Top Coral Reef Hope Spots
Around the world, destinations are running coral conservation programs that both local communities and visitors can play a direct role in. The results so far have been nothing short of inspiring, proving that hope is not lost in saving coral. Here are PADI’s top coral reef hope spots and how you get involved next time you visit.
1. Maldives: Adopt a Coral Program
PADI Dive Resort Sheraton Maldives Full Moon & Spa is empowering guests to plant hope and become coral champions during their stay. Known as “Adopt a Coral”–which is part of Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy in collaboration with Reefscapers, the goal is the program is to invite guests to help in planting coral on one of the largest man-made coral structures in the Maldives. Families can also take part in guided house reef snorkeling tours with the resort’s in-house marine biologist Amélie Carraut and kids can take part in her Little Marine Biologists for the day.
2. Tahiti: Pristine Reef Discoveries
Hope was certainly found in Tahiti at the beginning of 2022, when PADI Divers and scientists discovered one of the largest healthy reefs now on record, with two miles of rose-shaped coral spanning the ocean floor as deep as 100ft! The discovery has reminded us all of the importance of exploration and the role it plays in scientific discoveries that can help create ocean change.
Further supporting a healthy coral reef ecosystem in Tahiti are the Coral Gardners, a program designed to plant one million corals and restore life back into the ocean. You can even adopt or gift ten different species of coral and receive growth updates.
3. Fiji: Communities Championing Coral Restoration
Did you know that Fiji is home to 42% of the world’s coral species that span over 10,000 square kilometers throughout the country? There is a reason why the destination is known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World” and there are numerous coral restoration projects dedicated to preserving it.
In partnership with Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries, the non-profit Aquaculture Development for the Environment has launched the One Million Coral Planting Program throughout the 333 islands of Fiji. Teaming up with over 20 different coastal villages, each community has a target of collectively planting 1,000 corals per week.
There are also numerous resorts that have programs designed on educating visitors on how they can play a role in rejuvenating and protecting the surrounding coral reefs they are visiting. One of the best places to do this is at PADI Dive Resort Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji, where their onsite marine biologist teaches guests how to coral plant and help nurse nearly 100 fragments of live coral back to full health.
For those visiting with families, PADI Dive Resort Outrigger Fiji has one of the best reef restoration programs for youth, who host a coral conservation program for kids and teens every Wednesday–with the goal of having them return back home as official eco-warriors.
4. Bonaire: The Coral Pledge to Tourists
The island nation of Bonaire has created a pledge known as ‘The Bonaire Bond’ to help preserve and protect its natural beauty above and below the surface of their surrounding tropical waters.Those who visit the island are asked to sign their pledge to respect the island’s rules designed to help sustain the environment; in return, Bonaire pledges to adopt coral trees through Reef Renewal Bonaire for every visitor who signs the pledge, with the long-term goal of restoring both the coral reefs surrounding the island and marine animals who call it home. Each coral tree is predicted to help nurture 100 pieces of coral.
5. Australia: Become a Reef Ranger at the Great Barrier Reef
Australia’s greatest natural icon–the Great Barrier Reef– stretches 2300 km down Queensland’s coastline and covers more than 344,400km in total. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is also the only living organism that can be seen from space and is bigger than the countries of the UK, Switzerland, and Holland combined?
You can become an actual Reef Ranger for the Great Barrier Reef with PADI Dive Centre Keppel Dive & Snorkel, where you will not only get to snorkel over pristine local corals surrounding Keppel Island but have a real role in conducting reef surveys and monitoring reef health.
Or, you can take your PADI Open Water Diver course out at Ludy Musgrave HQ in Bundaberg, where you will learn to dive at some of the most remote and untouched sites only accessible from their pontoon. After you are certified you will also get to take part in citizen science initiatives led by their Master Reef Guides. After a day of exploring in the turquoise waters, you will spend the night out at sea floating under the stars in their zero-carbon accommodation that is 100% powered by wind and solar.
One of the most magical parts about diving is having the opportunity to have an intimate experience examining and appreciating the wonderfully colourful world of coral reefs and all the life that calls it home. Here are PADI’s favorite reef dives around the world to put on your bucket list for this year.
1. Indonesia: The Coral Triangle
Raja Ampat is located at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, right in the heart of the prestigious Coral Triangle. The powerful deep sea currents funnel nutrients into the coral reefs, making Raja Ampat a “species factory.” Home to over 600 species of hard coral, or about 75% of the total in the entire world, Raja Ampat contains the richest coral reefs on the earth and, thus, welcomes in everything from sharks to manta rays and whales.
Best time to dive in Indonesia: October – April
2. Australia: Coral Conservation Expeditions
Sign yourself up for an all-immersive, multi-day expedition through the Great Barrier Reef with No Limit Adventures. The itinerary is created to offer a deep dive into conservation, where you will get your PADI Open Water Diver certification, help monitor the resilience of the surrounding reefs and support the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Led by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, you will get over a dozen dives while upon this multi-day liveaboard.
Best time to dive in Australia: year-round, but November is the best month for coral spawning
3. Fiji: The Soft Coral Capital of the World
Leading the way in nature-based tourism are the 333 islands of Fiji, which have taken a destination-wide approach to ensure that Fiji remains the Soft Coral Capital of the World. Even after Cyclone Winston ripped through the South Pacific in 2016, the damaged reefs have completely rebounded thanks to the extra love and nurturing from locals and tourists alike.
One of the best success stories–and places to dive with coral–in Fiji is Waya Island in the Yasawas. With house reefs creating a sparkly sensation of underwater hues as soon as you enter from the shoreline, you can easily spend hours snorkeling, diving and simply admiring the purples, oranges, pinks and blue corals.
Best time to dive in Fiji: July to December
4. Belize: Corals Fit for Royals
The Belize Barrier Reef is perhaps one of the most amazing success stories, having actually been removed from the UNESCO list of World Heritage in Danger. The conservation efforts led by local communities have shown the true power that grassroots efforts can have for real ocean change. In fact, earlier this year Prince William and Kate Middleton dove into the Belize Barrier Reef and surfaced absolutely praising the country for their incredible marine conservation work.
While the Blue Hole is the most iconic spot within the world’s largest reef system, there are tons of other great spots within the reef to explore as well. This includes the Turneffe Atoll, which is the largest atoll in Belize and has a perfectly formed ring-shaped reef creating crystal clear lagoons to dive in.
Best time to dive in Belize: April to June
5. Phillippines: The Seventh Wonder of the World
Tubbataha National Park has just recently been dubbed as the Seventh Wonder of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site–and for good reason. With there being a special array of over 100 different types of coral and home to a dozen different species of whale, words really can not describe how sensational diving here is.
Best time to dive in Phillippines: March to June
6. French Polynesia: A Photographer’s Paradise
The Fakarava Atoll in French Polynesia is not only a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve but equally the dream spot for any underwater photographer. With an abundance of diversity in healthy reefs teeming with hard corals and home to grey reef sharks, humpback whales, hammerhead sharks, dolphins, and mantas–it can be overwhelming to choose what shot you want to capture.
Best time to dive in French Polynesia: year-round, with July-December, also being humpback whale season
7. Egypt: The Speedy Success Story
The Red Sea is one of the world’s most recent success stories, with corals so healthy and in such abundance, you will find it hard to believe that the coastline is a sandy, barren desert.
The current here plays a big factor in keeping the corals clean and bringing in a steady flow of zooplankton to keep the reefs nourished, making the coral gardens some of the fastest-growing on the planet. The best case study for this is Sharm el Sheikh, which now thanks to the healthy reef ecosystem is now welcoming back larger marine species like grey sharks and whale sharks back home. One reef not to miss is the Ras Nasrani long coral wall, which is perfect for all experience levels in the ocean.
Best time to dive in Egypt: March-May or September-November
Header IMage: © Grégoire Le Bacon Tahiti Nui Helicopters