Bonaire is a small island in the Dutch Caribbean that is famous for it's pristine blue water (perfect for paddle boarding), pink salt flats, lovely town Kralendijk and it's rugged, off-the-beaten-track national park called "Washington-Slagbaai". But what makes people flock to Bonaire most are the amazing diving opportunities. With over 85 off shore dive sites it's heaven for divers and snorkelers alike.
But many of the bright and colourful corals you'd see 20+ years ago from under your snorkel mask are now...gone.
Unfortunately (just like in many other stunning places in the world) Bonaire's reefs are not doing too well. Changed conditions like the warming of the ocean has caused massive coral bleaching. This means the coral has expelled the algae living in their tissue which turns the coral white and nutritionless for fish. Another threat is white pox, a coral disease that effects Elkhorn Coral causes loss of coral tissue. This disease is now gone from Bonaire since the installment of septic tanks in all the waterfront hotels but has done a lot of damage in the past. The increase of hurricanes and reverse winds has also destroyed reefs. Even though Bonaire lays outside of the hurricane belt, it still receives major storms when hurricanes are near.
Silver Shark volunteers to help the reef
Luckily on Bonaire an awesome program has been developed to help restore the reef: the Reef Renewal Foundation. Silver Shark is proud to be an official contributor to this foundation as Alex is a volunteer diver for them, out-planting and re-growing coral in the underwater world of Bonaire.
What does the Reef Renewal Foundation on Bonaire do?
To explain it in a simple way, it's basically coral gardening. The divers collect what's called opportunity coral: pieces that have broken off but are still in good health. Or the diver can also cut a small piece of a coral that is at risk and will most likely die. With the goal to replant this piece and grow a new coral.
The coral nursery
After the samples are collected the propagating begins. The coral fragments are attached to the nursery tree where, with the help of volunteer divers, they are kept clean from algae and predators. The coral fragments will stay attached to the tree until it is mature enough to be out-planted.
The volunteer divers take the mature coral fragments and attach it to a bamboo fabricated base at the bottom of the ocean. They are place in a location where the conditions are favorable and where the coral can grow naturally. Eventually the bamboo structure dissolves and by that time the coral has grown large enough to stay and survive naturally at the bottom of the ocean.
In case you are planning to visit Bonaire: you can check out some of the nursery trees by going snorkeling in front of Buddy Dive and other sites close to shore, as the trees are placed in shallow water. Check out a map of all the sites!
All photo credit: Reef Renewal Bonaire For more information and ways you can help too, check out the Reef Renewal Bonaire website.