Rocktail Dive Report – April & May 2014

May 31, 2014 |  South Africa |  Maputaland |  Rocktail Beach Camp
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April was wonderful, with everyone making the most of the end of summer here at Rocktail – soaking up the sun, playing on the beach and enjoying some of the best diving conditions of the entire year.

Gogo’s Reef is always a wonderful place to dive, the reef itself is beautiful with ledges and overhangs covered in corals. Fishlife is prolific with schools of blue-banded snapper, humpback snapper, lemonfish, crescent-tail big eyes and sea pike. This month we were excited to see that a juvenile bat fish had made his home in one of the most beautiful cave areas on the reef.

One particular dive was really special as we got the opportunity to snorkel with bottlenose dolphins on our way to Gogo’s, then as we descended we saw a big honeycomb moray eel, a baby black ribbontail ray and then as we were swimming along we looked up and watched a 3 m wide manta ray glide gently past us.

The very next day we saw another big manta ray, this time at Yellowfin Drop. It was also gliding along mid-water and if we had not looked up we would not have seen it at all! There were two other manta ray sightings during the remainder of the month, one was seen floating along on the surface and the other was seen during a dive at Elusive.

Tyler and Lindsay completed a PADI Discover Scuba Diving course and had a wonderful dive at Aerial Reef. They saw a hawksbill turtle, an octopus out in the open swimming along the reef and a beautiful leopard shark lying on the sand, having a snooze. Two days later, we saw a leopard shark swimming along the surface and a few days after that we saw another leopard shark during a dive at Elusive. That particular dive was so busy, we saw three different green turtles, one hawksbill turtle, an ocellate snake eel, lots of scorpionfish, a few devil firefish, a huge school of blue-banded snappers and the manta ray.

Ocean experience trips have been great with lots of sightings of bottlenose dolphins and towards the end of the month we saw two humpback dolphins. These are very special to see as they are considered Endangered.

Some interesting news is that the Spanish dancers are still at Elusive. These are really big nudibranchs (about 35 cm in length) and very special to see as well. Graham Fenwick was the winner of a photographic competition and won himself and friend Allen Walker a dive holiday here at Rocktail. Both keen photographers, Allen had seen these Spanish dancers before and told us that they are in fact called Djibouti Giants. There is confusion in the scientific world as to whether these are in fact Spanish dancers or a different species of nudibranch. The Spanish dancer has six gills whereas Djibouti Giants only have four gills. You learn something new every day!

April ended on a sad and uncertain note. A dive at Pineapple Reef on the last day of the month started out with much excitement. The Potgieter, Brown, Williams and Waters families have been coming to dive at Rocktail for years now and everyone wanted to go and see their fishy friend Boris, the potato bass. Halfway down the reef we found him, but he was acting quite strangely. Instead of swimming across to say hello, he had his head down and was swimming at an awkward sideways angle. I thought perhaps he was trying to look at a fish inside one of the crevices on the reef. But then I saw him fall backwards and roll around on his back across the reef. I knew something was wrong. I tried to turn him over, so that he was swimming the right way up but he just rolled over onto his back again. We tried a few times to help him along, swimming with him, holding him upright to see if it would help, but each time we let go he seemed to battle to stay the right way up. We eventually left him to continue the dive, hoping that he had maybe just eaten something strange and needed a big burp and all would be fine! Unfortunately this was not the case; we dived there a few days later and saw Boris upside down under a ledge, he was still alive but not able to keep himself upright. Sadly on the 5th of May we found Boris dead under the same ledge.

We are all very sad to see Boris go but it is the cycle of life and everything has its time to go. In nature, the old or the sick have to make space for the young, healthy ones to take over, so now it is Cheeky’s turn to be the boss at Pineapple Reef.  

May produced some more great sightings, including another manta ray at Gogo’s, a tawny nurse shark at Pineapple Reef, a big guitarfish at Elusive and a big school of spinner dolphins. We saw the same two humpback dolphins that we saw in April on two more occasions during May, so it is nice to know that they are staying in the area. The batfish at Gogo’s now has a friend and the two of them seem happy as they are remaining in the same place.

The water temperature dropped down to 23° Celsius by the end of the month and we could start to feel a little chill in the air during the early mornings and evenings, signalling that winter is on its way. Winter is also an exciting time of year here at Rocktail, as it signals the arrival of the humpback whales – we can’t wait for next month to see the first whales of the season.

Congratulations go to the following divers:
Tyler Gardner and Lindsay Caldwell, Devon Brown
For completing their Discover Scuba Diving Courses
Luca Koch, the Freeman family, Jack Croskery, Otilie Water
For completing their Discover Scuba Pool Session
Tyga and Fynn Pollock, Ben Laughton
For completing their Bubblemaker courses
Gerhard Johnsen
For completing his Open Water course

Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team

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