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BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS LAUNCHES 'BEYOND THE REEF'

2019-08-22T12:18:25-05:00 en-US Aug 22, 2019

Photo: Willy T, Credit: British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission

The BVI creates an artificial coral reef system to boost marine life and support the local community

TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, August  2019 – The British Virgin Islands will sink three disused airplanes (which have been creatively turned into the shape of sharks) and the islands’ old Willy T Ship into the ocean to create a diverse hub of marine life. This brainwave is the creation of Beyond the Reef, a unique group of collaborators, varying from underwater engineers to a metal sculptor, brought together by their passion for the ocean and its uncertain future. With the support of the local BVI community, Beyond the Reef is determined to make an artificial coral reef system that makes a difference, both to the marine life and to the local community through a charitable project.

The Beyond the Reef team has responsibly sourced three abandoned airplanes which will undergo a miraculous metamorphosis into sharks, lurking at the depths of the seabed, just waiting to be discovered by intrigued divers. These metal sharks will also be joined by the iconic old Willy T Ship, a famed floatingbar, which has always held a special place in the hearts of both locals and tourists alike.

Photo: Beyond the Reef is using old planes to boost the reef system, Credit BVI Tourist Board & Film Commission

The team has worked solidly over several months to strip the vessels of all hazardous materials and has created cavernous holes in their surfaces to create handy deep dive access. This exciting event, ‘sink week’, will take place in the first few weeks of August, to ensure that the vessels are securely sand-screwed down to the seabed.

The Beyond the Reef team has put these three plane wreckages and the former Willy T Ship, left behindfrom the devastation of Hurricane Irma, to good use rather than being disposed of in a costly and ecologically damaging way. In addition, these artistic installations will have a hugely positive impact on both locals and visitors by generating both increased tourism in the area and creating revenue for the local community.

The BVI dive companies have committed to asking each diver who explores these new dive sites to donate $5, which will go back into the community through an initiative that teaches local children to swim. This pledge will shed light on both the importance of swim safety as well as respect for the ocean and threats that loom over its future.

These donations are at the forefront of the passion driving the Beyond the Reef project forward. After discovering that less than 1/3 of children living in the BVI know how to swim, the Beyond the Reef team hopes to have every child swimming in the next 10 years.

Photo: Willy T, Credit BVI Tourist Board & Film Commission

“We believe that these artificial reefs, created from abandoned wreckages by an inspiring and passionate group of individuals will become a valuable tourism asset for the Territory and brings a fresh new look toour dive product,” said Rhodni A. Skelton, Deputy Director of Tourism. “I am ecstatic about the chosencharitable cause to which funds generated by the project will be directed, that of teaching BVI children to swim. This is not only an important skill for living in the British Virgin Islands but a foundational skill for any number of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in the marine sector.”

The British Virgin Islands are renowned for their faultless sailing conditions and Beyond the Reef’s new dive sites are set to put the islands on the map as a must-visit scuba diving destination, joining existing dive sites such as the notorious Kodiak Queen, another sustainable artificial reef which was sunk in 2017, andthe RMS Rhone, a British Royal Mail steamship, that sank in 1867.

British Virgin Islands (BVI):

The British Virgin Islands is an archipelago of 60 islands situated just east of Puerto Rico. Other nearby neighbours include the United States Virgin Islands, located to the immediate south-west of the BVI. Fifteen of the islands are inhabited with the main islands consisting of Tortola (with the capital Road Town), Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. www.bvitourism.com

More information on the BVI tour operators which offer these dive packages can be found here: www.bviscuba.org

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