Are you interested in adding conservation to the list of awesome things you do while traveling to Roatan? Volunteering in our coral nurseries is a great way to leave our beautiful reef in a healthier place then you found it. Sun Divers friend & customer Alex Johnson shares the four reasons he loved becoming a Coral Ambassador.
Guest blog by Alex Johnson, friend of Sun Divers
Up until now, my only exposure to the threats coral reefs face has been second-hand. Growing up in Florida, where only a minute fraction of our reefs remain, changing the status quo felt unattainable; I didn’t know what I could do to make a difference. In July of 2021, I became PADI Certified in Roatan through Sun Divers. I felt I had a new lens into this beautiful part of our world. It wasn’t until later, when I dove in less well-preserved reefs, that I realized just how extraordinary Roatan’s reefs are. The best contrast in my mind was the booming metropolis of New York City against my small coastal hometown. I had to go back to Roatan. Returning just recently this summer made me wonder: how can one reef be so perfectly preserved, yet another so barren? How can someone like me make a difference in this part of the world that I want to forever enjoy? These questions brought me to becoming a Roatan Marine Park (RMP) Coral Ambassador, and here’s four great reasons for you to become one too:
1. Learn something new
Have you ever wondered what corals are made of, how they survive, and what they eat? I’ll give you a sneak peek: corals are actually made up of thousands of soft-bodied animals known as polyps – and that’s just scratching the calcium carbonate surface!
When I walked up to the dive shop on my first day of the course, I was greeted by the same casual, yet eager and adventurous vibes I’d grown to love. With the instructors’ enthusiasm at the ready, you’ll have a wonderfully encouraging learning environment – making the course just that much easier!
The first step on your way to becoming a Coral Reef Ambassador is understanding the science behind the process. You’ll learn about the Roatan Marine Park, and then everything you need to know about coral stressors, reproduction, survivability, and restoration. Then, you’ll explore which corals are the best for restoration.
But the fun doesn’t stop there! Once you’ve covered the more technical bits, you move on to simulating the underwater restoration process. This ambassadorship is fully hands-on, after all! With tools at the ready, you’ll practice the techniques required to clean and maintain the coral nurseries, as well as how to outplant fragments to grow a new colony. After learning these new skills, you’ll be ready to venture out to the coral nurseries and help with the real deal coral restoration in Roatan!
2. Help save our coral reefs
If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, it’s that awareness is key. Before you even consider the benefits of coral nurseries and outplanting, know that what you will learn by becoming an RMP Coral Ambassador can have an enormous impact. Take sunscreen for example. The majority of lotions that people bring into the water are toxic for our planet’s reefs. Learning why this is the case and being able to educate others is powerful! Once you understand the stressors affecting our reefs, not only can you be an ambassador in the water, but in your communities as well!
That isn’t to say that the work in the water isn’t important, though! Coral nurseries are wonderfully effective tools which we can use to rehabilitate our reefs. They’re safe from predators, inexpensive, easy to maintain, and have access to massive amounts of sunlight – meaning the coral can grow very quickly! Once you become an RMP Coral Ambassador, you’ll be a part of the growing force to bring our reefs back to life!
3. Outplant your own coral colony
One of the most exciting parts of the course is the final stage, outplanting. This is when all of your hard work culminates. Taking branches cut from one of the nurseries you visited in a previous dive, you’re going to find a home for your very own coral colony! Even having prepared for this on land, the experience was incredibly novel for me. The best way I could describe it is an underwater construction project. For me, this was exhilarating as I knew if I did it right, one day this colony would be able to flourish, and I would have my own small piece in our beautiful ocean. What a special experience!
4. Improve your dive skills
In the wonder of it all, I was taken by surprise with how much my diving improved over this course. Never before when diving had I needed to focus with such precision. From working on the nursery trees to creating the best home for my newly adopted coral family, it was a welcomed challenge! I especially found it difficult at first to maintain my trim while steadily chiseling away at the rock. It was an incredible trial of buoyancy and dexterity, something I didn’t often have to struggle with when diving. The dives pushed me to improve, and by the end, I’d say I definitely did!
While I’m writing this as a customer of Sun Divers, I’m much more importantly writing this as someone who cares about our coral reefs. After seeing what can happen to a reef tormented by those careless or unaware, I have wanted so badly to have a positive impact on these ecosystems. Becoming a Roatan Marine Park Coral Ambassador has propelled me with one large dive in that direction. I know it’s something that’s going to stick with me for a long time, and I feel so inspired to be able to share what I now know. Our ocean is something far too many know too little about, and becoming an RMP Coral Ambassador can help change that.