A coral is an animal in the same family as jellyfish and sea anemones. Coral polyps bind together in a colony, that creates a large structure that forms the beautiful reef you often imagine when you picture snorkeling in the tropics. Coral reefs are home to thousands of species of fish and other creatures – who use the reef for shelter, food, and protection. When a coral reef thrives, animals like manta rays, reef sharks, and sea turtles visit more regularly. Currently, coral reefs are under threat because of cyclones, climate change, invasive species, pollution, over fishing, and many other factors.
To protect coral reefs, a handful of resorts in Fiji have started coral gardening and reef conservation programs. Guests can learn about reef life and help grow corals when the corals are at their most vulnerable stage.
Dr. Helena Wright, a climate change researcher at E3G says, “Coral reefs are in crisis. Even under the best-case scenario of climate change, most of the world’s coral reefs will be under threat within just a few years. Coral gardening gives the reefs a chance to survive by giving nature a helping hand. All truly eco-friendly hotels and resorts should be helping coral reefs.”
If you’re interested in getting involved yourself, consider staying at one of these Fijian resorts on your next visit Pacific Island paradise.
Makaira Resort, Taveuni
Makaira Resort in Taveuni is a four-star hotel hosts beachfront cabins and villas that overlook a now-thriving coral reef.
At Makaira Resort, guests can learn all about the many types of coral gardening from Roberta Davis, the owner of Makaira Resort and a passionate environmentalist. Roberta is one of the most experienced coral gardeners in Fiji. Guests can receive a free coral gardening lesson at the resort and are able to plant a section of their own. Travellers often return to Makaira Resort to witness how much the coral reefs have progressed since their last visit. To show just how much of an impact this program has made, the resort has left some of the reef untouched for visitors to see the contrast.
Tokoriki Island Resort
Tokoriki Island Resort, an adults-only luxury resort, constantly wins accolades for its stunning bures and villas and welcoming staff.
Alexandra Garland, the managing director of Tokoriki Diving, told us, “We created the Tokoriki Giant Clam Regeneration program in 2000 alongside the Ministry of Fisheries, with an aim to reintroduce tridacna gigas clams (a critically endangered species) back to our reefs. 18 years on, we now have the largest collection of mature tridacna gigas clams in Fiji. Our largest clams weigh close to 100 kilograms and measure 1 metre in length.”
Scuba divers of all levels can see these impressive clams for themselves at two dive sites around Tokoriki Island Resort.
Outrigger Fiji is a 5-star resort perfect for couples who want a romantic getaway in beachside bures or families looking for a retreat that caters to all ages. Outrigger Fiji’s conservation initiative, called OZONE, combines holidays with reef restoration. For the past few years, guests have been learning about the local reef, planting corals, and tending to the giant clam nursery. There is an information and coral gardening program targeted towards teens that occurs every week (though all are welcome to join).
Monica Salter, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, says, “Since we launched OZONE in 2014, we’ve calculated that Outrigger hosts and guests have preserved, planted and protected more than 100 football fields’ worth of coral.”
Plantation Island Resort
Plantation Island Resort is a laid-back paradise with multiple room options, three freshwater pools, sports fields, and set alongside a sand beach. The resort has recently started a coral gardening and reef restoration initiative led by Dr. Austen Bowden-Kirby of Corals for Conservation, where travellers of all ages can try their hand at being a coral gardener.
The resort will welcome marine biology students from the University of the South Pacific and plans to hire one passionate student as a full-time coral gardener and educator at Plantation Island Resort. Through this project, the resort hopes that guests will feel a connection to the reef, returning to it often like an old friend.
InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa
InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa in Natadola recently launched an Our Ocean Guardians program, where guests of all ages can learn about how to reduce plastic consumption and participate in reef conservation efforts and surrounding the property. InterContinental’s Reef Safari team and visiting guests grew over 250 corals – including species of heat-resistant coral that are hopefully more resilient to sea temperature rise.
InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa is a luxury resort surrounded by tropical gardens where guests can swim in any of the three pools, get a massage at the onsite spa, dine at the multiple restaurants, play golf at the 18-hole golf course, and venture out on dive trips.
Leleuvia Island Resort
Leleuvia Island Resort is a three-star resort tucked away on its own quaint island famous among divers for its colourful coral reefs. Travellers can choose to sleep in a thatched-roofe bure or pick a bed in the 20-person dormitory. Colin Philp, the resort’s manager, is an active environmentalist who helped establish the surrounding reef as a marine protected area – which is why much of its reef fish populations are thriving.
At Leleuvia Island Resort, guests can explore and snorkel around the resort’s coral nursery only a few hundred meters away from a postcard-perfect beach. Guests can arrange for a coral gardening session and learn to grow and plant corals themselves.
Ready to help save coral reefs yourself? Skyscanner Australia can help you find the cheapest flights, hotel rooms, and car hire options for your trip.
About the author
Chantae Reden // Chantae Was Here
Chantae Reden is a journalist who writes about adventure, politics, extreme sports, and travel. She believes every stranger is a potential friend. You can find more adventure writing on her blog, Chantae Was Here or on The Salt Sirens, her ocean-sports website.