July has seen some fantastic diving with great sightings! Unique and diverse diving conditions throughout the month were experienced, coupled with fantastic visibility most of the time. We did experience a slight drop in water temperature as well as some large swells and strong currents.
Sprat City and Coral Gardens have been our most visited sites this month with the increasing winds of the south-east monsoon bringing heavy conditions to North's windward shores. Sprat City has been particularly lively with the seasonal sprats finally returning to their favourite reef, immediately changing the appearance of the reef, springing it into life. The exact reason for their seasonal visit is unknown but thought to be related to the dropping sea temperature and cold currents flowing nutrient-rich water over the reef. The sprats actually include four different fish species: hardy-head silversides, slender sweepers, naked fusiliers and a small species of barracuda. Once in the area, they number in the hundreds of thousands, staying close to the reef and in large schools for protection. Their arrival, in turn, attracts larger numbers of predators including the blue-fin kingfish, giant kingfish and southern pompanos which have been a real treat for divers this month.
A more occasional visitor has also been spotted this month, with one of the staff encountering a pair of large, grey reef sharks, swimming through the rocks at Aquarium on the island's south-east point. A near-threatened species, the grey reef shark is larger, almost two metres in size, and more robust, than the more commonly seen white-tip reef shark. The grey reef shark's aggressive nature allows it to dominate many other reef sharks despite its moderate size. It will display aggression by hunching its body, dropping its pectoral fins and thrashing its body side to side whilst swimming. Known as a threat display, this is rarely shown to divers or snorkellers unless provoked or cornered.
Turtles have also been seen in large numbers this month with a large green turtle being spotted at north-east point and the resident juvenile hawksbill turtles still regularly seen at Twin Anchors on Silhouette. One dive in particular brought an incredible encounter with the small turtle approaching the divers and inquisitively circling the group before proceeding to follow the divers for the next 15 minutes along the reef before surfacing for a fresh breath of air. It is clear to see why this individual has chosen Twin Anchors as its home as its favourite food of sea sponges and anemones are in rich supply on the healthy reef formed on the granite boulders.
July has also seen a drop in sea temperature with 26-27° C being the average temperature below 10 metres. These cooler seas bring increased chances of spotting the giant whale sharks on their annual visit to the Seychelles Archipelago. Sightings have already begun this month close to the main island of Mahe after spotted by a micro-light aircraft.
July has seen some heavy sea conditions with swells reaching in excess of four metres and wind gusts of up to 25 knots. This has meant some bumpy boat journeys, but carefully selected dive sites have ensured some fantastic dives. These strong winds have blown throughout July except for a two day period where all wind and waves dropped leaving a glass-like surface and crystal clear seas with over 30 metres visibility all around the island. According to locals, a calm period like this is unprecedented in the month of July. Needless to say we made the most of the conditions, encouraging all to jump in and join us for some unbeatable diving and snorkelling!