Do you know that corals are ANIMALS, not plants?
I got educated about conservation efforts on CORAL REEFS at The Andaman Langkawi recently.
Believed to be the first of its kind in South East Asia, The Andaman elevates its efforts to the next stage of coral rescue and rehabilitation with a Coral Nursery.
Guests can participate in the inspiring activity of growing new coral which, after 12 months of nurturing, will be returned to the sea at Datai Bay where they will bloom and blossom as part of a healthy new coral colony.
I bet not many resorts or hotels in SEA can boast of being able to provide such an opportunity!
You can snorkel in this pond & touch the corals too (with a guide of cos). It is very popular with the guests here; especially the kids.
Quick fact: 1 polyp -> start of a coral. Many polyps —> 1 coral —> many corals —> reef.
We learnt this, and more from Dr Gerry, The Andaman’s Head of Marine Environment and the very person responsible for the various coral activities at the resort.
Dr Gerry leads the Coral Clearing and Coral Reef Walks whenever he is on the island and Lady Luck was shining on us for he flew into Langkawi on the 2nd day of my stay.
We were told he is always happy to chat with the guests about the natural history of the region over coffee at breakfast, a fact that we quickly took advantage of! 🙂
So over coffee and shrouded by the serenity of the tropical rainforest of The Andaman, we grilled his brains and walked away very much enlighten of the eco-system between Mother Earth and corals which in turn made us developed a much deeper appreciation for corals; as in they are not just pretty things people around the world dived to take photographs of.
WORDS by Kenneth Sow, images by Rebecca Saw.
Environmental conservation. It’s a topic we all know is important and yet we do so little to protect the world around us.
Aside from the weather getting freakish every once in a while conservation doesn’t seem so urgent; I have lots of more important things to do!
That’s really a shame because we learn to live with and accept these environmental changes rather than taking measures to correct them.
Feeling the heat from global warming? Let’s just not go out so often.
Or switch on the air conditioning and pay a little bit more each month to energy companies.
What we do not immediately see or feel is given less importance. One important environmental issue that does not get sufficient attention is marine conservation. Specifically, coral reefs.
Let be honest; unless you’re into diving or living along the coastline, the fortunes of coral reefs is as relevant to Asians as knowing the population of monarch butterflies in North America, which is not at all to those living in this part of the world.
How many are actually aware of the fact that of the 71% of the ocean that covers the Earth, only 0.1% of it is covered by corals. It might seem insignificant and not worth protecting but this 0.1% is home to approximately 25% of all marine life.
And ALL marine life, regardless whether it’s a creature of the deeper part of the ocean or the shallower aspects of the sea, interacts with the coral reef at one point or another in its life cycle, directly or indirectly.
The mackerels ( ikan kembung or tenggiri in Malay) found here spawn and grow in the reefs. Others such as groupers (kerapu), snappers (jenahak) and trevally intimately depend on the health and size of reefs. Any activity that affects the reef impacts the quantity of fishes.
And some might think, that’s no big deal. I don’t eat much fish anyway! Worse come to worse, I’ll just
eat less fish or give it up all together. It’s just a compromise, like losing an arm or an eye would be an inconvenience but by no means would end our lives. It can’t be that bad, right?
Coral are classified as animals; they have muscle fibers and nerve cells, they can move their tentacles to trap food and some can even move location. They eat plankton or absorb organic matter from around them but for most their primary source of energy comes from sugar produced from photosynthesis of microscopic algae growing inside them.
Coral reefs are not just a home for a wide variety of marine life; they are also a major food source for the planet.
In fact some 200 million people depend entirely on coral reefs for their protein.
The loss of coral reefs means no fish for the fishermen which means greater migration of rural folk to urban areas in search of better financial prospects.
The UN predicts that within 25 years more than 100 million people will be displaced in this part of the world due to rising sea level and the collapse of fisheries. One hundred people on the move will change the economy of this part of the world.
Farfetched that a tiny coral polyp could have the potential of influencing Wall Street?
Perhaps not today but with irreversible reef damage, not just the 200 million that depend on reefs but perhaps a billion people who eat fish or work in fishery related industries will find their lives changed forever.
Just as marine creatures are dependent on each other to survive, we humans have similar dependencies on each other as well.
Something as large as this affects us all as a whole.
And we’re not even talking about the loss of marine bio-diversities. Not everyone snorkels or dives but every human being knows what a lion is and that it’s endangered. We pay attention to things we see and the things we value, hence the lack of exposure means less attention given to marine conservation.
And it’s not just about fishes!
I was not aware that the coral reef was also partially responsible for protecting us from tsunamis.
Take for instance the Datai Bay in Langkawi. When the 2004 tsunami hit the bay, a large portion of the tremendous kinetic energy carried by the waves was broken by the reef, sparing the population and properties from damage.
Unfortunately, this resulted in widespread harm of all coral life in the bay. Imagine a marine community that’s 8,000 years old and at least 50 meters thick, disfigured within the span of minutes.
Which is why The Andaman, the Luxury Collection Resort’s efforts in recuperating the Datai Bay’s is one that’s worthy of greater attention.
Believed to be the first of its kind in South East Asia, the resort has established a truly unique and educational Coral Nursery where guests can be more involved in the rehabilitation process of coral reefs.
The Coral Nursery is a large, man-made pond filled with natural sea water that’s carefully regulated to ensure the best living conditions for corals to thrive.
Guests of The Andaman Langkawi will have an up close and personal opportunity to see, feel and touch these corals though private guided snorkeling where each participant is given a life jacket and floated around through the Nursery.
Not only will you be guided with a running commentary of all the corals you see, you’ll be exposed to a myriad of fishes, sea cucumbers, crabs and so on that live in this small delicately balanced ecosystem.
It’s an amazing place to experience because unlike going out in the sea fighting the occasional current and scouring the seabed in search of marine life, you get to see almost everything in one place, in a controlled environment and supervised by experts in their field.
Once or twice a month, guests and resort ambassadors gather to clear away dead corals from the reef and the minerals on these dead corals are used by propagated transplanted corals to speed their growth and the reef’s recovery.
Aside from that, being a guest of The Andaman Langkawi would allow you access to outdoor activities such as:-
– Guided Reef Walks
– Coral saving/transplanting
– Coral nursery feeding
All this is possible thanks to The Andaman’s commitment towards coral reef rescue and rehabilitation.
On June 8th, World Ocean Day, The Andaman took an even greater step forward when they opened a Marine Life Laboratory in the resort itself.
Located on Lobby level and overseen by Marine Biologist, Dr Gerry, the fully functional indoor laboratory is used for academic research and a training centre for students of Malaysian universities studying coral reef rehabilitation.
Dr Gerry is also instrumental in the design and launch of the Artificial Reef Module (ARM) which, as its name suggests creates an environment ideal for regeneration of fish stocks and reef fisheries that ultimately contribute towards a sustainable fishing industry.
A collaboration between The Andaman, LaFarge Cement Malaysia and University Malaysia Terengganu, 52 artificial reef modules have been deployed to-date at the Datai Bay and each module has a maturation date of about 10 years.
By then they will be producing seafood and covered in their own little ‘coral reefs’.
You can take part in this process too! With only RM500, you can ‘adopt’ an ARM and your name will be fastened on your module.
Not only that, a GPS coordinate will be provided to you on its exact deployment location so that whenever you visit The Andaman again, you can check out how much your module has done for the ecosystem there.
Personally, I can think of no more meaningful way of celebrating the birth of a child or an anniversary than by immortalizing it in a way that preserves the future.
It would be something to truly look forward to each time you visit Langkawi.
We do not have to sacrifice our way of life to change if we expend just a little bit of our resources to recover what’s lost.
We CAN have our cake and eat it and in this instance, it’s perfectly alright to be greedy.
BELOW: The Coral Nursery. Try to spot the LOBSTER! 🙂
Thank you Dr Gerry, Daia and the team at The Andaman for the opportunity and time!
For more information about the coral rescue and rehabilitation programs, do surf over to –> http://www.theandaman.com/NA-coralnursery