Over the last few years, Crystal Dive and Eco Koh Tao have been working on a wide variety of conservation programs. From propagating coral nurseries and giant clam nurseries, to developing custom designed dive locations to help reduce the pressure on some of our heavily dived reefs.
It has been quite a journey….
One of Eco Koh Tao’s youngest protégés, 12 year old Kailash Cook, has been taken by the concept of the artificial reefs, especially our own in-house version, Junkyard, just off the coast of Koh Tao in Mae Haad Bay.
On a patch of ocean floor, where previously there was sand and very little marine life, we have added structures and created a burgeoning ecosystem.
This location now supports a wide diversity of marine life and regular visits by dive schools plying their trade of teaching novice divers the art of scuba diving.
It is this diversity along with its popularity that has gained Kailash’s admiration. Along with PADI Master Instructor Nathan Cook, he has been conducting surveys of the biodiversity at Junkyard as well as nearby locations to determine whether the biodiversity matches anything like the nearby natural reef environment.
In addition, we have been conducting visitor surveys of divers and dive centres on Koh Tao to determine just how popular the site is and what people like about it. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the reception….
People genuinely love it.
Preliminary results have been pretty startling, with diversity much greater than we would have expected. A wide variety of fish and invertebrate species now inhabit Junkyard Reef with a few that are almost endemic (found only at) to Junkyard in the big picture that is Koh Tao.
Even more surprising has been the response by both novice divers and experienced dive professionals. Those who have visited the site or use it regularly are taken by the diversity, the interesting species that now live there. One of the biggest advantages of Junkyard Reef is its proximity to shore and ease of access. Everyone likes to get home from work earlier if they can!
With many dives schools on Koh Tao, it is often a challenge to find somewhere different and often dive centres, and the staff, want to dive locations that are close to home. Junkyard Reef is an ideal location for such endeavours and is one of the closest sites to many dive centres.
By using this site it reduces the pressure on some of our beautiful but often overused locations like Twins and White Rock which are now freed up and can be the focus of more experienced divers who will appreciate the beauty and wonder by utilising their more advanced skills and precision underwater.
Crystal Dive has been a great supporter of this project, providing much of the resources and labour to make it happen.
While it is not a “private” dive site, it would never have happened without Crystal Dive making an avid commitment to this location many years ago. Work continues still for expansion and growth.
In 2012 Crystal’s own Nathan Cook attended the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia delivering a presentation on the development of community based conservation programs that were helping protect reefs.
Since then, Nathan’s son Kailash, has had a dream to go to Hawaii for the next instalment of the International Coral Reef Symposium in 2016.
With a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo Kailash is hoping to realise the money for a return trip to Thailand to complete his research and to cover the expenses to go to Hawaii next year. (www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/b4dffdac ). He will launch this in August.
Meanwhile the conservation work on Koh Tao continues with one of Project Aware’s most conscientious dive centres, Crystal Dive Resort. If you are in Koh Tao, drop in and see if you can join in to help protect the future of this small island. Refill your water bottle in reception or purchase one of our “Eco” calico bags.
For a greater look at the reef and its conservation maybe you could join us and become an Eco Warrior yourself on the Reef Check Ecodiver program . You never know, if you are as taken with the reef and its conservation as Kailash, maybe you’ll be presenting your own work at the Coral Reef Symposium in 2020!
Author: Nathan Cook (PADI Master Instructor / Reef Check Instructor Trainer)