The boat launch in Tofo is an interesting concept, and not at all a common routine. The dive boats used are small inflatable RIBs which have to be heaved from the beach and out through the surf. This is not easy, and when the waves are high it can be a little nerve racking. It takes all the divers plus several staff members to turn the boat around and guide it through the breakers. Fortunately being of the female extraction I receive a slight get out clause, in the form of early entry into the RIB. The girls take the back and once floating, the captain will cry “ladies up” this is the cue to jump into the boat with as much dignity as possible. Again not easy. Several times I had a helpful bunk up from one of the dive centre staff. Graceful indeed! The big strong boys at the front would then have to guide the boat further until “everyone up”! Then it’s feet in foot-straps and hold on for dear life until we reach the dive site.
I don’t mean to set expectations too high, but Mozambique is beyond doubt the best diving I have ever done. Mind you, I also thought that about the Red Sea, and I will probably say the same about the next place I visit, but let’s just believe it for the time being.
My favourite animal to dive with on this trip was of course the Manta Rays. They are truly magnificent creatures, unbelievably graceful and are seriously full of wonder. Watching them glide effortlessly through the water is an experience I now long for over and over again. It was around my 3rd dive in Tofo I was lucky enough to have that opportunity.
On the descent, I had problems equalizing my ears so I was going down slowly. The guide Marc stayed close to me as I concentrated on squeezing my nose, swallowing and trying not to panic. Marc then pointed behind me, I turned round to see this awe-inspiring site. A Giant Manta, floating passed around a metre or so from my head looking as though it had no care in the world. Neither did I.
I scrambled for my camera and started shooting, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so beautiful.
The Manta stayed with us for a few moments then disappeared into the blue.
I had completely forgotten about my ear problems and by the time I remembered I had hit the 30M sea bed. Good work Manta.
Although Mantas are an incredible sight, it is not all about them in the Indian Ocean. There are plenty more wonderful beasts and beauties to behold.
First I would like to give the plankton a mention. I have an empathy with these creatures from when I did my dissertation. They are amazing. They all look like they could come from another world, I suppose they do in a way. And here, they are extremely abundant,which explains the occurrence of animals such as Manta Rays and Whalesharks who are primarily plankton feeders.
The plankton here are great fun on safety stops. They tumble, fly, spin, sliver and shine in the water column which provides endless entertainment. Unfortunately my little compact camera does not have the capacity to let me shoot them so you’ll have to use your imagination, or I’m sure Sir David Attenborough could help.
I always said that the coral reefs of the Red Sea definitely resemble the mesmerizing animation of Finding Nemo. With that in mind, the underwater ambiance of Tofo is similar to, i think, The Little Mermaid. There is a distinct abundance of plate corals where you could imagine the enchanting mermaids resting.
The reason for the bright colours vary. The main thing to remember is that each species has evolved in this way as it is what they require to survive in this habitat. It could be for camouflage, defense or to attract a mate. Whatever it is, it works. And as fish eyes work in a different way to our own, what we see is not always what the fish see. Colours change and light is filtered at depth so each fish has also evolved their eyes to suit the situation.
One theory is that the colours help the fish blend into the background of brightly coloured corals to avoid predation – although the big predators are usually colour blind. Another is the colours help the fish identify their own species in a crowded reef environment. Something which is always a necessity.
Nudibranchs are one of my favourite things to photograph. Firstly, they move very slowly, if at all so it’s quite easy, secondly they have extraordinary colouration and striking patterns, and thirdly they are pretty small and difficult to find so when you do, it is cause for celebration.
Nudibranchs are effectively sea slugs, which are Gastropod Molluscs.Through evolution they have lost their shells and formed defense mechanisms. Mostly in the form of toxins poisonous to predators, although not always fatal. Some toxins cause hypotension and some brachycardia which slows the heart beat so the slug can make a “not so” speedy getaway