The Mangroves and Reefs of Mauritius

Sundown Cut up shot in a wholesome shallow coral reef in Mauritius


One factor all vacationers have in widespread is the thrill you are feeling on the strategy to touchdown in a brand new nation. Excited, you peer out of the window hoping to get a glimpse of what could also be in retailer over the approaching days. This was my first time in Mauritius, and this was not a diving vacation or photographic journey, extra a website go to for my spouse who’s the operations supervisor for a corporation known as WiseOceans. The organisation have marine biologists stationed at numerous resorts world wide implementing reef restoration tasks, guided snorkels and marine training lessons to visitors.  I used to be right here to take care of my 8 month outdated son and this was his first lengthy haul journey, so an journey lay in retailer for all of us.


Rhinopia fish are a moderately sudden spotlight of diving in Mauritius


We made our manner from the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Worldwide airport within the South East of the island to the 4 Seasons resort additional North on the East coast. Not a nasty perk of my spouse’s place I’ve to confess, however anybody that is aware of me is aware of I’m far more at dwelling in a shack on the seashore with a compressor and a neighborhood takeaway. We meandered alongside the attractive shoreline driving by small colourful villages with stray canine, chickens and roaming goats with a backdrop of turquoise water and tied up fishing boats. Similar to some islands in our second dwelling of Indonesia. Once we arrived on the resort it was very stunning as I anticipated and the workers that couldn’t have been extra heat and welcoming, however what actually caught my eye was that the whole place was surrounded by an enormous mangrove system. Considered one of my favourite locations to discover and take photos, I ended up spending each free second I had I used to be spent exploring the gnarled roots of the mangroves and was amazed at a few of the topics and picture alternatives I found there.


An estuary seahorse hangs on tight to algea below the noon solar


WiseOceans Marine Biologist Rick had briefed me on the place to go and mentioned he commonly finds Sea horses, frogfish and even harlequin shrimp. Perhaps this place is much more like Indonesia than I believed! My missions into the mangrove system had been poorly timed, with low tides and most of the time torrential rain making images difficult, however regardless of the circumstances I persevered and misplaced all sense of time trying to find cool critters and compositions. As soon as I received my eye in I used to be capable of finding quite a few sea horses gently swaying forwards and backwards with their  tails wrapped tightly like a tendril of a vine to halemeda algae stems. The species discovered listed below are Hippocampus Kuda or the Estuary Sea Horse, a species on the IUCN pink record making this little recognized inhabitants essential certainly. A bit farther from the shore bordering the mangrove forest had been small colonies of branching acropora, gatherings of favia mushroom corals and plenty of different species. The beginnings of a brand new reef? I couldn’t inform, however a superb signal for the general well being of the system.


The estuary seahorse is usually encountered within the mangroves


Sadly, like many different reefs within the Indian Ocean, Mauritius’s coral reefs had been severely hit by a latest mass bleaching occasion. One of many WiseOcean teams conservation initiatives is to attempt to assist these broken coral reefs get well, and to take action they’ve established an in depth coral nursery and reef restoration program. Coral nurseryman Bernard took me out to see the positioning in Anahita lagoon the place they at present have about 600 colonies being grown on frames, and have already transferred over 700 mature colonies again onto degraded areas of reef to assist promote restoration of reef biomass with reside coral cowl.


Bernard transporting coral to be replanted on the broken elements of the reef


A bunch of exhausting corals rising efficiently in a coral nursery


After per week, it was time to maneuver on and make our manner over to the West for some diving and the possibility to see a few of the well-known cetaceans that inhabit the deep waters there. We piled our gear and screaming child into our tiny Japanese rent automotive and set off, hoping to depart behind the torrential rain that had been drenching the island for the previous few days. Sadly this wasn’t to be, the rain persevered and wouldn’t let up. We arrived in Flic en Flac, a seaside village to the west coast  to catch the afternoon dive at Solar Divers ( all be it slightly late ) and fortuitously the muddy water from the rivers hadn’t affected their dives websites, but. Solar Divers is a small professionally run dive heart situated at La Pirogue lodge. They’re very accommodating for underwater shooters as Gerald the proprietor is a incredible photographer and has a wealth of data of the realm. The clock was ticking, as dangerous visibility was making its manner up the coast so I needed to get a while in underwater with my digicam earlier than circumstances deteriorated additional.


Large colleges of massive eye and soldier fish hang around below ledges on the reef


Education goatfish bunch collectively and are due to this fact glorious topics to shoot


Beneath the gray sky I rolled again off the boat to be greeted with epic visibility of greater than 100 toes. I wasn’t anticipating that however definitely wasn’t complaining. I dropped down onto big rock formations with colleges of soldier fish below ledges and goat fish out within the open, and a spotlight of the dive was a inexperienced turtle being cleaned by some brush tail tangs. The subsequent few dives continued with an analogous theme, good visibility with sufficient topics to shoot. Very enjoyable however not reminiscence card fillers. My final dive at Snake Reef was the true purpose I needed to come back and dive right here. Dropping right down to the ocean mattress at round 100 toes, the slim assortment of rocks seems to be moderately unassuming at first look, however  descending additional I might make out that the rocks had been lined in glass fish and sweepers. As soon as on the reef, in all places I regarded there was an fascinating photographic topic! Scorpion fish, Lion fish, stone fish and plenty of different species of predatory fish had been plentiful and all fully unfazed by my presence. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than our information JP signaled over to me to indicate me what I used to be most hoping to see. He had discovered a really small Rhinopias frondosa, my first within the Indian ocean. Brown/orange in coloration, its camouflage was similar to the algae surrounding it.


My first Rhinopia in Mauritius


A big stingray approaches the cleansing station for a wrasse fish service


Additional on from the rhino was what regarded like a cleansing station for sting rays. Watching these big whip rays rise off the underside to be cleaned by wrasse fish was an incredible sight and one other superb photographic alternative. Heading again to the road I used to be delighted to search out one other Rhinopia, this time a big purple specimen. I’ve seen them earlier than this coloration, they usually actually are essentially the most spectacular fish. I feel the good muck diving pioneer Larry Smith put it finest when he mentioned that the fish regarded prefer it had been shot out of a paint gun when he first got here throughout them in Ambon harbour in Indonesia. It was truly a few of Larry’s college students that changed into legendary guides themselves that taught me about discovering critters within the muck. I am glad I nonetheless have these abilities!


A lionfish on the lookout for prey within the roots of the mangroves


While within the space I additionally needed to go to Le Morne, a very spectacular a part of the island. This south western tip of Mauritius is legendary for a basaltic monolith rising up 556m excessive and dominating the panorama. Its additionally well-known for its cetacean encounters within the deep waters which might be discovered unusually near shore. The deep ocean supplies an plentiful meals supply for resident pods of whales and dolphins, and I employed a ship within the hope of encountering a few of the pods of dolphins that frequent the realm. For the whales, a allow is required which is troublesome and costly to be granted so I used to be nearly hoping we didn’t see any! Sadly it was simply a type of days on the ocean the place all the pieces was quiet and we actually didn’t see a lot in any respect, only a few glimpses of spinner dolphins from afar. The run off from the river additionally made the search tougher, however you may’t win all of them. Regardless of the circumstances and restricted time within the water I nonetheless had some very memorable encounters and a few good pictures within the bag. Mauritius is a ravishing place with superb meals and tradition. The individuals had been additionally a few of the most heat and welcoming we had the pleasure to fulfill. Hopefully we’ll return quickly to discover additional and discover extra hidden gems underwater.


A lionfish over/below within the mangroves


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