Five questions with conservation group Coral Gardeners

Through their “adopt a coral” program, these young environmentalists want to help save the world’s coral beds and reefs

Sandra Thomas Travel

I started my “Five questions with…” series two months ago with a plan to keep people thinking about travel amidst the fallout of COVID-19 — and in hopes of getting answers to questions about destinations that friends and family were already asking me.

As travel editor at the Vancouver Courier newspaper, a board member of the B.C. branch of the Travel Media Association of Canada, and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, travel is a big part of my life and I had the contacts already in place to get started.

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Now with some destinations looking to slowly reopen, and, in an effort to catch a glimpse of future travel trends, I’m continuing to reach out to travel experts and tourism bureaus across Canada and the globe for answers to five similar questions.

And while no one can predict the future, all are hopeful travel will soon resume. But, how exactly that will look is anyone’s guess.

If you are part of a destination management organization or represent a property and want to share your thoughts, please drop me a line at

A coral bed near the Island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Photo Ryan Borne

Five questions with Marie-Céline Piednoir, head of communications for Coral Gardeners, a coral reef restoration and conservation program located in the Islands of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

Piednoir says the world is not hearing great news about the global warming crisis and "issues of climate change still reign strong."

Piednoir adds scientists estimate that by 2050, there will be no more coral on earth. In this world of uncertainty, there are heroes — and we can be sure that this group will continue trying to save it.

Coral Gardeners is an organization led by founder Titouan Bernicot and a group of native Tahitians, who noticed the devastation of the reefs in their islands and decided to act by replanting coral.

A coral bed near the Island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Photo Ben Thouward

How was the idea for Coral Gardeners conceived?

Our project was born in 2017 in Moorea, the sister island of Tahiti, in the Pacific Ocean. We are young surfers and fishermen nicknamed “The Children of the Ocean.”

One day, while surfing, we saw the degradation of the reefs and decided to take action. Young and motivated, we launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 and we achieved our objective!

Today, Coral Gardeners is made up of more than 15 international volunteers, more than 12,000 corals adopted and transplanted into the lagoon, and thousands of supporters, either local students, tourists or young people from all over the world.

Coral Gardeners is working to save coral beds surrounding the island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Photo Kelsey Williamson

We have two main missions

Raising awareness

  • We want everyone around the world to know what is a coral and how coral reefs are essential for the planet. We use local actions but also the tools of social media to reach as many people as possible.

Reef restoration

  • We have the “adopt a coral” program and we work with “super corals” to rebuild the reef. Once you make a donation to the program, you recieve a certificate, which includes the name you've given your coral, as well as information on its location, including longitude and latitude.
  • We believe in our actions and intend to go even further in our project, launching a global movement of Coral Gardeners.
Experts believe the world's coral could be wiped out by 2050. Coral Gardeners is doing everything it can to ensure that doesn't happen. Photo Ryan Borne

How can visitors participate in planting their own coral?

At least until 2021, we decided to cancel our eco-tours so visitors cannot come to plant their own coral. Nevertheless, everyone in the world can still adopt a coral to support us.

You can name your coral and you will receive an adoption certificate right after adopting it.

Experts believe the world's coral could be wiped out by 2050. Coral Gardeners is doing everything it can to ensure that doesn't happen. Photo Ryan Borne

Why is this an important initiative for the Islands of Tahiti? For the world?

It is important because we aim at saving the reefs locally. With our restoration program we are replanting corals onto damaged reefs at different spots around Moorea.

It is important for the world because we aim at scaling up in the future, first to the Pacific region and then to the world, who knows.

Also, one of our key roles is to raise awareness. We want everyone in the world to know what coral is and to be able to support us if they want.

Coral Gardeners is a conservation group based on the Island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Photo Ryan Borne

What are the best places to visit in The Islands of Tahiti? When is the best time for Canadians to visit?

Moorea is the place to visit! Amazing lagoons, limpid waters, rich marine life, waves to surf, mountains to climb, waterfalls to jump in, roads to explore, people to meet, local food to taste, local dance to join... Moorea and French Polynesia will bring you so much culturally and visually, it will change your approach to life and it will stay with you forever, this little piece of paradise and peacefulness.

I love the weather during March and November, but honestly all year long is amazing here.

The waters surrounding the Island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Photo Ryan Borne

What are some of the things that you personally love about this destination?

The culture and lifestyle! People are smiling, welcoming, chill, enjoying life at their own rhythm. It is like a flow, the feeling of mana, that you have to embrace. 

From my personal experience, I feel that this feeling can truly be found only here in the Islands of Tahiti.




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