Recipe for 150 cement coral cupcakes

 Ingredients & tools
-          3 buckets of cement
-          9 buckets of sand
-          Fresh water
-          150 straws
-          Plastic bags
-          Plastic cups
-          Coral fragments
-          Rope
-          Scissors

Making the cup cakes
Mix the cement with sand and water. Spread out some plastic as your baking tray. Put dollops of cementmix on it, and put a straw on every one of them. Next, fill up a plastic cup with cementmix, and place it upside-down on top of the straw. Just like when you were making sandcastles on the beach some years ago… Take off the plastic cup to fill it again. Continue till the mix is finished and you have a huge bakingtray with cement cakes with straws sticking out! Try not to make them look too pretty as you would with your sandcastle. You’ll find out why later.
Let them set for half an hour. Then poke in some holes on the top, or put small pieces of straw in each of them. Leave them to dry up for 24 hours, which gives you time to go and find your corals!

Coral shopping
Box with collected
soft corals
So how do you go shopping for coral fragments? You won't find it in the supermarket, although we did find an underwater shop that has a good assortment, we call it our garden shop as coral replanting is a bit like gardening! At the places where there is a lot of one type of coral, we take small –if possible broken off – pieces of them and put them in a box. The remaining coral will now have more space and grow back. Every coral gets its own box, otherwise they’ll fight on the way home from the shop! Coral will die if it’s out of the water for too long (not more than a few minutes preferably), so they’re put in a box of seawater on the way back to the resort, and then temporarily left in the shallow water under the jetty.

Cakes with attached soft corals
When you cement cakes are ready, you can get back into the water. Bring a rope, scissors and go back to where you left your corals. Depending on the type of corals, there’s different ways to plant them. But the end is the same: the cement cakes will be tied up together with a piece of string (you must have wondered why you needed the straw in them?), with the coral fragments in them. They can be tied up, put into the straws or cemented into the holes. Every type of coral got its own preference depending on their shape and needs for growth. Some are even just tied up to a piece of string, without a coral block. 

Tying the blocks and corals up to the line
Eventually all the cement/coral blocks and other corals will be lined up in about 8 meters deep water. They can’t be just put down on the seabed, since PomPom got a quite steep slope going down from 3 meters to somewhere deep, and we don’t want our corals ending up there, we won’t be able to see them! Guess the most likely animal to make them tumble down? Our beloved turtles! They will sit on them or push them around with their strong flippers. Obviously we won’t scare off the turtle, so we need to turtle-proof our young coral blocks!

Lined up coral blocks
After about 6 months the rope will start to disintegrate and there will only be corals and cement blocks left. I guess now you know why you don’t want the cement cakes to look too pretty, they should look as natural as possible! If the corals grow well, they will cover the blocks which then look like natural rocks with corals.
This could be your line to fill with corals!

So yes, replanting a coral reef takes a little longer than baking a cake, but the result will hopefully be long lasting, while eating a cake could even take shorter than baking it. ;-)

By Sylvia Looijestijn