Monday, January 25, 2016

About sharks

The other day I saw a tv documentary about the sharks in Palau. As everywhere else in the world sharks are being ruthlessly finned there - "shark-finning" is the process of catching sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing the rest of the fish, still alive, back into the ocean to die. Sharks drown because they cannot swim without fins. Sharks in Palau are not fished by the locals, but by foreign ships and the fins end up mostly in China, Taipei and Honk Kong. Not only is Palau robbed of it's sharks, the profits also end up elsewhere. Locals have traditionally great respect for sharks and are aware of how important sharks are for tourism. They founded Palau Shark Sanctuary and I really hope they will succeed in protecting their sharks.

It reminded me of a adventure we had with sharks in Mauritius. In 2003 we were there on holiday and booked several scuba-diving trips with the local diving shop. Diving was really good, mostly thanks to Feroz, the dive master, that took us to great diving sites and was able to show us even the smallest beauties.

This is me...

.... and this is Feroz's hand with nudibranch on it. Sorry for the quality of photos, but these were the early days of our under-water photography.

One day Feroz suggested we should visit the site called "Shark pit". The site is at the small island several miles from Mauritius, only accessible in good weather. It took an hour to get there with fast motorboat and we planned to make two dives. First was the "Shark Pit". The site looks like a big sunken bowl, around 14m deep in the middle, with the "rims" also couple of meters under water. Waves break over these rims and the water is full of small air bubbles. It is assumed that this is the reason why sharks gather in this bowl in such a numbers, they slowly circle the bowl and enjoy oxygenated sea. It was not easy to get over the rim of the bowl through the breaking waves. Once inside, we positioned ourselves at the bottom near a big rock. And then the show begun. There were at least 15 grey reef sharks, circling the bowl, and all the time keeping their eyes on us. If we would try to get closer to them, they would swim away. So we just sat there, very still and calm, for almost an hour.

This is taken without the zoom.

This also, my eyes were really that wide.

Here you can see the bubbles in the water.

My favourite shark was the one with the broken back fin, looked a bit like a killer whale.

Other fish felt overlooked and often forced themselves in front of the camera.

Feroz and myself on the boat after the first dive.

The second dive on the other side of the island, here we are posing between the gorgonian corals.

And this is captain riding a bike, on a dive a couple of days later.

All the dives we did in Mauritius were really good, but most impressive for me was the dive at Shark pit. We were diving with sharks before, but never were we so close for such a long time. It is to day one of my best dives.

Couple of months later, as we were already at home, I saw a French documentary about Shark pit on tv. There were several divers and biologists there, diving, setting up under water cameras, and trying to understand why the sharks like that place so much. They couldn't really find the answer. And about two years later I saw again a documentary on tv (I admit, I am a tv junkie), again about sharks around Mauritius. As it turned out, after Shark pit was on tv, fishing boats came and caught and finned all the sharks and the Shark pit was empty. Biologists were able to find another place where sharks gathered near Mauritius, but didn't want to disclose the location - to prevent what happened to Shark pit from happening again. I was so sad, it seems to me such a waste to kill such a powerful and elegant animal just to take the fins.

I know sharks are not officially declared endangered like whales or sea turtles - which I would of course never eat. But I think they should be. Don't think that would impress Chinese, nor stop them, but would maybe stop the selling of Shark fin soup in the rest of the world. And in a long run, with more awareness, who knows... In the meantime, I believe that every one of us can contribute - or not - to the survival of sharks, however small the contribution. So the next time you are in Chinese restaurant, please choose some other delicious soup, not the Shark fin one.

P.S. It looks like the sharks are back at Shark pit, found couple of videos from last couple of years on Youtube, but with less sharks than we saw.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2016!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sailing from Krk to Kornat and back - part 5

In the evening we returned to a small bay next to new ferry harbour, right to the West of the lighthouse.

At first glance it doesn't look like a good anchorage, water is quite deep and the bay not very big. We checked it with the mask, bottom is sandy and offers good holding, there are no rocks right up to the shore and the pine trees smell heavenly. Late in the evening we even saw an owl. We were alone there, I don't think there would be space for another boat. Only some fishermen boats came by in the evening and the night was very peaceful.

In the morning some of us were in the water at sunrise, others enjoyed the early sun.

After nice breakfast we sailed towards West and had to say goodbye to my brother's family.

We had an appointment later in the day in Stara Baška on island Krk. I was surprised how much colder the water there was, only 23 deg C, around island Rab it was around 27 deg C. It must be because of all the fresh water springs that are on and in the sea around island Krk.

In the afternoon we sailed on to Vela luka, we tacked (zig-zaged) against Burja (N-E wind), that was blowing through Senj strait (Senjska vrata). It is really amazing how strong the wind here can get, even in nice sunny weather and very little wind everywhere else.

I like Vela luka very much, also because it's so protected. OK, it is much nicer late in the evening and in the morning, during the day there are many power boats bringing tourists to the beach, and it can get noisy and boats create big swell. Another reason why I like it are the sheep, that come to the beach from the hills in the evening. Before that they are "shouting" loudly to one another over the bay and it echoes from the rocks and the hills. There must be a spring or two of fresh water somewhere, because they all converge to the same spot on the beach. One day we will actually dinghy to the beach and take a look.

Next morning I quickly jumped into the water, before the hordes of tourists started arriving. Bay is not too interesting, but I still found some nice things.

I like this sea urchin, that tried to camouflage itself with everything that was available - from Feather star (Morska lilija) to empty shells.

This is a Red anemone (Rdeča morska vetrnica), it can be found in very shallow water, here I found it attached to the rocky wall that was dropping into the sea.

It was our last day of our holiday. We decided to make another stop in Luka Srščica before we returned to Klimno. There were quite a few boats there already.

Of course I went snorkelling there, I wouldn't miss the last snorkelling opportunity. First thing I noticed as I swam across the bay, was that there were no Fan mussels (Leščurjev) any more. I distinctly remember seeing some before. Soon I find the reason for that - a pile of empty Fan mussels shells - so they were eaten, despite being protected.

As I swam along the rocky East shore I found this Black Scorpionfish (Škarpoč). He tried to blend into the surrounding rocks, just to be left alone.

And yet another Red Seasquirt (Rdeči kozolnjak ali Morska breskev)

All the fish in the bay were very nervous. This one - it is one of the Wrasses (Gnezdivka) - was pressed into the ground and frightened swam away when I came close.

On our way back to our buoy in Klimno we saw the funniest thing - cows cooling down in the sea. I probably mentioned that it was really hot most of the time, up to 35 deg C, but I haven't seen anything like this before.

We had some nice Easterly wind on our way back and the sailing was good. Shortly after we left Luka Srščica a butterfly landed on our boat, obviously seeking some shelter from the wind and opportunity to rest. First it landed on the winch.

Then he decided that on the bench next to me is a better place to rest. It was a good opportunity to take a close look at him. It was a Red Admiral (Admiral).

He was sitting there rather motionless for quite a while and we were getting worried. Was he too tired to fly away? Captain had a brilliant idea - maybe he is thirsty, let us give him some watermelon. For quite a while he didn't move, didn't show any interest in watermelon that was right in front of his nose. But after some time he finally started to eat it. Yes!

We were long tied to our buoy in Klimno before he flew away, he was with us for almost an hour. What a nice finish to our vacation.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sailing from Krk to Kornat and back - part 4

Next morning, after the charter sailboats left, we had another show. A pretty sailboat was approaching the anchorage, and we could hear yelling of a man from a far. When they sailed closer, we saw there was also a woman on the boat, steering the boat and not saying much. The man was standing near the mast, loudly talking and yelling all the time. The cause of his tantrum was his dissatisfaction with the woman at the steering wheel, nothing she did was right. She was not turning the wheel right, she didn't manage the engine right, she couldn't reverse the boat right, she didn't put the boat into right position for anchoring. And he used very strong words, and also cursed her in the worst way. We haven't seen or heard anything like this yet. And you would not expect that kind of behaviour from people in their 60-ies. It went on for almost an hour, they changed the anchoring spot several times in the meanwhile, and everybody was already tired of them. I couldn't understand, why the woman just took everything, without defending herself much. In her place I would put my credit card between my teeth, jump into the water and swim for the shore and never come back.

We didn't wait to see how long it went on. We sailed to the West side of Olib, I wanted to do as much snorkelling there as possible. This time we anchored near the small sandy island with lots of loud birds. Shortly after we anchored, I was in the water. This time there were mostly the red things that caught my eyes.

Like this Encrusting orange sponge (Rdeča žilavka). And in the middle of it was the worm (Tulčasti cevkar), and this time not only his yellow tentacles were visible, but also his body, encased in sand.

This pretty thing is one of the Triplefin Blennies, direct translation from Slovene would be Red wandering blenny (Rdeči sprehajalček). It is small and difficult to spot, but it is at least as beautiful as any tropical fish.
Update: after consulting my books and Internet again I think this might be different sort of Triplefin Blenny (Pritlikavi sprehajalček). I love the Italian name - Peperoncino minore.

I actually wanted to take a photo of a Blue sponge (Modra spužva), only later on computer I noticed the Rock Goby (Mrki glavač), blinking surprised into the lens.

And a close up of Trumpet anemone (Marmornata morska vetrnica).

This is the same kind Triplefin Belnny (Rdeči sprehajalček) as above, just without it's mating colours

Couldn't find out the name of this sponge, but I found it pretty

This was a very sad sight - somebody obviously caught the Stingray (Navadni morski bič), and then threw it away. I was really upset by this, especially when I found another one not far away. What a pity for such a unique animal. I am not a vegetarian, but I believe it is not moral to kill unless the whole animal is used for food.

It looks like the Sepia (Sipa) was trying to hypnotise me

This round red thing is actually a Sponge  (Morska žogica), that is protecting a Hermit crab (Raka samotarca). But at a first glance it looks like the small red ball is moving across the sea floor without any help. Only if you get close very fast, you can see small crab legs under it, which quickly disappear under the sponge. I didn't want to lift the whole thing up and take a look, and scare the poor Hermit crab even more.

Next morning we moved to a small island to the West to do some more snorkelling.

We anchored in the turquoise water. I jumped into the water and was a bit disappointed. There was not much to see, but there were couple of Red mullets and Two banded Sea Bream (Progasti bradači in Fratrc).

This was the first time I saw Sargassum algae (Sargaška alga).

And there was finally a new tunicate - a type of Social tunicate (Koničasti plaščar).

After snorkelling we sailed on to island Rab to meet my brother and his family. We had a lovely evening together and next day we sailed alog the island of Rab towards mainland and then around the corner to bay Mag. Last year when we were there I really liked it, but unlike this time we were alone in whole bay then. This time there were many many motorboats there, so many one could hardly see the beach from the boat. We anchored in deeper water to have at least a little bit of space around us.

I went snorkelling and chose to swim along the rocky coast out of the bay, there were no motorboats or swimmers in the deeper water. Despite the totally barren above-water landscape in the bay, the under water landscape is rich and colourful.

I was again drawn to red things - like this Red algae (Škrlatna sluzavka), that swayed with the waves.

I think this is another Red algae called Jania (Janija).

I know I posted many photos of Hermit crabs (Obročkasti samotarec), but this one was so very pretty.

And another Red Seasquirt (Rdeči kozolnak ali Morska breskev)

It was just impossible to ignore this beautiful Red tubeworm (Pisani pokrovčar).

The Mediterranean Feather Star (Morska lilija)
Update #2: this is actually a totally different kind of animal, it is a Cylinder anemone, in Slovene Peščena roža

This was one of the few Octopusses (Hobotnica) that I saw; but what I did see were plenty of men in dark neoprene suits with long spearguns, shooting at anything that moved. I tried to keep the distance, they looked scary and I wasn't sure they wouldn't mistaken me for a fish. I was also careful when taking photos of Octopuss, made sure before that none of the "navy seals" was watching me.

And this is a Weever (Navadni morski zmaj)

This is how the bay Mag on islad Rab looked like - and this was only part of the motorboats there, I tried counting them and stopped when I came to number 30. Poor people had to raft the boats together only to find some space, and then they were sitting or laying on their small boats the whole day. What a vacation! And here you can see how the bay looks outside the main season.

Late in the afternoon we returned to the South-West side of Rab. My nephew showed a lot of talent with steering the boat. And looks like he enjoyed it too.