Aruba - Tourists love to visit Aruba for its beautiful beaches and incredible scuba diving opportunities. Residents love it for the same reasons. And each year for the last 19 years, the two groups, along with environmentalists, have come together for the Aruba Reef Care Project to create awareness and improve the marine life of the island.

Created in 1994 as a mission of the Aruba Tourism Authority, the program has grown to include close to 900 volunteers annually. Cleanup sites are set up along the coast, extending from Baby Beach to Arashi Beach. Volunteers are asked to clean the beaches by picking up trash and other debris. Snorkelers and scuba divers take on the task of retrieving debris that has entered the water and threatens the diverse marine life that calls the waters of Aruba home.

"Aruba is consistently hailed as a top tourist destination, and tourists flock to the island for a one-of-a-kind Aruba golf vacation or romantic getaway," says Matthew Smillie, owner of Aruba Villa Vacation Homes, a rental company that specializes in helping tourists find the perfect Aruba accommodation. "During the cleanup, everyone comes together for one simple mission - to keep our beaches and waters pristine not just for those enjoying our beach villasin Aruba today, but so that they can continue to be enjoyed for years to come."

The project quickly gained support from the local tourism authority as well as the many hotels and resorts that dot the island. Volunteers are treated to boxed lunches provided by many of the area's resorts, and some may even win prizes furnished by the hotels.

This year's event will take place on the morning of Sept. 29. Those interested in helping should make plans to visit the island during this important time to help preserve the beautiful white sandy beaches of the island.

"In recent years, Aruba has seen a tremendous increase in wanting to preserve our beautiful island," says Smillie, who helps visitors plan their perfect Aruba golf vacation. "The Aruba Reef Care Project helps us promote ecotourism, and to encourage those who flock to the island for our beauty to give something back. The coral reefs in the Caribbean leave visitors in awe of their beauty - this project ensures we can keep it that way."

Ecotourism has seen a rise in recent years as travelers wish to not only visit beautiful ecosystems, but to give something back as well. The term is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." Eco-tourists abide by a few rules, such as their travel should minimize the impact on the area they are visiting, travel should build environmental and cultural awareness and respect, and the travel should provide direct financial benefits for conservation.

Each year scuba divers and eco-tourists flock to Aruba for the island's beauty and unique tourism opportunities. The waters off the coast of the island offer some of the best diving opportunities with several wrecks giving scuba divers interesting areas to explore. Coral reef tracts also offer additional diving opportunities.

"Our little island relies heavily on the great tourists who visit," says Smillie. "But just as with anything else, that tourismcan take a toll if visitors are not conscious of the fragility of the ecosystems they are eagerly visiting. We are proud of the work our tourism authority is doing to educate visitors on what they can do to help us keep our island beautiful."

The Aruba Reef Care Project gives visitors and residents the opportunity to work together to preserve the beauty of Aruba's marine life. Participants get the joy of experiencing the island's best dive spots, coupled with knowing they are doing their part to ensure scuba divers for years to come will have the same opportunity. And the sentiment has permeated throughout the island's culture as even local schools are now featuring classes that teach the importance of environmental responsibility.

For the traveler looking to explore some of the world's most beautiful beaches and interesting scuba diving sites, while having the pleasure of giving something back, the Aruba Reef Care Project provides the perfect opportunity. Matthew Smillie and his team at Aruba Villa Vacation Homes can help visitors plan the perfect ecotourism getaway.

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Posted on May 29, 2019.