5 Things You can Do to Protect Coral Reefs

Protect Coral Reefs Reef Protection Responsible Tourism Travel Sustainable Sustainability

Recently I met up with a friend that had just returned from a holiday in Asia. She told me about how great off a time she had, exploring islands and gorgeous beaches. Everything sounded like paradise, azure blue waters, white sandy beaches, the friendly locals and delicious meals.

She was so excited about the boat trip she took to explore the reefs, she showed me dozens of photos of the most beautiful reefs, her having fun in the water with friends. It looked like she truly had a blast during her trip. The last photo showed an overview of the boat, with one girl sitting on the ground with a large bandage on her knee.

My friend told me with great concern that the girl had badly cut herself by swimming too close to the coral reefs. Pointing out that the guide didn’t seem to know how to handle the medical situation. On top of that, the girls boyfriend also threw a bit of a hissyfit and kept repeating that no clear instructions were given. The guide then just repeated that he believed all tourists knew that swimming too close to the coral reefs is not allowed.

This whole situation wasn’t only dangerous for humans, these actions also have severe impact on the sensitive coral reefs. The reefs are not just beautiful, they have unique and complex systems that are vital to the health of the world’s oceans. Roughly 1 quarter of coral reefs worldwide are considered to be damaged beyond repair. Another two third is under serious threat.

Can you believe that coral reefs have survived natural change over thousands of years, but many of them may not be able to survive the destruction brought by humans. 


“The greatest threat to our planet is the believe that someone else will save it” -Robert Swan

1. Be a Responsible Tourist

Often unaware, people damage coral reefs by simply touching them. Be careful when you dive and snorkel. You should literally leave only bubbles and take only pictures when you’re in the ocean.

Boats that run into corals can cause serious damage, always make sure to look for sandy bottoms or use a buoy if its available.

Support reef friendly businesses. There are many around and they are often the same price and quality (sometimes even better!) as others.

Don’t leave your litter behind. I guess this is a given even on land, but if you leave your waste near the water or even in the water it can seriously damage and even kill coral.

2. Reduce Environmental Damage

Development and construction can damage coral reefs that are located near shores. Building unnecessary new marinas, ploughing fields and docks can loosen sediment. Sediment is like pollution, it blocks sunlight and can bury corals completely.

Support organisations that invest in responsible development, this can be done two ways. You can do this by either donating your time or money to the cause that you deem fit (see point 4 for some awesome “protect coral reefs” organizations).

3. General conservation

Reducing your carbon footprint can protect coral reefs! Coral reefs are damaged when the environment around them deteriorates. So we can all contribute and protect the reefs by simply leading a more responsible lifestyle.

Start using less electricity and reduce those greenhouse gases. Recycle your trash, take your bike, walk, carpool or use public transport instead of getting in your car.

When gardening, use organic fertilisers. It doesn’t matter how far you are from the ocean, all storm drains eventually lead to the ocean. Talking about water, try to use as less as possible. The less water you use, the less wastewater and runoff will pollute our oceans.

4. Volunteer

There are dozens of organizations big and small that put in effort to protect the reefs. Start living by the motto “being part of the solution is better than being part of the problem”. Volunteer for local beach and reef clean up programs.

Even on holidays there are many groups that organize things like this. This way you’ll be useful and you can enjoy this new destination!

You could also help out by donating to an organization that focuses on saving the reefs. Some good ones that also have lots of interesting information on how to protect coral reefs are:

5. Spread the word!

Help others understand how important the reefs are and how important it is that they are conserved. Many don’t even know about this problem, they won’t know that they are causing harm. It is important that YOU tell them that they can protect coral reefs as well, with just a few adjustments in their routine!

I’ve got to say that this problem is a big one, a really, really big one. It might seem difficult for one individual to stop massive projects, or seemingly cause any change. Together, however, we can take a big step in the right direction.

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Protect Coral Reefs Reef Protection Responsible Travel Tourism Sustainable Sustainability

25 Responses

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing. I really feel like this is super important, it was only after I got my PADI I began to really respect and appreciate reefs. So many people are keen to step on them or break pieces off. Not cool. Check out my blog if you get the chance.

  2. Soraya @ Hello Raya
    | Reply

    This is a really great post, especially to build awareness around things that we as individuals can do to help protect the coral reefs. I can’t believe the tour guide did not provide clear instructions and thought tourists would know how to swim around coral reef. That is absolutely terrible and he should not be allowed to run tours if he doesn’t know what to do.

  3. Alice - Kiwi in Korea
    | Reply

    Really good info! I saw a documentary recently about coral reefs and how they’re dying from the acidity in the ocean rising 🙁 It showed how the Great Barrier Reef has shrunk over time. Spreading awareness of this is really important as so many people don’t realise that coral is a living organism, and you can’t just break pieces off it as a souvenir >:(

  4. Jurga
    | Reply

    Nice post, Anne. I think that the situation you describe with the tourists not knowing what to (not) do counts for many things, not just the reefs. For the guides who know the place well, many things are obvious and they don’t always think of warning the people about the dangers (to them or to the place they are visiting). People too often blame others when things go wrong, instead of looking at themselves. As you say, we should all try to be more responsible tourists.

  5. leavewithlucine
    | Reply

    since ive been diving in egypt i love the sea so much and i think its so important to protect coral reefs! im really thankful for your blog post.

  6. Amandas_Wanderlust
    | Reply

    Great post, and such an important subject. I read that roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirds under serious threat, and was really shocked. That’s a serious issue, but the advice you have provided here is really good. I will do my bit towards number 5 by helping to spread the word a little by sharing this post.

  7. Hayley
    | Reply

    Great tips. I think the biggest issue is ignorance as do many people just don’t realise the harm they are doing. This post helps-good job!

  8. Katelyn Thomas
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    These are great tips. It is true – one person can’t make a physical difference in stopping pollution, but as more and more people become aware of the importance of protecting our natural resources, one person turns into thousands.

  9. Sydney Fashion Hunter
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    Such an important post. As an Australian I see the damage slowly being done to the Great Barrier Reef. It is so important to preserve these natural wonders for generations to come.

  10. Jessica
    | Reply

    I’m glad you wrote about this because I try to be as environmentally conscious as possible and it really bothers me when I see people use their vacation as an excuse to do whatever they want. If we want beautiful places to keep going back to, we need to leave them in the same state we found them in. It may be tempting to grab a bunch of keepsakes from the beach but they may be part of a fragile ecosystem. Great article

  11. Aparna
    | Reply

    Great post, everyone needs to read this! A lot of these can be done everywhere you travel – thanks for sharing!

  12. Cliodhna Ryan
    | Reply

    Great post. I went snorkelling in Zanzibar and saw so many people kicking the coral with their flippers and I ended up swimming way too close to it myself to avoid other people. Again the guides seemed to assume everyone knew what to do. I am miles from a reef of any kind and have no experience snorkelling and any information I did have was from reading articles online. Well done for informing people about this!

  13. Daniela Frendo
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing this! Although I’ve never experienced the coral reefs, I can see similar damage being done to natural sites and protected areas in my own country because tourists just want to get super close to take that perfect holiday snap, and unfortunately there are no fines for those who break the rules.

  14. Gina Bear
    | Reply

    Yes! These are some great tips. After living on Okinawa, I’ve become very conscious of protecting the ocean and coral reefs! Whenever I used to snorkel, I never went to close and floated happily on the surface. Did you know, in Japan, people have coral reef planting parties? I think it’s so awesome!

  15. Eva Casey
    | Reply

    This is a very important post. I went snorkeling in Panama and our tour guide made sure to tell us not to disturb the coral in any way. He also told us that the coral reefs in the Caribbean would most likely be gone in the next 20 years if we don’t seriously make efforts to conserve! I believe it, too, because a lot of the coral we saw was actually brown and dead. So sad. Thank you for writing this and I will share it so more people can learn that their actions affect our earth!

  16. Fee
    | Reply

    A really good and informative posts. I don’t live near or have visited coral reefs but good to understand how our daily lives impact the natural habitats.

  17. Samantha
    | Reply

    I’ve never been to a coral reef, but it makes me sad to know that humans are ruining them. But if I ever go to one, I’ll be a responsible tourist.

  18. Milana's Travels
    | Reply

    What a great post! So many people are unaware of just how delicate coral reefs are. And so many tour operators are irresponsible, just so they can make money. Thanks for brining awareness to this important topic!

  19. Upasna Verma Sachdeva
    | Reply

    This is a lovely and thoughtful post! I’ve always believed that to travel well is to travel responsibly, with the utmost respect for the destination and the environment.
    I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt that it’s their ignorance that causes them to harm the environment, and that’s why I completely agree with you on how important it is to spread awareness! Kudos to you 🙂

  20. Laura
    | Reply

    This is a topic that is important to me being an Australian who’s reef is diminishing daily. Unfortunately a lot has to do with the weather and with manufacturing, but nevertheless a person by person impact can also make a difference.

  21. Soumya Nambiar
    | Reply

    Great post. I never knew about the damage that can be done to coral reefs since I have never gone snorkelling or diving there. Thanks for the tips. As a citizen of the world, we should be responsible in preserving the beauty of nature. For us and for our future generations.

  22. Diana Chen
    | Reply

    I am all about protecting our environment, so thank you for sharing this and raising awareness of the ways in which coral can be damaged by humans and ways in which we can protect coral. I didn’t know about those volunteer programs – have you participated in one before?

  23. Anisa
    | Reply

    It is really sad what has been happening to the coral reefs. Everyone needs to help save them, so thank you for sharing some actionable tips.

  24. theluvaviatrix
    | Reply

    Great topic for a post. I see too many tourists who don’t understand how fragile and affected the environment is by their presence.

  25. Dash the Map
    | Reply

    I think some people just aren’t aware of how delicate coral reefs are and they need to be educated.

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