Pursuing Ancient Trees and Thriving Corals in Curaçao

pacecoral cassie coral swim

Another great day of shooting for our documentary on coral conservation in Curaçao tested our limits with new experiences and challenges – and more than a few scrapes and bruises.

We were able to explore some thriving reefs around Westpunt (the western end of the peanut-shaped island) and focused our cameras on green sea turtles munching algae in a cliff-lined cove.

We had a bus for the entire day so we could hit many locations. To avoid the time and expense of a restaurant stop, we stocked up on food at a local supermarket before hitting the road.

At first, we faced frustration at the turtle cove, as the green turtles dove and surfaced repeatedly but unpredictably, forcing us to continually adjust our focus and zoom.

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photos by Yumeng ji

Down a lane near a church, we stopped to visit what locals say is the most ancient tree in Curaçao – a gnarled kapok tree estimated at 800 years old. It stood past a fence in the back yard of an elderly couple who charged a modest fee for visitors. One of our classmates, Cassie, decided she wanted to climb it. So she went for it!

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photos by Yumeng ji

Possibly, the most important stop for footage was at two Westpunt reefs that were significantly healthier than the reefs around Carmabi. Here endangered elkhorn coral were plentiful, although showing signs of disease in many cases, according to our guide, the marine biologist Aaron Hartmann. We were able to get some great shots of parrotfish while they feeding on algae and coral. We also spotted a spiny lionfish – reminding us of that taste of lionfish sashimi on our first day.

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We finished up by splitting into two groups at Jan Kok, with one team seeking and filming flamingos on shallow watery flats, while the other hiked to get to another reef that Hartmann said was particularly well preserved. The trails were muddy and mosquito-infested, but the reef was incredibly rewarding even though the waves were high enough to knock us around as we entered and exited the water. It appeared that the remoteness of this reef was one factor protecting it from degradation.

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We are excited to see our documentary come to life in full bright colors. Keep following our adventures here or on Twitter at @pacecoral or Facebook — and of course through our vlog:

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