A topic of conversation that has cropped up many times over the past few months with my divers has been diving on artificial reefs and the benefits of building an artificial reef. We build these for many reasons. Firstly, diving along a flat sandy bottom is not that interesting! They do make great homes for artificial reefs though, which attract a great deal of aquatic life and give corals a place to grow. They can also be added to control erosion or block shipping passages.
One of the easiest ways to create an artificial reef is to sink a structure. Ships, homemade metal structures, plastic or concrete objects of many descriptions have been sunk to create a new reef. They collect algae and corals which in turn attract fish, which in turn attract divers.
We have 2 small boats alongside a jetty at 60 foot just off the beach at Caletas, and they are really cool to dive on. Alongside the large schools of fish there, it is home to many moray eels and a resident turtle. I have been talking with another dive shop owner about building an underwater playground somewhere along the south coast, which will in no way harm the environment, and this is tricky, but we are getting there. I will keep you posted.
I have dived many artificial reefs around the world. One of my favourites was Malaysian site full of huge wooden boxes, some 40 foot in length and 20 foot high, tied together with leather straps. These sat alongside small fishing boats, bottles, pipes and concrete blocks. The area was spread over the size of a soccer pitch and it was packed full of huge schools of fish and little critters. Under the wreck, there was a cleaning station, manned by a variety of shrimps. If no fish or turtles were getting cleaned when you were diving there, you could pop your hand gently in and get the coolest manicure on earth. I would tell my divers about this before we dived here, and the guys would look totally uninterested. Once there though, the guys loved it more than the girls! Not only did they clean under the nails, they picked the dead skin cells off your hand and arm, and it was all for free.
Another cool place I dived was an oil rig that is now a working dive hotel! The owner wanted to build a resort on the island, but was refused permission. He found a loophole in the law and towed this oil rig into place 400ft off the shore! When the oil rig was in place, they stripped the insides and threw everything underneath the rig to create an artificial reef, which is spectacular now, instead of a sandy bottom. The toilets make great houses for the moray eels, so best not sit on them! They also created an underwater playground, so you can climb up steps and walk across a wooden rope bridge, which is easier said than done when you are weightless. It was under this oil rig that I saw my 1st pygmy seahorse. They are one of the rarest creatures in the ocean, but this is probably because they are so hard to spot. It was less than 10 foot away from a flamboyant cuttlefish, and if you haven’t seen one or heard me talking about them, check them out on the internet. They are pure magic.