Celebrating Earth Day with the Introduction of Coral Gardening Experience at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Published on : Friday, April 23, 2021

It’s now possible to get hands-on in helping to restore a coral reef with the new Coral Gardening Experience at Peninsula Papagayo, Latin America’s most exclusive resort and residential destination. Combining luxury and sustainability, this vast natural playground is located in Guanacaste Province on Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific coast.

“Coral reefs are essential to the health of the underwater eco-system,” says Miguel Sanchez, Director of The Explorers, the Resort’s in-house adventure outfitter. “The Gulf of Papagayo has been one of the most important areas in Costa Rica due to the quantity and diversity of our reefs. They form the basis of a complete marine community, attracting an abundance of fish and other species that come to feed.”

Miguel continues: “Over the last 20 years, there has been a rapid 95 percent reduction in the size of the Gulf’s coral reefs, caused by fertilizers and pesticides as well as natural factors such as hurricanes, El Niño, red tides and algae growth. With reduced coral reefs comes a reduction in fish. As a result, local fishing operations are no longer obtaining the same quantity of fish, nor the same size. This affects both commercial fishing and tourist expeditions. Local people realise the Gulf is not doing well right now.”

To restore the health and size of the coral reefs, Peninsula Papagayo has begun a three-year coral restoration project, working with a number of government, university and private organisations, including CIMAR/UCR, Raising Coral Costa Rica, ACT/SINAC and GIZ.

The first step is to grow new coral through the process of coral gardening. In special coral nurseries, metal frames are fixed to the ocean floor and small pieces of coral are placed on them to grow in a controlled environment. Eventually the new healthy pieces of coral are transplanted to existing reefs in order to flourish and expand.

These coral nurseries require tremendous care. Every 15 days, the frame structures must be cleaned with a brush or sponge to remove algae, barnacles and other organisms that prevent the corals’ natural growth.

“The scope of the cleaning work is greater than we expected,” says Miguel. “The more coral we want to grow, the more time and people it takes.” The cleaning process demands special attention and care because the coral contains fragile living creatures. As Miguel explains, “It’s a very concentrated task, almost like meditation, and it gives a great sense of accomplishment. It’s the perfect activity for anyone who has a strong interest in sustainability and the environment.”

Best for people 16 and up who already have a scuba diving background, the Coral Gardening Experience starts with a 40-minute training session by a member of the Peninsula Papagayo Explorer team. Guests then take a private boat ride to the nursery site in the middle of Culebra Bay, about 7 metres (23 feet) underwater. The 3.5-hour experience is priced at USD 275 per person, minimum 2 people. There are also opportunities to sponsor a coral nursery.


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