Stan and Erin have finally arrived in Laos – but for the last two weeks, they were travelling around the Philippines. The Philippines is a special part of the world called a biodiversity hotspot, where there are an incredible number of different species of animals and plants in one location. This is an area called the Coral Triangle, which includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands. This unique region consists of ocean areas that are home to more than 500 species of corals – wow! Can you find the Coral Triangle on a world map?
Coral reefs are truly amazing places. They are like the rainforests of the ocean, teeming with animal life that includes fish, sharks, turtles, crabs, shrimp, worms – and even the corals themselves. That’s right, corals are actually animals, although many look like beautiful plants. Corals are made up of many tiny animals called polyps that all live together in a colony. Corals are closely related to jellyfish and sea anemones, and the delicate, flower-like polyps make hard skeletons that form the branching, round, or table-like structures of coral reefs.
Erin did a lot of snorkeling and SCUBA diving on the trip – and Stan even came along for a bit! Unfortunately, a lot of the corals in many places had been damaged by Typhoon Hiayan (known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) that hit the Philippines last November. Fragile corals can also be broken by boat anchors and careless snorkelers or scuba divers. Corals are also in danger because of warming ocean temperatures and rising sea levels. These important homes for ocean creatures need special care and protection.
We met a lot of interesting animals on the coral reefs, like burrowing clams with blue lips, brightly colored Christmas tree worms, spiky lion fish, color-changing cuttle fish – and even a family of clownfish in a sea anemone! One of them was the teeniest tiniest clownfish we had ever seen, which could only mean one thing – we found Nemo! Stan thought the water was a bit too warm, but we both thought visiting the coral reef was a very special place. Why do you think coral reefs are important?