Ocean First Travel: Roatan 2022

By Ingrid on 1/20/23

After a successful Coral Restoration trip last year, this trip had large shoes to fill! After a fun week of activities, we are happy to report this year’s trip blew the last one out of the water. Our schedule included two morning coral restoration dives followed by an afternoon fun dive every day of the week. We worked with Bay Islands Reef Restoration through Subway Watersports at Turquoise Bay Resort.

20221016_084504.pngThe existing coral trees at the nursery needed lots of scrubbing to clean off a buildup of algae. The algae must be removed, or it will smother and kill the coral fragments. While this task seems menial, it is oddly satisfying, not unlike going on a cleaning spree around your house, and everyone loved scrubbing their designated trees. Once the trees were free of algae, the group clipped fragments from existing nursery coral to add to them. 

We were tasked with building new bamboo structures on which staghorn coral grown in the nursery could be planted. The short-term success of staghorn coral outplanted directly onto the reef is great, though the long-term success is significantly less so. The current best practice is to outplant coral fragments onto tables or structures off the ground, as this protects the growing coral from algae and most coral predators. Once the coral grows into a well-established thicket, it is capable of sexual reproduction – leading to a stronger, more resilient strain of coral! 

Screenshot-2023-01-23-at-12-30-32-PM-(1).png Screenshot-2023-01-23-at-12-33-05-PM.png

To build the structures, we first had to cut down bamboo grown on the resort grounds, then cut it to the correct size. A few days later our incredible team was able to build two new bamboo structures underwater! Eventually, these structures will be covered with coral from the nursery trees we managed during our visit.

Screenshot-2023-01-23-at-12-34-22-PM.pngOne of the most fascinating parts of this trip was watching a team of 20 divers bond and learn how to work as a team underwater. Our final project of the week was a culmination of this impeccable teamwork: the removal of a failed coral outplanting table. While the previous coral did not survive, the materials were able to be recycled for future outplanting experiments, and our team was up for the challenge.

The table was about 6 feet by 4 feet, made of metal, and attached to 6 cinderblocks with rebar and old, crusted-over rope. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, a storm was blowing in which created a strong surge even at 25 feet down! A group of 6 divers had to swim the heavy table through the surge and back to the boat while a handful of others worked to remove the rebar and those with lift-bag experience removed the cinderblocks. Once our task was completed, there was an air of confidence and accomplishment among the divers on the boat as this was a fun challenge and something that most of them have never done.

On one of our last days, a few of the brave divers of our group elected to go on a side adventure to dive with sharks! Jaimie and the small group took a bus out to the other side of Roatan to hop in the water with about a dozen Caribbean reef sharks. Our backs to a reef wall at 80ft, the sharks and groupers crept around to the front, curiously passing before us. We eventually swam amid the group in a dance of diver circling shark and shark circling diver.

Screenshot-2023-01-23-at-12-35-24-PM-(1).pngBetween all the diving, we also took some time to see the beautiful island of Roatan on the Island Tour! We held sloths, parrots, monkeys, and guinea pigs at the island’s sanctuary, toured a local chocolate-making company, and ended the day enjoying fresh brews in the jungle.

Sharing this trip with a passionate and excited group of divers was an experience of a lifetime! We are honored to have been part of this group that bonded over a shared love of diving, conservation, and loud family dinners around a crowded table.

Until next time, Kelly Dananay & Jaimie Albach

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