Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meet Our Neighbours on the Reef

There are days I think that we moved onto Papillon not to sail the seven seas, not to give Erik endless tinkering projects, not to spend family time - but to visit every coral reef on Earth.  We are reef peekers.  I feel no shame in that.

Erik and I used to do a lot of diving back in the day, but now we are snorkelers because it lets the kids get involved, and there is so much to see in those first twenty feet, anyway.  Now that Indy has joined the ranks of strong swimmers, it is all the easier.  Not that I didn't enjoy towing her along by her lifejacket strap or carrying her on my back.  But sometime over the past few months she made the switch from child to fish, just as Stylish did when we were starting out.  And now we are a well-oiled snorkeling machine.

From this... this, in a year.
We have seen healthy reefs and ruined reefs, enormous fish and tiny.  We carry the memories of the truly wild places, and keep chasing that high.  The sad fact is, there are a lot of dirty, nutrient-loaded, over-fished, half-dead reefs out there.  More than you would think.

But there are still good pockets, and you don't always have to sail days into the middle of nowhere to find them.  We spent ten days at Ilot Maitre, which is only a few miles from Noumea.  It is a heavily-travelled marine reserve, but, considering the city is a stone's throw away, it still has its charms.  So let me share a few of the things we have seen lately.

I love octopetes (octopi, octopuses - take your pick, they are all correct).  Stylish is our champion octopus spotter.  We watched this one crawl over a coral head.  Watch as his color changes, and he turns bumpy to blend with the coral.

Cuttlefish have that cool side-wave going on.  I can't resist them.  The ones we saw here were enormous - at least a foot long.

Erik saw a pair of twelve-foot Manta Rays in Fatu Hiva, and I have never quite gotten over my jealousy.  These stingrays are pretty cool, too, even if they aren't bigger than the dinghy.

Most sea turtles disappear when they see you.  They have been hunted down to nothing, so I can't really blame them.  The only genuinely chill turtles we've seen were in the Galapagos, where they are so well protected that they haven't learned to worry.  The turtles here are fairly relaxed, too, and they are abundant.

We try to be good neighbors to these animals.  We set our anchor in the sand, not in the coral.  We don't touch anything, and we leave them alone.  I very much hope that the reefs will last enough enough for the girls to show their own kids someday.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful adventure under the sea
Love Grannie & Poppa

Paul in Iowa said...

COOL COOL VERY COOL!! Great post. I can almost feel the warm water all the way to here in Iowa where I scraped snow for the first time this season this last week. Kudos to you teaching your children respect for all living creatures, and remembering we are guests in their homes when we are on and in the water. Fun to share with my family.

Amy Schaefer said...

Thanks, Paul (and Mom). It was too bad the water wasn't perfectly clear, but it was really fun to watch everything swim by.

Good luck with the snow - I can't say I miss it.