Menu
Travel

Rebuilding a paradise

TAKING THE PLUNGE: Anchalika Kijkanakorn’s brave vision has already brought success with a new coral reef showing signs of life just a stone’s throw from her award-winning resort.
TAKING THE PLUNGE: Anchalika Kijkanakorn’s brave vision has already brought success with a new coral reef showing signs of life just a stone’s throw from her award-winning resort. Contributed

ONLY 20 metres off Natai Beach on the west coast of Phang Nga, just north of Phuket in southern Thailand, Anchalika Kijkanakorn, an ex-financier turned hotelier, is giving Mother Nature a hand to recreate the coral reefs that once graced the Andaman Sea.

And any large-scale success from this ground-breaking project could have applications for regrowing and rehabilitating reefs all over the world, including our own natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef.

For centuries, Phang Nga was known as one of the world’s “tin buckets”, but offshore tin mining took its toll on the pristine environment, sucking up sand and everything growing and living in it like a vacuum, and spitting out marine death and destruction as by-products.

The reefs were no more.

Even after the tin market collapse in the 1980s, when mining ceased, these precious habitats failed to grow back. Fish and other marine creatures never returned.

But Anchalika, the Aleenta Resorts founder and managing director, wasn’t content to live with the new status quo, especially after opening Aleenta Resort and Spa Phuket-Phang Nga in 2006.

The dynamic mother of two understands the important economic and cultural role reefs play throughout the world and that the continued decline of Thailand’s reefs could mean the loss of millions of dollars in fisheries and tourism, as well as spelling the end for some of nature’s most fascinating wonders.

The reefs had thrived at Phang Nga once before, so why couldn’t they grow there again?

Her Aleenta Resorts and Akaryn Hospitality Management Services group co-founded The Pure Blue Foundation last year to champion her vision and raise

vital funds to bring her plan to fruition. Working in conjunction with Coral Reef Creator – a Swiss-French company that specialises in the concept, development and creation of coral reefs based on artificial structures – the foundation has begun work on its ambitious plan to build a coral reef park 20m off Natai Beach in front of Aleenta’s award-winning resort.

The coral park is using the expertise of marine biologists, state-of-the-art technology and man-made structures to create an environment that once again will attract dozens of fish, crustaceans and shell species to the area, and eventually enable a whole new coral ecosystem to exist.

For this first project, a 15-metre long and three-metre wide structure specially processed for immersion in seawater has been placed on the golden sands of the lifeless sea floor – the first building blocks in creating the coral city. This metallic fringing reef, in an area that has a three-metre depth at low tide, promotes the settlement, growth and survival of 24 species (1200 coral cuttings) which have been grafted on it.

Only two weeks after immersion of the first coral prop in the water, 35 species of fish were counted on the coral park.

“All the trophic levels from the food chain – planktivores, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores – are well represented in diversity, proportion and number,” the report said.

“This is a very positive ecological indicator, showing that an ecosystem has already taken place on the park.”

Rocky structures with numerous cavities have been set up to encourage coral fish species to re-settle in this new reef world, as well as provide places for them to hide from predators.

CRC will provide long-term monitoring services to assess how well the reef is developing over time. Anchalika knows her environmental crusade will be a long one.

As she said in a statement, “My goals are to raise awareness of the urgent need to protect and preserve the environment, replenishing where necessary, given that most of the damage to our planet comes from mankind”.

But success doesn’t come cheap.

The first major fundraiser at Aleenta Resort & Spa Phuket-Phang Nga, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, attracted more than 100 guests and VIPs who contributed about $15,300 – the equivalent of more than half of the funding required for the project’s first year.

Any individuals and companies could become sponsors. For more details, visit www.purebluefound ation.com

ALEENTA CORAL PARK

Where: Aleenta Resort and Spa Phuket-Phang Nga, north of Phuket in southern Thailand

Length: 15m

Width: 3m

Total weight: 4.5 tonnes of live rock and 1t of metallic structures

Distance from solar panel to park: 200m

Corals grafted on to park: 24

Visit www.coralreefcreator.com and www.purebluefoundation.com

ALEENTA CORAL PARK

Where: Aleenta Resort and Spa Phuket-Phang Nga, north of Phuket in southern Thailand

Length: 15m

Width: 3m

Total weight: 4.5 tonnes of live rock and 1t of metallic structures

Distance from solar panel to park: 200m

Corals grafted on to park: 24

Visit www.coralreefcreator.com and www.purebluefoundation.com


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Region faces wild wind

DESTROYED: Half of the roof of the Moranbah home was ripped off from the 104km/h wind.

Moranbah residents say weather is worse than the cyclone.

Heroic rescue saves life

CLOSE CALL: Leslie Cruthers and Buddha at the spot the playful pup fell into the Nogoa River.

Kayakers rush to save dog walker clinging to riverbank.

National super star at age 13

Competing in Rotorua, New Zealand earlier this year.

Dingo local takes on international motocross competition.

Local Partners