I’ve been participating with CoralGardening for a while now, so when I wanted to go on holiday, the decision was made quickly. Enjoy diving and visiting Frank and Vera on Koh Tao. So booked a trip to a nice resort and then meet with Frank & Vera. I immediately met Emiel, who joined as a volunteer at CoralGardening. Emiel is a freelance dive instructor so the decision to go diving with him was quick. After a little acclimatization and some nice diving with Emiel it was time for the project. By this time, Charlotte of CoralGardening had also arrived on the island.
On June 30, there was the monthly EcoDay on Koh Tao and CoralGardening took this opportunity to put two new statues down underwater, with the volunteers who made it. There were two groups for the two statues, one with scuba divers led by Charlotte and Emiel and one with freedivers led by Vera. Me myself had taken the job of supplying the materials from the boat to the divers. Fortunately, I could just take part in assembling under water, by filling the flower with the ballast and placing the top on one of the flowers. The assembling of a flower by the freedivers was a new experience for me and many of us. Also because it is the first time an artificial reef has been created, put down and assembled by freedivers.
During their presence on Koh Tao, Frank and Vera are experimenting with materials. In addition to the concrete mache developed by CoralGardening in 2015, we have also made flowers consisting of metal and sisal. In my opinion the concrete-mache flowers are more beautiful to see, but they are also harder to plant coral on, an important thing. With the ropes, it is easier to open the rope and place the coral between the fibers and then close the rope so that it holds the coral. They also experiment with a full metal flower. This new flower has the great advantage that these are much easier to connect to Bob’s Coral Aid.
After this successful placement, we organized a “CoralGardening only” construction morning. With the five of us (me, Frank, Vera, Emiel and Charlotte) we made various leafs, with Charlotte learning to weld. This was a very charming face. Later during my holiday we did this again, by that time Charlotte was already back in the Netherlands. I was able to discover my own welding qualities and was not dissatisfied with the result, and even the critical Vera could live with the final product.
Charlotte gets a lecture from Emiel.
I also learned to weld.
And yes, now you have flowers underwater so then you need some coral on it. One week after the placement we went to the CoralGarden by longtail, twice in one week with the CoralGardening crew. We collect broken pieces of coral from the sandy bottom, that are still alive and place it on the flowers. Half of the corals we put on the rope flower and the rest on the concrete flowers. It proved to be true that correct coral placement is a skill. It is important that the coral is firmly connected so that it can attach itself to the substrate, the flowers in this case.
Finally, the building of the flowers and planting coral on it, is great fun to do. But it must also be maintained and of course it has to be monitored if it is growing well. We returned with the longtail and we strengthened the foundations of one of the flowers and we cleaned the concrete mache leaf from the algae that growth on it. We also did a baseline measurement of the size of the coral and the degree of bleaching. Now I’m curious about the results in a half year. And oh yes, I have learned something new: diving slates FLOAT. When you are at eleven meters and you are focussed on measuring, and when you look up to see your notes floating to the surface. My reaction was not something recommended by dive instructors, but I could finish my notes at least.
Summarizing, it was a great and productive holiday and it gave me a good feeling about the project.