September 24, 2015 Katie Schuler

C&O Presents: Natural Leaders – Soren Knudsen. Saving coastal communities one at a time.

In our travels, we meet some amazing people doing groundbreaking conservation work. Whether it’s running community education programs or shooting feature-length documentaries, folks across the world have taken up the challenge to not only help conserve nature, but to inspire others to do the same. It seems a shame to keep these amazing stories to ourselves, so beginning today, we’re featuring them in Coral & Oak’s “Natural Leaders Series”. Each feature will focus on one leader and will give us a look into their roots, the strategies they use to encourage conservation and the innovative projects they’re taking on.
Our inaugural series spotlight focuses on Soren Knudsen, an inspiring dive instructor and one of the masterminds behind Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP). Located on Negros Island and in the heart of biodiversity, MCP aims to further marine research while educating and facilitating change within local communities.

Soren helping suit up

Soren’s a pretty straightforward guy. When we asked him about the genesis of Marine Conservation Philippines, he didn’t hesitate. “The original idea of MCP was fostered from this realization five years ago, that unless you make an active change, western life is a damaging idea of working long hours at jobs without meaning, to earn money to buy things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t care about. It sounds a bit grandiose to say we want to get involved in the fight for the survival of our ocean, but in a nutshell, that’s it, isn’t it?”

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We were lucky enough to spend a few days with Soren at MCP where we checked out their projects and participated in a few dives. Soren likes to start class off with some of his neutral buoyancy tricks – showing off an uncanny ability to float and sink at will, before guiding his students toward some of the rich coral and fish species. He really loves the teaching aspect, “The chance to influence and shape how someone perceives the world…that’s so cool! I can see when someone falls in love with the ocean, and when it happens it totally makes my day.”

Soren teaching in water

MCP is settled in a new facility, built from the ground up with the sole purpose of inspiring a new generation of nature-conscious divers. Characterized by progressively designed bamboo huts set around its central teaching facility, everything about MCP’s new headquarters was designed with education in mind. A stroll through the premises reveals an array of new gadgets and techniques to live more sustainably and dive with a smaller footprint. Their dive gear is part of a simple and streamlined system that anybody can learn, and the dive shop makes it easy for first-timers to suit up.

Group photo

If you want to get involved, Soren and the MCP team offers a month long volunteer program, complete with PADI dive certification. Volunteers have the opportunity to master conservation techniques, learn fish and coral identification, and work alongside coastal communities as they work to protect their native reefs. We’ll let Soren sum it up himself; “It’s awesome diving, it’s the chance to make a difference, it’s cold water showers and geckos in the room, it’s camaraderie, it’s science and it’s bonfires and marshmallows. All that.”

Check out their website and Facebook to learn more and become a volunteer.

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