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Nudibranchs and the fabulous Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus)



Every good Dive Master/photographer has a problem. They must look after their clients while still taking pictures. They have no time to vary the depth of focus, no time to change camera settings; their dive clients must always come first. Colin Ogden of Amoray Diving at Sodwana Bay solved the problem by shooting nudibranchs, and his study of these amazing creatures has become a passion. I spent a spellbinding evening with him learning about them.

Nudibranchs come in brilliant colours, with fabulous markings, and they can vary in size from 1mm to 600mm. They are primarily carnivores and will eat hydroids and other species of nudibranchs but most of them feed on sponges; all of which are animals. A few will eat algae or seaweed. They feed where food is available so they frequent areas where coral growth is limited; even the cold Northern European waters harbour these colourful sea slugs and nudibranch hunting has become a global passion.

Nudibranch means exposed gills. Hexabranchus, for example, has six sets of exposed gills. All but two nudibranchs are called by their Latin names. The scientific community frowns on them being given common names so the study of these creatures is not for the faint-hearted.

Most of them breath using the exposed bunches of gills on their backs, and their sensual organs are contained in a pair of rhinophores, on the front of their heads. These look like horns. All are hermaphrodite, with both male and female sex organs, which are always on the right hand side, below the neck. These can be expelled to accommodate a large meal, and then re-ingested. All of them are poisonous to fish, and a single nudibranch can kill an entire aquarium full of fish if it becomes stressed and lets off a toxin. This occasionally benefits the palatable flatworm. He sometimes mimics the shape and rhinophores of the poisonous nudibranch, escaping predators and protecting himself.







There is even a species that farms algae in its gills.  It is long and thin and has many sets of gills or cerata which he uses to collect algae. You will sometimes find it spread out along the top of the reef on a sunny day, cerata exposed to catch the sun so the algae will grow faster.

The spectacular Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus) is one of the very few nudibranchs that goes by its common name. They grow up to 600mm long, so are clearly identifiable. “They are nocturnal animals in our waters, so we rarely spot them in Sodwana Bay. However, we found two on the point of mating on Seven Mile in broad daylight. They lined up neck to neck, and then they exchanged sperm, fertilising each other. After five or six days each lays a long egg ribbon in a continuous circle, and you can see these on the reef looking like soft rosettes.







They are normally pink, reddish or orange. These ribbons are preyed upon by other nudibranchs of the Favourinus family and the survivors hatch into tiny nudibranchs that look nothing like their imposing parents.

Other species lay egg ribbons that hatch into tiny veligers, which are a larval stage, and they can float around in the ocean, following currents for months on end. When they sense that there is a food source, they will descend onto the reef and metamorphose into small nudibranchs. The study of these creatures is still in its infancy, although some were described as early as the 1700s, but they are fascinating creatures, and there are still many unnamed and quite rare species in our waters. Once you know what you are looking for, you can find them almost everywhere.

Words: Jill Holloway

Pictures and technical data: Colin Ogden, Amoray Diving

Copyright Ocean Spirit 2017 –

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.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Veronica Cowley, a contestant in the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-large, chats to Veronica Cowley, a contestant in the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition. The See you at the Sea Festival was an online film festival created by young people, for young people.

Veronica’s film – Worse things Happen at Sea – can be seen here:

Sixth and final in a series of six videos about the competition. Watch the first video HERE with Jenn Sandiford – Youth Engagement Officer with the Your Shore Beach Rangers Project and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust – to find out more about the Competition. Each day this week will be sharing one video in which Jeff talks with the young contestants about their films and what inspired them.

For more information please visit:

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Peli proud to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution



We know Peli from its popular camera cases, but from discovery to distribution, Peli’s temperature-controlled packaging is now delivering COVID-19 vaccines all over Europe and the Middle East

With the pandemic recovery just underway, COVID-19 vaccines and therapies are rapidly becoming available for use and they must be safely distributed worldwide, within their required temperature range. Peli’s BioThermal™ division is providing temperature-controlled packaging to meet this critical moment, protecting these crucial payloads.

Peli’s innovative cold chain packaging has been trusted for nearly 20 years by pharmaceutical manufacturers to safely ship their life-saving products around the world. To meet the current challenge, they have adapted their existing products to provide deep frozen temperatures when required for the newly developed life sciences materials. Current and new offerings will ensure the cold chain is maintained throughout the vaccine or therapy’s journey, maximising efficacy and patient health.

“We know that pharmaceutical companies are in all phases of the development process for vaccines and therapeutics and working tirelessly to bring safe and effective drug products to market quickly,” said Greg Wheatley, Vice President of Worldwide New Product Development and Engineering at Peli BioThermal. “Our engineering team matched this urgency to ensure they have the correct temperature-controlled packaging to meet them where they’re at in drug development for the pandemic recovery, from discovery to distribution.”

Peli BioThermal’s deep frozen products use phase change material (PCM) and dry ice systems to provide frozen payload protection with durations from 72 hours to 144+ hours. Payload capacities range from 1 to 96 litres for parcel shippers and 140 to 1,686 litres for pallet shippers.

New deep-frozen solutions are ideal for short-term vaccine storage, redirect courier transport of vaccines from freezer farm hubs to immunisation locations and daily vaccine replenishment to remote and rural areas.

Peli BioThermal temperature-controlled packaging is currently being used to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, either directly or through global transportation providers, in Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the UK as well as in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, with more countries set to join the list as the pandemic recovery process rolls out.

To learn more about the wide range of deep frozen Peli BioThermal shippers, visit and for more information.

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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 to book your spot!

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