Aside from endless sunshine, idyllic resorts and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, arguably the Maldives’ greatest treasure lies below the surface of the Indian Ocean – the extensive ecosystem of coral reefs. The reefs are abundant with life and form the perfect playground for snorkellers and scuba divers holidaying at Innahura Maldives.
Corals look like plants and the reef seems to be a colourful underwater garden but that is not the case – corals are actually lots and lots of tiny animals! Microscopic, unicellular plants called zooxanthellae live within the corals’ tissue and provide food for growth and this includes secretion of a calcium carbonate skeleton forming the reef structure we dive and snorkel amongst.
The coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet and are home to a huge diversity of marine life but they are at risk. The fragility of the reefs means they are susceptible to even the tiniest of fluctuations in temperature and other changes such as pollution, fishing methods and tourism. The natural changes in ocean temperatures seen during El Niño events lead to a rise in water temperature and this in turn can cause stress to the coral’s resident zooxanthellae which are expelled from the coral, turning the coral white and leading to the coral dying. Loss of habitat due to unhealthy reefs affects not only the animals throughout the complex marine food web but also whole beaches and islands as the reef structure breaks down and the natural barrier to the ocean currents and waves becomes ineffective leading to erosion.
If we are to have healthy coral reefs in the future we can all do things to help including using reef-friendly sun lotion and saying ‘NO’ to single use plastics which could end up in the ocean. When diving, avoid touching the reef and master excellent buoyancy control when diving – consider the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course, not only will you be able to dive as gracefully as the instructors, you’ll help preserve the reef and use your air at a much slower rate too! Snorkellers should be aware of their fins one kick of the reef can damage years of growth. Diving and snorkelling sustainably and adhering to the ‘no touch’ policy is crucial to the longevity of the reefs.
Innahura places the environment first, find out more about the resort’s conservation efforts.