Did you know that you can plant coral in Okinawa? Why would you ever want to be a nautical farmer, you may be asking? Why not, is what I say! We threw on some flippers and went to the briny shallows to experience a bit of the tropical coral goodness for ourselves in Okinawa.
Coral Restoration Experience
The mad lads behind this experience are Dive Shop Lagoon, up on the main island in Onna. Through our hotel, we were able to book a morning snorkeling session with their team of scientists and divers to learn more and see their coral reef restoration efforts. Many thanks to them and our lovely guide (who was originally from Saitama!) for capturing these pictures for us with their underwater camera.
We went early in the morning, about 8 AM, and met our guide in our hotel lobby. He went through a brief presentation and Q&A about coral reefs with us in a patchwork collection of Japanese and English. One interesting tidbit I learned is that there is one type of coral, aptly named Walking Coral, that can move along the ocean floor, and is not stuck to a single location. It’s not very fast, but hey! Is there really any need for it to be fast?
After our orientation, we went to the dive shop to get fitted in wetsuits and gear (and decorate the concrete block our coral would be calling home for a while), before heading out on their boat to their restoration fields. They weren’t that far from the pier, a minute or two at a brisk speed near a very picturesque rock formation that jutted out from the water.
We learned how to jump off the boat and off we went! Our guide showed us batches of young coral, where our contributions were planted, as well as coral at different ages in the restoration process. We then swam through the rest of the field where the older coral lived, along with some wild coral that cozied up to it over the years. We saw schools of fish, brightly colored creatures darting forth, and a pair of clownfish brushing themselves on the anemone.
It was a wonderfully fantastic experience. Our guides were graceful and patient, and the amount of life we got to see in the ocean was spectacular. The restoration efforts are also admirable, and I’m glad we were able to contribute a little something towards their mission.