Snorkel Trail at Playa PortoMari
by Paul Spiertz
The famous storm Lenny wreaked havoc on PortoMari’s shallow reef in November 1999. The complete recovery of this reef will take many years which prompted Plantages "PortoMari" to begin its Reefball Research Project. As well as promoting the recovery of the reef, placing reef balls at strategic locations also provides a comfortable habitat for fish. Within the framework of the Reefball Research Project and using these same reef balls, a snorkel trail has recently been laid out. On Saturday, 7 July, with the help of a large group of volunteers, a second series of reef balls were put in place for the underwater trail. It was immediately clear that the fish were delighted to make their home in this sheltered environment - no sooner were the reef balls at their designated location, they were subjected to close inspection by the local marine inhabitants.
Ten clusters of five different sized reef balls have been used for the first snorkel trail. In this way, uniquely formatted living environments are created that are suitable for the great variety of fish in PortoMari Bay. The snorkel trail begins at a depth of 1.5 metres in the middle of the bay. At this depth the reef balls are accessible to most people, even children and inexperienced swimmers. Now it is possible to enjoy the underwater world without having to swim out to the deeper parts of the ocean. This living snorkel trail will over a period of time change colour, determined by the coral that grows there and the amount of fish, as nature herself decides.
The snorkel trail at PortoMari Bay runs from the breakwater in the form of an "S", past the raft to the reef balls that were placed in deeper water earlier this year. The raft can be used for resting while following the trail. The more experienced swimmers can swim out from the deeper part of the trail for further snorkelling to view the natural coral growing there.
In the future, more snorkel trails will be created in this way. They will be included in educational programmes for local young people, and also for other interested persons and of course for tourists. Go and take a look at this unique trail and follow its progress over time.