Coral restoration – Taking the Reef Renewal course in Bonaire

Coral restoration – Taking the Reef Renewal course in Bonaire

The Reef Renewal course in Bonaire

Something that we see more and more are restoration projects running to protect our reefs. Sadly a very much needed necessity these days as the reefs are struggling. Often as Scuba Divers we just get to witness the bad conditions – me for one feeling helpless more than once. That has now changed. When I was in Bonaire I took the PADI Reef Renewal course with the Reef Renewal Foundation and it was epic. 

Big involvement in maintaining Bonaire's Reef

Bonaire is one of the most friendly places I’ve ever been in. Everyone helps each other even when you’re a stranger. It’s the same with coral restoration. At this moment 7 dive shops work together with the Reef Renewal Bonaire foundation to maintain coral nurseries and educate curious divers about reef restoration. Beyond the Corals, Buddy Dive Resort, Divi, Harbour Village,  VIP Diving, WannaDive and Tropical Divers are the dive shops where you can go to for this course.  

The corals that this course focuses on are Staghorn & Elkhon coral. Both corals that protect the shallow reefs. 


PADI Reef Renewal Diver - Theory

The Reef Renewal course is an official PADI course. It exists out of a total of 3 dives and great in-depth theory in the class room.

I did my course with Prisca from Tropical Divers and we started of in the class room where Prisca told me everything about Staghorn and Elkhorn corals. She explained me how they’re build up, what threats corals face and of course what we can do to help the corals. Absolutely fascinating listening to Prisca talk passionately about this topic. You can clearly tell she cared a lot about it and wanted to make sure I understood everything. 

I also learned quite a difficult word…  zooxanthellae. Tiny plant cells that live in the corals. In fact, they’re responsible for giving the coral the gold/brown color. When they move out, that’s when the coral turns white and eventually dies if the zooxanthellae don’t move back in! That’s for example when coral bleaching happens, the zooxanthellae move out and don’t come back!

Prisca is letting me practice hanging up staghorn corals

Coral tree cleaning, maintenance and outplanting​

The Reef Renewal course exists out of three dives. Each dive covers aspects of coral restoration.  Make sure to scroll down to my YouTube so you can see me in action!

Dive 1: Cleaning the frame & Growing Stagorn

We started of easy by cleaning the 5 coral nursery trees frames that Tropical Divers manages. That meant a lot of brushing. Mostly unwelcome algae and fire corals tend to start growing on the plastic structure of the trees, making their ways towards the precious baby corals.

There were some really big pieces of staghorn growing on the trees. Prisca cut of some small pieces from there and we hang those up again to grow big. That way we don’t need to cut corals from healthy staghorn on the reef to keep multiplying. 

Dive 2: All about the Elkhorn Corals

Here I am hanging up the smaller Elkhorn corals that we cut of the big pieces of Elkhorn. Some we hang back and some we outplanted. Outplanting Elkhorn is quite the experience. You need to bring mining picks underwater with you and ‘pick’ out spots on rocks (not coral!!) where you want to then glue your elkhorn with epoxy glue! 

Dive 3: Staghorn outplanting & checking on the big corals

Staghorn planting is relatively simple compared to the Elkhorn. With Staghorn the challenge is to grab 5 to 10 bigger ones and lock them in with each other so they form a stable structure. Just as with Elkhorn it’s important that they’re not in too much sand as that will suffocate and make it even easier for slugs and fireworms to eat the zooxanthellae! 

Enjoy my coral reef restoration vlog

Ofcourse as always I’ve made a video about my experience. Come submerge with me at Kalabas Reef where the nursery of Tropical Divers is and see for yourself what the course is like.