600-year-old coral colony found at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Waqadi Island

The discovery was made by scientists from The Red Sea Development Company

The discovery of the coral colony is set to transform Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline into one of the world’s most coveted sustainable tourism destinations. Photo: Saudi Press Agency
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A team of marine experts working in Saudi Arabia have discovered a 10-metre-high coral colony estimated to be more than 600 years old.

The find was made south of the kingdom’s Al-Waqadi Island by scientists and environmentalists working for The Red Sea Development Company.

It’s the first discovery of its kind in the Red Sea, according to the research team. They measured the size and number of rings on the colony, while taking into account the presence of submerged redwood trees, in order to determine its age, the team told the Saudi Press Agency.

The coral size, number of rings and the presence of giant redwood trees means the colony has likely been in the site at the Red Sea for more than six centuries. Photo: Saudi Press Agency

Now, scientists working on the project will use the colony to find out more about how the coral reefs in the region have developed over the years. They will also be able to gauge how the ocean temperature has changed.

A habitat for a huge number of fish and marine life, the coral colony is further proof of the beauty and untouched marine life on Al-Waqadi Island, said The Red Sea Development Company.

Uncovering a giant coral sanctuary is an important find at a time when much of the world’s coral is being affected by coral bleaching. Largely caused by rising water temperatures, bleaching is a result of a warming planet, pollution and extremely low tides.

What is The Red Sea Development Company doing in Saudi Arabia?

Al-Wadaqi Island, where the coral colony was found, lies to the west of The Red Sea Development Company’s project site.

The development is set to transform Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline into one of the world’s most coveted sustainable tourism destinations.

Located between the coastal cities of Umluj and Al Wajh, the site spans about 30,000 square kilometres, encompassing a natural archipelago of pristine islands and a vast desert backdrop that's filled with mountain peaks, archaeological treasures and even a dormant volcano. The region will be home to luxury resorts and hotels, touted to rival those in Dubai or the Maldives.

The entire project has been designed with a strong focus on culture and conservation, and a commitment to preserving and enhancing the diversity levels found in this coastal slice of Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to the Saudi Press Agency, The Red Sea Development Company said it will focus on enhancing the coral reefs and their surrounding environment, in an effort to increase the ecological diversity in the Red Sea.

Tackling overfishing and marine pollution is also on the agenda for the company, which plans to work closely with local communities in the region to help preserve the surrounding oceans.

Updated: September 08, 2021, 8:01 AM