To commemorate Oceans Day, The Explorers announce new seasonal experiences with a special purpose — aimed at restoring the coral reefs of Papagayo.
By Francesca Poddie | June 8, 2022 | Guanacaste

Peninsula Papagayo and partner Culebra Reef Gardens Alliance have expanded a joint coral restoration program to include coral snorkeling, coral planting, coral gardening and coral adoption.

Susana Vicente, Papagayo’s Head of Sustainability said: “Our mission is to revitalize local waters and we’re thrilled with the results thus far — to date, we have planted more than 4,500 coral fragments onto 47 coral nurseries with a very successful survival rate of 83%.”

Diverse ecosystems
While coral reefs make up only 1% of the ocean, they’re home to 25% of all known marine life. Coral ecosystems also function as a valuable source of food, medicine and economic support to communities across the world.

According to the UN Environmental Program, it is estimated that 25% of coral reefs have already disappeared, and an estimated two-thirds of all coral reefs are in jeopardy today from ocean acidification, plastic pollution and coral bleaching.

“From 2000 to 2010, 80% of the coral reefs in Culebra Bay disappeared due to red tides and illness,” said Juan Jose Alvarado, Phd. and lead researcher of the coral restoration project from the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica. “We launched the project in 2019 with a science-based approach that provides the best conditions for corals to thrive.”

With these new programs, residents and visitors have the opportunity to join local efforts and reverse the tide.

Complimentary snorkeling expeditions
Guided snorkeling sessions at Four Seasons Resort introduce guests to how coral restoration works and its importance to marine ecosystems. Swimming in the clear waters of Playa Blanca, participants explore more than 950m2 of coral nursery and have the opportunity to spot an array of marine life inhabiting the waters surrounding the restored reef including sea turtles, seahorse, octopus, stingrays, and if lucky, even an inoffensive nurse shark. Guests can track what species they’ve seen to directly aid the continuous monitoring of marine wildlife by sending the information to the research team. Guests staying at Andaz have the opportunity to snorkel Sombrero Beach’s natural reef, which will welcome new restoration coral frames this year.

Coral Gardening
Experienced divers with a minimum of 10 dives can participate in the coral gardening program to support coral regeneration of the imperiled Guiri Guiri Reef. Guided by a trained Papagayo Explorers team member, guests will have the opportunity to assist in the monthly cleaning of newly planted baby coral until they can survive on their own. In addition, guest can direclty benefit the reef with two other hands-on activities: coral fragmentation, which consists of cutting small adult coral pieces from coral nurseries, and coral outplanting, where divers outplant those fragments into damaged sections of the Guiri Guiri reef. “Over the course of eight months, the fragments grow a lot,” said Vicente. “Within a couple of years, we should have a fully restored coral reef.”

Adopt a Coral
Any ocean enthusiast around the world can participate in the coral program by adopting a coral. Donors can sponsor a coral fragment ($50) to contribute to the fragmenting and cultivation of healthy coral in coral nurseries, or by sponsoring a small structure ($200) or large structure ($350) to support annual maintenance of engineered coral frames within nursery sites that are used for regenerative outplanting. US donors will receive a tax-exempt certificate.

Coral Planting
This brand-new experience combines coral planting and adoption. Limited to fifteen activities in 2022, Four Seasons resort guests including families with children over the age of eight will have the opportunity to directly impact the expansion of the restoration project by planting more than 40 coral fragments. Once finished, these ‘coral heroes’ will snorkel to witness the installation of their structure in the existing nursery and receive a personalized adoption certificate and surprise giveaways. To honor their contribution, they’ll also get to mount a personalized name plaque on a coral frame permanently displayed on the beach.

“It’s a fun and special way for guests to leave a long-lasting footprint in Peninsula Papagayo,” says Vincente. “This kind of support from the community is essential to help us reach our ambitious goal of completely restoring the endangered reefs of Culebra Bay.”