Restoring Coral in Bonaire
I’ve come a long way in my journey of adventure and growth through travel.
From teaching myself how to swim to taking the PADI course to become a certified SCUBA diver – I’ve finally reached my destination in Bonaire and goal of helping to restore coral. In fact, I received the PADI Reef Renewal Diver Certification. It’s been an awesome journey!
Bonaire is an amazing island. Staying at Buddy Dive Resort was an experience like none other. Just outside of the on-resort dive shop is Buddy’s Reef and the nurseries where they have been working for several years to grow and restore the oceans staghorn and elkhorn coral populations. The team and I worked on the staghorn coral.
Before diving out into the nurseries or even beginning our class portion of the certification course we had an orientation. This took place over dinner at Blennies, one of the restaurants on the resort. We learned about Reef Renewal Bonaire: who they are and what their journey has been taking care of the coral on Bonaire today and the years leading up to.
Following orientation a couple of days later we had Day 1 of the class portion.
Certification Class Day 1
At the back of the dive shop are a couple nice, cozy rooms where a lot of the coral learning took place. We were given a nice introduction of what coral are, why they’re important, what Reef Renewal Bonaire is doing to take care of them and how we will be helping in the field at the nurseries. We learned how to conduct surveys of the area to identify invasive species and dispose of them to protect the growing coral as well as how to clean the trees on which the coral grew. We also got some insight on what the whole class itinerary is for the rest of our certification process.
Following class we practiced cleaning on a display tree on land just to see a model and catch a feel of what we’ll do once we’re underwater at the nurseries.
Once class was over it was time to put our learning into action! We hopped in for our first dive and did some cleaning!
As a new diver, it was just about as hard as I thought it’d be: tons of buoyancy control to master and learning to not be afraid to brush hard against the tree getting all of the algae and fire coral off! Oh, and of course staying away from the painful fire coral that lie all around the tree (luckily I managed to do so – a few other classmates weren’t so lucky). Our instructor, James, gave us some first hand experience of what invasive species can do to the coral as well. He pointed out a trail where fireworm had damaged the coral and picked up a couple snails (a job us newbies had to complete on dive 3).
Certification Class Day 2
For day 2 we had our in-class portion as well as dive 2 and 3 on the agenda.
We had our in-class portion with two presentations back to back. The first presentation focused on our tasks for dive 2 giving us the run down on how to prune, tie, hang coral onto the trees of the nursery. While at our seats we were given some practice coral and ties, etc. to give tying the correct way a try. It wasn’t all to difficult on land.. but underwater? Now, that is a wholeeeeee different story! It literally took me over 6 tries and about 15 minutes. I even developed a stress headache. Anyway, with patience and help from instructor James I managed to get it… eventually.
The second presentation focused on outplanting the coral: where the coral is outplanted, how they choose the location, ways to monitor, etc. and even a success story of one of their outplanting locations at Jeff Davis reef where their coral are growing and thriving so much so that the coral are even spawning! Of course, after class, we practiced the outplanting process before our 3rd and final dive of surveying the man-made reef system for snails and outplanting mature corals to our own thicket in their reef system! We worked on AC 14 Cluster 5. I’m excited to make a journey back to Buddy Dive Resort, Bonaire to take a look at how our coral are doing.
They’ve got a really good system in Bonaire, especially at Buddy Dive. All of the workers are truly amazing – not only the Reef Renewal team but all the other workers on the resort are accommodating, lively and make it their business that you feel taken care of and have a good time!
Diving Bonaire, more specifically the Buddy Dive’s outplanted sections, was the highlight of all of my travels thus far. It is literally a whole new world down below. And Jeff Davis, one of Buddy Dives thriving reefs is out of this world. There we spotted a sea turtle and stingray and of course their outplanted coral.
With the PADI Reef Renewal Diver Specialty Certification Course costing $220 USD I would strongly recommend it for every diver, especially new divers. It is more or less a crash course in buoyancy control which is what I’ve learned to be one of the most essential parts of diving. Further, it gives an in depth background on coral and their importance. Particularly for SCUBA divers, healthy coral reefs are one of the components of what makes diving an awesome experience.
Given the current state of our earth, being a part of restoring coral honestly felt like being a part of helping to preserve the world.