St. Regis Vommuli

During April, we created 8 new coral frames, from small through to large sizes, plus 2 hearts. 💙 A total of 36 coral frames were monitored (cleaned and repaired) and photographs were uploaded to our website for our kind sponsors. 🙏 In total, we conducted 15 maintenance visits, and inspected all 190 of our coral frames around Vommuli.

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. You can Sponsor your very own complete coral frame, or Adopt a community-frame coral fragment here.

Reefscapers at St Regis Maldives

Our coral frame #1 (SH001) with paling coral colonies
(photographed 29 April)

Reefscapers at St Regis Maldives

Wild corals on the reef, showing initial paling
(our ‘Whale Bar’ site)

🪸Dive Centre Site – Although this site is one of our deepest (at an average 4.5m depth) coral paling of our coral frames was observed here first, caused by the seasonally elevated sea surface temperatures (SST). We have also been removing some marine debris, drifting in from the open ocean and becoming entangled on several coral frames. 

🪸 Adopt-A-Coral Site – during the first three weeks of April, all corals were observed as healthy, with relatively low macroalgae cover. But towards the end of the month, we started to see some paling of the corals, on both our frames and the natural reef.

🪸 Whale Bar Site – we located all our newly transplanted frames here this month. Wild coral colonies have started to pale on the reef down to depths of 5m, so we are expecting our frames to start showing signs of heat stress in the coming weeks.

🎙️ Marine Talks – we conducted 2 guest marine presentations this month, plus 4 Kids’ Club events for “Shark Yoga” and “Sea Turtle Beach”. We also held an online video session for 13 children in Ecuador, in collaboration with the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (Latin America). In the coming months, we plan to increase the educational activities for more international students!
In commemoration of Earth Day, we conducted a special educational session for 18 students from the island of Meedhoo, to learn about keystone marine species in the Maldives. This visit makes a total of 5 island schools across Dhaalu Atoll to have received our marine awareness talks on environmental days.

🤿 Marine Biology Excursions – we attended weekly Dolphin Cruises this month, enjoyed by a total of 21 guests. Megafauna sightings were logged during our coral maintenance work around the island, mainly blacktip reef sharks and a few hawksbill turtles on the reefs.

Reefscapers at St Regis Maldives

The ocean currents sometimes carry marine debris, which can become entangled on natural and artificial reefs

Reefscapers at St Regis Maldives

Students from Meedhoo enjoying our educational activities
on ‘International Earth Day’

Sheraton Full Moon

During April, we built 14 new coral frames (out-planted at depth) and monitored a total of 124 coral frames at various sites around the island. During the upcoming weeks, monitoring will be on hold as we focus on our coral bleaching mitigation efforts.

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 wild sea turtle

Summary of our reef regeneration sites around the island. We have paused all recycling work until the ocean temperatures have returned to normal.

  • Blue Hole – At this site, we lifted a few frames due to sand movement. We have started to see paling of our coral frames, especially the smaller colonies and newly attached fragments.
  • Water Villas – Removal of algae continues, but the strong currents and abundant fish life are also working in our favour to minimise algal growth. Some coral paling has been observed.
  • Dive Centre & Boat Garden – The frames here are at depths of 10-12m, and so far, are not showing any signs of bleaching, including the newly transplanted fragments. This has been a reassuring development, indicating depth is sheltering the corals from the rising temperatures. The visibility at this site is also typically quite poor, which might also be benefitting the corals (reducing any UV stress). We suspect the corals in the shallows have been just as affected by solar irradiance as temperature, due to the large numbers of fluorescing colonies we are observing. Therefore, the poor visibility, coupled with the depth, at the boat garden may be protecting these corals from bleaching.
  • Dive Centre Pyramids – paling here is being seen in the large table colonies, which have managed to shelter several colonies below them. The bleaching at the Dive Centre has not been as bad as the Blue Hole and Water Villas, likely due to the slightly increased depth. Some removal of Drupella snails was needed throughout the month.
  • Lagoon Pyramids – some bleaching has been recorded at this site, but for the most part, the corals are doing well and the design of the structures provides shade for lower colonies.
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral paling
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral paling

Coral Bleaching Monitoring

Bleaching surveys continued this month, repeating the transects conducted in March. We are repeating these surveys every 2 weeks throughout the bleaching season to monitor both bleaching and potential recovery. We are surveying 1,162 colonies across various sites around the island, and scoring the colonies using the MMRI National Protocol.

Bleaching score key: (1) No bleaching, (2) 1-10% of colony bleaching, (3) 11-50% bleaching, (4) 51-99% bleaching, (5) 100% bleached, (6) Dead.

There is an identifiable trend of increased bleaching throughout April, with the rate of bleaching on the increase as we would expect. We also see higher scores in Acropora corals compared to Pocillopora corals, again as expected (Acropora is fast-growing but can be vulnerable to elevated temperatures).
🗓️ Survey #2 (early April): the average score for most species is between 2-3, suggesting 1-50% of the colonies are bleaching.
🗓️ Survey #3 (2 weeks later): scores are approaching averages of 4, indicating 51-99% of the colonies are bleached.

Along with scoring individual colonies, we are also taking monitoring photos of the surveyed frames every 2 weeks. These images will hopefully be used by our Reefscapers team as part of our AI development project to monitor corals and analyse big data (photos above).

Shaded frames

We have moved some coral frames into the shade to protect them from the sun and lower the UV stress. We relocated some of the palest coral frames to see if the shade could aid their recovery, and we are closely monitoring progress. Initial results are showing some decreases in paling levels and even signs of recovery (in A. digitifera); some colonies have remained at the same paling score and not worsened; some colonies (of A. tenuis) have worsened despite being in the shade for three weeks.

Frame SH365

In the image below, use the slider handle to see our Reefscapers frame #SH365 as photographed in November 2023 (healthy) and on 20 April 2024. Note the coral colonies have started to lose their colouration, and several appear fully bleached white. Elevated ocean temperatures create stress in the coral colonies, and if the temperature remains high for many consecutive days, the corals are known to expel their symbiotic zooxanthellae in a process called coral bleaching.

NOVEMBER 2023 APRIL 2024

Coral Spawning & Gametogenesis

New Moon period – we conducted several monitoring night dives, and successfully observed coral spawning in 2 different species of Acropora.

Full Moon period – we conducted regular night dives over a 10-day period, and successfully observed coral spawning in 4 different species (total 42 colonies) and in 12 different species (total of 205 colonies) a few days later.

Marine Life

🤿 Snorkelling Excursions – Our ‘Maldivian Journey’ snorkelling trips proved very popular this month (33 guests), and averaged more than 90 minutes per trip. We were excited to spot blacktip reef sharks and spotted eagle rays.

🐬 Dolphin Cruises – our 5 dolphin cruises were well attended, and the Spinners put on a great show for the thrilled guests, as always! In addition, we sighted a small pod of short-fin pilot whales during a fishing trip, and a pod of Bottlenose dolphins at our Dive Centre lagoon. We have also had a few additional sightings of green turtles at the sea grass patch – very encouraging!

🎙️ Marine Talks – In total, 32 guests attended 8 marine talks this month, averaging over 40 minutes duration.

♻️ Earth Day: ‘EcoSort’ Challenge – our new marine pollution awareness game! We aim to engage and educate guests on the different objects which can end up in our oceans, and to promote the steps the Sheraton Maldives have made to increase sustainability around the island. The game was launched with the help from our colleagues at Recreation on World Earth Day (22 April). We received some great feedback from guests, so will soon be adding EcoSort to the new activity calendar to be hosted once a week at Anchorage.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives eco challenge
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives spinner dolphin

Education & Awareness

▶️ YouTuber Ettan Ehsan visited the Sheraton in April 2024. We sat down with him for an educational video aimed at young kids about coral reefs and coral conservation. We also built a frame to showcase the restoration work and efforts.

▶️ French journalist, Sebastien Farcis, South Asia correspondent for Radio France International, visited Sheraton for an interview with Reefscapers as part of an ongoing story on the coral bleaching event in Maldives. He spent 2-3 hours on the island for a radio interview that was later published on their website.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives eco awareness