After a day off from the reef, this morning we headed back out on Sebastian’s “Lucky Devil 2”. The first location we stopped at was part of the Coral Gardens where we had snorkeled on our very first snorkel, but further south on the reef. There were enormous swells, but luckily nobody got seasick. At this location students spotted a lobster, spotted moray eel, scrawled cowfish, and flamingo tongue snail. The flamingo tongue snail feeds on fan coral and was found at the base of this coral. At the first site there were quite a few downed fan and staghorn coral, likely from storms or possible snorkeling causality. In class, we’ve been discussing ways in which tourists can cause damage to reef by touching or breaking off coral. Being aware of this helps us to be more responsible visitors of the reef.
The second site we visited was called Crab Rock. This location did not have as much established coral, but featured much sea grass and newer growths. The presence of many sea sponges was promising for the future growth of this reef. There was a large school of Gray Angelfish and also some beautiful smaller Queen Angelfish. Another Spotted Moray was seen along with some large living conchs.
After a delicious lunch on the boat, we headed to a grove of Mangroves. Mangroves are trees that live in salt water with unique root systems that allow them to survive. We learned that Mangroves are essential to the ecosystem, serving as a natural habitat for early growth of many fish species. We saw millions of snapper minnows and small barracudas in the mangroves. There were also heat vents by the mangroves where warm water is released into the ocean. Tomorrow we will be headed back out to sea and will stay in one location for the duration of the snorkel.