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Sustainable ecology is becoming increasingly important for modern travelers. While enjoying the pristine beauty of remote islands, many vacationers are interested in learning about the local flora and fauna, having hands-on experiences and even taking part in nature preservation efforts. Harbour Village Beach Club resort on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire offers its guests several ways to get involved in ocean learning and coral reef preservation. The hotel runs an underwater coral nursery and has recently partnered with ocean explorer and preservationist Fabien Cousteau (grandson of famed explorer Jacques Cousteau) to offer unique hands-on experiences to eco-minded travelers.
1. Coral Lover Guided Dive Guests can become “coral lovers” via a guided dive and course led by the resort’s dive shop personnel. The course covers issues threatening coral reefs today and demonstrates how coral is grown at the hotel’s nursery. During the dive, members of the coral preservation team demonstrate how they treat coral pieces that have broken off the reef by cleaning them, cutting them into smaller fragments and hanging them onto underwater structures called “coral trees,” which prompts regrowth.
“We have coral reefs all around the island, and we have 10 coral trees in our nursery that we care for,” said Christine Ball, manager of the dive shop at Harbour Village Beach Club. “The guests get to see how we clean and cut the corals, and they get to hang about five pieces on the tree.”
The Guided Coral Dive costs $45 per person.
2. Coral Reef Restoration Specialty Course A more in-depth coral-restoration experience involves three specialty dives, during which participants learn how to safely handle, transfer and transplant coral from the hotel’s nursery. The last dive is the most impactful, as healthy coral pieces are affixed onto a local reef, where they will reattach and help the reef rebound.
“The guests take some of the bigger pieces and put them on the reefs,” Ball said. “They are really able to make a difference.”
The Coral Specialty Course costs $220 per person.
3. 3-D Printing Corals As part of the Ocean Learning Center, launched in partnership with Cousteau, the hotel plans to start a new coral-restoration project using a novel 3-D printing technique. The center’s specialists will use 3-D printers to create tiles so similar to coral reefs in their chemical structure that they can serve as coral biological mimics. The tiles will be seeded with tiny corals that will grow similarly to how they would naturally. Pending the necessary permits, the project is expected to launch in early 2017. Guests will be able to observe the 3-D printing process, learn about the technique and participate in related activities.
4. Cousteau Voyages Beginning in 2017, six to 10 times per year, up to 10 Harbour Village Beach Club guests will be able to join Cousteau on a former NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) research vessel equipped with five luxury staterooms. The weeklong expedition will include 1,000-foot sea plunges on a research submarine and opportunities to watch Cousteau and a Smithsonian Institution scientist conduct marine research, collecting water samples and ocean specimens.
The ship will eventually dock at Harbour Village Beach Club’s marina, where guests will enjoy a few relaxing days at the hotel.
“We decided to offer this expedition-type program so guests can partake in a bona fide research and science program in which we will be looking at new species and specimens,” Cousteau said.
Ocean lovers will love the water-centric activities offered at Bonaire’s Harbor Village Beach Club. // © 2016 Harbor Village Beach Club
In addition to diving, the resort offers a relaxing sanctuary for couples and families. // © 2016 Harbor Village Beach Club
The Dutch Caribbean Island of Bonaire is a diver’s paradise. // © 2016 Harbor Village Beach Club
La Balandra, the on-site restaurant at Harbor Village Beach Club // © 2016 Harbor Village Beach Club
The beachside resort has its own dive shop. // © 2016 Harbor Village Beach Club
The voyages will cost $25,000 for two people, including stateroom accommodations and meals; airfare is not included.
Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Centerwww.fabiencousteauolc.org
Harbour Village Beach Clubwww.harbourvillage.com