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Resistance Is Futile: Taba’s ‘Alien’ Invasion



TabaStu 6While Taba’s unsuspecting tourists sizzle away in the sunshine, an insatiable predator prepares to strike. This undersea creature lies perfectly camouflaged, armed and extremely deadly. Fish lured into the ambush zone have no escape. Flexible jaws devour in a single, swift gulp. But this strange looking ‘alien’ poses no threat to divers. In fact, there’s no denying it, divers love Frogfish (Antennariidae), and Taba, in northern Egypt, is fast becoming the Red Sea’s top spot for encounters.

But what has initiated this increase in ‘alien’ activity, or is it all just a hoax? This definitely had the makings of an X-files mystery? The truth was out there somewhere, so I packed my bags bound for Taba Heights in Egypt. Dan, from Dive Holiday Designers, briefed me en- route: flight ETA – 4 hours; hotel transfer – 45 minutes; accommodation – Intercontinental Hotel;special equipment – Nikon DSLR.

Conditions at Taba are perfect for Froggie spotting. Underwater visibility averages 20 metres throughout the year, currents are virtually non-existent and the majority of dive sites are between 5 – 20 metres. Taba Heights also operates a one boat per site policy so divers aren’t crowding en mass, making the whole experience far more relaxed and enjoyable. A high standard of accommodation and a professionally run dive centre rounded off the facilities perfectly.

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There are even some nice shore diving sites where Froggie sightings are virtually guaranteed. At ‘Canyons’ I found 5 different Froggies on a single dive. Huw, the diving manager at Aqua Sport, even told stories of a monster green Froggie that planted itself on his chest during a PADI Advanced Course. This overly friendly Froggie had even been known to sit on a divers head. Huw said ‘It just seems to like divers’.

Stu 10TabaFroggies are extremely ugly looking fish but I’m sure this is all part of their game plan. The masters of stealth can mimic their surroundings by changing colour and texture in a matter of minutes growing lumps and bumps similar to the surface of corals or sponges. Passing fish often don’t see the danger until it’s too late. Divers also have a tough time spotting them, but then, that’s all part of the fun. Red Sea Waterworld’s General Manager had even reported sightings on their house reef. A dark brown Froggie had made its home on an upturned parasol that blew into the sea. My findings were becoming more bizarre each day!

Taba’s coastal waters are home to a number of different species of Froggies. But it’s difficult to tell them apart as there are so many variations in colours, shapes and sizes, even in the same family genus. Worldwide, there are around 46 different species. Sizes vary from a few centimetres up to a giant 40 centimetres. At the Radisson Reef (Shaab Gamila) I found a black 25cm Froggie sitting under a table coral and Katie, my dive buddy, spotted another small dark green 5cm Froggie just a few metres away. Andrew said there were two more Froggies sitting on an old fish trap in the sea grass at 10 metres. We had failed to spot them during our afternoon sortie. Male Froggies tend to be smaller than females and there is no differentiation in colours or patterns.

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Glassfish Shoals and pinnacles swathed in Anthias (the little orange fish – pseudanthias squamipinnis) are prime Froggie food. But the voracious feeder isn’t fussy; it will even eat its own kind! Froggies don’t have any teeth. Their prey is sucked in and swallowed whole.

Stu 9The Glassfish pinnacle at Farun Island is always full of sizeable Froggies. I found three big 20-30cm Froggies camouflaged amongst the coral heads. They are perfect subjects for photographers although it’s not always easy to get a ‘good’ picture. Nine times out of ten they are in a head down position facing towards the reef making it awkward for divers to get a good shot without breaking the fragile corals. Because they are so well camouflaged it’s also difficult to get a picture that looks anything but a lump of coral. The patterned Froggies are the worst. Even with the eye perfectly in focus it is difficult to tell that it’s a fish. I personally think mouth-open shots are the best. As an added bonus Tamer guided us back to the shallows and spotted a bright red 10cm Froggie in just 5 metres. My Froggie count was now nearing double figures in just 4 dives!

Froggies have a modified dorsal spine called a lure to attract prey. They use the lure or illiceum just like a fishing rod dangling bait on the end of a line. The shape of the esca or bait can resemble a worm, fish or crab; it will mimic whatever their prey normally eats. Taba’s Froggies all seem to have lures shaped like small fish. They jiggle it about enticing the little Glassfish or Anthias to come closer. This is why Frogfish are also known as Anglerfish.

Froggies aren’t exactly lively creatures. They don’t seem to move very far at all, normally staying in the same place or within a few metres for months on end. This makes the Dive Guides’ jobs nice and easy. They can impress punters with their fish-finding prowess by leading them straight to the Froggie time and time again. At ‘Maxwell’s’ there’s a 20cm purple Froggie that hasn’t moved for more than 2 months. It seems more than happy swaying about on a tube sponge picking off the odd passing fish.

Stu 11It’s very rare to see Froggies on the move unless they get agitated by divers or over-zealous photographers poking cameras and flashguns too close. They don’t have swim bladders so can’t swim like conventional fish. It’s more like a ‘walk’ using their modified pectoral fins as legs. For more rapid movement they use a form of jet propulsion, gulping in water and forcing it out from a small opening behind the gills. This produces forward thrust along the seabed.

My week long investigation was reaching an end. Most of Taba’s 17 dive sites had at least one or two resident Froggies. Although when I returned to Taba 2 months later I found that the big Farun Island Froggies had disappeared. All I could find was 2 bright green medium sized Froggies. I had no idea where they had gone or why they had moved. There was some talk that they had ended up in an Aquarium, but this was just a rumour. Maybe they had disappeared into the deep blue to reproduce? Not much is known about their mating habits other than it normally occurs at night. Unfortunately night diving is not permitted at Taba so no one can check out this theory.

This X-files mystery had revealed some startling facts. Taba’s Froggie army is definitely growing fast. I clocked up more than a dozen sightings in just 5 days, some with the most bizarre colours and patterns. There seems to be no set season and they can be spotted throughout the year. Divers should arm themselves with an underwater camera as soon as possible. The ‘alien’ invasion has begun – resistance is futile!

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.


Mares & SSI launch new promotion



SSI expands financial support to SSI Members worldwide. 

2020 has been an unusual and challenging year for the entire world, especially the diving and travel industry!  To weather the crisis, SSI immediately jumped into action to help Training Centers and Professionals around the world.  

In response to COVID-19, SSI launched the No Water, No Problem Campaign, put Final Exams online, and held hundreds of Webinars to train Professionals on how to use distance learning to teach the dry Specialties online. The FREE SCIENCE OF DIVING promotion resulted in SSI Training Centers worldwide register over 50,000 FREE DIGITAL KITS, funding more than $3.5 MILLION IN RETAIL VALUE. Additionally, SSI introduced an aggressive DOUBLE PRO REWARDS incentive to help SSI Professionals compensate 2020 Renewal Fees and reduce those for 2021. Currently, the WE WANT YOU Crossover promotion aims to fill the industry need for instructors and strengthen the entire SSI Professional community.

Now, in conjunction with Mares, SSI is launching the GO DIVING – PROTECT YOURSELF. OWN EQUIPMENT Promotion, which includes a FREE SSI EQUIPMENT TECHNIQUES DIGITAL KIT. This new campaign strives to motivate divers worldwide to go diving and buy equipment. Look for more information on this next retail support campaign within the next few days.

“These are just a few examples of how we have supported and are continuing to support our Training Centers, Professionals, and divers worldwide. To provide even more economic security and help in business recovery, WE WILL NOT INCREASE PRICES FOR 2021. While travel was restricted and some key resort areas completely locked down, SSI mainly focused on supporting domestic markets with retail-driven incentives. Now, in this next re-opening phase, we need to shift gear and assist resort markets that have no local diving community and are 100% dependent on the traveling diver. Therefore, SSI will grant certain special conditions and delayed payment options to specific resort markets which have been locked down for longer than six months or suffered from closed borders,” stated Guido Waetzig, SSI CEO.

Guido Waetzig, SSI CEO, explains further, “To financially support these needed investments which directly benefit SSI Members and to protect the health of our valuable members and staff, we will forego all 2021 Trade Shows over the next 12 months. Despite international uncertainty, every time we experience one of these events, the entire SSI Network emerges stronger and more resilient. Be assured, SSI is your trustful partner within the Diving Industry!”

For more information about SSI visit their website by clicking here.

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Photo Gallery: Shark Diving in The Bahamas



In our Gallery feature, we let the photos tell the story… Each Gallery showcases a selection of outstanding images on a chosen theme, taken by our Underwater Photography Editor Nick and Deputy Editor Caroline of Frogfish Photography. This time they look at Shark Diving in The Bahamas.

The Bahamas offers some of the very finest shark diving experiences in the world. The islands have protected sharks in their waters creating one of the first Shark Sanctuaries in the world. Several species of shark can be seen and photographed, with each island offering a different type of shark diving, making this destination the perfect place for a multi-island, multi-shark trip of a lifetime.

Great Hammerhead Shark diving in Bimini

Bull Sharks in Bimini

Tiger Shark off Grand Bahama

Oceanic Whitetip Shark off Cat Island

Nurse Shark off Abaco

Caribbean Reef Sharks off New Providence

Lemon Sharks off Grand Bahama

For more images from The Bahamas and around the world, visit the Frogfish Photography website by clicking here.

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