HAPPY WORLD OCEANS DAY!!!
I wish I could have gone "all out" for World Oceans Day this year, written several posts and launched the 6th Oceanic Blog-A-Thon... but sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. In this case an interesting but intense new job, final English classes before my students' finals, and the beginning of the end of an MBA. Busy doesn't begin to cover my life at the moment! But I did manage to squeeze in a bit of time to put this together...
For World Oceans Day this year I'm going to share my 100th dive with I did about 6 weeks ago on the north face of Benidorm Island (one of my frequent dive spots). I've seen the seabeds around this island (and around other parts of the coast) change in the past 15 years since I've been diving, and not always for the better. The impact of human activities can be seen almost everywhere, resulting sometimes in a change of dominant species in an ecosystem.
|Good spot to jump in...|
Changes notwithstanding, Benidorm Island remains one of the best spots around here to go diving, and what better way to celebrate my 100th dive than with two wonderful friends, one of whom hadn't been "under" in 11 years! Fortunately for her, my other friend Peni is a scuba instructor and she gave her a "refresher" course and kept an eye out on Nadia throughout the dive and by the end Nadia felt like a fish back in the water!
|Peni, Nadia and Cris... three mermaids in wetsuits! :p|
|Peni checking that Nadia's good to go, with Benidorm in the background|
|Down we go!|
Here's one of my favourite shots of the dive, Nadia silhouetted against surface:
There was quite a bit of sea snow that day (a frequent occurrence when you dive in the Spring with the phytoplankton bloom), so I'm afraid the photos aren't that great, but anyhow, here we go!
It was a pretty good day for fish, including seeing in the water column several of these Yellowmouth barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis) cruising through schools of other fish:
It's a good thing we spotted those guys as we went down, 'cause when I'm "under" the island I'm usually concentrated on all the life hanging out around and under the rocks and tend to miss the big guys swimming above us. Like all these colourful wrasses (beige and brown Mediterranean rainbow wrasse Coris julis and green/purple/blue ornate or peacock wrasse Thalassoma pavo):
These guys are old friends, but I always love seeing their bright colours. And I was happy this fella decided to swim around slowly so I was able to get a decent picture for once! (they're usually a blur):
Then deeper down we came across this school of Striped red mullets (Mullus surmuletus), sifting through the particles on the bottom with their two "whiskers" in search of food:
Resting peacefully (until I showed up) on a rock was this massive (approx 40cm) Scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa).
Pity I forgot to use my flash (altough with all the sea snow it probably wouldn't have come out great) or you could have appreciated its bright orange-red colour! And don't let his scary appearance put you off, these guys are yummy!!!
Of course no dive around Alicante's coast would be complete without a school of these munching Salema (Sarpa salpa). More frequent around the beds of seagrass Posidonia oceanica, these guys are found almost everywhere!
But all these fishy fellows are the easy ones to spot. For the real hidden treasures you've got to keep your eyes peeled and look into nooks and crannies or anything that just might look a bit different. If you do you might be rewarded with a shy Octopus (Octopus vulgaris, star of my first fishy guessing game for WOD 3 years ago) hiding away in its cave under some rocks, patiently waiting for nightfall when it can go out in search of food (see video here).
Or these unique and fascinating bivalve mollusks the Fan mussels (or Nacras as we call them here, Pinna nobilis). They can grow to be up to a meter (3ft) tall, but good luck finding a big one nowadays, they've been fished to near extinction (they're currently a protected species)
Even harder to spot is anything belonging to the realm of the teeny-tiny or fragile... Like this elegant little white gorgonian Eunicella singularis.
Or these minute pink flatworms Prostheceraeus giesbrechtii.
I love the fact that I can spot these now! A few years ago it was like I was blind to them, always needed someone to point them out to me. Ditto with the nudibranchs, like this Tricolor Doris (Hypselodoris tricolor):
And hey! Fish can be tiny too! Like this little Black-faced blenny hanging out upside down in a rocky underhang:
You always need to look closely under and in those rocky grottos, they can also be full of the bright yellow encrusting anemonae (Parazoanthus axinellae):
All in all it was a fabulous dive, happy to be celebrating 100!
And what better way to do that than with two such amazing friends?! ;o)