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Ocean Frontiers to Establish Coral Nursery for Reef Conservation

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After waiting and watching international research, Government has approved local nursery policy in the Cayman Islands

Ocean Frontiers, the conservation-minded dive operator at Grand Cayman’s East End, expects to soon establish a coral nursery to help repair and replenish local reefs. Co-owner Steve Broadbelt has long wanted to set one up, so when the Cayman Islands government approved a policy for nurseries earlier this year and called for local proposals, Ocean Frontiers promptly submitted theirs. The company has been granted approval in principal, but the go-ahead from the Department of Environment, which will oversee the conservation work, has not been issued.

“We need to wait until hurricane season is completed before any significant work can begin on the nursery,” says Broadbelt. “We plan to have our first coral trees in service by the end of 2015.”

After monitoring research successes and failures internationally, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment noted that Caribbean researchers are having good success with Acropora, a fast-growing species of coral that includes elkhorn coral and staghorn coral. Once plentiful in Cayman’s near-shore reefs, these corals are now considered critically endangered. They began to die off in the 1980s, victims of disease, damage and global warming. Coral nurseries might help rescue them.

Research Officer John Bothwell says after corals are established in a nursery, clippings will be outplanted to reef sites identified by the DOE. Although outplanting still has a low success rate because of the reasons the corals died off in the first place, Bothwell says they have expectations.

“The hope of coral nurseries is that by out-planting fingerling Acroporas in a sort of head starting, they will have a better chance of becoming established on the reef. There may even be the potential for identifying corals that are better able to survive, are more heat tolerant for example, and increasing their number on the reef faster than would naturally occur,” says Bothwell.

Ocean Frontiers has been approved for 10 trees, with approval of 25 more once nursery shows that the corals will grow there. Lois Hatcher, experienced with coral nurseries and reef restoration, will be managing the coral nursery. She has been busy with prep work.

“We have been picking out donor colonies and monitoring them, especially now for bleaching as we want strong corals to put in the nursery. There are many different genotypes and some are more resistant to heat, salinity etc. It’s important that we do our research and pick corals that are resistant and survive,” she says.

“We are fortunate to have Lois on board, the project wouldn’t be possible without her expertise. It is critical to have an experienced project leader in order for the nursery to have the hands-on day to day supervision that is needed,” says Broadbelt, who recruited Hatcher with this in mind. “We strongly believe that the person running the project needs to live and breathe coral – and that describes Lois.”

The Department of Environment has established guidelines for the six operations, including Ocean Frontiers, which have been shortlisted to establish the nurseries.

“Having a guiding policy is important to protect wild corals and to make sure that the corals remain the property of the people of the Cayman Islands, and that all nursery activity is conservation centered, to benefit the Cayman Islands,” says John Bothwell, explaining that DOE has in the past rejected proposals for commercial coral harvesting.

“Everyone is enthusiastic about the opportunity and all are cognizant of the long road ahead,” he said. “Coral nurseries like any other gardening, requires a lot of work. The nurseries need regular ‘weeding’ to remove algae that might otherwise overgrow the coral fingerlings, as well as the occasional removal of other pest organisms.”

A current global bleaching event is seriously affecting Cayman’s coral reefs, and creating urgency for the conservation measures. Hatcher, who is currently helping lead a major reef restoration project, is anxious to get started and feels confident they will have coral colonies to outplant within 18 months after they get the green light. The nursery will also give Ocean Frontiers another program to educate guests, and get them involved in caring for corals.

“This planet will be in a lot of trouble if we lose all our coral reefs,” says Lois. “They are home to 25% of all marine life. Every breath of air we take comes from the ocean and corals are primary producers. They are the first defense against hurricanes and so many other things. Corals are adaptable given time, but time is running out and they are not keeping up with the changes naturally. Coral Nurseries are a helping hand.”

About Ocean Frontiers and Compass Point Dive Resort

Ocean Frontiers Dive Shop is located at Compass Point Dive Resort on the remote East End of Grand Cayman. Founded in 1996 with one dive boat and a dream to introduce divers to the wonders of East End diving, the company has grown into one of Cayman’s premier dive operations with a reputation for catering to small groups and having the island’s friendliest staff. Ocean Frontiers is also recognized as one of the most conservation-minded dive operators in the Cayman Islands with a long history of promoting ocean protection through its company programs, and an unwavering support for outside environmental projects. The winner of Project AWARE’s Environmental Achievement Award in 2004 and 2010, Ocean Frontiers has again been recognized in 2012. The company also received the PADI Green Star Dive Center accreditation in 2012 for demonstrating a dedication to conservation, the first dive operator in the Cayman Islands to receive this distinction.

The Compass Point Dive Resort, which received the Green Globe Certification award in 2010 for sustainable tourism, is the epitome of laidback luxury. It features 28 luxurious one, two and three bedroom oceanfront, ocean view and poolside condominiums, each with its own private patio or balcony and all beautifully decorated with stylish island décor, and fully equipped with all of the comforts of home. Eagle Ray’s Dive Bar and Grill is now open for business at the resort.

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Save £500 on Maldives liveaboard – but hurry, there’s only 2 spots left!

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Join The Scuba Place on board the award-winning (Best Liveaboard, Maldives Tourism Awards for 2 consecutive years) Sachika for a week in the sun!

Taking in the very best dive sites of the ‘Best of Central Atolls’ itinerary, including manta cleaning stations, Whaleshark Alley, the Fish Factory and the legendary night dive with hundreds of nurse sharks, this is one trip not to be missed.

To make it even better, they have taken a big chunk of cash off the price to fill the last TWO SPACES (twin or double cabin) on each of the following sailings:

  • Outbound 5 November, return 13 November
  • Outbound 12 November, return 20 November

The Scuba Place team can arrange flights from any major UK airport, and the whole package will be ATOL Protected. Price includes flights, taxes, full board in a twin/double cabin based on 2 sharing, 17 dives with Nitrox included, all soft drinks and meals and snacks. Bar bill is extra and extra dives are available too!

The prices are based on flying with Emirates and include 30kgs of baggage per person.

Don’t miss out – get in touch today! Call 020 3515 9955 to find out more!

Brochure link: https://bit.ly/TSP_Maldives_Nov2021

www.thescubaplace.co.uk


Boat images by Top Class Cruising

Underwater images by Nigel Wade for The Scuba Place

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The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 1 of 2

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In the first of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021…

Travelling during the Covid pandemic has been challenging for some, impossible for most, and missed by all. We have been scanning the rules and regulations daily, and as soon as the UK Government allowed us, we were off!

What was supposed to be a trip to Mexico for a gang of 12 of us, just like most trips over the last 18 months, we were forced to change as the travel rules changed – we have been trying to get to Bonaire for ages, and this became the perfect opportunity – at last!

With our bags packed, negative test results and completed Bonaire health forms in hand – we made an early start for Heathrow, prepared for an 0630 departure. A quick flight and we landed in Amsterdam. As a Dutch Caribbean territory, all flights from the UK to Bonaire on KLM go via Amsterdam. In the airport, we met up with the rest of the gang who had travelled from Birmingham. After a quick layover we took off for Bonaire, where we arrived about 9 hours later. Our health documents were checked at the airport, and we grabbed our bags. It seems odd to have to fly East to then go West, but as we stepped out of the minibus at Buddy Dive Resort, only 10 minutes after leaving the airport, the sunshine and blue sky told us it was worth it!

Our accommodation for the group was made up of two 3-bedroom apartments, a stone’s throw from the water, dive shop, dock and Blennies, the main restaurant and bar. Buddy Dive also has 1- and 2-bedroom apartments along with studios, all comfortably furnished with either a garden or ocean view.

Each 3-bedroom apartment is spread over two floors – but a floor up from ground level. The ‘ground’ floor of each apartment offers a double bedroom (beds can be configured as twins or double in all rooms), a bathroom, lounge with balcony, and a very well-equipped kitchenette. Microwave, toaster, hob, fridge/freezer with ice-maker and enough pots, pans and utensils to satisfy the avid cook! On the upper floor, there are two further double rooms with ensuite bathrooms, both with balconies of their own. Each bedroom is air-conditioned, and the lounge and kitchen have celling fans. All in all, quite perfect for a home away from home for a fortnight!

The rules of group travel say we must unpack (empty bags onto floor or bed), sort kit out (look at dive bag and save it for later), put cameras together (er….NO!) and hit the bar – so being rule-abiding people that we are, this is what we did. Picking up the rental van for our stay would have to wait!

The next morning after breakfast, served in the Ingridients restaurant and right on the water, we attended the Buddy Dive orientation. The staff gave us a quick tour of the dock and resort including the famous drive thru tank shed offering both air and nitrox tanks ready and waiting to be loaded into your vehicle. Check in at the dive centre was easy… we all completed our diver forms online before arrival so with a quick hello we were handed locker keys for our kit storage. Time to head back to the room and get ready for our first dive!! That is why we’re here after all!

As with all trips, the first dive was a check dive, so we climbed down the steps into the water off the dock to go an explore Buddy Dive Reef. Finning over the sandy bottom, past the coral restoration project ‘trees’ and following well laid lines with directional markers we hit the reef after just a minute or two where you can drop to 35+ metres over simply stunning corals. This reef, just like the rest of the sites we dived, is super-healthy and teeming with juvenile fish wherever you look. Moray eels, turtles, octopi and HUGE tarpon on our first dive! What a great start!

The following day we decided it was time to explore the island. We picked up our 6-person minibus from Reception, pulled up to the drive thru tank station and grabbed 12 well filled Nitrox 12l aluminium (A-Clamp – not DIN) cylinders. With our guidebook in hand, off we went driving on the right of course, in search of marine life.

There are over 50 dive sites scattered around the coast of the main island, and even more on the island of Klein Bonaire accessible by boat. We chose a comfortable start by picking dive sites to the South where the entry seems to be a little easier on old knees and hips. We packed up sandwiches we made after a quick shop at the supermarket the day before, along with waters and a few essentials – towels, sunnies and bug spray.

I won’t bore you with every dive site name and description – the guidebook is the tool for that – but it is more than safe to say that we dived, dived and dived again! Every dive gave us far more than we expected, and the marine park surrounding the whole island delivered the goods without fail. Super healthy corals, plentiful marine life, warm and very clear water at 30 degrees made life easy. Parking the van up at the marked dive sites wasn’t difficult, and a few strides across the sand was far simpler than we had expected.

I will say that some sites are a little more challenging to get into the water from – anything more than three or four steps doesn’t float my boat! We adapted our entries for the group – some kitting up in the water, some not, but the rule of thumb quickly became step in up to thigh-depth, inflate bcd, fall flat on your back and paddle out before putting your fins on. Simple! Getting out of the water was pretty much the reverse of the above – stand up when you can, remove fins, and then navigate the rocks and sand channels before you walk up the beach. Nothing that an over-weight, under-tall chap in his mid-50’s with dodgy knees and even dodgier hips couldn’t cope with! (That is me by the way…..no offense to anyone else intended and no animals were harmed in the writing of this either).

We saw stuff – lots of it! Huge tarpon, French and Grey Angelfish, forests of Christmas Tree worms, anemones with Peterson, sexy and cleaner shrimp, clinging crabs, nudibranchs – especially lettuce-leaf slugs, coral-banded shrimp, lobster and so much more. Turtles everywhere, trumpet-fish in unbelievable numbers, and that was generally the story – all in very good visibility too! The corals and huge sponges were stunning with fascinating reef-structures offering all sorts of hidey-holes for critters!

There were some really special sited that we loved, and Salt Pier was one. The Cargill solar salt facility is easily found with its distinctive line of white salt pyramids.Each pyramid, roughly 50-feet high, can contain up to 10,000 metric tons of 99.6 percent pure salt. Even more noteworthy, in addition to the acres of salt ponds, the facility is also home to largest pink flamingo sanctuary in North America. Our very own Chloe has written an in-depth blog about Bonaire and its pure salt so be sure and check it out!

Back to the diving! We were given a hint to drive just past the pier to park where we would find an easy sand entry to the site. We kitted up and finned out through the shallows where we encountered three juvenile hawksbill turtles along with a few smooth pufferfish fighting to feed on patch of sponges, and then made our way under the immense structure of the pier. There are several platforms supporting the conveyor belts that move salt to the container ships and there wasn’t much diver-traffic to contend with. We were amazed by all things weird and wonderful – big scorpion fish hiding under the metal work, angelfish battling for food, schooling fish up above you, and frogfish! Barracuda, Caribbean reef squid, spotted drums, octopus, oh! and more frogfish! Even a flying gurnard in the shallows! What a dive! And as it is shallow, it can be a very long dive too, especially with the 200-210 bar fills the drive-thru often gave us.

Check back for Part Two of this Blog tomorrow!


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1275 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

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

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