15 Virtual Coral Reef Experiences & 5 Ways to Help Conservationists
While staying home due to Covid-19, we’ve found ourselves watching just about anything and everything. This includes totally random shows about coral reefs, (which have us reminiscing on our Aruba snorkeling adventures!). With the ever-present looming climate change and coral bleaching – watching these virtual coral reef explorations is not just for kids. They’ve totally changed how we view the oceans that we’ve been fortunate enough to get to explore!
Why It’s So Important To Explore Coral Reefs (Even If Only Virtually)
First and foremost – it’s important to watch these documentaries simply to feel connected to these vanishing, and incredibly important biomes. There comes a point when things start disappearing that they may not be able to come back. That’s problematic for a bunch of reasons – but mainly because biodiversity keeps our entire planet healthy and strong. How are these companies getting people to notice that the coral reefs are dying?
- Creating visually stunning and impactful documentaries.
- Dispersing them for free. (We watch them and feel connected & invested in our planet’s wellbeing.)
- Open discussions for small actionable steps that the average person can take.
The second reason is that it’s wholesome, enriching entertainment. Instead of watching the news, or listening to a murder podcast – let your mind take a break from this crazy year! These documentaries and virtual reality explorations cover remote regions like Palau in the Pacific Ocean and home in the United States!
Free Virtual Reality Coral Reef Explorations
Exploring virtual reality, in general, doesn’t really require all the gear that virtual reality used to. If you want to explore at your own pace, you have free options available!
There are some really great YouTube videos out there for virtual coral reef documentaries! The higher quality ones are usually apart of a series created by a larger company. Promotional materials to get donations for reef preservation or to raise awareness. Since underwater videography has come such a long way – the stunning videography is well worth watching!
We didn’t know this but the great barrier reef off of Australia’s coast is so big – it can be seen from space. This documentary sponsored by ABC explores how the 8,000-year-old Great Barrier Reef is dying from our generation’s pollution. One of our biggest takeaways is that the reefs are only 33 years away from being completed destroyed. 33 years is before we’re dead and gone most likely and that’s incredibly terrifying.
PBS was the first network many of us watched on VHS in grade school classrooms. The teacher rolled out TV on a stand, popped in whatever grainy VHS we were going to watch for the day – and everyone got so excited not to have to take notes. Even though PBS is nostalgic, there virtual coral reef exploration is anything but old school.
This virtual coral reef documentary explores Palau – a small island in the Pacific Ocean. Not typically an area where we think about going snorkeling or scuba diving, but this region deserves so much more attention than its getting!
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a treasure trove of virtual coral reef and oceanic exploration. The NAOO protects more than 600,000 square miles of America’s oceans and Great Lakes, and they get great videos while doing it!
Their mission in creating these videos is to deepen the public’s knowledge of the importance of America’s waters. Click here for their 5-year conservation strategy! Their 4 major virtual reality 360-degree views showcase sea turtles in Hawaii, sea lions in kelp forests, shipwrecks in Thunder Bay, and the coral reefs of the Florida Keys!
This 360-degree virtual reality experience takes you deep beneath the waves in a state of the art submersible to the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is a coral base ecosystem covering a 1400 mile expanse, and encompassing 400 different types of coral, 1500 species of fish, and over 4000 species of mollusks. (Random I know – but mollusks are incredibly important!)
Random Note: This virtual reality experience is not available in Safari.
Did you ever use to get national geographic magazines? Those were some of our favorites as kids because they were so colorful and the Internet was worthless with ‘dial-up’. You could wait and basically read an entire National Geographic magazine before accessing a website? Since most people no longer have to wait – National Geographic produced a stunning documentary about the ocean, including coral reefs. Just like everything they do – it’s impressive and worth a watch!
This entire documentary is now free on YouTube! You can watch on Netlix well.
This is actually a Netflix documentary series but they made it free to the public! Exploring all that our oceans have to offer – carefully narrated by a British guy – as all soothing nature-based documentaries should be. We haven’t watched this whole one yet – but we’ll finish it soon!
Netflix Coral Reef Documentaries
There are so many documentaries about the ocean on Netflix – you probably couldn’t even watch them all in a marathon weekend. The cinematography on these is incredible and makes them all worth watching. Not to mention that watching these virtual coral reef documentaries just makes it easy to want to donate to their causes. (If you didn’t know – that’s why companies invest in these!)
Not specifically about coral reefs, but the kelp forests are an adjacent and equally important part of preserving oceanic biodiversity. This documentary is about a filmmaker cultivating a friendship with an octopus. Yes… An octopus. If you didn’t know octopi (the plural of octopus lol), are highly intelligent, so it’s only natural we make friends with them!
One of the best things about David Attenborough is the inherent wisdom that 93 years of traveling the world gives a person. You can’t help but respect and admire Attenborough’s take on the world and how it’s changed with human impact. Most documentaries focus on the devastation – but seeing how hopeful he is for the future is a bright light for future generations. Watch the trailer here.
The New York Times also did an incredible review that you can read more of here!
‘No ocean – no life.’ – Dr. Sylvia Earle.
The message is simple but profound. After thousands of research hours exploring our worlds oceans – Dr. Sylvia Earle’s award winning documentary empowers future generations to take on saving the oceans. Her exploration over 60 years of overfishing, climate change and the effects of pollution are wrapped up in one amazing movie.
Chasing Coral is just as it sounds – one long movie about corals. The beauty of corals can’t be denied – but this film shows the before and after effects of pollution. One of the other things we love about this film is that they show how hard it is to study the corals. It made us appreciate all of the hard work that all of these videographers go through! Aside from getting great reviews – we know it’s good because it won a Sundance Film Festival Award!
Narrated by the famous David Attenborough – it’s the same guy that helped create the amazing 3D virtual reality dive from above! This film is stunning in it’s videography in general – but the soundtrack is really what makes it in the end? Hans Zimmer created a completely original music score for this film and that’s what I’m most excited to see!
Kids Movies About Coral Reefs
The more kids love the ocean – the more they design a lifestyle that protects the reefs! Little situations are much easier to teach when you have a reference point like these kids’ movies. Practical ideas like reef-safe sunscreen, transitioning away from plastic products, being reusable, and supporting local businesses- these are all things that can be teaching moments. (Made much easier by the idea that we’re saving Nemo!)
If there ever was an OG movie to make kids fall in love with coral reefs – this was it. Not exactly educational but such a great movie!! It was the first time we understood that there were colorful fish in the ocean, deep underwater caves, etc. The Little Mermaid II is just a continuation of the story and really great for teaching kids about artic water environments!! (Also – if you’re an adult and you miss the ocean- there’s nothing wrong with having a little nostalgic mermaid night!)
Finding Nemo was wildly successful and we can literally sing the ‘P, Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney’ song. If any movie made us love the ocean more than The Little Mermaid – these movies were it! They’re as much virtual coral reef exploration as any kid can really understand! Not only was Finding Nemo an awesome movie, but Finding Dory was also just as cute. Dory’s character and voice totally made that movie and we still watch them both sometimes. (But with wine because we’re adults lol..)
Probably the most realistic virtual coral reef explorations for kids! Deep Sea is actually a 3D Imax deep sea immersion experience! The best part – Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet narrarate the entire thing. Talk about a soothing experience?? If you want to watch something mind numbing and totally relaxing? This is your movie!
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Watch On Amazon Prime (Free With Amazon Prime Subscription)
Where Can You Donate To save Coral Reefs (Time or Money)
After reading an article from GreatBarrierReef.org – we’ve realized that getting involved in saving the ocean’s biodiversity comes in many forms. Your contribution doesn’t have to be monetary. (Although those donations help conservationists too!) There are 5 main ways that you can contribute to save the coral reefs.
- Spreading Awareness
- Volunteering Your Time for Fundraising
- Lifestyle Changes (Using less plastic is a free habit!!)
- Participating in Charity Events
- Direct Donations
Have you ever run a marathon? If so you know that it takes a ton of volunteers on the sidelines to make a marathon run smoothly. We ran the Derby half marathon two years ago and it benefitted so many charities here in Lousiville! Since we’ve never run one before, we didn’t realize how many people would be out passing out water, orange slices, and helping with first aid. This is a great opportunity to help for free!
Participating in Charity Events
If you want to take a more active role in a marathon, a paddleboarding group day, or have a bake sale – these are great way’s to give back while also having a fun memory of your day! Here are a few options for fun charity events:
- Surfrider Foundation – They put on a film festival and deliver baskets of goodies to enjoy while you watch movies.
- Oceana – Internationally this group hosts star-studded events to help raise awareness about the oceans! If you have a larger donation budget – this is where we suggest focusing your efforts.
- Project Aware – Simply raising awareness is the main goal of this company. They seek to help everyone understand the level of degradation through dive trips to help clean up the ocean floors. This company is doing an incredible job with local outreach to help communities directly on the beaches help understand their impact!
There are so many ways to donate large or small. Charity doesn’t mean you have to buy a $2500 ticket to a charity event to make an impact. – Not to mention it’s a tax write off if you do!
- Sea Legacy – In a digital world it’s more important than ever to have stand-out imagery and videography. The sea legacy gets up close and showcases the fights worth saving!
- Coral Reef Alliance – This is one of our favorite organizations working in coral reef conservation. They take a modern approach by not asking the world to make a change necessarily – but by focusing on what they can do to help the coral reefs adapt to an ever-changing climate. It’s not easy to get people to change when they profit from a $375 billion dollar fishing industry – so they go to the corals.
- Coral Restoration Foundation – Remember the big BP oil spill in the Gulf a few years ago? It’s still making waves and impacting the area. The Coral Restoration Foundation is actively working to grow a diverse crop of coral and replant them in damaged coral reefs of Key Large Florida!
If you love the idea of spending an afternoon relaxing, these virtual coral reef experiences are a perfect getaway. (And yes that does include the Disney and Pixar movies!) Save this article and come back later with popcorn!!