Summer was in full swing and Diuvs de Jesus had just finished snorkeling in the clear waters of Apo Island in Negros Oriental. With their day tour coming to an end, he and his friends were left with memories of turtles being fed in the protected marine area.
Now the only thing missing was the documentation. Still immersed in the water, the group posed for a shot. Their guide clicked the camera. And a turtle surfaced to breathe, right in front of the lens.
This is the story of the now-famous turtle photobomb, which quickly went viral after de Jesus posted it on his blog, Adventures ni Kulot, on April 21. De Jesus is “kulot,” (curly) the guy wearing a black and blue rashguard in the photograph.
Representatives from various news outlets and online publications scrambled to get his permission to use his photo on their TV shows and blogs. As expected, viewers and readers were delighted.
More than sharing the irresistible image of human and animal sharing a photo-op, however, de Jesus hopes that the sight serves as a reminder of the way the two can coexist peacefully.
According to the WWF, almost all species of sea turtles are endangered, not only because of poaching and habitat destruction, but climate change, as well. The WWF says that the changing sand temperature can affect the sex of hatchlings.
“Over-exploited” for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells, sea turtles are also at risk of accidentally getting captured in fishing gear, the organization adds.
This is why de Jesus asked those who share the photo to help promote “marine wildlife conservation, environmental protection, and sustainable ecotourism.”
A researcher at the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman, de Jesus is also finishing his Masters in Marine Science, major in Marine Biology.
He is also a member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, which arranges birdwatching trips to promote birdwatching, bird conservation, and environmentalism.
With his friends, de Jesus started travel company EpicTravels, which conducts “Project Lingap”, as well. Here, the group organizes visits to remote places in the Philippines where visitors can seek adventure while reaching out to communities who need assistance.
Project Lingap’s “adventures with a heart” have taken nomads to a Mangyan community in Mindoro, an Ifugao community in Banaue, and an Aeta community in Zambales to conduct medical missions and book drives.
Because of the nature of his work, as well as his passion for it, de Jesus has gone a number of the most isolated and hard-to-reach places in the country. He also calls these the most fascinating. Tubbataha Reef, Tawi-Tawi, and Benham Rise, an area larger than Luzon which had been awarded to the Philippines just two years ago by the United Nations after it became the only country to claim the territory, are just some of them.
These experiences fuel his blog, which he hopes encourages readers to travel not just for the sake of seeing different places, but to promote nature, culture, and adventure, he told InterAksyon.com in an e-mail interview.
“Many travel bloggers post how to go to a place, what to see there, etcetera. I’d like to go deeper and give insights about nature, culture and adventure,” he said.
He urges Filipinos to explore their own country before traveling abroad. “There is a lot—really a lot—to see and experience in the Philippines.”
He also makes it a point to mingle with the locals to ask about their home and way of life.
“As much as possible I immerse myself in their worlds,” de Jesus said.
He even travels alone at times, heading to Malapascua Island in Cebu for his last birthday. He went diving to see the thresher sharks, the only Filipino among his fellow divers.
“Traveling made me appreciate and be more thankful of God’s creation,” he said. “And fellow travelers you’ll meet along the way, together with the locals, will always have something to touch your heart.”
Thanks to the serendipitous shot, armchair travelers were touched, too.