Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Bay at Night

Last week GVI Seychelles staff and expedition members went for a night dive with the Underwater Centre. We are extremely lucky here at the Mahe expedition base in that we have one of the best reefs in the islands right on our doorstep. It is where we do all our SCUBA and scientific training and every dive brings an exciting new find. Many of the volunteers had asked what the bay looks like beneath the surface at night so we all decided to take a look.

Luckily the Underwater Centre situated in Beau Vallon was able to help us out and with the help of one of their high-speed boats 18 of us found ourselves in Baie Ternay and ready to take the plunge just as night was falling.

Diving at night is an exhilarating experience. Many of the reef fish normally observed during the day take cover amongst the coral where they hide from lurking predators. The parrotfish builds itself a protective bubble in which it spends the night out of harms way. Under the cover of darkness corals change shape as they extend their tentacles to trap microscopic particles drifting by in the current.

It is also during the evening that the weird and wonderful inhabitants of the reef become visible. Baie Ternay gave us a glimpse of some of these creatures as we stumbled upon a pair of Spanish Dancer nudibranchs crawling along the reef. Other highlights included a huge decorator crab, so called due to their peculiar habit of decorating their shells as a form of camouflage. This particular individual had a large piece of leather coral growing on his back. Several nocturnal eel species were seen and some of the EMs were fortunate to come face to face with a huge Marble ray.

As we waited on our safety stop everyone turned off their torches and waved their hands in the water, igniting the planktonic bioluminescence and creating a dazzling light display. It was the great way to end a fantastic dive and we are already looking forward to the next time and what further secrets the bay has to offer by night.