December was wonderful with fantastic weather and sea conditions and lots of fun with familiar faces, as well as new families who came to join us over this festive season.
Most days were hot and sunny with relatively calm seas and very few windy days; the water temperature went from 23° Celsius at the beginning of the month to a warmer 25° C by the end of the month. Visibility ranged from about 15 m – 25 m throughout the month.
As I am sure you are all wondering, yes, turtle season continued to delight! There were many more sightings of loggerhead and leatherback female turtles laying their eggs at night on the beach. Guests who were privileged to experience this were amazed at what an exhausting process the females endure. The baby hatchlings should start to appear by next month.
Leopard sharks were seen at Elusive this month on two different occasions. During one of the dives, an inquisitive leopard shark swam right up to the divers then circled them for a bit before swimming off into the distance… what an amazing sighting it was. Honeycomb moray eels were seen on most of the dives at this particular reef as they like hiding out under all the ledges on this reef. A loggerhead turtle was seen resting under a ledge before she slowly swam out towards the divers and off into the distance. Stingrays are often found relaxing on the sand near the reef, and there were many ray sightings this month including blue-spotted rays, a dragon ray, a big honeycomb stingray and a small porcupine ray. Let’s not forget this reef has a large abundance of fish that school midwater. If there is a bit of current it can be quite spectacular as walls of yellow snappers, blue-banded snappers and slinger form amazing shapes in the water and will often completely surround the divers.
During a dive at Pineapple Reef, we saw three loggerhead turtles, an octopus and three huge sea pike. Whilst watching a scribbled pipefish, something caught my eye and on closer inspection I saw that it was a golden moray, not often seen, so I was really excited to see it.
On the 14th David and Anne were diving and as they love the smaller critters, this dive did not disappoint; they found a red-whip coral shrimp which is so tiny that you wouldn’t even know it was a shrimp if you didn’t see it move – extremely rare to see! They also saw a juvenile rockmover wrasse, pineapplefish, porcelain crabs and lots of nudibranchs. There have also been a lot of big rays at Pineapple this month. On one particular dive we saw a big black round ribbontail ray lying on the sand with a sharpnose stingray sitting right on top of it! The stingray was also huge and it covered half of the ribbontail ray’s body.
Big rays have actually been sighted on most of the reefs and during a dive at Aerial there were three round ribbontail rays, two of which were males following a female around the reef. The pair of harlequin shrimps was seen sitting with ‘their’ starfish in their cave at Aerial, along with a pineapplefish that doesn’t always want to be seen and often hides right at the back of the cave under a ledge.
The dolphins did not disappoint this month and there were numerous sightings of bottlenose dolphins as we travelled to and from dive sites. On the 5th, on the way to Gogo’s, we came across a huge pod of spinner dolphins that were swimming along slowly, which was great as the divers got to enjoy the view for a while as we travelled to the dive site.
Regal Reef is a wonderful dive site, but it is quite tricky to dive as it is shallow and because of its wonderful topography we cannot dive it unless the sea is really calm. It is like an underwater maze with pinnacles, gullies and swim-throughs – it really is spectacular. On the 15th, the weather was wonderful and the sea was flat, so we just had to go and dive at Regal! What a great dive: we saw a salt and pepper moray eel, honeycomb moray eels, two paperfish, four marbled electric rays, a blue spotted ribbontail ray, huge schools of chubs, some trumpet fish and to top it off… a regal angelfish.
We are all looking forward to some more wonderful diving in January.
Wishing you all the best for 2016!
Congratulations go to:
Peter and Sarah Mann
Michael and Chase Nugent
Derek, Justine and Hylton Lotter
For completing their PADI Discover scuba diving experiences
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Samantha, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team