By Omar Isaacs

Often known as the ‘Rainforests of the Sea’, coral reefs are home to some of the most diverse eco-systems on Earth, providing a home for a quarter of all marine species, including fish, molluscs, and sponges. Reefs themselves are formed of coral, colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters containing low nutrients. The reef is built from stony corals, and formed by ‘polyps’ (a cylindrical form of life that gives the reef its distinctive colour and texture) that live in groups. The result, what you can see on a Bahamas dive, is some of the most beautiful natural scenery you’ll find anywhere on the planet.

Formation

Most coral reefs were formed after the last glacial period, when melting ice caused the sea level to rise; making many (including the ones in The Bahamas) less than 10,000 years old. Many of the reefs found in The Bahamas are barrier reefs, the name given to reefs that grow over the centuries to encircle a specific island. The reef circling the island of Andros is said to be the third largest such reef in the world – perfect to explore on a dive. Bahamas residents are rightly very proud of the reef, and the natural underwater world it has become a symbol of.

Darwin’s Paradox

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Esteemed scientist Charles Darwin published his first monograph in 1842, entitled ‘The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs’. It was based on his observations during his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle, which led to his publication and renown as a writer. It also gave rise to ‘Darwin’s Paradox’. Darwin described tropical coral reefs as ‘oases in the desert of the ocean’. He reflected on the paradox that they flourished as diverse ecosystems while surrounded by ocean waters with hardly any nutrients. It is still a challenge for scientists today to explain this paradox, though anybody engaging in a Bahamas dive won’t need to worry – just enjoy the sights.

The Reef’s Residents

Coral reefs are home to a staggering array of animals, many of which can be seen on a dive; Bahamas reefs are home to fish, seabirds, sponges, worms, crustaceans (including shrimp, spiny lobsters, and crabs), molluscs, starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea turtles, and even sea snakes. Groupers, a fish commonly associated with Bahamas fishing, also consider the coral reefs their home and can be seen weaving in and out of the coral.

Conservation

Ultimately, coral reefs are very susceptible to changes in their environment, and many are dying around the world. Activities such as coral mining, pollution, overfishing and blast fishing are serious threats to the stability of the delicately balanced systems of a coral reef. Though reefs also face threats from diseases, oceanic acidification, and algal blooms, The Bahamas are known for their system of reef management, so sites such as the reef around Andros will be preserved for all those wishing to dive. Bahamas reefs also play an important part in protecting the islands from natural disasters such as the large waves created by hurricanes.

About the Author: Omar Isaacs is the Marketing Executive for The Bahamas Tourist Board, a tourist organisation that can help you discover the best holidays in The Bahamas. If you’re looking for amazing sites for a

dive, Bahamas

holidays are the perfect choice. To select and book your ideal

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