Reefscapers Team Diaries January 2024

St. Regis Vommuli

Hazel, our resident Reefscapers coral expert at the The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort wishes everyone a very Happy New Year, 2024 ! 🎉 During January, we created two new coral frames, and monitored (cleaned and repaired) all of our 177 frames across various sites around the island, totalling 13 snorkel and dive sessions. In addition, we photographed a total of 26 frames as part of our 6-monthly review process for our kind sponsors. 🙏 

To see the progress of your frame, please visit our dedicated St Regis monitoring page where we upload new photos every 6 months or so.

Our oldest frames at St Regis are fast approaching the one-year mark, and we are pleased to report good rates of growth and overall excellent health! Despite the seasonal increase in sea surface temperatures (SST) during January, there has no been no bleaching sighted on our coral frames or on the wild reef. Observed growth of macroalgae has also been low this month.

🪸Divecentre site – we have observed an increase in marine debris on our coral frames, drifting from the wider atoll into our island waters. During our routine coral maintenance work, we have been diligently removing the occasional plastic, net and line that we enountered on our frames. In addition, we recorded the presence of pale gametes in 2 coral colonies.

🪸 Whalebar site – healthiest coral growth, and home to our newest frames. With the upcoming warm season approaching, we will continue to use this site to minimise the bleaching risk to our frames. The local hawksbill turtles have also started to show an interest in this site! 💚 

Marine biology St Regis Maldives Reefscapers fragment

Working as a marine biologist in the Maldives
Transplanting harvested coral fragments onto our frames

Reefscapers at St Regis Maldives Xmas

Underwater Xmas celebrations! 🧑‍🎄
Snorkelling over a vibrant healthy reef at St Regis

Marine Biology

We conducted 5 guided excursions this month, and we were delighted to encounter various megafauna species including sting rays, eagle rays, blacktips, whitetips, and hawksbills.

We held 4 marine presentations for resort guests, including “Sustainability Hour” and “Sea Turtles”. There were also 3 sessions at the Kids’ Club for “Shark Yoga”, and 2 sessions at “Sea turtle beach” for ages 5-7 years.

We were also very pleased to present our Reefscapers coral propagation work to 20+ students as part of a Sustainable Development Goals workshop. This was led by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) for Filipino youth, who were very engaged in the subject and asked lots of questions!
The SOA develops and implements innovative solutions, and mobilises a workforce  of youth to restore the health of our oceans.

Marine biology St Regis Maldives Reefscapers [SR 2024.01] Dharanboodhoo school visit

16 students from the nearby local island of Dharanboodhoo came to visit this month. They enjoyed our marine presentation and discussion about our work.

Marine biology St Regis Maldives Reefscapers [SR 2024.01] healthy frame

Our oldest frames are reaching their 1-year birthday! 💙 

Sheraton Full Moon

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives pyramid coral frames
Our Reefscapers team at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa has had a busy start to the year! During January, we created 12 new coral frames at the Dive site, and monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) a total of 131 frames across various sites around the island.

To see the progress of your frame, please visit our dedicated Sheraton monitoring page where we upload new photos every 6 months or so.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives pyramid 5 nurse sharks

A total of 5 nurse sharks resting under our coral pyramids – our artificial reef structures soon become home to a surprising variety of marine biodiversity.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral frames

This fluorishing frame of Acorpora muricata became partially buried in the seasonally shifting lagoon sands. To uncover the lower corals, we raise the frame using floats or a simple pulley system.

This month, through a combination of snorkelling and diving, we have been working around the island across all of our coral propagation and reef restoration sites, photographing and maintaining our coral frames.

  • At the Blue Hole site, 2 coral frames (comprising mostly of Acropora muricata) were significantly buried in the sand. Through scuba diving and the use of our bespoke pulley device, both frames were successfully raised out of the sand and relocated to a new site.
  • Spa Bridge – some of our earliest flat frames, originally transplanted in 2020, needed significant maintenance work due to high mortality of Pocillopora verrucosa. We have observed similar results with this species at other islands after 3-years of growth, but we are unsure as to the exact cause of this phenomenon. All dead colonies were removed and replaced with new fragments.
  • Water Villas – frames are healthy and thriving, displaying a fast rate of growth even within their first year of transplantation.
  • Gili’s Falhu – frames are doing well and require little maintenance work and recycling.
  • Coral Pyramids – we were busy on maintenance dives, clearing space and managing competition. Due to the fast growth rate, the corals are overcrowding in some areas so require ‘thinning out’, so we separate crowded colonies and retransplant them to fill any dead areas. As we go along, we remove any corallivorous species such as Crown of Thorns (COTs) and Drupella snails, to prevent any outbreaks.
Reefscapers pyramid coral growth 2022.10-2024.01

Growth on our coral pyramids, 2022.10 – 2024.01

Marine Biology

A total of 45 guests enjoyed our guided ‘Maldivian Snorkelling Journey’ activities, and our marine talks were very engaging, lasting upwards of one hour and generating great feedback. Several sightings of giant trevally were recorded this month, and sightings of blacktip reef shark were noticeably high, with several large individuals and pregnant sharks recorded.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives mature coral frame
Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives

SH001 was the first frame transplanted at Sheraton in February 2020 (sponsored by the resort)

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives [SH001 2yo]

Growth of SH001 after 2 years …

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives [SH001 3yo] SH001H00230704

… after 3 years … 

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives [SH001 4yo] SH001H00231211

… and coming up to 4 years old. 💜