I rarely visit the same island twice (there’s just too much great stuff left to discover) much less write about the same feature twice. But islands get revamped and become entirely different properties which warrant taking an entirely fresh look. And the same is true with Sirru Fen Fushi’s “Corallarium” which started life as a surf-breaking art installation, but is now morphing into a reef regeneration project:
- “The Coralarium structure, and the sculptures within, act as an artificial reef, encouraging local marine life to make it a home. Up to 5m tall, each one of the soaring sculptures is constructed of more than 500 ceramic ‘starfish’ that have been specifically designed to attract a variety of fish and crustaceans – the hard shells catch and hold biomass, or ‘fish food’, which encourage coral larvae to attach and thrive, while nooks and dark cubbyholes in the structures provide a hiding place for a variety of fish and shellfish. Each sculpture is brought to life through its union with the life that attaches to it, transforming them from concrete to textured, living organisms.”
Great to see the second life to this installation giving the coral reef new life.
The underwater versions of parrot fish and other reef marine life will have a literally more powerful habitat at Angsana Ihuru as a result of their “Necklace Project”. Hotelier Maldives published a great article about the project, “’The Necklace Project’ to be presented at the GM Forum in April”:
- “It is a steel structure 40 metres long and 4 metres wide, fixed inside the lagoon of Angsana Ihuru at a depth of 0.5 metres. Massive corals were initially put on top of the structure to stabilise it. The steel structures were provided with low voltage direct current which causes the growth of calcium carbonate, dissolved in seawater over the steel surfaces, which are completely protected from corrosion. The growing calcium carbonate on the steel structure, which has already achieved a thickness of about 20 cm in diameter in some places, now acts as a natural barrier to strong waves. The necklace has also become a haven for fish and other forms of marine life.”
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.”
Earth Day today. Time to give back to the planet that gives us all so much. In the Maldives, probably the biggest initiative to strengthen the planet are the reef building initiatives to restore coral stressed by rising sea temperatures as well as outbreaks of COTS. Dozens of resorts invest in these reef regeneration projects, but I’ve never seen so many different approaches than Summer Island.
I’ve already written about their submerged Underwater Objects as well as their Coral Pops. They have also built a series of artificial reefs, the most recent being 15m x 2m x 4m constructed out of limestone rocks. Their latest innovation is a series of Coral Ropes. These serve as a coral nursery to incubate coral growth. Less than 2.5% die, and the ones that live are transplanted to the new artificial reefs:
- “Three pipes are completely winded in rope (needed over 500 meters) and 2 in fishing nets that were removed from the surrounding reefs. The plateau is hovering (we placed buoys inside the pipes) and it’s 6 meters long & 2 meters wide. The pipes are full of Durban dancing shrimps, Bruun’s cleaning partner shrimps and banded boxer shrimps. In between the ropes we already fixed a lot of coral fragments that are all alive AND growing ! Basically a home for a lot of life and we made it hovering so that if there were any crowns of thorns, the corals won’t be eaten by these damn creatures ! Underneath are limestone rocks where lion fish and octopii are hiding.”
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.
Happy Australia Day, mate! While being only 12th in term of numbers of visitors to the Maldives, Australia is the 4th highest country in the fashionista database. Despite all its own sunshine and beach and even spectacular reefs (Great Barrier), the Maldives is still a distinctive beauty backdrop for the glitterati down under. Or maybe the depiction below of Australia’s own local offerings explains a bit of the exodus.
In honor of Australia Day today, I bring you something special from “down under”. In this case, under the sea with another reef regeneration initiative. Gili Lankanfushi’s coral lines project…
- “At Gili Lankanfushi resort in the Maldives, we are rehabilitating the coral reef by nursing coral on ropes (lines) (Levy et al., 2010) and later transplanting them onto degraded reef areas (Lindahl, 2003). Every rope is initially planted with 50 small, living coral fragments. We nurse the corals in the lagoon for 1 year and later transplant the ropes to the One Palm Island reef. Overtime we expect the corals get stronger, grow bigger and improve the health of the One Palm Island Reef. Our project is a research study on the subject of coral reef rehabilitation science, and 75% of the proceeds from every Coral Line donated will go to our Gili SEAS (Social & Environmental Awareness and Sustainability) fund, allowing our property to do more for the locals and more for the environment.”
Australia’s own reefs are suffering the stresses of the rise in ocean temperatures with extensive reports of bleaching. I expect Australia and the Maldives will eco-allies in preserving their distinctive ecological heritages with initiatives like Gili’s
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.