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Eight Dives You Can Do to Heal Coral Reefs

Power coral recovery when you dive with any of these reef restoration initiatives.
By Alexandra Gillespie | Published On June 9, 2020
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Eight Dives You Can Do to Heal Coral Reefs

Touching marine life is usually cardinal sin number one while diving, but these coral gardening programs flip the script. Get hands on at these nurseries, helping to restore reefs so your next trip is as beneficial for the oceans as it is for you.

Critically endangered staghorn coral hang in a restorative nursery off of Bonaire.

Critically endangered staghorn coral, above, hang in an underwater nursery off of Bonaire. Douglas Clark

1. Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire

Five dive shops on Bonaire are participating in a restoration initiative that has replanted 22,000 staghorn, elkhorn and star corals: Buddy Dive, Wanna Dive, Gooodive, Harbor Village and Tropical Divers. Grown in eight nurseries around the island, each of the corals are tagged in order to monitor how well individuals grow over time. Divers can help tend to the 13,000 corals in Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire’s (RRFB) nurseries through a half-day Discover Reef Renewal program or get certified as a Reef Renewal Diver during an up to two-day course; certified divers can volunteer on subsequent trips. RRFB also runs two-and-a-half to three month unpaid internships for students currently enrolled or recently graduated from undergraduate or graduate programs. Get involved:

2.Coral Restoration Curaçao

Over 7,500 elkhorn and staghorn coral have been planted in 55 trees across eight nurseries around the island of Curaçao since 2015 thanks to the Coral Restoration Foundation, an initiative of Ocean Encounters Curaçao. Divers can book a three hour guided nursery tour or earn a PADI Coral Reef Restoration speciality, which involves classroom work and three nursery dives over the course of a day. Get involved:

3. CocoView Resort

On the Honduran island of Roatan, CocoView Resort launched their Coral Reef Restoration Project in February of 2020. After an informational session, guests can aid in the maintenance of the nursery trees, which are located on a shore dive from the resort near the wreck of the Prince Albert. Once the coral matures, CocoView guests will be invited to transplant the crop to local dive sites. Get Involved:

4. Ocean Quest Global

Ocean Quest runs coral restoration programming at 31 different resorts across several southeast Asian countries, France and the Maldives. Unlike many other programs that attach coral to PCV trees, Ocean Quest uses a natural adhesive to attach coral to rocks that dissolves in two weeks. In addition to a one-day introductory workshop, the organization offers a three-day course for those looking to start a new rehabilitation initiative, as well as a teaching certificate to lead such coral certification courses. Get involved:

5. Cayman Eco Divers

Offering programs from one to six weeks, Cayman Eco Divers intertwines coral restoration work with traditional PADI certifications. Divers earn their Open Water certification with the one week program, or nurture corals for a month-and-a-half while earning their Divemaster Certification. Students can earn college credit with some of Eco Divers’ nursery programs. Get involved:

6. Utila Coral Restoration

Spend a day, week or month caring for elkhorn and staghorn coral in Honduras with Utila Coral Restoration, a partner of Utila Dive Center. The one-day program includes coral education and one nursery dive, or you can dive deep with a two- to four-week internship that includes up to 45 dives and four PADI speciality certifications. Get involved:

7. Ocean Gardener

Tend coral at your choice of four different sites across Indonesia with Ocean Gardener, a nonprofit working to restore reefs and strengthen local economies; the cultivated coral is used for either restoration or sold for aquarium display. Divers can choose from a one-day nursery program or a three-day experience that includes five dives and coral identification education. Get involved:

8. Anthony’s Key Resort

This Honduran resort on Roatan started rehabilitating elkhorn and staghorn in 2017 in partnership with the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences. Divers can take a course in coral restoration, maintain the baby coral growing from natural fragments by removing algae or predators, or volunteer to re-house coral from the garden’s “trees” to local reefs. Get involved:

More Coral Restoration: