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Blog Home > Aaron Hunt and His Mission to Save Cayman's Reefs
Aaron Hunt and His Mission to Save Cayman's Reefs

Twenty years ago, Aaron Hunt wouldn’t have seen himself where he is now. Today he serves as an unlikely hero to some of the Cayman Islands’ most vulnerable animal species: coral. With a love of the sea and a lifetime of lessons under his belt, he is the founder of Eco Divers, a not-for-profit dive shop with a mission to reinvigorate the coral population.

We were recently able to sit down and chat with Aaron about his life and how he and Eco Divers are paving a new way for coral sustainability. 

Color Me Coral

Aaron grew up and spent much of his life in Sacramento, California, thousands of miles from any type of coral reef. He served in the Army from 1993 to 2001 as an M1A1 tank commander. After retiring from the military life, he studied computers in college, and eventually became a computer specialist and network systems administrator for a series of small businesses around the Sacramento area.

It was during this time that Aaron developed a fascination for coral—some might even call it an obsession. He built his own 500-gallon coral propagation system in his home. He lived with a beautiful, albeit small, coral reef in his living room, but he wanted to get even closer to the animals he had grown to love so much. The best way to do that? Scuba diving.

In 2006, Aaron took up scuba diving and began working as a part-time divemaster helping instructors teach classes at a local Sports Chalet, which is a sporting goods store found only in parts of the Western United States that went out of business a few years ago. (I took dive lessons at a Sports Chalet in Las Vegas when I was a kid.) Aaron watched the students he taught travel to exotic places for dive trips, and he wanted to do the same.

If you couldn’t tell already, Aaron isn’t the kind of guy to go halfway on anything. When he loves something—like the military, computers, or coral—he goes all in. His work with scuba wasn’t going to be any different. Not only did he want to travel to exotic places, he wanted to move to an exotic place, dive for a living, and work with coral.

“So I read every one of our travel guides,” Aaron said. “I knew I wanted to stay in the Caribbean, but one book seemed different than the others. It spoke of friendly people and quality of life, rich history of scuba, and a prosperous community.”

Where was this amazing place? You guessed it: Grand Cayman.

The Eco Divers Story

In 2009, Aaron made his move to Grand Cayman and began his new life. He became a dive instructor, able to teach classes on his own, and trained as a captain, all while remembering his love for coral.

In 2014, Aaron founded Eco Divers. Not your typical dive exploration group, Eco Divers is focused on “diving with a mission” to help the coral reefs around Grand Cayman.

Coral reefs are believed to be some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and the reefs around the Cayman Islands are no different. Coral reefs are home to hundreds of species of coral and other animals and are vulnerable to disease, bleaching, increases in ocean temperatures, and other threats. As a result, reefs in the Caribbean are suffering and a significant number of them are dying or already dead.

This is where the Eco Divers Reef Foundation team comes in. Over the past few years, they have been building spawning structures around Grand Cayman that help grow new coral species. These corals are then transplanted to existing reefs where they thrive and help redevelop the ecosystem.

The best part is: they’ve seen success—90 percent of their coral are surviving.

“In two years, we have seen an increase in coral abundance from three to seven every half kilometer to finding two hundred to two hundred and fifty,” Aaron said.

Get Involved

Anyone interested in helping the Eco Divers mission can do so when they visit Grand Cayman. They offer opportunities for individuals to see the coral spawn structures no matter what level of diver you are.

Beginners can participate in the Discovery Coral Diving program, a short lecture, and class that leads groups straight to one of the nursery sites. For more experienced divers, PADI offers a Coral Reef Renewal Distinctive Specialty course that is offered through Eco Divers. This enrolls divers in their volunteer effort and opens up new experiences for those wanting to help sustainable coral restoration.

If diving isn’t your thing, Eco Divers hosts fundraising events on a regular basis including pub quiz events.

Serving Others

Aaron Hunt has used his unique skills as a former soldier and network administrator to create a successful coral management foundation in Grand Cayman. In addition to helping the reefs, he is using his skills to give back to the community in other ways. Eco Divers is an active member of the Inspire Cayman project with a mission to help young Caymanians become leaders in Cayman’s dive industry.

“My experiences in the military, explaining computers to frustrated customers, growing and managing corals, and then working as an instructor have all formed into this unexpected, timely series of skills,” Aaron said. “I am truly blessed to live today with my lifetime of experiences. Instead, I get to apply all of these seemingly unconnected skills together and use them to return vitality to coral populations.”

If you’re interested in going on an Eco Divers dive exploration, visit their website, www.caymanecodivers.com or give them a call at 345-938-4904.

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