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Diving the Indian Ocean Reefs

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Parrot Fish… Did You Know?

The most colourful fish you’ll notice at on your first Indian Ocean dive may well be the spectacular turquoise-green, blue and pink male Ember Parrot Fish, (Scarus Riboviolaceus) which is by far the most common of the parrot fishes seen on our Indian Ocean reefs.

Male Ember Parrot fish

The males are gorgeous, and completely different from the juveniles and females.

Parrot fishes start life in the hard stag-horn corals and branching finger corals as insignificant little striped fish. The juvenile and semi-juvenile just look like any other small striped fish, with only the distinctive beak-like mouth to distinguish them from any other very young fish species.

Semi-Juvenile Ember Parrot Fish

They grow into nondescript rust grey and brown females who inconspicuously cruise across the reef crunching on the hard corals. As young fish they travel in groups, but as they get older and bigger, they feed alone.

Juvenile Ember Parrot Fish

As they grow their colouring develops, and they become more spectacular, with bigger bodies, richer fin outlines and the drab brown begins to bloom with new colour. There can only be one male in any area. One day, when the dominant male in an area dies, the largest female loses her mind and her drab colouring and turns into a peacock-coloured randy male who chases the drab brown females across the reef, mating indiscriminately.

As the male reaches terminal stage, his colouring begins to fade and he dies. We have seen huge terminal male Ember Parrot Fish in the sea-grass beds South of Stringer Reef at Sodwana Bay.

On the shallower reefs, you may be lucky enough to see the rare and beautiful Bridle Parrot (Scarus Frenatus) fish, and if you look carefully at the markings, you may be able to distinguish a Tricolour Parrot ( Scarus Tricolor) fish from a Christmas or Starry-Eyed (Calotomus carolinus) parrot fish, or spot an occasional Blue Moon Parrot ( Chlorurus Atrirunula) fish.

We have seen Blue Barred Parrot ( Scarus Ghobban) fish, and in deeper water, around and occasionally on the staghorn corals on the edge of 2 Mile Sodwana Bay, you might be lucky enough to see the richly coloured dark blue velvet of a female Hump Head Parrot ( Chlorurus Cyanascens) fish, or the ornate green and blue of the male Hump Head.

The Parrot fish family lives on the polyps and algae that make up the hard corals, and they graze continually. Living on hard corals is enormously time consuming, as the nutritious part of the polyp is minute. The parrot fishes are at least partly responsible for containing the growth of finger corals and branching corals.

They excrete a fine white powder which in part makes up most of the world’s powder white coral sand beaches – bio-sand production perhaps?

In Mauritius parrot fish are a delicacy, and the result has been a massive depletion in the variety of species near the main Island.

Under-age sex is the norm among the parrot fish here, with very juvenile females taking on the male role when they are too young. They are breeding a dwarf ember parrot fish, which has become quite prolific as it is too small to eat. I have often seen 8 inch little ember males haring after distinctly under-age females with lustful eyes.

On the outer Islands, the parrot fishes grow to normal size, as the subsistence fishermen cannot take their little boats out to the distant Islands. As the numbers of subsistence fishermen drops with the increase of wealth among the Mauritian population on the Island, perhaps we’ll see the exquisite parrot fish replaced on local menus by chicken.

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Words Jill Holloway

Pics David Holloway

Copyright Ocean Spirit

www.osdiving.com

Jill Holloway lives in Mauritius and at Sodwana Bay Isimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa. A PADI qualified Nitrox diver with over 1,500 dives, she is a passionate observer and preserver of the marine environment, and has a database of over 35,000 fish pics and hundreds of Gopro videos on fish behaviour, which she shares with her readers.

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Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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Competitions

This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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