I went Diving with Poni Divers to help out with their coral nursery at Pelong Rocks.
The nursery was made back in 2012 with HSBC for a coral planting event. Myself and a Poni staff, Mina, went to check up on the corals and to do some maintenance in the area.
We brought along slates and baskets to collect a few dead coral pieces to be used as a specimen to show students and visitors what corals look like. The slates were used to tally up the number of corals and to record measurements made on the corals itself.
The boat was captained by Captain Osman, he made sure everyone was wearing a life jacket prior to departure. It took about 30 minutes from Poni Divers’ dive shop to arrive to Pelong Rocks, where the coral nursery area was at. I spent a majority of the time talking to Mina about the marine conservation efforts initiated by the company. Turns out they have even brought along 90 students from SMSA, KB, to go snorkelling with them!
Once we got there there was a safety briefing and a quick briefing on what we are doing. We got equipped and rolled into the water.
We gave our OK hand signs and then went down to 12m. Mina checked if I was ok once I got down and then pulled out her compass and brought us over to the nursery site.
The site was very cool, there were large mounds of staghorn corals around the area. Mina brought me over to the sandy patches and pointed to a coral that was sticking out of the sand. Weird, corals dont grow out of the sand… with closer inspection I found out it was being held up by a single meta rod! Eureka! From a 1-inch coral, it grew to the size of two open palms in 5 years!
She then started removing these small snails from the corals. The snails left a white mark on the surface of the coral. AH. They were actually eating these corals, that’s why she was removing them! Then we carried on to the next grown coral.
This went on for another 35 minutes, we were recording the number of corals, removing these small snails (Drupella), and were taking pictures of the corals. It was super relaxing. I felt like I was doing good conservation work too! Throughout the dive, Mina was making sure I checked my air gauge to make sure I was doing alright. We also collected a few dead coral samples along the way. By the time I reached 70 bars, I notified her and we slowly went our way back to the boat.
We got back up on the boat, with the help of Captain Osman, and then received our food. Food and sun is soooo nice to have once we finished the dive! We were talking about what we saw. Mina explained to me that the snails were called Drupella snails and were corallivores (ie coral feeding organisms) while we were on our way back to the shop.
Once we arrived, we unloaded our equipment and started to tally our data back into her computer for the conservation team report.
Overall, it was a nice day to be able to see what the reefs of Brunei was like and what efforts are being made to help the local reefs! I really learned a lot and will definitely come back in the future to help with other conservation activities. I really look forward to join their ghost net clean up event!