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Live Coral Fragments Replanted During Restoration Project Being Prepared for Annual Spawning Event

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Magic Reef Restoration Project

Heavy work completed for Magic Reef Restoration Project; Maintenance Continues to give coral best chance to thrive

Dive volunteers in Grand Cayman are carefully combing a section of restored coral reef in George Town Harbour, scrub brushes in hand, trying to keep reattached coral fragments free of threatening algae to make them more attractive when local corals spawn next month.

“85% of the corals have survived the first year, and they look good,” said Lois Hatcher, co-coordinator of the Magic Reef Restoration Project which began work in September 2014. “But we need to get in there and keep scrubbing the algae away so that during the spawning event, floating gametes can attach themselves to these small corals and grow new coral colonies, fortifying this whole area.”

An experienced coral restoration specialist, Hatcher and a core group of local volunteers, supported by dive operators and the local community, have spent hundreds of hours on the project over the past two years. A fundraiser brought in $28,000 for the project and Carnival Cruise Lines also donated US $100,000 without admitting fault.

“The heavy work is done, and now we need to focus on maintenance,” said Hatcher. “Because of warmer water and other things, algae is growing rapidly and covering the coral fragments. We need to clean the algae off before the coral spawning mid-September.”

During coral spawning, corals simultaneously release eggs and sperm to make new life in the water. These fertilized eggs, or gametes, ride the currents until they find a spot to descend and start new coral colonies. The annual event, which happens in the middle of the night, is more predictable these days, so Hatcher says timing is everything during spawning and too much algae can interfere with this reproductive cycle.

“A reef’s ecosystem is well connected and balanced, and when something throws the balance off, its delicate work to restore it,” she said. “Sorting good algae from bad algae to give these corals a better chance for long-term survival is part of that work.”

The world’s coral reefs are under attack by global warming, massive bleaching events, pollution, invasive lionfish and other factors. Hatcher and her small team of volunteers continue to do what they can to restore the balance in this particular ecosystem in the Cayman Islands. For her work with this coral restoration project and the new Cayman Coral Nursery Program, Lois Hatcher, a photo pro with Ocean Frontiers, has received a Stingray Award for Watersports Employee of the Year from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. Joey Avery who spent many hours working side by side with her underwater at the restoration site says it is well deserved.

“She walks the walk in a world where so many just talk the talk,” said Avery.

The Magic Reef Restoration Project continues to give local divers a chance to get involved with maintenance work at the site, and Lois Hatcher says there are still two coral trees with 100 coral colonies that need to be out-planted. Volunteers are still needed and dive industry leaders say personal involvement is key to conservation.

“It’s great that volunteers, both guests and locals, can go out and help clean the site – it’s a way for them to become invested in Cayman’s marine environment,” said Rod McDowall, Operations Manager for Red Sail Sports. “People who care about something always try to protect it.”

Dive Training Blogs

Jump into… IDC’s and what to expect

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Looking at becoming a PADI Instructor? Why would you not, it is the best job in the world! Getting to become a PADI Instructor though is sometimes a scary process… or so I have heard…. It really isn’t, trust me! It’s actually pretty fun. 

The first thing I always like to get people to remember is their Open water course. When you started did you know everything about how the equipment worked? Did your instructor expect you to know all of the skills before they showed you them? No? Well, guess what, the IDC is a course too. It is about preparing you and working with you to give you the tips and tricks to not just pass your Instructor Examination (IE), but to prepare you for teaching your own students. 

I am well aware that there are courses out there that just teach you how to pass, and I am by far not saying that I have the best IDC in the world. I don’t, and I learn all of the time myself. There’s always an instructor that comes along in the dive season doing something a different way that I pick up and use. We learn all of the time, and is the only way that we ever get better. So to clear up that misconception, the IDC is not just a stepping stone to the IE and you are not expected to know everything before you come along. 

So, what does the IDC actually involve. Theory… obviously. You are going to need to have a knowledge of physics, RDP and all of the other topics that you will have covered throughout you diving levels. The theory side is the ‘boring’ part… I mean, we all dive for the water, no?! But, it is an important part and it’s going to help you be able to explain how to use the equipment, how it actually works, and the other questions that your students are going to be curious about. This section is all about developing your knowledge of those sections.

The water side then, confined water and open water. The fun parts! In short this is where we are going to go through the course skills and see how everyone does them. There is no perfect way for this… you do not have to play Simon says on the course… your way may be better than everyone else! What we will do though, is work with you to make sure that the demonstration is clear, concise and controlled to demonstrate to your students. Again, there is no expectation to be perfect before you come. We want you to ask questions, we want you to make mistakes… because that is how we learn, and most of all, how we get better. 

The other part of the in water activities, aren’t just about the skills though, it is also about your control under the water. We want to make sure that when you head out with your own students, that you are comfortable and can control the situation. Not something that comes to us all naturally straight away, but with coaching on the IDC, I am sure that you will get to this point before the end!

Last but not least, the course standards, content and rescue scenarios. All of this is in place to make sure that you understand the syllabus for each of the courses that you are going to be able to teach, and just as importantly, you are able to effect a rescue if the situation ever presented itself. A gloomy but important situation to think about. 

And after all that… voila! Thats it, the IDC! After completion there is then the ‘scary’ IE with the PADI examiners… they aren’t actually that scary, I promise! The two day IE basically covers what you have learnt in the IDC. No surprises, you are assessed on exactly what you have covered.

So stop putting off your IDC. If you love scuba and want to make it your career. Do it! 


Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com

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Final few days to enter the OrcaTorch Search for Atlantis photo competition

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You have until the 1st June to enter this unique underwater photography competition that only allows images that depict cave or wreck diving. This unique competition encourages underwater photographers to get creative with their lighting and will be judged by a team of OrcaTorch Brand Ambassadors.

After the final round of entries this week, the competition will move to the second phase where the public can vote for their favourite images, via the OrcaTorch Facebook group, to narrow the field down to the final 10 for the judges to deliberate on.

OrcaTorch are offering a range of their diving lights as prizes for the winners.

For more information about the rules and how to enter the competition click here.

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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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