March was an exciting month at Rocktail Beach Camp with some special sightings. Weather conditions were good for most part of the month with hot, sunny days and good sea conditions. We had two rainy periods where there was constant rain for about three to four days at a time. Luckily for us this type of rain does not affect the diving in our area because there are no rivers that can run into the sea and affect the visibility. Visibility averaged around 15-18 meters, with a few days where plankton in the water, as well as some surge, caused it to drop to around 8-10 meters. Water temperature sat at 27 degrees Celsius for nearly the whole month except for a couple of days where there were thermoclines which dropped the water temperature to 24 degrees.
For those of you who like the little critters Pineapple Reef is the pace to dive. This month we have consistently found whip coral gobies as well as tiny whip coral shrimp; scribbled pipefish, various types of porcelain crabs; various shrimps hiding in anemones, including T-bar, clown / partner shrimps, ornate partner shrimps and squat shrimps; paperfish; white capped prawn gobies with their partner shrimps and various nudibranchs. Anne Livingstone even found the tiniest mantis shrimp I have ever seen, it must have been about the size of her pinky finger!
One of the most exciting ‘critter’ finds of the month was that of a Spanish dancer (hexabranchus sanguineus) with emperor partner shrimps (periclimenes imperator) sitting on it! We have seen up to three different Spanish dancers at Elusive throughout the month. Spanish dancers are a type of nudibranch and usually when looking for nudibranchs you look for teeny tiny ones but these ones can get up to 40cm in length. The three at Elusive are all about 30cm in length. These nudibranchs are called Spanish dancers because of the way they look as they swim through the water, rippling and swirling the same way that the skirts of Spanish flamenco dancers swirl and twirl. These Spanish dancers are moving around the reef, as we keep finding them in different places but lucky for us they have been there the whole month, hope they stay for a bit longer.
Aerial reef is a shallow dive site perfect for those who have not dived in a while and for people trying diving for the first time. Michelle and Matt were on honeymoon and decided to spoil themselves with a dive. Matt had not dived in ten years and Michelle had never tried diving before, so Matt completed a refresher whilst Michelle did a PADI Discover Scuba Diving course. It was just the two of them on the dive, so they had the whole boat to themselves, can’t get more romantic than that! They had a magical dive and were spoilt with sightings of a hawksbill turtle, potato bass, two firefish, schools of blue banded snappers, three blue spotted kingfish that followed them down the reef, clownfish, nudibranch’s and a little golden moray eel, something that is not often seen by divers!
Another wonderful dive at Aerial pulled out all the stops to entertain the divers. They snorkeled with bottlenose dolphins before they even got to the reef. Then they were spoilt on the dive with sightings of a hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle, potato bass, a guitar fish and the dolphins came to join them on the dive as well. I guess the dolphins enjoyed swimming with the divers as much as the divers enjoyed swimming with them!
It is always exciting watching big rays and sharks and a dive at Elusive was certainly action packed. The dive had just begun and we watched a big sharpnose stingray swim past us at quite a pace, followed by a cobia. These fish are big and people often mistake them for small sharks. They are in fact fish and are sometimes seen with big rays and sharks. As we turned to one another to continue along the reef another smaller sharpnose ray swam past us, followed by a white tip reef shark! All this happened in about the first ten minutes of the dive. The rest of the dive was just as entertaining with sightings of a green turtle, huge schools of blue banded snappers, two huge honeycomb moray eels and a smaller blue spotted stingray.
Congratulations go to the following divers:
Kim Bromfield, Guilleume Fay, Francoise Maire, Henry Hoggarth, Michelle Jackson
For completing their Discover Scuba Diving Courses
For completing her Discover Scuba Pool Session
Megan van Schalkwyk, Lyne Steyn
For completing their Bubblemaker courses
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team
Report and images by Michelle Smith