May 25th, 2019
The weather was sunny with barely any wind, and after breakfast we hopped onto the boat to survey a protected site called the Aquarium. Upon arriving and getting into the water, I was struck by just the sheer amount of coral around me and all the fish that were swimming about. Our transect went smoothly and my group had time to explore. Almost immediately, I noticed all of herbivorous fish that were swimming about. I saw a school of blue tangs, a few stoplight parrotfish, and a new species that I haven’t mentioned in this blog…a Doctorfish! Doctorfish are a species of surgeonfish, so they have the caudal peduncle spine, and are usually grey with dark vertical stripes on its side. Doctorfish can also grow up to a foot in length. I also saw a few damselfish species, two of which were the Three Spot Damselfish and the Dusky Damselfish. Both, and all damselfish, are highly territorial and both of the individuals I saw of these species were actually chasing away blue tangs from their patch of reef. After exploring for a bit more, seeing a Yellow Stingray and a scorpionfish, we headed back to the boat to go and survey a site out of the protected area.
We actually had to vacate the first unprotected site we went to, due to the presence of a multitude of Moon Jellyfish, which can sting. Our 2nd site was a bit farther away and our survey went quite quickly as well. Although it was deeper at this site, it was a lot easier to work in due to having more separation from the coral. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to swim around the site due to an incoming storm that we were trying to avoid.
After lunch, we traveled beyond the reef crest (out of the atoll) and dove the fore reef (where the drop off is). The drop off is itself is surreal, a coral wall that drops off into just pure navy blue. It was just absolutely awe-inspiring. After having my breath taken away by the drop off, we swam to a nearby reef and observed some of the differences between this deeper water reef and the shallow water ones we had surveyed earlier. I saw bigger parrotfish and taller corals. There also seemed to be more variety of organisms, ranging from eels to a nurse shark.