Nudibranch Extravaganza At Night

On Saturday night James and I went out to do a afternoon and evening dive.  I was amazed at how many nudibranchs we saw on the first dive and also the size of a hermit crab we came across on the second.

 

When I started diving, I just enjoyed looking at the reef and didn’t really pay much attention to all the little details or macro-fauna.  I enjoyed kicking around and if I happened to spot and interesting looking fish, I was extremely happy.  As I’ve started diving more and more, I am now becoming aware of the “little things.”  Nudibranchs, extremely small fish, and flatworms have become my new underwater obsession.  Whenever my husband and I dive with other people he’ll ask me not to get tunnel vision and go “photo crazy” if I come across something tiny than I find to be exceptionally interesting.  James will tolerate my obsessive behavior but most people would probably get bored and not want to ever dive with me again!

 

Chromodoris Colemani Nudibranch

 

On this dive James had a friend along so I knew that I’d only be allowed 3-4 photos of a certain object before it’ll be time to press on.  Also, I would have to swim faster than usual in order to keep up with the group.  To my surprise, I saw at least 7 nudibranchs on the dive, and I am really bad at spotting them (unless it’s a Phyllidiella Pustulosa Nudibranch…those are everywhere!) so this was a really great experience for me!  I must have seen at least 4 Chromodoris colemani (some pictures didn’t turn out), a couple of  phyllidiella pustulosa, and 1 tambja morosa.

 

Chromodoris Colemani Nudibranch

 

A little after turning around, I was swimming over a rock and I noticed a tasseled scorpionfish pressed vertically against the side of the rock.  I guess he was waiting for something to swim below his mouth so he could attack from above – very clever!  He was really well blended in but his eyes were the distinctive feature that set him apart from everything ekse.  Our dive group got a good look at him and then it was back to continuing the dive.

 

 Close-Up Of The Tasseled Scorpionfish

 

Tasseled Scorpionfish Waiting For Dinner

 

As we came into the shallow near the entrance of Ark Dive, I spotted a rather large tambja morosa nudibranch.  I love this type so I was quick to take 3 photos and luckily they all turned out.  If I could have stayed longer to snap more photos I would have but James and his buddy were getting low on air…so…I restrained myself and we kicked back to the chain to make our safety stop.

 

Tambja Morosa Nudibranch

 

While making our surface interval, we prepped out set-ups for a night dive.  The sun hadn’t got down completely but we knew it’d be dark about halfway into our dive.  We tested out the batteries, chatted for a bit, and then went back into the water.  I was wearing a 7mm wetsuit (yep, I’m a total baby when it comes to being cold) so I was nice and warm but James and his buddy didn’t have as much exposure protection…BRRR!

 

Starfish

 

Linckia Starfish

 

About 15 minutes into the dive, James and his buddy signaled at me using their lights…they were both excited about something they were seeing!  I swam back to where they were and looking back at us was a HUGE hermit crab.  He must have been at least 8 inches in length.  After debriefing our dive, James told me that the crab was pre-occupied with cleaning his legs (or something to that effect) until James shined his light on him.  The hermit crab when turned to face James and then it became a starring contest.  Hermit crabs usually duck right into their shells once they’ve been spotted so I quickly snapped a picture.  Soon after that, the hermit started backing further into the large hole he had come out of and also started throwing up some sand (like we would loose track of him!).  Right when I was trying to get a third photo, he retracted into his shell so we decided to push on with our dive.

 

Huge Hermit Crab

 

While doing our safety stop at the chain, I always like to peer into the reef wall.  I normally find some pretty neat things to photograph and it’s a lot more fun than just hovering in the water.  This dive I spotted a hermit crab about the size of my fist and he was furiously moving about his legs (not sure why though).  I had to wedge my camera into the crevice to get the shots but he didn’t seem to care that I was getting fairly close.

 

 Hermit Crab Near The Chain

 

After making our surface while across the coral shelf we came to the location where there is a concrete slab in the water.  Along its underside I noticed some sort of hermit crab with tube worms growing on its shell.  I put my regulator back in and tried to descend a few feet to get some photos.  As a approached the tube worms retracted away from me but thankfully the hermit crab wasn’t shy.  He left me snap a few pictures before I decided I was ready to get out of the water.

 Hermit Crab With Tube Worms

 

Once again night diving was a thrill and I’ve learned the names for some new creature.  I have decided that I have so much fun at night, I will soon begin to teach others to enjoy it with me!