Bowermaster's Adventures -- Snorkeling through the Maldives

Tuesday, 5 May 2009 08:59

Swimming along the coral edge of what transplanted marine biologist Anke Hofmeister calls her "home reef" the line dividing the shallows and deep blue is exact. To our left in the brightly sunlit coral, hundreds of shiny reef fish dart and feed; in the dark blue, just to our right, which descends straight down a dramatic hundred foot wall, swim the Maldivian big guys - jackfish, tuna and red snapper, each over one hundred pounds. An occasional spotted eagle ray elegantly flaps its way past in the dark blue below the surface of a calm Indian Ocean.

During a mile-long swim paralleling the beach we spy an incredibly beautiful and vast variety of wrasses, clown, surgeon and parrot fish. A dusky moray eel peeks out of its coral hideaway. A solitary hawksbill turtle flippers past. And a square-headed porcupine fish attempts to hide itself deep inside a rock crevice. As Anke dives to tickle an anemone hugged tight to the coral, a nasty titan triggerfish nips at her; they can be aggressive little buggers and when they bite literally take a chunk of flesh. The shallow, sandy floor running to the beach is heavy with gray-beige coral, colorful clams and even a few handsome sea cucumbers (black with red dots).

The relative health of the coral is somewhat remarkable because recent history here hasn't been particularly kind to it. In 1998, thanks to shifting ocean patterns associated with El Niño, sea temperatures rose above 32 degrees C for more than two weeks badly "bleaching" the coral (the killing of the symbiotic algae that lives within the coral and gives it color). Between seventy and ninety percent of all the reefs surrounding the Maldives 26 atolls are estimated to have died as a result. Slowly they are trying to come back. Read more....


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