Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

UNDERCAMP

A lot of fun happens topside at the camp.

For me, a lot of fun happens beneath the camp too.

Take this piling for instance.
This is one fun piling.
We'll come back to it later.

The Mangrove Snapper kids were having fun hanging out around the dead crab trap under the camp.
When you are a juvenile snapper, "fun" means eating without getting eaten.
 This is not a ghost trap that keeps on catching, it's torn open and is a popular refuge for the snapper clan.

I grew up calling these fish,  "Mango Snappers".
When they are big and move out to the deeper reefs, they go by "Grey Snappers" ... which is a pretty boring name compared to the other options.
And of course, whatever your village calls them they are known as "Lutjanus griseus" to science chimps around the world.

The old trap is becoming a micro artificial reef with lots of ways in and out. The hydrozoans and algae coating it provide habitat and food for a host of small invertebrates that attract the smaller fish upon which the juvenile snappers feed.
At night, when the sharks move in, it's a place to tuck your snappery butt in... and hope for the best.

Beneath the camp, shafts of light pound down around the edge, but in the center, it's dark and cozy.
The snapper appreciate this and react accordingly to threats or perceived threats like me.
In to the light when they feel safe, back into the shadows when they don't.
On this day I was bearing shrimp, so my threat level was low.

Here we are back at that fun piling I mentioned at the beginning of this little swim.
This piling has been here a long time. It sits apart from the camp ... oh, maybe 6 meters out from the lee side. It's basically a boat hitching post.

The oysters have colonized it and silently, slowly, shove each other aside as they jockey for the best plankton catching position.

The coolest things happen around this life-crusty piece of wood. The last time I was here in 2013, a giant southern stingray was lying next to it. At a meter across and sporting a 25 cm stinger, they impress by simply being.

On this swim, I pulled up to the piling to pause while Raymie and crew launched a boat to go off spearfishing at another location.
Once they pulled away and it was safe to resume snorkeling, the most amazing thing happened.

Out of the gloom, a large southern stingray cruised my way flanked by two legal (33 inches) Cobia.
Cobia look pretty sharkalicious, but they are a bony fish, not part of the cartilaginous clan... like the ray they were following.
They like like to hang with rays, since the rays often stir up food that the speedy Cobia can snatch up.
Cobia are awesome fish that fight powerfully on the line and taste wonderful on the plate.


The fish flotilla cruised right by me, just a few feet from the camp where the boys had tried their luck spearfishing earlier ... with minimal results... not because they can't shoot straight, just a lack of big fish worth spearing.


Pretty funny that this would happen as they headed off to a new hunting spot.

The pinfish were pretty stoked that I brought shrimp to the party AND that the Cobia kept going past the camp.
Pinfish swarm beneath the camp eating anything and everything that gets tossed over ... chunks of fruit, a bit of bread, that hotdog nobody ate, and of course any fishing bait you dangle over the side.
They even nibbled on the sea loosened skin around my barnacle scraped toes.
I'm thinking that when the time comes, I'd like my ashes mixed (you can wear gloves kids) with some fishmeal, flour, and enough water to make dough balls, and then feed them to these pinfish. 

I like the idea of that better than just a quick ash dump into the ocean.
And I owe the pinfish ... I've impaled many of them on a hook fishing for something bigger.

They are pretty efficient recyclers after all, and there's no need to lock up good nutrients.
Just sayin' ...
This toadfish was here every day, but hard to photograph up close, because when I dove down for a closer view, he backed into his hollow log every time.
Pretty awesome toad abode.



After awhile, even I get waterlogged ... actually, the sun was just too low to make photography possible ... and a pair of medium (too small!!) fins were making my size 11's howl.

Even so, leaving the water is always a little bittersweet.
I guess, I still miss my dorsal fin...and gills.


I love this place and am so grateful for the generosity of family and friends that makes days like this possible.