems remain intact for generations to come.

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