Cooling Off (July 2011)

by Barb Eller

It's July and it is really warm today. I had been doing some work in the yard that I have been putting off too long. What I really need now is a refreshing swim. Better than that is a shore dive out to the reef. Join me and we will see who is playing in my backyard.

The water is very warm and we will only be diving about 20 feet, so we won't need our wetsuits. We are over the seagrass now and, if we go slowly, we may see a starfish hidden by the long blades. Look, there is one over to your left—a pretty, red one. I wonder what he is doing so far in from the reef.

We're finally past the turtle grass and the water is getting deeper. We are over sand now and, as we move along, we see individual pieces of coral and sea fans. Another five minutes and we should be at the reef. The sun is so bright we can see clearly inside some of the openings of the coral. Look inside this coral over here, there must be at least eight squirrelfish. They are very shy and don't like to get near divers.

Here come a couple of French angelfish. You usually find them in pairs, slowly meandering around the reef. They aren't intimidated by divers or snorkelers. I have had them come within arm's length; they must see their reflections in my mask. Angelfish like to play in my bubbles; it must tickle when swimming through them.

As we swim over a very colorful section of reef, I notice two pairs of white hair-like things waving at me. I get closer and out comes a banded shrimp. Sorry, but it is going to take more than those two antennae to scare me away.

Here comes that damselfish again. Damsels are so territorial and are not afraid to tear into anyone who gets too close. They cultivate an algae garden that parrotfish and surgeonfish can't resist. Uh-oh, here comes trouble: a large school of blue tang is headed this way. Tang have learned that if they roam in a large group, they can swarm down and raid the damselfish's garden. The little damsel darts around nipping at as many as possible then just gives up. After another minute the tang move on to the next section.

Look at that fairy basslet with his head sticking out of a small hole in the coral. Males build nests in small holes. The males guard their eggs by hovering in front of the opening or staying just inside with their heads poking out, ready to nip anyone who gets too close.

It's time to head back toward the shore.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better after that dive. Next stop is the veranda to watch the sun set.
Until next time ...
Happy Bubbles

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