Coral Reef Renewal in Bonaire

Reef Nursery Restoration Bonaire

Since we’ll be in Bonaire for a while, we want to give back while we are here. I researched volunteer opportunities and found a way to help revitalize the reefs. I especially liked that it combined scuba diving and volunteering! We enrolled in a course and are now volunteering in coral reef renewal in Bonaire.

why coral reef renewal

Around the world, the reefs are in peril due to a multitude of causes like pollution, bleaching, hurricanes and diseases. Coral reefs are very important not only to the 4,000 species of fish who live there, but to humans by providing multiple medicines, and, for tourism. In Bonaire the reefs are the main source of tourism, with the protected marine preserve a lure for divers around the globe.

The good news is marine biologists have developed a way to regenerate the reefs. It requires constant maintenance and volunteers to help with it. We learned all about it last week in our course on coral reef renewal. The 2 day course included classroom lectures, videos and 3 dives.

the class

In the class, we learned about building and caring for coral nurseries. Bonaire has several of these nurseries and now that we’ve passed the course, Brian and I can help maintain and nurture the reef nurseries.

Reef Restoration in Bonaire
Learning how to tie the coral in our Reef Restoration class

We learned that by taking broken pieces of vulnerable coral and tying them onto the bamboo nursery structures they will regenerate. Volunteers are important because the regeneration is at risk due to predators and diseases. A lot of the work of volunteers involves keeping the lines clean. You also have to be mindful of fire coral which covers the structures and can hurt to the touch!

Please note: Do not attempt to break off coral and replant it yourself. We took a course with an expert with years of experience and worked with marine biologists. If you want to help the marine environment, there are many ways like beach-clean ups, or you can volunteer or donate, but never touch coral reefs.

Coral after it’s tied to the reef: we practiced in the classroom before the application underwater

the reef renewal dives

Bonaire’s coral nurseries are in very shallow water quite close to the dive shop, which was good because we did a lot on each dive. We learned how to properly clean the nurseries, and then how to tie and hang the new pieces of coral. Finally, we learned how to “outplant,” which is to take the growing coral from the nursery and move it to a restoration site.

The restoration dives are very different from other dives. Instead of looking for fish, we’re working. Since we are in shallow water, around 10 or 12 feet, we don’t use much air and lasted 60-100 minutes per dive.

These dives were not easy! I can’t say I am very good at zip tying coral pieces to bamboo structures, and I also touched my share of fire coral which burned my fingers! But they were definitely rewarding. After all the time we spend underwater enjoying the marine life, to be able to help that life by regenerating coral rewards the soul.

I found that cleaning the nursery was relaxing. Any of you find zen in vacuuming or doing dishes? This is similar. Systematically cleaning the lines by removing the algae, row after row, is calming. Time flies while you’re having fun! I also enjoyed watching the fish hovering around the nursery, while the renewed coral seamlessly merged back into its habitat.

Volunteering with reef renewal

Now that we’ve successfully completed the course, we can volunteer with coral reef renewal in Bonaire. Volunteering is easy. Every week, we get an email detailing the upcoming opportunities and can sign up for any. Plus, we can go to the dive center where we studied and help clean whichever nursery needs it any given day we choose. Finally, the reef where we are moored has its own coral nursery which we are going to help clean tomorrow morning.

Reef Renewal Volunteer Board
Volunteer schedule at Buddy Dive Bonaire

If you are a scuba diver and plan to spend a good amount of time in Bonaire, the reef restoration course is fun and rewarding. We are excited to volunteer with coral reef renewal in Bonaire. Have you ever done any volunteering abroad and want to share tips or advice? Please let me know in the comments.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, scuba diver, cat parent, cyclist, blogger, love the water and exploring new places.

8 thoughts on “Coral Reef Renewal in Bonaire”

  1. This looks like such a unique but also worthwhile experience. I love the idea of giving back while travelling, and it’s so great you got some new skills out of it too

  2. Thanks so much for bringing more awareness to this! That’s so cool that you got to complete a course on this and can volunteer with this now! I’m hoping to learn to dive and it’d be awesome to get to be involved with something like this. <3

  3. What an interesting read I found this to be…. and kudos to you both for your unselfish dedication in volunteering to improve a valuable and precious area of Bonaire! ????

  4. What a fantastic experience. I am so glad you found such a great way to give back while you are staying in Bonaire. I didn’t know that coral could be added to nurseries in this way…but anything we can do to help them must be a good thing.

    p.s. Eep! I had not heard of fire coral! Is it like underwater stinging nettles!?

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