Those of you that have been following our monthly newsletters will know that we have had a number of amazing sightings over the past few months – and just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the ocean surprised us yet again.
It seems as though some of the mother humpback whales like showing off their newborns as we saw quite a few along the coast. We came across a mom and her baby resting in the distance – which upon closer inspection turned out to be two adults and a tiny baby. Meanwhile further out to sea, more mature humpbacks were seen travelling in small groups. Alongside them, spinner dolphins enjoyed their company briefly before deciding that the boat was more fun to play with and they chased it, jumping and spinning out the water. Guests were absolutely thrilled by their acrobatics and speed.
Humpback whales weren’t only seen from the surface. As we were doing a safety stop after a wonderful dive on Gogo’s Reef, hovering at five metres and staring into the distance waiting for our three minutes to pass, a dark shadow suddenly appeared. At first I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this dark patch in the water but once I had ‘taken a step back’ I saw a massive humpback whale approaching us. While we were focusing on this wonderful creature I noticed a baby humpback swimming along with it. The baby was so well camouflaged that we almost missed it.
This month our reefs were teeming with life and gave us sightings difficult to forget. All sorts of amazing creatures were seen: scribbled pipefish resting on the reef, paperfish lodged between beautiful corals and potato bass playing together on the sand, changing their colours and spots as they chased each other around. Honeycomb moray eels lodged themselves between the crevices of the reef. We watched some coral rock cod as they hunted with a geometric moray eel, the rock cod hoping that the moray would flush something out of the holes so that he could get a quick snack. Scorpionfish come in all shapes and sizes and have great camouflage capabilities making them quite tricky to find while another great creature that blends in well with its surroundings is the stonefish, but which can sometimes be seen hiding amongst the rocky sections of the reef.
Quite a few rays decided it was would be fun to play hide and seek, especially the diamond rays and marbled electric rays that are so good at hiding under the sand. The best way to spot them is by looking for the faintest outline of their bodies in the sand, then looking for their eyes and their ‘breathing holes’ (which tend to give them away). Many blue-spotted rays were seen this month out in the open, resting under a small ledge or on top of the sand, making it very easy for us to spot. We watched in awe as a round ribbontail ray slowly swam past us, its wings rippling as it graciously glided through the water. Whilst diving on Pineapple Reef, we descended close to a honeycomb stingray; he wasn’t very happy and as we got closer he swam off like a rocket, leaving us in his ‘dust.’
Towards the end of the month, conditions were great, visibility was over 20 metres and the ocean started to warm up a little as spring slowly set in. With all this came some great diving. On the 22nd we had a group of German divers that pretty much got to see it all – from grey reef sharks circling the reef to honeycomb moray eels swimming along the sand towards the reef. Here another moray eel was relaxing and decided it was a good spot too, so he pushed the first moray out the way and squeezed himself next to his new friend – they both looked quite happy alongside one another. Throughout the dive we could hear the humpbacks singing to each other; they were so loud it was if they were right next to us. Two devil firefish hovered above the sand, swimming slowly along the bottom showing off their beautiful patterns and ‘wings.’ To top it off we found our now-famous frogfish on Elusive – except this time we saw not just one, but two! And just half a metre apart... I really hope they both stick around for us to share with you all as this is quite a rare sighting.
While nestled in the dunes having breakfast, the divers commented that their first dive was so great they weren’t sure their second dive would excite them as much – but it did! As we descended we spotted a massive octopus all flared up, making himself look bigger to ward off predators. He was very much out in the open as the hole he had chosen was a bit too small for him to hide in so he swam off to another bigger hole and then disappeared. As we drifted along the reef, a male loggerhead turtle greeted us and slowly swam towards us before turning around and heading to the surface for air. You have to be careful of these males this time of the year as they are on the lookout for females to mate with and sometimes can get quite amorous with the divers. Next to some rocks we spotted a false stonefish covered in sand, while further along the reef a green turtle was munching away at the reef not even slightly bothered by us, so we watched her for quite a while.
There is a tiny cave on Aerial Reef which is usually filled with cleaner shrimp, Durban dancer shrimp, banded boxer shrimp and many more. It is a great cleaning station for many fish; rock cod especially like this spot as well as potato bass, rays and turtles. However, one day we found two pineapplefish! One was very tiny at only half a centimetre in diameter while the other one was slightly bigger. The divers were extremely thrilled about this wonderful and rare experience.
On the morning of the 4th, while heading down to the beach, Clive spotted our first turtle tracks leading to where a loggerhead turtle had laid her eggs. This was quite unusual as they normally only start laying around mid-October. Towards the end of the month they found more turtle tracks leading to another egg nest.
As summer approaches we say goodbye to the humpback whales and say hello to the mother turtles.
Congratulations go to:
For completing her PADI Discover Scuba pool experience
For completing their PADI Discover Scuba diving experience
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Samantha, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team