Rebuilding Bora Bora’s Coral Reef
When I heard there was a marine biologist on staff at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, I envisioned someone who turned out to look and act exactly like Oliver Martin: blond, fit, French, sunburned and teeming with worldly aquatic knowledge. In other words, L’Aquaman. Or as on-board Four Seasons Concierge Dawn Pender from the Hampshire property called him, “The Fish Whisperer.” Martin, a native of Antibes, has worked with Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora since it opened four years ago. He maintains the Ruahatu (God of the Ocean) Lagoon Sanctuary, filled with 100-plus species of very animated and very colourful fish including eagle rays, parrotfish, moray eels, and the occasional wayward shark that wanders in past the nets and is removed for the sake of the guests.
But the lagoon’s crystal-clear waters—equal parts research station and sanctuary—aren’t just for invertebrates; they’re designed for guests, too. Martin mans the underwater coral grafting stations, a vitally important link to coral reforestation. Coral reefs are rapidly disappearing, and during our interview he mentions the new BBC report, which estimates that half of the Great Barrier Reef disappeared in the last 27 years, while other coral reefs are rapidly dying as well. Though the Ruahatu Lagoon is jointly managed by the Resort and the Pacific Eco-World Initiative, it’s Martin who checks the coral every day, keeps a loving scientific eye on all the species and tends to the various tasks involved in maintaining such a refuge.
One such task is keeping the Adopt-A-Coral project afloat. The programme invites guests to plant a nubbin of coral during a 75-minute private guided snorkel in the lagoon with Martin. “Thriving coral is a coral with fish in it,” says Martin during our late morning lagoon tour, which includes run-ins with spotted pufferfish, Picasso trumpetfish and several parrotfish, many of which flock to Martin like an old friend they haven’t seen in ages. “More coral equals more fish,” he reminds me as dozens of neon species swirl around us. The snorkelling experience is unlike that in any other destination. The water is so clear that it looks like the fish are flying in air beneath you. It’s more Snow White than The Little Mermaid, with dozens of gentle, slow-moving creatures circling you. “We really hope our guests who appreciate the beautiful environment in Bora Bora will devote some time and energy to helping preserve this pristine ecosystem,” says Martin. “This is something the future generations should be able to enjoy.”