Posts Tagged ‘snorkelling’

Making Friends

November 5th, 2012

Some of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had while snorkeling or diving have been with sea turtles.

They each seem to have very distinct personalities and generally extremely curious and playful. This seems to be true wherever I have encountered them (though off the coast of the UAE and Oman, the smaller turtles are generally skittish and won’t let you get too close, while in the Seychelles, they would often either ignore me completely or swim up to meet me).

I spotted this fabulous little guy swimming along the corals about 8 meters below the surface, off the coast of Grande Soeur (Big Sister) island in the Seychelles.

I swam down to meet it and together we circled back up to the surface, almost in a dance. I spent some 40 minutes or so swimming with this turtle, it seemingly as curious about me as I was about it.

More coming soon!

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Anemones

October 25th, 2012

These days, I seem to be increasingly turning my focus to underwater photography. Something about it makes it just so very attractive to me. Perhaps it is the challenge of shooting in this difficult environment, or perhaps the sense of wonder brought on by the alienness of the landscape and the life. And it must be said, the coastal waters of the UAE and Oman offer many opportunities for the adventurous.

Few species of life appear as alien as do anemones. These animals are named after the colorful terrestrial flower. They are carnivorous polyps which sting their prey – any fish which stray too close to their tentacles – with a potent neurotoxin.

These two closeups were taken some four to five meters below the surface about 10 minutes apart, during the course of a snorkeling session.

The first is a closeup of a type of anemone which is commonly home to clownfish (which, especially if you have kids, appear to have now been renamed “Nemo fish”). I love the purple tips.

I’m assuming these are a type of anemone as well. Any confirmation of this is welcome. These grow in massive domes reaching a meter or more in diameter.

More coming soon!

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Lion Fish

January 29th, 2011

Last month I went on a boat trip in Oman with a few friends. We took a dhow along the coast of the Mussandam peninsula, starting from the port in Dibba.

While snorkelling on this trip I came across three separate lion fish. Now, I’ve seen many lion fish before, but never quite like these. All the one’s I’d seen before would be peacefully floating about under an overhang, or hiding in a hole or some such.

But these three were out hunting. They were spread out, some 50 or more meters apart along a wall of coral, and swimming about in pursuit of schools of small fish.

Above a lion fish swims off in pursuit of rapidly disappearing small fish under the curious gaze of two of my buddies.

Above, a lion fish tries to close the deal. It was impressive to watch the lion fish in action. However, I was quite surprised at how slow a lion fish at full speed is. In the near 2 hours I spent in the water snorkelling near and around the hunting lion fish, I did not see a single charge ending successfully with a catch. I guess the bigger they are, the lazier they get… ;)

All pictures taken with my (very) old Fuji FinePix Z100 in an underwater case.

More coming soon!

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Dibba Underwater

October 29th, 2009

Before get on to the pictures from my Lebanon and India trips, I suppose I need to finish what I started.

As I’d previously mentioned, the water was so very crystal clear – and just the perfect temperature. The night we arrived, the moon was full and shining so very brightly. So brightly in fact, that you could see unaided 8 meters below the surface of the water.

Who could resist? So I grabbed my snorkelling gear and my diving torch and led my friends in two different snorkelling trips around the rocky point near to which we were camped.

Those night snorkelling sessions were among the most extraordinary snorkelling/diving sessions of my life. This was thanks in great part to the strong “fluorescence” which wasn’t overpowered by the moonlight. I understand this bioluminescence is due to microorganisms – plankton and such – which react to movement (of the water), such as when a human swims along, by lighting up.

This basically means that you end up swimming in a sea of stars. It’s an absolutely beautiful effect.

The fluorescence was so strong that you could spot someone swimming a fair distance away from the light his movement was giving off. We could also spot fish underwater in the same way.

That first night, we found the sea bed littered with crabs. They were out en masse, it seems, to find mates. We’re talking fairly large crabs, by the way. The majority measured some 30cms in diameter, at least. And a fair few were even bigger. Beautiful blues and yellows and other colours (as revealed by torchlight). I saw most at about some 6-9 meters below the surface, although there were a few in the shallows.

The Makeout Session

Crabs have very very distinct personalities, I discovered. Each crab I approached displayed a very different reaction. Some danced in circles around me, pincers raised, trying to run away but semi ready to fight if they had no choice. A small number stood their ground, and aggressively raised their pincers, opening and shutting them in warning. One even actively chased me away. I tested their reactions in other ways, too. For example, I placed the blade of my diving knife in the open pincer of a few, to see what they’d do. Most just got annoyed and moved away. One did absolutely nothing. Just stood there. Even after I tapped him on the nose with it. One snapped his pincer shut on the blade so very tightly I had to fight with it a fair bit to get him off. He only released my blade after I’d shaken him dizzyingly and dragged him along for a goodly number of minutes.

There must have been some crab-fights too, along the way, or some crab predator had himself a feast, for the next morning there were crab carcasses littering the sea floor, and crab limbs floating haphazardly about.

A carcass...

When I woke in the morning I was itching to get into the water. So I quickly snapped me a few shots and then got in the water. Some of my pals had woken by then and I took one of them with me.

We saw 5 sea turtles, 2 giant sting rays (one as long as me, and the other a bit smaller), loads of cuttlefish and squid and small and big fish.

It was an absolutely beautiful session lasting over 3 and a half hours. And the bonus was that I’d made it completely across the point I’d been wanting to for more than a year now.

Eagle Rock

After crossing what we dubbed Eagle Rock (just above) we broke past the point and into a wide open stretch of sea which many kilometers away led to the beautiful fjords of the Mussandam. The moment we turned the point we were assaulted by an incredibly strong current taking us out to sea, and we had to fight so very hard for every inch to go back the way we’d come until we crossed the point again.
View Larger Map

We started in that little bay at the bottom left, and made our way to the tip at the right corner of the satellite picture above.

The view beyond the point...

The sight we were greeted with on crossing the point was simply breath-taking. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate as well as I’d hoped in picture.

Ray the ray

A ray, about 9 meters down.

Squid!

Squid!

A turtle

A turtle. One of the ones we saw proved very playful and swum around with me a few turns until I ran out of air. The rest made a break for it when they spotted us. All were juveniles, no bigger than 50-60cm in diameter.

Fishies!

Itty bitty fish just below the surface.

Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming...

My friend, Luca, seen from 6 meters down, and being chased by a wall of tiny fishies. Now he’s a very tough cookie. A real-life He-Man. He swam over three and a half hours without fins (flippers) and wearing only those tiny swimming pool goggles, as opposed to a full mask and snorkel like me. And he fought the super-strong current like that. And won.

Puffy

A pufferfish. Seen about 9 meters down.

We even had the unique experience of witnessing two local snorkellers, a father and son, while they were spearfishing and trident fishing for their food.

The Catch

This was their catch when we’d caught up with them.

The squid they’d hunted would release blotches of ink every time they banged against the snorkeller trailing them, or against the other catches. The way back was peppered with strips of ink.

Inky

Some of the ink they left behind.

All pictures above taken with my old FinePix Z100 in its underwater housing. The Z100 is an ok point and shoot, but unfortunately its batteries are a nightmare – they run out of juice far too quickly.

More pictures coming very soon!

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