Underwater World

…as seen through the lens of Pipistrelle’s snorkelling team in The Maldives!

Progressing south through the azure blue atolls we have captured more wonderfully colourful marine life.  While most can be identified through our own knowledge and by referring to books we have on board, we rely on external input from our friend and expert, Oliver Straub for correction and 100% accuracy.  Now with amendments and additions from Oliver!

Notes from Oliver on the gallery above in italics:

  • schooling bannerfish are very common over reef slopes in The Maldives
  • probably the most exquisitely coloured worldwide, the clown triggerfish can become quite big, the number of spots increasing with age
  • there are three general shapes of coral – branch staghorn-like, tree fungus or overlapping roof tile-like and the encrusting, often sphere-like
  • white collared butterflyfish is typical of this beautiful reef fish species that is normally found in pairs – rarely in shoals
  • the saddleback coral grouper grows to over a metre – this fish was nearly that big
  • box or trunkfish are related to pufferfish but have as the name implies an external skeleton that forms a box where only the snout, eyes, fins and cloaca have openings to the outside.  Despite the seemingly unwieldy trunk they are the most precise swimmers on a reef, manoeuvring very finely with their mostly transparent fins.
  • the large blue-faced angelfish (Pomacanthus xanthometopon) is one of the larger of the species, often patrolling the reef alone.  The photo shows a fine, blue nail-like extension of the blue gill cover over the olive-yellowish base of the pectoral fin.  This is probably a defensive spike and gave rise to the genus name, Pomacanthus meaning cheek (pom) – thorn (acanthe), the species name meaning yellow (xanth) – front (metopon).  The space between the eyes is yellow.
  • cushion stars are starfish with shortened arms that are found on reefs where they feed on surface food organisms or detritus
  • spotted unicornfish belong to the surgeonfish family that has a sharp defensive bone on the caudal peduncle.  In unicornfish, the bone is fixed.  They are found in large shoals and feed on plankton.
  • yellow-striped anthias are common and gregarious reef fish that feed on plankton above their refuges of branched coral
  • Moorish idols though looking somewhat like bannerfish or related butterflyfish belong to the group of surgeonfish.

The many feather tailed sting rays, bright purple crown of thorns, a few reef sharks, ebony and picasso triggerfish have all been so-called ‘Kodak moments’ but have escaped the click of the underwater camera.

On the same theme, enthralling are the amusingly acrobatic performances provided by hundreds of schools of dolphins.  Sometimes they are curious about Pipistrelle’s black hull and come close by. Generally though they are unfazed and more interested in showing off!   Captured on camera in mid-flight before diving again …

View from the masthead – Sage and Silver Girl below anchored between coral heads (the dark patches!) that provide great snorkelling.

Though diving has eluded us for most of our time in the atolls, we did have one golden opportunity thanks to other yachts we caught up with along the way.  With apologies to our readers who may not be quite as inspired by the deep as we are, here are more underwater shots …

We are now in the Southern Hemisphere, anchored safely in Gan on Addu Atoll, having paid our respects to Neptune the other night when crossing the Equator! More to follow soon.

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