Coral gardening at Grand Park Kodhipparu Maldives

In recent decades, there have been increasing efforts at growing corals in processes variously termed as coral ‘gardening’, ‘farming’, ‘propagation or ‘restoration’. These take advantage of the ability of coral colonies to grow once attached to artificial solid structures.

Since its opening in 2017, Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives has established several such coral gardening projects, where coral pieces from the house reef are attached to purposely built underwater structures.

In fact, one of the first sights many guests see when they first arrive on the island is an artificial reef installed below the reception deck.

This tunnel-shaped metal frame had several small pieces of coral attached to it during the first year of hotel operation, with those pieces growing into larger colonies, some of which are already around twenty centimetres in diameter. These colonies are now attracting additional marine life such as juvenile fish.

Whilst this serves to create new marine habitat in the arrival marina area, the resort has also establishes coral ‘nurseries’ in areas of its natural house reef.

The largest of these is a mid-water rope nursery in deeper water, close to the overwater villas. This nursery, built throughout this year, contains 100 pieces of attached corals.

Rope nurseries effectively lift attached coral pieces to grow several feet off the seabed, away from fine sand and organisms that might normally prevent the optimal growth and survival of the coral colonies.

“Many coral nurseries use fragments taken from colonies living on the reef, removed from the ‘donor’ colony and attached in a different area to grow into a new colony (similar to how cuttings are used to propagate plants),” Peter Pringle, the Resident Marine Biologist at Grand Park Kodhipparu, was quoted in a statement, as saying.

“However, as Maldives’ reefs are still recovering from mass coral die-offs experienced in recent marine heat waves, we prefer to leave the surviving colonies on the reef completely intact. We instead use fragments broken off by strong waves, the feeding activities of marine animals or other actions. Collecting such ‘corals of opportunity’ enhances each one’s long-term survival prospects — removing it from where it might be covered by sand and die, to the mid-water rope nursery.”

A different style of nursery, consisting of frames with coral fragments attached to cement pieces, has recently been established, and has allowed guests to actively participate in coral gardening. Coral fragments are attached to cone-shaped cement pieces above water using underwater glue, with participants then able to swim their ‘baby coral’ out from shore to place it in the nursery.

“This activity also has an educational benefit, as participants can better understand how coral colonies live and grow from the physical action of planting a coral, something not always easy to explain using only diagrams and pictures,” Peter said.

Ultimately, after several years of growth in the nursery, these colonies can be shifted to other areas as well, in a process similar to planting trees in landscaping.

Whilst coral gardening is certainly not a replacement for conservation actions needed for the continued survival of coral reefs, such as reducing carbon emissions to lessen climate change effects and improving water quality, it is a constructive approach to increase awareness of reef conservation and coral biology.

Located in North Male Atoll and a 15-minute speedboat ride away from the main Velana International Airport, Grand Park Kodhipparu features a collection of 120 villas, including idyllic beachfront pool villas, breathtaking overwater villas and palatial two-bedroom villas. Sixty-five of the 120 villas come with their own private pools and the five two-bedroom suites feature extensive private terraces.

Designed by world-renowned hospitality design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, the resort showcases sophisticated architecture, state-of-the-art interior, high ceiling of palm fringed roof, and contemporary exterior with Maldives’ traditional influence of wood and rattan, inventive rustic appeal and inviting peaceful atmosphere. Neutral tones, natural fundamentals and spacious social settings balance the unrivalled beauty of the cobalt sea and tranquility.

Grand Park Kodhipparu offers three restaurants and a pool bar, including the overwater Edge restaurant, which offers a wide selection of international culinary creations, Breeze poolside restaurant and bar, which serves lunch and light bites throughout the day followed by inventive cocktails and fine wines in the night, and the FireDOOR speciality restaurant, which offers grilled meats and fish coupled with the finest wines.

Recreational facilities at the resort include an outdoor swimming pool, gymnasium, sunrise yoga deck, wellness centre with spa and salon treatments, water sports and dive centre, children’s activity centre, and specialty shops.

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