October sees the end to the humpback whale season and the beginning of the turtle nesting season. Saying that, we continued to see humpback whales right throughout the month, all travelling southwards back to the Antarctic. Most of the whales were mothers with their calves travelling not far off shore but there were the occasional groups of adult males seen breaching and slapping their tails, showing off their enormous power.
Male loggerhead turtles were out and about, looking for suitable females to mate with. Most of the loggerhead turtle sightings this month were males but we did see a couple of females sleeping under ledges at various reefs.
Gogo’s produced some wonderful dives this month. It is a really rich reef with wonderful corals and lots of fish life. One dive in particular stood out, the sea was a bit choppy and the visibility was only around 12-14m but the sightings were great. During that one dive we saw a big black round ribbon tail ray resting on the sand, potato bass, marbled electric ray, two remora and seven turtles! Yes, seven turtles in total – there were two loggerheads, one hawksbill and four green turtles!
Another memorable dive at Gogo’s was toward the end of the month where we got the opportunity to sit and watch a grey reef shark that was hovering, facing into the current, surrounded by humpback snappers and blue banded snappers. It would have made the most wonderful photograph but of course none of us had cameras! We watched as it circled a few times and then swam away. Then we saw a big ball of sea pike (pick handle barracuda) just ahead of us as we began our ascent. We watched them circling below us for the full three minute safety stop.
Aerial is a lovely shallow dive where you never know what to expect. Sometimes you get spoilt with sightings of big rays and turtles sleeping in the various potholes and caves on the reef and sometimes you spend the whole dive looking for little critters. This month has seen both the big and the small. The big boys have included two honeycomb moray eels sitting together under one of the ledges, getting cleaned by a host of cleaner shrimp and coral banded shrimps; a big loggerhead female sleeping in one of the potholes; a hawksbill turtle munching away on the sponges on the reef and some big sea pike that seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere but that were looking at us intently before we paid them any attention and once spotted darted off out of sight. There were some very special little critters this month including an orange orang-utan crab sitting in a white soft coral, a ghost pipefish, a baby octopus, an oscillated snake eel and a golden moray eel.
The month ended on a spectacular note, the north easterly was blowing and the sea was choppy but we had the most wonderful Ocean Experience. It was Barbara’s birthday and wow was she spoilt. There were groups of humpback whales all over the ocean. We were watching one group rolling around on their backs, slapping their tails and breaching, when Clive saw something in the water. It turned out to be a pair of loggerhead turtles mating! We were all very lucky to be able to witness this as it is not often that you get the chance to see turtles mating. A short while later Peter spotted something grey in the water - it was a leatherback turtle! These turtles are not often seen in the water as they do not live on the shallow coral reefs but in the open ocean at depths of up to 1000m - a very special sighting indeed! On the boat ride home we watched a baby humpback whale breaching over and over again, as it swam alongside its mother. It breached eight times in a row, clearly having a whale of a time. Barbara’s birthday present was not finished yet though. That evening she and husband Peter watched a leatherback turtle laying her eggs on the beach. It was Barbara’s birthday and Peter’s life long wish to see a leatherback laying her eggs, so both of them really had a special day.
Congratulations to the following divers:
For completing their Discover Scuba Diving Courses
For completing the pool session of her Discover Scuba Diving Course
Unfortunately the sea conditions were too rough to complete the sea dive - not to worry, see you next time Justine!
For completing his Bubblemaker Course
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Samantha, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team