Little Surprise! July 2009

I love turtles, and tarpon and sharks. But they are not the only things in the ocean. Some really unique animals are very small.

A few days after Easter, I went diving in the morning. The waves were big for Akumal and that made the boat ride exciting! I was happily surprised when we jumped in the water because the visibility was excellent.

We chose to make the boat ride very short and picked a dive site that is in front of the Akumal Beach Resort. It was me and just one other diver that day. We were both excited to dive so we jumped off the boat and were under the blue in no time. I like to start my dives by dropping over the sand beside the reef, that way, if the divers need to adjust their buoyancy, they can touch the bottom with out disturbing the reef.

As we drifted down to the sand, I could see some plant in the distance. When we reached the bottom, I turned away form the reef and led my diver out over the sand. We passed over some garden eels. They are hard to point out because from a distance they look like grass, and then as you approach them they slowly withdraw into their small holes in the sand. They are like a mirage which you can see from a distance, but not up close! In the sand there were some plants. They are like lone little islands of life on the sand bar. Each has some small fish of animal that uses them to hide.

On one lone plant I saw something very special. I looked closer just to make sure, and there was a two inch black seahorse with his tail wrapped around the base of a plant. I motioned my diver over excitedly, and as he looked at this wonder, I could feel myself bouncing, almost dancing enthusiastically! We stared for a few minutes. And then the little seahorse moved his head around a branch and we got an even better view.

In my well over 1000 dives in Akumal, I have only ever seen three seahorses. Even as I write this I am still blown away that I found this one.

We made our way back to the reef, closely checking each rock for micro-life and also found an arrow crab, commonly called spider crabs because of their small delicate long legs. We also found some blue banded shrimp in an anemone. Their whole body is under an inch long. They are so small, they are almost transparent!

Dive tip: There are some amazing big animals in the ocean, but there are also lots of really cool small animals. Blue banded shrimp and arrow crabs/spider crabs like to hide out in small nooks and holes in rocks. I find them most commonly in dents in rocks that are out on the sand away from the reef. Those lone “islands of life” in the sand bar can be full of unique creatures. Its worth taking the time to check them out!

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