Everyone was super excited for reef day, which dawned bright and sunny. The sea was gorgeously calm – perfect for snorkelling! We visited a place called “Something to See” to swim 30-metre transects – this was a way to get uniform samples of the reef species we saw. Finally, I felt that my fish identification skills were improving. Being able to name the creatures I saw was beyond satisfying!
A novel dive site was “The Cage”, an abandoned structure which used to hold a fish farm. This was in deeper water compared to our usual reefs, where bigger fish roamed. Marine creatures tend to flock to any kind of structure – the old cage was now acting as a “Fish Aggregation Device”, or FAD. A few sharks meandered about the seafloor far below, and schools of Atlantic Spadefish and African Pompano drifted by.
Lunch was a feast of leftovers, so I piled my plate high. I’d been swimming almost daily and I felt that was enough to justify trying a bit (or a lot) of everything. We’ve been exceptionally well-fed on this trip, although lack of dessert and sweet things like chocolate made us appreciate how convenient shops are in the UK!
Back in the water, we visited a reef mysteriously called “Bamboo”. According to our supervisor, this had been everyone’s favourite site. We jumped in with high expectations, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
This is one of the reefs with the most live coral cover, and it was by far the most complex. Asymmetric structures reached towards the surface, softened by gorgonians and sea plumes. Colourful parrotfish fed on the coral, while shoals of juvenile wrasse floated above. One of the more fragile corals, the staghorn, is found here, and a nursery nearby aims to help boost its abundance.
I didn’t want to get out of the water, but someone reminded me that we still had one last site to visit. This was the Wall, where the seabed suddenly falls away and shallow reef becomes deep ocean. We’d brought a few conch shells with us, and dropped them into the abyss. They floated eerily down, white against the blue water, and kept falling until they were lost from sight.
After a sunny boat trip back we had some much-needed free time. People called home, worked on their projects or just chilled in the sun.
This evening, we had a talk on marine symbiosis which was very well received. Everyone was fascinated by the interactions between creatures, especially those which we hadn’t viewed as ‘intelligent’ enough to work together. Check out this video of a fish and an eel hunting together – it’s worth it for the pretend paper eel alone! To make the day even better, it was someone’s birthday and we were provided with an enormous cake! Perfect for the sugar cravings we’d all been experiencing. What better way to spend your 21st than snorkelling in the Bahamas?