Marriott Team Diaries: April 2024

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

Marriott Team Diaries: March 2024

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] dolphins

Sheraton Full Moon

During March, we built 17 new coral frames, and out-planted at depths of at least 10m to help protect against warming temperatures. A total of 92 coral frames were monitored at 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 [SM 2024.02] coral frame growth SH520

Our coral frame SH520, showing 6 month’s growth from October 2023 to the latest monitoring photo (2 April 2024).

Coral Spawning & Gametogenesis

While recycling and collecting fragments for frames, we did not spot any gametes in any species. We conducted spawning monitoring around the full moon period, but no spawning was observed in any species. We are anticipating a large spawning event in April.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] coral frames ray

A blotched fantail ray (Taeniurops meyeni), keeps us company during our coral maintenance work

Coral Bleaching Monitoring

We began our bleaching monitoring in early March, following the Maldives (MMRI) Protocol, adapted for Reefscapers goals. Therefore, we are swimming line transects of coral frames and recording the bleaching level based on the MMRI scoring system for bleaching, while taking monitoring photos of each frame for potential use by our bespoke in-house AI software.

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.

Three sites were chosen for bleaching monitoring:
– Water Villas – 6 transects (3 frames/transect = 18 frames);
– Blue Hole – 4 transects (3 frames/transect = 12 frames); WV+BH total = 1,162 colonies
– Dive Centre – 2 transects (73 colonies on the pyramids);

Overall, we will be monitoring 3 genera (Acropora, Pocillopora, Porites) totalling 34 different species (although 29 are Acropora). Bleaching surveys will continue every 2-3 weeks throughout the bleaching season, to monitor the impacts on our Reefscapers coral reefs. Our initial surveys have identified some light paling and fluorescing, with little-to-no bleaching so far (score of ‘2’: 1-10% colony bleaching averages for all monitored species).

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] NOAA CoralWatch

NOAA’s CoralWatch bleaching alerts for the Maldives (29 March). As warmer ocean currents arrive from the South, we flipped from ‘Watch’ to ‘Warning’ this month. The forecasted ‘degree heating weeks’ will rise through May-June, with many corals expected to bleach in the coming weeks, country-wide.
Widespread coral bleaching has already hit Florida (2023) and the Great Barrier Reef (Feb-April 2024) – see our Climate resources.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] coral reef restoration

Our coral maintenance work, health/growth observations and monitoring photos have kept our small team busy this month at all our reef regeneration sites around the island.

  • At the Blue Hole site – the frames are growing well, but seasonally shifting sands continue to be an issue on the NE side, and regular lifting is necessary. Some frames were rearranged, and moved away from the steep slopes where they are less threatened by sand. The fish population continues to grow, with large schools of resident snappers, goatfish, and parrotfish. Juvenile fish are also being regularly seen, including boxfish and the elusive emperor angelfish. A HOBO temperature logger was placed here on 21 March, to accurately record water temperatures.
  • Water Villas – some paling and fluorescing was observed on these frames this month. The current has been strong, which we hope will continue to bring cooler water into the area over the coming months. We are preparing to shade these frames if and when required. Two small corallivorous crown-of-thorns were removed from two different frames, largely populated with Acropora muricata colonies.
  • Gili’s Falhu – frames are healthy and growing well at depths of 3-5m. Bleaching monitoring will be conducted on an ad hoc basis, in conjunction with maintenance visits. If the frames show strong signs of bleaching, we will move them into deeper waters.
  • Boat Garden – New coral frames continue to be added, at depths of 10-12m. These have been monitored to assess how successful this site supports coral fragments. Growth of macroalgae is low, which is beneficial to newly transplanted fragments, and the fish population surrounding the boat will help with grazing. Overall, the frames planted over the last 2 months are thriving and will be closely monitored.
  • Dive Centre Frames – fragments have been attaching and encrusting well, and the frames are healthy and continue to grow. Some 6-month old frames were monitored this month via scuba dives, in conjunction with pyramid maintenance. The presence and growth of macroalgae and Ascidians (sea squirts) continues to be an issue, and they both need removing regularly to prevent competition with our corals
  • Dive Centre Pyramids – Several maintenance dives were conducted, to check the well-growing pyramids. We removed a few Drupella snails, and there are no signs of coral paling or bleaching. A HOBO temperature logger was placed here on 21 March and will start to record ocean temperatures.
  • Lagoon Pyramids – due to the relatively shallow warm waters, these pyramids are potentially vulnerable to the warming ocean temperatures. Coral colonies remain colourful and healthy, but we are monitoring closely and regularly.
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] coral monitoring
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] coral maintenance

Reefscapers Visitors – On 21 March, we were delighted to welcome Carlo (marine biologist) and Ellie (coral biologist), our colleagues from Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa (pictured above). After touring the pyramids and the Blue Hole site, we discussed coral maintenance tasks, and techniques to help with coral mitigation ahead of the bleaching season.

Marine Life – In total, 23 guests attended our Maldivian Journey Snorkelling activity this month, averaging 6 people per 65-minute session. Feedback remains positive despite the earlier time slot, and guests are extremely impressed by the pyramid structures and diversity of marine life around them. We conducted 4 Snorkel Safaris and 4 Reef Snorkels, with megafauna sightings including porcupine rays, spotted eagle rays and abundant blacktip reef sharks. During the 7 Dolphin Cruises this month, we successfully sighted Spinners on every trip, and our resort colleagues reported sighting a small pod of pilot whales nearby.
A green turtle has become a regular visitor to the Sheraton Maldives, visiting a particular sea grass patch for 1-2 hours every day. We have also enjoyed the company of a less-common blotched fantail ray (Taeniurops meyeni), accompanying us during our coral work and entertaining the snorkelling guests.

Marine Talks – we conducted 15 presentations this month, totalling 74 guest attendees (a large increase from last month). Our talks averaged 47 minutes with numerous engaging questions, and generating 5 coral frame sales. A special talk was given for World Wildlife Day, enjoyed by 12 guests, as we presented some amazing animals from around the world (not limited to marine life).

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives

Yellow boxfish … we have the cutest of marine friends! 💛 

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives [SM 2024.02] fish soup

This is the only kind of fish soup that we enjoy 💙 

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. 💜

Marriott Team Diaries: February 2024

St. Regis Vommuli

Marine biology St Regis Maldives Reefscapers [SR 2024.02] frames

During February, we created 5 new coral frames: 2 small + 1 medium, kindly sponsored by guests, plus 2 heart frames gifted by the resort.

All of our 182 coral frames were monitored (cleaned and repaired) with a total of 13 maintenance visits completed for the month of February. 5 frames were checked for their six-month monitoring cycle, and 11 frames were the first to be checked for their one year anniversary!

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.

🪸Dive Centre Site – continues to show macroalgae cover, especially for the frames closer to the edge of the reef. Despite this, the older frames (11 months old) have been growing well and all fragments are healthy, compared to the wild colonies that surround the site that have started to show paling and bleaching due to the seasonally elevated sea surface temperatures (SST).

🪸 Adopt-A-Coral Site – This month the frames on this site have shown great progress! the buried frames side has decreased and there was small macroalgae coverage. There was an increase of megafauna spotted in the site like our resident turtle being present during all the maintenance visits. It is planned for the next months to start making a path with the coral frames towards the shore for the guests to easily find the restoration site while they snorkel.

🎙️ Marine Talks – A total of 4 sessions were given for the Evening Talks, including “Sustainability Hour” and “Sea Turtles”, attended by a total of 10 guests. At the Kids’ Club, we conducted 4 sessions of “Shark Yoga” and 3 sessions of “Sea Turtle Beach”.

🤿 Marine Biology Excursions – A total of three excursions were conducted by the Marine Biologist in February, enjoyed by 10 guests; these included 3 Dolphin Excursions and 1 ‘Turtle Quest’ snorkelling trip. The most commonly sighted megafauna species were the blacktip and whitetip reef sharks.

Reefscapers coral frame SR0014 1-day

SR0014 was one of our first frames (February 2023)
transplanted at St Regis and sponsored by the resort

Reefscapers coral frame SR0014 6-months

Growth of SR0014 after 6 months …

Reefscapers coral frame SR0014 12-months

… and SR0014 after 12 months (3 Feb 2024)

Sheraton Full Moon

Our Reefscapers team at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa has had a busy February! Thanks to the high occupancy, many guests were interested in our coral propagation program, and we transplanted an impressive 22 new coral frames, including our 601st frame! In addition, we monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) a total of 65 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 coral fragment
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral frames

Coral Spawning Research

Informal monitoring of gametogenesis was conducted in line with collection efforts for new coral frames and recycling. We observed immature white eggs in: A. humilis, A. nasuta, A. cytherea, A. gemmifera. Some of these eggs are increasing in size and showing slight signs of colouration, so we predict spawning around the April full moon period. We will continue to monitor for spawning from March into May.
This month, Kate submitted an abstract for the Fifth Maldives Marine Science Symposium hosted by the MMRI later this year, to present the findings of our paper published in October 2023.

Reefscapers research paper - coral spawning patterns

Monfared, Sheridan et al (2023): Coral spawning patterns of Acropora across two Maldivian reef ecosystems. PeerJ 11:e16315

Coral Bleaching Alert

Before discussing this month’s maintenance, it is important to highlight the NOAA bleaching forecasts. The Maldives will enter a ‘Warning’ phase in March, and will have reached ‘Alert Level 2’ by May. At the Sheraton, we plan to monitor for coral bleaching by following the national protocol by MMRI.

Measures to mitigate bleaching can include relocating frames where necessary. We can utilise temporary shading underneath the water bungalows, however, the depth of the water here might not provide sufficient respite for the corals. We can also utilise the depth of the Dive Centre Lagoon site to plant frames into deeper water. The typically poorer visibility in the lagoon here might also lessen the impacts of solar irradiance. Monitoring and combating the bleaching to the best of our ability will be a priority for the next 12 weeks.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives hawksbill turtle
SST 1998 2016 2023-24 C3S (Copernicus Climate Change Service)

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

  • At the Blue Hole site – maintenance was focused on recycling and managing sand accumulation. From repeated work in this area over the last few months, it is evident that the shape of the Blue Hole is changing. The tide difference has been higher than average throughout the month, coupled with strong wave action which is typical for this time of year. The slope on the northern side of the site is becoming much steeper, which is threatening the frames immediately below. We have been moving any impacted frames, and we are looking at how to best arrange the frames to keep them in the lower-risk areas.
    Some very low tides in the early days of the month resulted in very high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Blue Hole, as the site becomes cut off from the waves behind Spa Island. The rising tides bring cooler waters again, but this seasonal cycle is to be expected to continue for several weeks. No paling or bleaching was observed.
  • Water Villas – following maintenance and monitoring activities this month, we are pleased that all frames continue to grow well. While some recycling is needed, new corals are attaching well, and mature colonies continue to thrive. The increased fish life is minimising algal growth. We have not experienced any paling or bleaching yet, although the shallow waters will mean these corals are vulnerable to up-coming higher temperatures.
  • Gili’s Falhu – Following a few days of strong wave action, three frames at Gili’s Falhu site were moved out of position. A few damaged fragments were replaced, and the frame was secured with substrate.
  • Dive Centre & Boat Garden – To mitigate bleaching for our newly transplanted frames, we are out-planting at greater depth at the Dive Centre Lagoon site (8-10m depth). We have also started to re-use the old Boat Garden site (2021) at depths of 10m.
  • Dive Centre – These pyramids are looking good following significant maintenance work in January. Dives to upkeep the area were carried out as well as to maintain the additional frames. Trimming of corals to collect for coral frames is also used to manage competition.
  • Lagoon – We conducted multiple maintenance dives at the pyramids, and removed some corallivorous Drupella snails. Overall, the pyramids are growing well here, but they are vulnerable to upcoming elevated sea temperatures due to the slow currents (water is quick to warm up).
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral pyramids
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives hawksbill turtle

Marine Talks – we conducted 12 Marine Talks this month, totalling 33 guest attendees, and averaging 50 minutes duration, with high levels of enthusiastic engagement and lots of questions. Interestingly, 4 of our coral frame sales stemmed directly from the Talks.

‘Maldivian Journey’ Snorkelling Activity – A total of 32 guests enjoyed our guided snorkel trips this month, averaging 65 minutes duration, and feedback remains overwhelmingly positive. We were excited to sight both blacktip reef sharks and spotted eagle rays on several trips.

Megafauna sightings – One February highlight was recorded sightings of 6 different hawksbills and one green turtle. Our house reefs are not usual foraging grounds, and the green turtle seems to have been attracted by our coral pyramids at the Dive Centre site. One of the hawksbills spotted at Gili’s Falhu was an amputee (missing one front flipper, as photo) but this did not seem to affect the turtle’s swimming behaviours or diving capability.
Spinner dolphins visited our Dive Centre Lagoon this month – a small pod came very close to land, much to the delight of several lucky guests. Nurse sharks were seen resting under the Dive Centre pyramids, and blacktip reef shark activity in the Blue Hole has been high throughout the month, undeterred by curious snorkellers.

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. 💜

Marriott 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. 💜