Summer Island expanded its own tasting menu of artificial reefs with the world’s largest and Maldives first 3D printed reef. Maldives Independent reported:
- “The world’s largest and the Maldives first 3D-printed reef was installed by a resort at the weekend, with the technology being used to help protect coral reefs. The artificial reef, assembled with hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, was submerged in seven metres of water in a part of the lagoon where Summer Island Maldives is building a new coral reef ecosystem…The project started in Australia, where industrial designer Alex Goad of Reef Design Lab used computing modelling to design reef structures similar to those found naturally in the Maldives. A 3D printer took 24 hours to print moulds which were then cast in ceramic, an inert substance similar to limestone rock, and shipped to the Maldives. They were filled with marine concrete on the resort’s beach before being taken into the lagoon and assembled. Like a giant aquatic LEGO set the 220 ceramic, concrete-filled moulds were slotted together underwater to create the new reef. Coral fragments, grown on the resort’s existing and extensive coral nursery, were transplanted onto the 3D reef. In a few years, when the corals have colonised the reef, the resort wants a new reef teeming with fish and other marine life. If the 3D printing technology proves successful, it could be a new way of helping coral reefs adapt to a warming climate.”
Look For Circles Day today. Not too difficult in the Maldives which essentially is entirely comprised up of hundreds of of white trimmed green dots speckling the ocean. Even in its vibrant aquatic world, circles abound from massive platters of Table Coral to gently gliding Turtles. But Summer Island’s lagoon might be about the best place to celebrate today with their innovative reef generation project:
- “Diverland Maldives will deploy a CORAL POP, planted with 3-4 pieces of living coral fragments on the Summer Island’s house reef. These broken pieces of coral have been collected around reefs in the North Male Atoll. With the CORAL POPS we are building protection for aquatic life and protecting Summer Island’s beaches against erosion.”
The project evoked the expansive “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” installation at the Tower of London. And at $5 a piece for guests to plant their own Coral Pops, Summer Island has set a new bar for affordable Reefscaping.
For those of you who can’t make even a brief stop over to the Maldives, but still wish to explore the wonders of its world famous coral reefs, I highly recommend Kristen Marhaver’s TED talk “How We’re Growing Baby Corals to Rebuild Reefs”…
“Coral reefs are farmers. They provide food, income and food security for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Coral reefs are security guards. The structures that they build protect our shorelines from storm surge and waves, and the biological systems that they house filter the water and make it safer for us to work and play. Coral reefs are chemists. The molecules that we’re discovering on coral reefs are increasingly important in the search for new antibiotics and new cancer drugs. And coral reefs are artists. The structures that they build are some of the most beautiful things on planet Earth. And this beauty is the foundation of the tourism industry in many countries with few or little other natural resources.”
Quite a few resorts now (17 by my count) invest in reef regeneration programmes on their island. Someday maybe Marhaver’s work will allow us to go beyond strapping coral pieces to frames and actually cultivate and propagate corals.
Banyan Tree Vabinfaru takes a completely different approach to using electronic media to help preserve the environment. Their Lotus Project is pioneering the use of ‘Mineral Accretion’ technology which use low voltage electric currents to stimulate coral growth (thanks John). Sort of an electromyostimulation for reef fitness…
“In November 2001, the Vabbinfaru Lotus was successfully launched. This unique reef restoration project was developed under the supervision of architect Prof. Wolf Hilbertz, coral scientist Dr. Tom Goreau and Abdul Azeez Abdul Hakeem, the marine environmental consultant to Banyan Tree Maldives. The metal structure is two meters high, 12 meters in diameter and shaped in the form of a giant lotus flower…A method invented by Prof. Hilbertz and Dr. Goreau called ‘Mineral Accretion’ now enables us to restore marine habitats by using completely safe low voltage electrical currents to grow solid limestone structures in the sea and making additional energy available for the corals. The energy accelerates the growth and reproduction of corals; it increases their ability to resist environmental stresses and makes them healthier and visibly brighter in color…The Vabbinfaru Lotus is not only a visually appealing object but also combines aesthetics with purpose. It acts as a coral nursery, a ‘Coral Ark’, that maintains a fascinating diversity of species. With its open flower shape the surface area is maximized, inviting the sun to promote the development and growth of the corals. Half a ton of welded construction reinforcing bar was used to build the frame, which was then carried by around 40 volunteers through the shallow lagoon and deposited on the slope of Vabbinfaru’s outer reef. The Lotus is now located at a depth of three to ten meters…It uses around 600 watts of power, which is only a little more than each of the lights on the jetty attracting fish at night.”
Power to the coral!
While for many the downsides of big lagoons are their less dramatic snorkelling and more remote house reef, many resorts now are using Reefscaping to both enhance the snorkelling in the lagoons as well as the aquatic environment overall. In fact, Lori and I have our own frames presented to us by Four Seasons Kuda Huraa (#KH327) and by Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru (#LG729 – which we assembled together at their Marine Discovery Centre).
Now many resorts are getting in on coral reef regeneration – Constance Halaveli, Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu, Waldorf Astoria Maldives, Banyan Tree Madivaru, Baros. But Kandooma led the way and was the first project I covered.
They’ve added a touch with I think both personalises and incentivises this fine initiative – labelling the frames with the donor names (see photo above…’Su’ is no relation). I am involved with a number of charities and in fund raising (especially capital drives), the first question that you ask is ‘what are the naming opportunities?’ American Universities have this down to an art form where just about every light switch has a mini plaque honouring the gift of some patron. Yes, people are generous and do give just for the sake of the cause. But people also have a bit of pride and getting their name (or the name of a loved one) marked indelibly on a place or thing that means something special to them is a huge boost. I also think that the approach adds a certain personality to the Reefscaping project. You can see the diverse people, with names clearly from many different countries and cultures, who have all converged to contribute to making this place of earth even more of an aquatic treasure.
Happy Earth Day 2011!
Maldives have always been on the vanguard of promoting the thoughtful stewardship of the planet. In the spirit of the day, I thought I would highlight Seamarc who has been pioneering ‘reefscaping’ and ‘coral regeneration’ projects across the Maldives. Resorts using their reef grafting frames include Kandooma, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Beach House at Manafaru, Island Hideaway at Dhonakulhi, Reethi Rah, and Four Seasons Kuda Huraa,
“Seamarc’s unique propagation techniques; whereby broken or threatened corals are harvested, attached to portable Coral Trays and put back into the warm Maldivian waters, mean that branching corals grow faster, rapidly creating new and replenishing old habitats. The project also provides alternative employment to residents of nearby B. Fulhadhoo Island who build the structures.”
The illustration above comes from my friend and social media pioneer Hugh MacLeod. I especially like his tagline about ‘changing lives’. The more we do that for the better, the easier it will be to get everyone to agree to some difficult decisions to take care of our planet.
While the ‘house reef’ is the ‘main event’ in snorkelling, lagoon snorkelling can be its own treat. During our first, uninitiated trip to the Maldives, we spent nearly the whole week there delightedly snorkelling among the modest coral and rock croppings in the shallow, sandy lagoon. We didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a ‘drop off’. We still enjoy the charms of lagoon snorkelling with some real highlights in our history – a playful octopus, a digging sting ray, a passing manta, and a whole host of turtles and fish.
If you can’t get the snorkelers to the reef, bring the reef to the snorkelers. Often the main problem with house reefs are their accessibility. Eventually, you can get to a drop off point, but you have swim over long expanses of relatively boring white sand. So as a part of its award winning reef regeneration efforts, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has taken a creative twist on reefs with what can best be described as ‘reef topiary’.
Its showcase piece is the Yin-Yang Coral Garden pictured above. From an aerial view, the coral forms a yin-and-yang symbol. The resort is now planning an encore with a ‘Crescent Moon’ in the works.
With all of the discussion in the past few posts of what the Maldives and resorts are doing for conversation and the environment, it turns out that ecologically-minded guests visiting Kandooma can turn their activism into a holiday activity.
Always wanted resorts to put up a board where people could plot their snorkelling sittings of the day and week. Kandooma has something heading in that direction with a ‘Marine Biologist Update’ which at least shares the latest aquatic goings on literally (or should I say ‘litorally’) ‘around’ the island (sorry – bad pun day).
The highlight of this update for me is their ‘Reefscaping’ project which allows guests to sponsor a ‘Reefscaping’ structure.
“The Reefscapers initiative is a synergy between the tourism industry, reef science and the local community around coral propagation projects. Coral propagation is a promising research field in the present global warming context, even though heavily debated as a possible solution, when compared to the surface of the coral reef threatened by climate change. With this in mind, Reefscapers developed in the Maldives, a new versatile technique, using light weight modules, to mitigate the adverse direct impacts to corals during tourism development. The success encountered when mitigating adverse impacts from infrastructure development has led to the continuation and development of the project using second and third generation fragments, with eventually 2000 m2 of reef created. So far, applications are mostly targeted towards aesthetic and recreation, but the technique also seems promising for erosion control and island protection. Recognizing the potential of the technique, the Maldivian government has decided to encourage the initiative by providing an island in order to carry out larger scale experiments.”
At the it says, Reefscaping has now extended to other resorts (Landaa Giravaru, Kuda Hura), but Kandooma was the first and is the most extensive.
(Pictures above from Crystal’s blog of her experience)