For Sharks’ Sake, Take a Vacation

Help fishermen and sharks just by exploring secret beaches and enjoying pristine snorkelling sites? Yes, please.

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.

How does it work?

I thought it'd be great for people looking for a chance to do good, to receive something they like in return.

It's not charity. Dorsal Effect Image 1

Guests pay for an unforgettable experience in Lombok, Indonesia. 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.

I'm not ashamed to say that it was the love for sharks more than wanting to help the fishermen that spurred me to set up the social enterprise.

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.

Since there isn't a viable, alternative source of income for them, hunting sharks is their 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.

I started a social enterprise because I wanted to build a sustainable model for self-empowerment and I've been amazed at the small transformations I've seen in the fishermen.

Taking Shape

When I see them offering to help guests on their own accord, like putting a life vest under the head of a guest dozing off on the boat, I know they have taken ownership of the project. Dorsal Effect Screenshot 3

So I keep encouraging them — not forcing it down their throats — to make money from ecotourism instead of shark hunting.

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 I dream big, since dreaming small costs the same as dreaming big after all.

How you can help: Take a spectacular vacation and you'll support fishermen and save sharks at the same time.

Kathy is the founder of The Dorsal Effect, a winner in the Singapore International Foundation's Young Social Entrepreneurs programme in 2013.

Special thanks to DDB Singapore for producing this story with us.

About The Dorsal Effect

Determined to stop the supply of the shark finning trade, and provide an alternative source of livelihood to shark fishermen in Lombok, animal-lover Kathy Xu started The Dorsal Effect in 2013. Leading eco-tours and conservation trips, this social enterprise merges vacation and doing good.


Title Designer

Fizah Rahim


Kathy Xu


Francis Tan

Assistant Director

Denis Li & Farhan Adenan