As we descended on a dive on Yellowfin Reef at Rocktail Bay, we were greeted by a huge school of slinger, and in a matter of seconds the divers were surrounded by all these wonderful fish. Shortly afterwards a loggerhead turtle swam past us while a potato bass was being cleaned by blue-streaked cleaner wrasse; in the distance we saw lots of humpback snappers as well as slender baardman (tasselfish) relaxing on the sand… a typical dive at Rocktail!
This month was filled with mostly sunny days though towards the end of the month we received some much-needed rain. The sea conditions started off wonderfully, although as the wind picked up later through the month we saw the sea becoming slightly unsettled. This, however, never stopped us from having great underwater experiences.
As the weather changed, we experienced a few thermoclines on some of our dives with a maximum water temperature of 27° Celsius and minimum of 21° C, averaging 25° C throughout the month.
We had quite a few highlights this month – one of them being when Clive spotted two green turtles mating on the surface while we were diving on Gogo’s Reef. As we ascended, they were still close by and Clive directed us towards them. We were so fortunate to see them in action in the water as these turtles don’t normally mate (or lay their eggs) along our coastline.
On the 8th, as we were driving our guests back to camp along the beach, Clive saw tiny tracks in the sand so we stopped and followed them along the beach; we found hatchling loggerhead turtles making their way out of their nest down towards the sea. They have a long journey ahead ….
On the 10th of January, our first ragged-tooth shark sighting was recorded at Jack’s Playground whilst guests were snorkelling during an Ocean Experience outing. Later that day, Darryl went for a snorkel around Island Rock and saw two ragged-tooth sharks resting in their usual cave. These female sharks migrate up north when they are pregnant and spend their time here relaxing just above the sand behind the shelter of the reef during their gestation period. The warm waters help these sharks with their pregnancy before they head back south to a slightly chillier environment to give birth.
As the month went by, we checked up on the female ragged-tooth sharks that had made Island Rock their safe haven; before we knew it there were about 30 to 40 pregnant sharks enjoying the sheltered shallow reef. Divers also spotted them on a few dives on Pineapple Reef where a particularly inquisitive shark swam right past the divers; another was seen on Gogo’s Reef resting on the sand.
Guests were ecstatic during our Ocean Experience trips as not only did they get to snorkel above the ragged-tooth sharks, they swam with bottlenose dolphins too. Some pods gave us a great show including those who were attempting to mate as they swam around and around each other as if they were dancing.
Guests also saw very rare humpback dolphins jumping out of the waves with one guest lucky to snap a perfect photo. Whilst snorkelling on Jack’s Playground and Island Rock they saw a honeycomb moray eel swimming around, spotted eagle rays, huge schools of spadefish, ember parrotfish, guitarfish, emperor angelfish, sharpnose stingray, a porcupine ray without its tail and huge schools of fusiliers – on the 21st, guests saw a sailfish swim past the boat. Green and loggerhead turtle sightings were enjoyed by all whilst snorkelling and from the boat as the turtles came up for air.
Elusive Reef was full of life this month and divers were spoilt with amazing sightings of green turtles, female loggerhead turtles and a small hawksbill turtle munching on the sponges. On most dives, we saw round ribbontail rays, some swimming underneath the divers, whilst others were seen just relaxing on the sand. This reef is known for its ‘rainbow’ of blue-banded snappers, yellow snappers and flame goat fish which congregate and form a huge shoal across the reef – always so fascinating to watch as they slowly swim into the current. Clown triggerfish were seen on this reef, as well as seven big couta, honeycomb moray eels lying under a ledge, potato bass, Natal knifejaw, a big yellow hairy hermit crab, stonefish, scorpionfish, blue spotted rays, a school of sea pike, humpback snappers all over the middle of the reef, devil firefish under a ledge and a juvenile salt and pepper moray eel. On our safety stop, a huge school of scads and fusiliers swam past us.
Later on this month we found some smaller critters such as a paperfish, three partner shrimp (one male and two females) on an anemone and a juvenile devil firefish while a huge school of orange-spine surgeonfish swarmed the reef and in the distance a grey reef shark was spotted.
At Pineapple, divers are in awe of this beautiful reef that is covered in all sorts of soft and hard corals; here many different sea creatures call this reef their home such as the two bar anemonefish and domino fish that live in sea anemones along with squat shrimp, magnificent partner shrimp as well as porcelain crabs. Over the month we saw these fish with their new-borns swimming around their little home, huddling together when the divers came close or when a bigger fish swam past. Over-inquisitive potato bass greet the divers before chasing each other around the reef and in the distance a huge school of slinger hovers above the sand; female loggerheads rest on the reef and generally don’t mind the divers watching them. However, some prefer not to be bothered and swim slowly away into the distance. Honeycomb moray eels love this reef and can often be found here. Whitetip and grey reef sharks swim around in the distance and sometimes come closer to the reef where divers get to have a better look at them.
With so much coral around, many creatures and fish have lovely homes and hideouts including orangutan crab, paperfish, scribbled pipefish with eggs nearby and nudibranchs that travel along the coral reef in search of a suitable partner. On one particular dive, divers had many great sightings of round ribbontail rays, a sharpnose stingray, honeycomb moray eels, geometric moray eels, a green turtle and to top it off, a big pregnant ragged-tooth shark.
Upon ascending we could hear dolphins singing. We looked everywhere but we couldn’t see them, and then just as we started our safety stop two bottlenose dolphins swam right past us! But wait – it gets better… a few days later we dived on this beautiful reef again and were blown away. As we started our dive, slinger surrounded us, a ragged-tooth shark swam past us and then circled us and as we were watching the slow-moving shark, a manta ray was seen swimming in the opposite direction with about six remoras following it. We were in two minds as to what to follow, but eventually decided on the manta ray as it was swimming off into the distance. Later during the dive we saw three more raggies across the reef, a grey reef shark, potato bass – one hiding under a ledge – honeycomb moray eels, scribbled pipefish and a round ribbontail ray that was missing the long barb of his tail crossing paths with another raggie before deciding to swim around us. Wow, what a dive that was!
A few guests entered the diving world for the very first time when they decided to complete the PADI Discover Scuba diving experience. Once they had completed their theory and pool session they got to enjoy one of our lovely shallow reefs called Aerial. Our students were so excited when they entered the underwater realm and saw what it had to offer. Some of the fish our students saw were ember parrotfish, a round ribbontail ray that swam right past them and was then seen again later that dive resting in a pothole on the reef; on the sand blue-spotted ribbontail rays were seen resting while some were seen digging in the sand for nourishment. Loggerhead turtles were seen sleeping under a ledge while a hawksbill turtle was seen eating some sponges. Hidden under a ledge, small critters live and larger fish come to be cleaned by the cleaner shrimps and cleaner wrasse. Divers also came across some moray eels such as honeycomb moray eels, yellow-edged moray eels, geometric moray eels as well as a very rare golden moray eel. Schools of sea goldies lit up the reef and as the divers got closer they huddled together in the reef where the larger fish such as emperor angelfish, tomato rock cod, kingfish and longnose butterflyfish, along with so many more, stand out. Congratulations to you all for being such great divers!
A French diving group explored most of our reefs during their week-long stay Rocktail Camp. They were absolutely thrilled with all their sightings. The list is very long with all the great sightings they had but we have to share their highlights with you all. Their dive on Yellowfin Reef was like a racetrack as loads of rabbitfish darted and chased each other while the reef was surrounded by huge schools of slinger. Once the divers swam through the school of fish we saw a grey reef shark that swam around us for a while and honeycomb moray eels were often sighted on this reef. They also saw a green turtle and while following it they noticed a blue spotted ray quickly swimming away after taking fright from the turtle. Leatherback turtles were seen on two separate occasions from the boat just before the divers entered the water. During their dives over the week, they saw a guitarfish, potato bass, round ribbontail rays, paperfish, devil firefish, green turtles, big rubberlips, grey reef sharks and bottlenose dolphins on their way to a dive site – they also got to snorkel with them on the way back from a dive – huge schools of coachman and orange-spine surgeonfish while Coachman’s Ledge was covered in a bed of all sorts of starfish. They also saw a spotted eagle ray in the distance while doing their safety stop. Under a ledge, a sharpnose ray was resting next to a starry moray eel and later they saw a huge male loggerhead turtle, porcelain crabs, ragged-tooth sharks, titan triggerfish, painted crayfish, and trumpetfish along with many other beautiful fish – you need to come and see for yourself!
We are looking forward to February and some more wonderful diving.
Congratulations go to:
Lucille & Marion Van Der Merwe
Roland Bouquet For completing their PADI Discover scuba diving pool sessions
James, Michelle & Kristin Van Der Merwe
Thomas & Kerstin Pohl
For completing their PADI Discover scuba diving experiences
For completing their PADI Open Water scuba diving courses
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Samantha, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team