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The waters that surround Fiji are home to a plethora of all types of marine life. According to the Coral Reef Alliance, Fiji hosts 42% of the world’s coral species and over 10,000 square kilometers of coral reefs. Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the ocean.
Unfortunately, due to factors like climate change, ocean pollution, cyclones, over-fishing, and dredging, coral reefs are bleaching and dying. Corals are essential to marine life as nearly a third of all fish spend their youth in coral reefs. Coral reefs attract larger tropical fish as well, who come to coral reefs to feed on the algae that grow on corals. Corals also provide shelter for reef fish who could not survive in an alternative habitat. Today, nearly one third of corals are at risk of extinction.
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What is Coral Gardening?
Coral gardening (also known as coral aquaculture) is when young corals are grown in a protected nursery until adulthood. They are then transferred (think “replanted”) back into the natural environment. Corals tend to be most at-risk during the beginning of their development, and are less at-risk once they mature into adulthood. Coral gardening is a form of active restoration rather than simply protecting coral without outside intervention. Since corals are slow-growing, coral gardening helps give them the boost they need to thrive.
If you’ve always wanted to try coral gardening for yourself, here are the ten best resorts in Fiji that support the ocean’s incredible coral reefs.
Jean-Michel Cousteau is a renowned conservationist and film producer who has devoted his life to ocean conservation. His dive resort, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort has its own water recycling system and an organic garden restaurant. You can stay in a luxury oceanview bure and dive at the incredible dive sites in the Namena Marine Reserve, one of the most well-protected reserves in the world. Best of all, the resort’s onsite marine biologist is available to show you how coral planting is done.
On land, Taveuni is often nicknamed “The Garden Island” thanks it its dense jungles, tucked-away waterfalls, and variety of flora and fauna throughout the island. So it only makes sense that Taveuni Island would be surrounded by some of the best coral reefs in Fiji.
Makaira Resort on Taveuni offers coral gardening as a free activity for guests. Some of their guests return again and again to see the progress that their coral gardens are making. While there are many vibrant mature reefs around Makaira Resort, one of the most exciting things is to witness the coral gardens progress from one stage to the next. The resort has a nursery for corals, and also plants the corals on ropes. The ropes help protect the growing corals from being washed away or damaged by strong waves.
There are three types of spacious bures to choose from at Makaira Resort that can accommodate up to four guests. When you’re not tending to the coral garden, you can swim, snorkel, hike through waterfalls, get a massage, kayak, and dive.
Leleuvia Island Resort, hidden away on its own quaint island, is renowned for having some of the best snorkeling spots in Fiji. Outside of its fringing reef are incredible dive sites where you can see all types of tropical fish and pelagic marine life. The manager of the resort, Colin Philp, is an environmentalist who helped establish the island’s marine protected area.
At Leleuvia Island Resort, guests can snorkel around the coral nursery that’s just a few meters from a picturesque beach.
Dr. Helena Wright, a climate researcher who is passionate about coral reefs, recently went to see the island’s coral reef and tried her hand at coral gardening while there. She says,
“It was so amazing to plant a little piece of coral with my own hands. All resorts should do this. Coral gardening will be one of the main features I look for the next time I choose somewhere to stay.”
Leleuvia Island Resort offers private and rustic thatched-roof bures to sleep in or guests can stay in a 20-bed dormitory. The waters that surround Leleuvia Island are calm, making it a great place to swim, snorkel, kayak, standup paddle, and kitesurf.
InterContinental Fiji has recently won a variety of accolades for its environmental initiatives. The resort recently launched an Ocean Guardians Project, where their Reef Safari team and guests planted over 50 corals within four months. They’ve named this project the “Reef-O-Logy” that aims to combine education, fun, and conservation. The program has been so successful, there are now over 250 corals being grown onside — with a handful of them being heat-resistant species.
“We want to give our guests the opportunity to participate and contribute to making a difference towards our future,” said manager Mr. Andrew Davidson about the sustainability program.
Rarely do divers and snorkelers get to interact with coral in such a hands-on way. The resort offers a handful of accommodation and dive packages that include guided tours of the coral reef as well as a reef-planting session. The resort also welcomes children to join their cause — no matter their age.
Hideaway is a resort located on the aptly named Coral Coast region of Fiji. The resort’s affiliated dive shop, Diveaway Fiji, started a coral garden created by reef expert, Victor Bonito and is linked to Mission Blue. The coral reefs around Hideaway Fiji seem to be thriving — largely thanks to the efforts of local conservationists.
Choose between a variety of bures at Hideaway Fiji that are perfect for families and couples. The oceanfront bures are just a few steps away from the beach where you can step straight into the coral lagoon.
Outrigger Fiji is one of the best coral gardening resorts in Fiji with a reef restoration program that’s been taking place for three years. It encourages guests to participate in the coral gardening program, and even hosts a conservation program that’s catered to teens every Wednesday (though all are welcome to join). The resort is very environmentally conscious, and has taken steps to cut down ocean plastics by banning plastic bags. Outrigger even nicknamed their premises the “OZONE: No Plastic Zone” — cheeky, and we like it!
The 5-star resort offers luxury accommodations that range from romantic double rooms to full family-sized bungalows on the beach. The resort can arrange dive trips, spa services, and offers handicraft making workshops daily.
Plantation Resort has recently started a coral gardening project led by Dr. Austin Bowden-Kirby of Corals for Conservation. The resort hopes that this new program will help their guests’ passion for coral reef preservation and restoration. Children and adults will be welcome to help learn about and plant young corals. The resort will also welcome University of the South Pacific students to join the initiative — and one marine science student will be hired as a full-time coral gardener for the resort. The resort welcomes any questions about their coral gardening program and is more than happy to share facts about the local reef area.
The resort itself is a laid-back paradise with many room choices, three freshwater pools, a rugby field, tennis court, and more. When you’re not getting involved with the coral garden, you can surf, dive, go for a bike ride, go sailing, get a massage, standup paddle, and more.
Though corals get all the attention when it comes to gauging reef health, there are many other animals that are essential to maintaining the fragile ecosystem. Giant clam populations have dwindled over the past century — and have even become extinct in some areas of Fiji. These stunning creatures can grow to be as large as a bathtub, and every diver knows that they are truly an impressive sight to behold. Fortunately, the ocean-obsessed divers at Dive Tropex Tokoriki at Tokoriki Island Resort, Mamanuca Envinronmental Society, and PADI Project Aware have developed a giant clam regeneration program to help boost the populations of three species of giant clams.
Tokoriki Island Resort is one of the best luxury adults-only resorts in Fiji. The resort hosts 36 bures and villas surrounded by tropical palm trees with many activities to choose from. The resort offers a variety of dive trips and enforce a strict “look but don’t touch” policy for all guests — a dive program after our own hearts.
Located in the pristine Yasawa Islands, Navutu Stars Resort is one of the pioneer resorts when it comes to coral gardening and are one of the best resorts in Fiji for environmentally-conscious guests. The resort hosts guided tours around the reef and info sessions about coral gardening led by their official coral gardener. Guests of all ages are welcome to join the activities.
When you stay at Navutu Stars, you can choose between beachfront bures and garden bures. The resort offers regular yoga classes and guests can snorkel, swim, or kayak along the fringing reef. There are also coconut demonstrations (where you learn how to open a coconut), basket weaving workshops, medicine walks, and kava ceremonies.