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Building Artificial Reefs | Design Projects

Building Artificial Reefs | Design Projects

Artificial Reef Design and Build

A Los Angeles-based team of film and television designers, dive-site developers, and marine biologists are designing and creating art inspired artificial reefs for resort hotel tourism and the environment in a race to save inshore ocean habitat around the globe.

Environmental change has caused the loss of more than half the world’s reef building corals. Coral cover, a measure of the percentage of the seafloor covered by living coral, is now just 10-20 percent worldwide. The Caribbean, thought to be one of the more pristine global reef systems, has lost 80% of its coral cover in only the last 50 years.

CEO Patric Douglas notes that while scuba diving and snorkeling are a $3-billion-a-year business, most resort hotel developments don’t offer much in the way of special underwater experiences. “Many five-star resorts have one-star waterfronts,” says Douglas. Reef Worlds estimates there are 500,000 square miles of resort oceanfront with limited appeal to adventurous tourists due to rampant habitat loss.

Worse yet, these zones have suffered decades of neglect as resort developers focused on land based amenities such as water parks and golf courses.

Reef Worlds was established three years ago with the goal of working alongside resort hotels to create sustainable artificial reef systems that help reduce tourism pressures on natural reefs. Reef Worlds art inspired reefs are fully monetized discrete mini-marine “protected areas” within the resort’s own footprint, allowing them to brand the signature underwater experiences of their guests while creating and fostering regional habitat,” says Douglas.

Artificial Reefs for Resort Hotels

Reef Worlds have been promoting the economic and ecological benefits of what he calls “habitat tourism,” which would give resort owners a way to monetize the waters off their beaches, while relieving some of the pressure from aquatic tourists on natural underwater reef systems that are endangered or dying.

Artificial reefs have been around for decades. Most were created with everything from sunken battleships to old tires—and most, says Douglas, are boring. “Who wants to look at a concrete triangle?” he asks. Reef Worlds designs and creates “dynamic reefs” using key regional design cues to attract sea life and tourism interest, making them places people actually want to explore, he says.

In Mexico, the company is developing an underwater art reef featuring 200 works of art that will take their cues from Mayan and Aztec iconography. Douglas calls this “Mayan Gods in 3D.”

Douglas says Reef Worlds will be able to bring in projects at 10-20% of the cost of a typical resort hotel water theme park, which can run $70 million to build and $1 million a year to market and maintain. And unlike land based entertainment facilities Reef Worlds artificial reef sites slowly transform over time into habitat for a wide range of wildlife and corals like typical artificial reef structure.

Reef Worlds in Dubai

Reef Worlds most recent ’“Pearl of Dubai” project will be located in the waters around the World Islands development. Renderings suggest the park might be modeled after the mythic Lost City of Atlantis with Babylonian and Sumerian design cues throughout .

Reef Worlds has five projects in varying stages of development in Dubai, Qatar, the Philippines, and Mexico.

“Our goal over the next decade is the rehabilitation of 500,000 square miles of nearshore reefs in need of help,” says Douglas.

“Resort hotels need new revenues, the coral conservation community needs outreach and education, we offer the best both worlds for a uniquely sustainable future.”

Reefs Need Our Help Now

Reefs Need Our Help Now

By Charles Davis

Being an active scuba diver, I have seen my share of reefs. Some of them have been great with brilliant colors and teeming with marine life, while others have been dead with almost no marine life at all. As a fellow diver, I am certain that you too have had experiences like mine. The majority of scuba divers, that I have met, share my love for reefs and do what they can to protect what they are diving. They take care to ensure that they are not damaging reef nor harassing marine life. It is a reflection of our backgrounds and how we were trained. There are of course exceptions, many dive destination have concerns with divers from certain Asian countries, who do not have the background that recognize the fragility of the underwater world and did not receive the reinforcement of marine protection after training. Even so, overall divers are a ecology aware group. But is it enough?

Reef News is Bad

These past few weeks reefs seem to be mentioned every time I have turned around. Thailand has been mentioned in the news for closing a number of dive sites because of the nature of the reef. As reported in an article on this site, Thailand Closes Multiple Dive Sites, The government stepped in and indefinitely closed a number of dive sites. They stated that tourist have damaged the reef to the point that closing the entire area to tourist is the only hope for the reefs to recover. The Thai government has routinely closed sections of marine parks to allow reefs and marine life to recover. Immediately after the military coup a few years ago, the new leaders took steps to become more tourist friendly. One of the first things they did was take over the management of the taxi stands at the airport and enforce fair standards and safety rules. They also went into some tourist destinations and national parks and cleared out squatters and tore down illegal buildings. They cleaned up beaches and took steps to reduce the pollution of the country’s surrounding waters from shore based pollution. After a series of well publicized deaths in the last year related to diving, they also started taking a hard look at the management of diving and water related tourism. The problem, as I see it, is more based on the tour operators that bring tourist to snorkel the reefs or to walk the reefs with helmets or snuba. There are too many operators in Thailand and worldwide that do not share our love of reefs, they just give a few minutes of “instruction” on how to snorkel and let the tourist loose without supervision. As a result the reefs and scuba diving suffer. But tourist and tour operators are not the only enemies of the reefs.

The last week of May (2016) coming into the beginning of June has seen a number of international press reporting on massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. The U.K. Based Telegraph printed an article titled “Great Barrier Reef axed from UN climate change report after Australian government intervention”. In that article they claim that the Australian government put pressure on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to exclude Australia from the climate change and world heritage sites report. That article and many more quote a government report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef. A report put out by James Cook University, which is one of the world’s leading marine science education and research centers, in cooperation with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority recently released data from a study of coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

In April, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said: Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef is “major and significant”. “The event is still unfolding and the full extent and severity of bleaching may take several weeks to manifest,” He said the most severe bleaching had been observed between Cape York and Cooktown on the far northern part of the reef. A more recent quote on the topic is even more frighting to me. “We found on average, that 35 per cent of the corals are now dead or dying on 84 reefs that we surveyed along the northern and central sections of the Great Barrier Reef, between Townsville and Papua New Guinea,” says Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (JCU). Reading the report itself has even more shocking news. In some sections the damage thankfully is low with less than 5% kill off, but sections near Lizard island are averaging 85% kill off with at least one reef at 95%. The area between Cape York and Cooktown have always been considered pristine reefs, it is in this area that scientist operate from Lizard island studying reef and marine life. It is also where we find the Ribbon Reefs, which are often on the list of the world’s best dive sites. The lost of the reefs goes well beyond divers losing the best dive sites in the world. It will impact our lives themselves.

The reefs are in bad condition around the world and many will die. Some of it is due to the direct misuse of humans, some by human pollution and others the result of environmental conditions that may or may not be the fault of mankind.

What Can We Do to Help the Reefs?

I recently did an article here titled Diving for Art Appreciation. The focus of that article was supporting dive sites created with statues. These sites bring divers to new areas and help create new reefs improving the quantity of marine life. In addition to creating new reefs, these art reefs reduce the pressure on existing reefs by divers.

I recently had the honor of talking with Patric Douglas, the CEO of Reef Worlds. Reef Worlds is encouraging hospitality establishments, resorts and hotels, to create underwater attractions in the near shore areas of their properties. One of the things we discuss is that many, if not most, resorts do not do anything beyond the beach area of their resorts. Scuba divers and snorkelers are taken great distances away to visit reefs. Many of these resorts could develop something close to shore that would meet the desires of both divers and snorkelers. They have a few projects underway, The Pearl of Dubai is a five acre dive and snorkel tourism “Lost World” site off the coast of Dubai while the Gods of the Maya is a project in Mexico. Both of these projects are located near the shore and in around 30 feet of waters. The projects will create interesting shapes and be the building blocks of an new reef. The areas will be protected from fishing and given some help getting started. For me that is a win win situation. I rather dive on a 30 foot house reef that is teeming with fish than travel an hour to a overcrowded dive site, then dive for 30 minutes at 90 feet. I can get in more time underwater and still have more time with my non-diving friends.

I think we as scuba divers should ask resorts and dive operators what they are doing to help reefs. I also believe we should support those that are helping with our business and shame those that do not support reef protection. Each of us should do something, no matter how small to preserve the reefs. Without them we will find our sport becoming boring but more importantly we will see our food sources disappearing.

To close, I would like you all to think of this recent quote:

“About 36% of the world’s coral reefs – 72% of the U.S. reefs – are in such warm water they are under official death watch, and that could rise to up to 60% of the world’s coral by July” – Mark Eakin, NOAA (Independent Mail, 6 April 2016)

Original article.

Building Resort Revenues With Art Inspired Resort Reefs

Building Resort Revenues With Art Inspired Resort Reefs

Los Angeles-based Reef Worlds, whose team includes film and television designers, dive-site developers, and marine biologists, are designing next generation sustainable reefs for tourism and the environment in a race to save nearshore ocean habitat around the globe. While at the same time creating new revenue channel for their resort hotel clients.

Environmental change has caused the loss of more than half the world’s reef building corals. Coral cover, a measure of the percentage of the seafloor covered by living coral, is now just 10-20 percent worldwide. The Caribbean, thought to be one of the more pristine global reef systems, has lost 80% of its coral cover in only the last 50 years. For resort hotels coral and reef loss translates into customer dissatisfaction.

CEO Patric Douglas notes that while scuba diving and snorkeling are a $3-billion-a-year business, most resort developments don’t offer much in the way of special underwater experiences. “Many five-star resorts have one-star waterfronts,” says Douglas. Reef Worlds estimates there are 500,000 square miles of resort oceanfront with limited appeal to adventurous tourists due to rampant habitat loss.

Dubai’s own Atlantis-style underwater theme park planned for The World islands

Dubai’s own Atlantis-style underwater theme park planned for The World islands

Reef Worlds, a Los Angeles-based underwater tourism design company, has submitted the final design for the world’s largest sustainable underwater tourism site in Dubai, which will now have a Hamour Habitat, as well, 'Emirates 24|7' can reveal.

“The ‘Pearl of Dubai’ project is in final design phase with the client. We have submitted our last rendition of the proposed site and unique Hamour Habitat for their internal review and waiting on design approval,” company CEO Patric Douglas told this website. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi had said earlier that Hammour is on the endangered list after been over-fished seven times the sustainable limit.

The company did not reveal the location of the project on The World, an artificial archipelago of over 300 islands, citing non-disclosure agreement signed in 2013/14. Douglas said Nakheel, master developer of The World islands, has not approved the project and "will not until they see final design approved by our client".

There has been five draft revisions since the company first announced the project in 2014, the official said, emphasising the site has unique regional design influences and is a major habitat center for regional wildlife. In 2014, Reef Worlds said the park will be modeled after Atlantis, the mythical lost city, and is inspired by Hollywood films ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Avatar’.

World’s Largest Underwater Dubai tourist site to be designed by Reef Worlds

World’s Largest Underwater Dubai tourist site to be designed by Reef Worlds

Can Hollywood Save The Oceans Natural Reef Systems?

Can Hollywood Save The Oceans Natural Reef Systems?

How Underwater Resorts Could Save Our Coral Reefs

How Underwater Resorts Could Save Our Coral Reefs

The concept of a resort art reef can be a puzzling one. Nonetheless, the potential benefits of developing one possibly extend beyond the inevitable tourism draw.

Los Angeles-based Reef Worlds, which is currently working on a one-of-a-kind theme park marine sanctuary in Dubai, was essentially founded on the benefits this type of investment can have on nature and conservation efforts.

"My team and I were lamenting that at every hotel resort we went to in the Mediterranean and Mexico, the near-shore reef system was just gone, like a nuke went off," says Reef Worlds founder Patric Douglas. "So the question became, what can we do to rehabilitate that, and what's the tourism angle?"

"All of these resorts are 200 feet from the ocean, but have nothing to do with the ocean."

The allure of diving is effectively the tourism angle when it comes to an underwater resort. With coral reefs vanishing quickly, tourists can't travel to just any coast or island to see them anymore, thus making them a key asset for competing hotels and resorts.

That's where companies like Reef Worlds come into play. They are constructing artificial reefs that not only to attract more tourists, but serve as a makeshift habitat for rare and popular underwater species. 

So the potential benefits of development extend beyond simply generating tourism dollars. 

Douglas points out that since the people and the communities in and around many hotels and resorts rely on tourism to survive, they are more inclined to protect the surrounding environment that's helping to bring in those guests.

Once given the opportunity to experience nature up close at an underwater resort, guests are then more likely to value the often overlooked ecosystems.

"Once people have a more authentic experience, and engage with a reef on a fundamental level, it changes their whole focus and attitude," Douglas told

Although underwater lobbies and guestrooms haven't yet become commonplace, in order to make underwater hotel concepts a worthwhile venture, there must first be a reason why guests would want to go underwater. 

As Douglas told, "to save a thing, you have to put money into it, and the best way to do that is charge people to go see it." With the economic value of coral reefs in the U.S. and its territories exceeding $200 million annually, according to a 2013 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there's a clear demand for underwater attractions.

Capitalizing on that demand could benefit not only well-positioned hotels and resorts, but ecosystems and the local communities and economies that often rely on them.

Reef Worlds to The Rescue, Artificial Reef Tourism

Reef Worlds to The Rescue, Artificial Reef Tourism

TROUBLED by what it describes as half-star waterfronts at several resorts around the world, including the Caribbean, Reef Worlds has designed a plan that will see it pumping US$4.5m into recreating marine habitats in the region.

Mike Wallace, director of development at Reef Worlds, didn't reveal the names of the resorts with which it is seeking to partner on the project, but said it is currently in talks with "two well-known all-inclusive resort chains". He expects to have 10 to 15 on board by the time the building wraps up at the end of 2014.

"Our team was shocked," Wallace said after reviewing the state of resort waterfronts. "We discovered five-star properties with half-star waterfronts. Zones beyond the high-tide mark where natural reefs, colourful fish, and habitats were, are essentially gone, replaced with some old tyres, turtle grass and dead coral, and this was a global phenomenon."

The plan, he told the Jamaica Observer from his office in California, is to identify resorts that have an ecological track record and good environmental stewardship and give them funds to create underwater worlds featuring snorkel trails, scuba-training sites, coral propagation, etc. The resorts, in turn, will monetise the sites and put a percentage back into the development of environment tourism. He explained that each site will be different, as it will be directly tied into the resort's own footprint.

Reef Worlds is an underwater tourism development firm in the US with a team of marine biologists, reefologists, as well as designers who have worked on the Hollywood blockbusters Lord of the Rings, Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean. It uses eco-friendly materials, which include local rock and ancient coral beds, in its made-to-order structures.

"There are no down sides to the creation of dynamic reefs when you have a great team of marine biologists and designers who treat the regional environment as their first clients," Wallace said in response to a question about the environmental impact of his company's underwater creations.

On the subject of financing, Wallace said: "Reef Worlds has a substantial development budget to bring these unique and iconic dynamic reef systems to our resort partner at no up front cost. It's pretty much unheard of in the resort and development space -- a tourism design-and-build company that is so confident that these sites promote the best of sustainable tourism and a boost to regional wildlife that they are willing to invest millions in the projects".

"So confident are we in our ability to fundamentally change the environment that we are willing to put five million of our own money into it," he told the Observer.

His decision to pursue projects in the Caribbean seems timely, given the region's push to mitigate the effects of warming oceans, rising sea levels and the disappearance of certain marine species. In 2008 the region launched the Caribbean Challenge Initiative with support from The Nature Conservancy and made commitments to conserve at least 20 per cent of their nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas systems by 2020, and to create national conservation trust funds. A week-and-a-half ago a new phase of the challenge directed at accelerating conservation action and funding took effect when head of Virgin Atlantic Richard Branson hosted Caribbean political and business leaders at a summit on Necker Island, his home in the British Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean has 10 per cent of the world's coral reefs, 1,400 species of fish and marine mammals, and miles of mangrove forests, but they are increasingly under threat from events like over-fishing and coral bleaching.

"The region accounts for 40 per cent of coral bleaching," Wallace said. "Habitat loss is at the highest point it's ever been...Resorts spend millions of dollars on their landscaping but don't spend any on their waterfront garden...It's a US$20-billion enterprise and a lot of those tourists want to sea colourful reef and fish."

"To be at the head of what will soon become one of resort and development's key tourism offerings is an exciting place to be. The fact is they have run out of land-based development space and have forgotten their waterfronts as a place of engagement and branding. Most resort chains sub-contract out even basic snorkeling to third parties. We're bringing that all back to 40 years ago when once-pristine reefs were as close to a Caribbean resort as a snorkel from the beach.

"Colourful wildlife has not gone forever," he reassured. "It just needs the right habitat to come back. And we're building it, one iconic and unique site at a time.

Hollywood Company adds Underwater Wow Factor to Holiday Resorts

Hollywood Company adds Underwater Wow Factor to Holiday Resorts

US-based company Reef Worlds has been transforming the holiday experience at a number of resorts recently in a very unique way. Designed by divers and created by design teams who have worked on Hollywood blockbusters including Lord of the Rings, Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean, Reef Worlds’ unique green ‘ocean structures’ are giving beachfront resorts an added wow factor – underwater.

Underwater attractions key for future of Mideast tourism

Underwater attractions key for future of Mideast tourism

The Future World Summit, being held in Dubai, UAE, in December will focus on the growing importance of underwater projects in the Middle Eastern tourism market.

Recent developments in artificial reefs and other underwater attractions are set to become an important part of the Middle Eastern travel and tourism market, as countries in the region begin to get serious about entering the $3 billion dive and snorkel marketplace.

Reef Worlds addresses a critical problem cities, such as Dubai, have with the lack of water-based tourism or footprint in the global dive and snorkel marketplace. In the waters in and around Dubai there are few, if any, underwater engagement points,” said Patric Douglas, Reef World’s CEO.

“Resort developers along Dubai's expanding coastline are now realising that with the creation of Dynamic Reefs, unique sites that are designed for habitat and tourism, they can increase revenues, client satisfaction and give a much needed boost to degraded regional habitats,” he added.

Douglas will be involved in the Future Tourism Summit which will be held in Dubai on December 9 and 10.

At the event, he will also update delegates on the development of the recently announced The Pearl of Dubai project. Design work has now been completed on what will be the world’s largest underwater theme park, with the five-acre park modelled after the mythical lost city of Atlantis and inspired by the look of recent Hollywood films.

In addition to its Dubai development, Reef Worlds has also received interest for similar projects in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Oman and Bahrain have already made huge investments into artificial reefs.

The Future Tourism Summit is an event for the travel and tourism industry to come together with government and technology providers. The event will feature a range of unique insights into leading tourism innovations as well as programme of international keynote speakers, interactive breakout sessions and an extensive exhibition showcase of the latest travel technology. - TradeArabia News Service

Underwater Tourism The Next Big Thing?

Underwater Tourism The Next Big Thing?

Plans for an underwater theme park in Dubai based on the Lost City of Atlantis have been announced.


Los Angeles-based underwater developer Reef Worlds made the official announcement last week. The company designed sets for blockbuster movies like Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean. The park called Pearl of Dubai will cover five acres near the unfinished World Islands development which has already caused major environmental damage to the reefs which have survived the vast building project in the area over the past 20 years.

'The UAE has a unique tourism problem that we address. When one considers Dubai and the region, scuba diving and underwater exploration is not on the Top Ten list, and yet it is almost everywhere else in the world,' said David Taylor, director of development for Reef Worlds.

'The Reef Worlds brand is all about sustainability and the creation of new habitat while at the same time adding instant tourism revenue and excitement to waterfront resorts,' he said.

The company is also working on a similar project in the Philippines.

Watch out Orlando, Dubai wants to be the world's biggest theme park destination

Five-Acre 'Pearl Of Dubai' Set To Become The World's Largest, Greenest Underwater Theme Park

Dubai to Open World's Largest Underwater Theme Park for Scuba Divers and Snorkelers