Diving Into a Volunteer Vacation on the Island of Bonaire

Diver's Paradise in Bonaire

Diver’s Paradise in Bonaire

Discover the Magic of Gardening Underwater

When You Help Restore the Reef

If you’re looking for a truly unique underwater experience, a way to give back to Mother Nature, and a really cool PADI Specialty Certification, Bonaire’s Coral Restoration Foundation has a job for you.

The island of Bonaire is truly a diver’s paradise. Warm seas, beautiful coral, and abundant sea life provide a wonderland of adventure for underwater explorers. Consistently ranked as one of the top shore-diving destinations in the world, Bonaire features almost 100 dive sites within its surrounding marine park. And it is home to some of the world’s only coral nurseries.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire

Managed by Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) Bonaire, the coral nurseries are maintained by a tiny staff and a lot of volunteer divers. Volunteers don’t have to be locals – in fact most are visitors to the island who receive training on the spot. CRF offers several options for visitors looking to help out, and you can earn a PADI Specialty Certification while you work.

Bonaire’s CRF operates from the Buddy Dive Resort. Monday nights at 6:30 you can stop by the resort beach bar to hear an informational talk by one of the CRF staffers. It’s a fascinating perspective on what’s going on underwater in the Caribbean, and beyond. Plus you can meet the CRF team and find out more about how to help out.

Those aren't rocks on the beach. Dead coral fragments are a common sight on many island shores.

Those aren’t rocks on the beach.
Dead coral fragments are a common sight on many island shores.

PADI Coral Restoration Specialty Course

For certified divers new to coral restoration, CRF offers the chance to earn a PADI Specialty while helping the baby coral. Most weeks they offer a 1.5 day course based at Buddy Dive that includes three training dives, some classroom time, and (yes, I know you’re on vacation) homework. The entire course costs $220, including air and weights and usually at least one dive on Klein Bonaire. Generally the classes are held on Tuesday afternoon (classroom + one dive at Buddy’s Reef), and Wednesday all day (classroom + two dives at various locations).

If you’d just like a short introduction to coral restoration, you can choose to do only the first afternoon session of the specialty course for $65. You get the start of the classroom training and one dive at Buddy’s Reef, and there’s no homework. But you won’t get the specialty certification and you’ll miss the second day which is pretty spectacular.

A Coral Restoration Diver transplants coral in Bonaire.

On day two of training, a Coral Restoration Diver transplants coral in Bonaire.

Underwater Gardening

In the course you’ll learn about the decline of the world’s reefs and what’s causing this destruction, and then you’ll get to do something about it. CRF is experimenting with methods to collect coral fragments, nurse these fragments into larger specimens, then divide these new corals and transplant them to beds around the island. It is literally underwater gardening.
Although coral is not a plant – it’s a collection of tiny animals whose skeletons build up a reef – in many ways it is plant-like. One thing scientists can do with coral is to take clippings (don’t try this at home) and transplant them to a new location.

At the coral nursery, baby corals do grow on trees!

At the coral nursery, baby corals do grow on trees!

CRF has created several coral nurseries on Bonaire. Often referred to as ‘coral trees’, the nurseries are tree-like structures made of PVC piping, at a depth of about 10-15 feet. Small coral fragments are attached to the tree and the corals grow here until they are ready to be transplanted to the reef. Coral restoration divers protect these babies by removing predators and algae.

Coral Restoration divers work on one of the nursery trees in Bonaire.

Coral Restoration divers work on one of the nursery trees in Bonaire.

The divers also attach the baby coral to the tree – underwater!

Attaching the baby coral to the tree in Bonaire.

Attaching the baby coral to the tree in Bonaire.

Even if you just do the afternoon class and dive, you’ll be put to work helping the little corals on the trees.

READ
Giddy Up! Exploring the World of Seahorses at Kona, Hawaii’s Seahorse Farm

Restoring the Reef

On the second day of your restoration training, you will likely have the chance to take some of the baby corals from the nursery to their new home on the reef.

Some of the corals are attached to rebar structures. This will rapidly become a new reef.

Some of the corals are attached to rebar structures. This will rapidly become a new reef.

Corals are attached to rocks and man-made structures in various ways.

Some corals are attached directly to rocks.

Some corals are attached directly to rocks.

By the end of the day you will have lots of experience planting and managing these new corals. And you might even see a seahorse!

This seahorse likes to hang around the new coral beds.

This seahorse likes to hang around the new coral beds.

Coral Restoration Specialty Certified Divers Return Again and Again

CRF Bonaire has had a great success in their efforts so far, thanks in large part to divers willing to spend vacation time helping out. More than half of the transplanted corals survive, and they grow fast. So if you plant some coral this year, you can come back next year and see how much it has grown.

What will this brand new reef look like a year from now?

What will this brand new reef look like a year from now?

Once you have your coral restoration specialty certification, you can come back and help out anytime. The CRF has daily and weekly dive packages for certified restoration divers, and they dive most every day.

Contact Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire

For more information about diving with Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire, visit Buddy Dive’s website at: http://www.buddydive.com/en/coral-restoration-foundation-packages/coral-restoration-foundation-packages.html

You can also follow Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coral-Restoration-Foundation-Bonaire/349062175239706?fref=ts

Please leave a comment for me below.

 

 

Save