Artificial reefs are a coral restoration tool with a wide variety of uses. We construct and help to maintain a wide range of different artificial reefs around the island including alternative dive sties, coral nurseries, fish nurseries, diver training aids, and art or sculptures. Each site is different as there are different needs in each location depending on what problems are being experienced there. One of our favorite sites is actually right in front of our dive site, in Chalok Ban Kao.
Chalok is one of our Adopt-A-Reef sites that we are taking care of together with a program started in 2010 by the Save Koh Tao Group, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, and the Prince of Songkla University. In 2008 the NHRCP put our first artificial reef in Chalok, which was a PVC frame for holding broken coral fragments. That same year, we also experimented with glass bottle nurseries, utilizing tires and glass bottles found around the reef, most likely discarded by fishing boats.
Since then, the number of structures we have in Chalok has grown considerably, and it is difficult to swim anywhere without finding some corals that have been transplanted by our team from the nurseries. One of the most successful structure types are the glass bottle nurseries, made tirelessly by two of our past students, James and Ames. They structures were put down in 2010, and corals where moved to them in early 2011. As you can see from the picture at left, at this point it is hard to even tell they are an artificial reef. Where there was once mostly sand, we now have a beautiful stand of Acropora branching corals that are full of a wide diversity of fish species.
Another remarkable structure is the spiral, which was built along with a project by MINI Me Studios and UNltd to film a 3 part special series on our program and the work that we do. The spiral is made of steel, and was put down at a depth of 6 meters. It was filled mostly with branching corals, as that was what used to dominate this area before it was broken up by repeated anchor dropping. The structure was put down in February of 2012, and as you can see by the photo at left (only 8 months later) it has done incredibly well. In the same area we have 7 other metal structures, all of which are uniquely designed and a real pleasure to watch develop.
There is a lot more to making these types of structures than it may seem. They require a lot of regular maintenance and care, just like a vegetable garden at home. We do not recommend that others begin starting their own reefs until they have had adequate training to do so. If you are interested in learning about the techniques and protocols we use, or simply want to come and tour some of our restoration and artificial reef sites please contact us or check out our marine conservation courses page.