What an amazing start to the week on Lady Elliot Island. The weather has been absolutely perfect with the sun out and low winds. These conditions allowed for an absolutely fantastic afternoon reefwalk. The 4:15pm reefwalk is usually the most spectacular as many of the animals emerge from their shelter within the coral and this walk certainly didn’t disappoint. As the tour group took their first few steps into the water along the edge of channel one everyone was amazed by the abundance and variety of sea cucumbers on the sandy trails. As we walked further out guests learnt all about Clams (Tridacna spp) and how each individual clam has different colouration and patterning just like each person has different fingerprints. The group was also surprised to learn that these clams also have a mutually beneficial relationship with zooxanthellae, just like corals.
As we continued to venture further out along the reef flat we spotted a beautiful green Dollabella sea hare (Dollabella auricularia) which everyone loved, with many having never seen one before. While everyone was admiring the sea hare one of the guests had an unexpected encounter with an extremely territorial Brown damselfish (Pomacentrus opisthostigma) nipping at their reef shoes. These fish each have a particular area of the reef in which they graze on the algae and will chase away anything that enters their little garden area of turf. We quickly moved away from the Damselfishes’ territory and within metres both a Diadema sea urchin (Diadema savignyi) and a Decorator urchin (Mespilia globules) were spotted very close together. Continuing along the walk an Ass’s ear abalone (Haliotis asinine) was spotted on top of the coral which was quite an exciting sighting as these creatures are usually nocturnal and the majority of the guests have never seen these stunning animals. Many of the guests were surprised by the appearance of the abalone and mentioned that they had always considered an abalone would look similar to an oyster. On the way back in to shore some of the guests were lucky enough to spot both a Red eyed crab (Eriphia sebana) and a Mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) darting in and out of the coral. On the return walk many guests commented on the pristine nature of the reef and were impressed at how effective the Green Zone protection level is. Overall it was a fantastic day out on the reef flat with an abundance of different organisms to discover with the guest extremely pleased with the whole experience.
DIVE OF THE WEEK
What a way to end a spectacular week, despite the strong currents and rough conditions our divers were well rewarded with an almost perfect 18m visibility. The afternoon dive began at Anchor Bommie as we slowly drifted towards Three Pyramids we were approached by a large male Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). This amazing creature not only allowed our guests to get so close that they were able to remove some of the excess algae off his shell by giving him a light scratch but also get some amazing photographs of this beautiful creature. As we continued our dive drifting towards second reef our next encounter was even more incredible the group was lucky enough to find a large Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) hiding within one of the crevasses among our platform reef ready to pray on any unsuspecting prey passing by, for most of our divers this was a first time encounter with such a unique marine species. However our encounters did not stop there, further into the dive the group found a large sleeping Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta). The turtle had put its self into a trans-like state this is a very natural behavioral characteristic for sea turtles as it enables the species to stay on the bottom of the sea floor for approximately four hours getting a well deserved rest and allowing them to replenish their depleted stores of energy. The remainder of the dive was quite relaxed, while passing through the lush and diverse coral reef formations of second reef the group was able to witness some of the astonishing physiological and colour differentiations between many of our 1,500 species of reef fish. As the dive approached its end the group was luckily enough to have one more remarkable encounter the group was circled by a Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) peacefully hovering over the cleaning station quite a astounding way to end a truly amazing dive on a typical day on Lady Elliot Island.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:
Plenty of mantas whilst snorkelling and diving, and lots of nesting turtles!!