Best dive, Best service, Best dive boat from Coral Coast Fiji
View from Marine Biologist chapter 2
Marine biologist (Ms. Sheree Nadini)
Coral reef dive from coral coast: Description of flora, fauna and reef health being assessed as well as fish count and reef fish species seen.
My dive shop specialized in small-uncrowned personalized service to the coral coast reef making it the most ideal experience for me. With warm, clear water, great visibility, myriad of colorful spectacular soft corals and abundant fish life it was simply the best dive for 2013!! Along the reef flat there seemed a healthy nursery of plenty of tomato clownfish flitting in and out of their host anemones and butterfly, parrotfish, mullets, damselfish and emperors indicating good coral health. Analysis through fish counts of butterfly fish species (common ones seen were spot nape, double saddle, black-backed, vagabond, speckled, forcerps, longnose, dot and dash & angel-fish) including the coral-feeding Chaetodon trifascialis, C. ornatissimus, C. melannotus and C. lineolatus, showed healthy coral cover. While there is no comprehensive fish species list published for Fiji, the Checklist of the Shore and Epipelagic Fishes of Tonga by Randall et al would be expected to have similar fauna and this was generally true. The reef slopes to the ocean floor with scattered coral heads and a sandy bottom. There’s large, hard corals sloping to a garden of soft corals – lots of brommies (coral heads). Along the reef slope we came across a huge school of skipjacks that was wondrous. On the outside reefs you’ll find huge sea fans and soft, coral gardens crommies covered with sea fans and swim with marine life hiding in nooks and crannies with big, friendly fish including batfish schools. The first dive had sightings with a jevunile hawksbill turtle and the endangered hump-head parrot fish while the second dive had spot tiny, colorful nudibranchs with deeper waters of the outer reefs are home to large schools of Red Snapper, Barracuda and other larger fish species.
The reef showed little signs of damage by weather, climate, runoff, human activity or other factors (erosion). It seemed like a secluded nursery well protected with a large coral head on the reef flat. As we slowly dived around the pinnacles & walls, we saw a plethora of reef dwellers. While there is generally not as much current in this area, the soft corals are also less prolific. There were regions of low coral covers where partial bleaching and yellow band /red band diseases seen. Predation was mainly seen on the base of hard coral head (branching Stylophora & Acropora) by hermit crabs and snails (gastropods) as invasive species. Reef fish seen included the black-fin dartfish and banner fish cleaning stations, triggerfish, a small school of yellow and black stripped grazers and a bluish rudderfish, unicorn/surgeon fish, wrasse, grouper, butterfly fish, jacks and trevallies, damselfish, surgeon fish, triggerfish, parrotfish, sweetlips, angel fish, sea urchins (juveniles) to name a few. However there was a lack of crown of thorns, one reason for the good health of the coral reef and there were less boring snails elsewhere causing less damage to growth of encrusting hard corals.
Densities of edible fish and invertebrates remained generally moderate on the reef flat. The reef flat – closest to the land – sustains the most damage from runoff, sedimentation and storms. However, coral grows well on the reef slope, which descends away from the land into slightly deeper waters. Fed by wave action, the life in this area of the reef is usually abundant and thriving. At the crest of the reef slope is generally the healthiest, fastest growing, part of the coral reef. Here among the hard coral species we saw Acropora ‘Staghorn’ Branching Coral, Brain Massive Coral, Cabbage Foliose Coral, Branching Coral, Acropora Tabular Coral, Acropora Digitate Coral, cauliflower coral, Pocillopora, Spiny Cup Pectinia Coral, Turbinaria Pavona coral, encrusting montipora corals, Plate coral and mushroom coral. Among others included sponges, turf algae and zoanthids. Among the various soft coral species to be seen were the (these corals are “rooted,” but because they have no exoskeletons, they sway back and forth with the currents, appearing to be more like plants blowing in the breeze) colorful bubble corals (pink, red, blue), lush feathery bright soft corals, pretty blue and gold fusiliers, and clouds of purple and gold anthias, candy cane coral, tooth coral and fox corals.
Among a few noticeable marine life included the following:
Gorgonian (a.k.a sea fans)
This family of soft coral is also called sea whips or sea fans. Individual tiny polyps form colonies that are normally erect, flattened, branching, and reminiscent of a fan. Others may be whiplike, bushy or even encrusting. A colony can be several feet high and across but only a few inches thick. They may be brightly colured, often purple, red, or yellow. Gorgonians are found primarily in shallow waters. The size, shape, and appearance of the gorgonians are highly correlated with their location. The more fan-shaped and flexible gorgonians tend to populate shallower areas with strong currents, while the taller, thinner, and stiffer gorgonians can be found in deeper, calmer waters.
Carnation Coral (Dendronephthya): the carnation coral comes in a spectacular range of colors and flourish below underhangs and caves.
Toadstool Coral (Sarcophyton): Also known as Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather Coral and Trough Coral. Sacrophyton corals are found in various shades of brown, with white or gold polyps. It is difficult to identify many species because they all have the similar appearance of a mushroom or toadstool, each with a distinct stalk and capitulum (cap). As they grow older, they develop a folded appearance.