In 2016, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment granted Sunset House a permit to set up a coral nursery, with the aim of growing coral fragments to help replenish Cayman’s reefs.
Now, according to Aaron Hunt, coordinator of the Eco Divers Reef Foundation, the project is beginning to bear fruit. “After two years of the coral nursery program, we have an 85 percent survival rate of our transplanted corals,” he said.
At present Hunt manages 14 coral nurseries on the island, including the House Reef at Sunset House. His work gives him hope for the future of Cayman’s reefs after he recently witnessed transplanted corals in the Sunset House nursery spawning and sending baby corals out in the water to settle somewhere else to grow. “In 2017, we recorded the coral spawning, and now we can see the new corals growing,” said Hunt. “It’s very exciting and satisfying to see that it works.”
We have an 85% survival rate of our transplanted corals. Aaron Hunt
In light of this, Sunset House (sunsethouse.com) is collaborating with Hunt to give divers the opportunity to access coral conservation and reef renewal courses and dives. These are actually quite special because divers will be able to learn how to properly collect real-time data that is then submitted to CoralWatch. This not-for-profit, citizen-science program works with a global network of volunteers to increase understanding of coral reefs, coral bleaching and climate change.
“We’re excited to be working with Aaron on coral conservation education because we are all concerned about our reefs and environment,” said dive manager Mike Pinnington. “Not only will Aaron be teaching our guest divers how to clean coral and detach algae, he will also guide them through our coral nursery or include them in reef restoration tasks.”
Special courses and dives
Divers will be able to take part in two distinctive courses—the CoralWatch Distinctive Speciality Course and PADI Reef Renewal Distinctive Speciality Course—as well as three remarkable dives: the guided coral nursery dive, the coral spawn lecture and reef survey, and a reef renewal dive. It will mean that divers will be able to see new corals after spawning events or learn how to remove predators that can damage the corals and affect their growth.
Transplanted corals in the Sunset House nursery are spawning
Emma-Jane Fisher, marketing manager at Sunset House, said “We have got a hard-earned reputation for being one of the world’s best dive resorts (Scuba Diving Magazine: Readers Choice Awards 2019), perhaps because we notice the small details and take them seriously, and this, of course, includes the environment. For instance, all our dive boats are equipped with skimming nets so that the staff can easily recover trash, plastic or rubbish floating on the sea.
“We are therefore really pleased that Aaron Hunt will be training our instructors too. It is very important to us that our instructors are taught properly, so that they in turn can teach coral restoration correctly. It’s a fascinating time for us because Aaron is reporting great success with transplanting staghorn and elkhorn corals. Consequently, this coral restoration and transplantation collaboration is a win-win for everyone who cares about the ocean environment.”
To book your place on a coral restoration course at Sunset House, Grand Cayman, simply email Sunset House or check out www.sunsethouse.com.
About Sunset House
Sunset House has been welcoming divers to the Cayman Islands for more than 60 years. It is the only resort in the Cayman Islands, designed by divers, operated by divers, for divers. It’s one of the only resorts on Grand Cayman that has its own coral reef, with the wreck of the Nicholson and coral nursery in shallow water right off shore. Underwater visibility on Sunset House’s reef can exceed 200 feet, and a remarkable variety of marine life to be seen there. Our own spectacular 9’ bronze sculpture of the mermaid Amphitrite is one of the most popular shore dive sites in the world.
The resort features 36 guest rooms, including 14 Courtyard rooms, 18 Oceanview rooms, 2 spacious Suites and 2 Apartments which include a full kitchen. All rooms are air-conditioned, with coffee making facilities and private baths. Free Hi-Speed Wireless Internet can be accessed throughout the property and a convenient computer station is located in the lobby. SeaHarvest Restaurant offers a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is famous for its Indian menu. My Bar a popular hangout for both locals and visitors, has been voted “Best in the Caribbean” by Caribbean Travel and Life and the Best of Cayman. Sunset House also features an inviting seaside fresh water swimming pool and ocean fed sea pool for relaxation. Sunset Divers, a PADI 5-star resort is on site to provide daily dive excursions and a full range of PADI courses.