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The Coral Adoption Programme at Anantara Kihavah Villas
18 Jul 2012
Beneath the shimmering waters that surround the island archipelago of the Maldives’ Baa Atoll region, a fragile world quietly rebuilds itself. Coral reefs, the most diverse type of marine habitat, protect the pristine beaches at Anantara Kihavah Villas and guard Kihavah Huravalhi Island’s crystal-clear lagoon. They also support an astounding array of tropical fish, crustaceans and bizarre-looking molluscs. But for all of its beauty and apparent resilience, coral is a sensitive organism, vulnerable to extreme weather and sudden environmental changes.
In June 2011 UNESCO declared the Baa Atoll a Biosphere Reserve.
In its commitment to protect the environment, Anantara Kihavah Villas has initiated the Coral Adoption Programme, a long-term plan designed to share learning experiences with guests, accelerate the regeneration of coral growth in the atoll reef, and ultimately ensure the future of this unique Maldivian destination.
Extending across the expansive Laccadives Sea, the Maldives is a country of atolls; small coral islands encircled by azure lagoons. Surrounded by the vastness of the ocean, the Baa Atoll, like the rest of the country, is vulnerable to extreme weather as well as the effects of global warming. In 1998 more than 90 percent of shallow coral reef in the Maldives died when El Niño, a climatic phenomenon, raised sea temperatures by 4°C. It was enough to stress the coral and to release the microscopic algae that give them their kaleidoscopic colours, so the reef bleached. The coral has begun to regenerate since suffering from the bleaching event, but future temperature fluctuations threaten its survival. The Baa Atoll still needs help.
During the construction of Anantara Kihavah Villas in November 2010, the resident Marine Biologist created coral gardens and attached coral to iron frames in the middle of the Over-Water Pool Villas, joining an arrangement that will resemble the ‘A’ in Anantara. Environmentally friendly and designed to promote the flow of water and nutrients, the frames are covered in sand to encourage coral to grow faster than it would naturally. This was done to prevent more damage to the Baa Atoll’s fragile marine ecosystem.
Although only a few months have passed, the reef is showing signs of recovery and marine life has begun to return. Sea turtles nap near the yellow wall of coral in front of the Dive Centre. Just beyond the viewing windows at ‘Sea’, the underwater wine cellar and restaurant, striped lionfish, moray eel and bright orange clownfish look for meals of their own around the corals, while just a bit further away trevallies chase whatever they can. Neon fusiliers, parrotfish and surgeonfish are all around and, with midnight and two-spot snappers in the distance, offer a mesmerising view. Linger here long enough and your patience might be rewarded with a glimpse of an eagle ray or turtle hurrying by.
Within a year, faster growing acropora coral such as staghorn and table coral are expected to completely cover the structures, while some slower growing species will be introduced once the coral colonies are well established. At this point, the fully-grown coral frames will require maintenance. Fragments of coral will be either transplanted onto new structures or relocated back onto the natural reef where they can expand over time, gradually attracting more coral.
Sponsor a Frame;
Guests at Anantara Kihavah Villas can participate in reef creation and contribute to the on-going conservation effort by adopting a coral frame. Three different frame sizes are available for adoption:
Take part in the Coral Adoption Programme by transplanting coral onto your frame with the help of the resident Marine Biologist in the shallow waters of the lagoon. This area is shallow enough to perform the operation with a mask and snorkel. Once the coral has been attached, the frame is moved to its new permanent home in the centre of the resort’s Over-Water Pool Villas.
Monitor the growth of your adopted coral frame online at http://kihavah-maldives.anantara.com/Coral/ as Anantara’s Marine Biologist uploads images every three months. Or make a return trip to our idyllic Maldivian island to see how much the reef has grown. Observe it from the jetty or put on a pair of flippers and explore the lagoon by following an easy yet rewarding snorkelling trail.