Friday, March 23, 2012

Nudibranchs in the Sand

A gloomy nudibranch
A rarely seen nudibranch Heidi found
Kangaroo Nudibranch
 Sometimes when searching for the rare animals it takes adventuring in rarely visited places. Usually when I take underwater photos I visit the most beautiful reefs and underwater landscapes. However, nudibranchs can be quite counter-intuitive to find. You would expect an animal with such bright coloration and patterns to be around bright sponges, coral, and algae. One of our secret dive locations for nudibranchs is a sandy, silt covered underwater rocky plateau in just 15 feet of water. Here we find goomy nudibranchs, kangaroo nudibranchs, white margin and tom smith nudibranchs. And almost every time we visit this special location we come across new species we have never seen before. This dive we found a wild orange and blue nudibranch of which we eventually found 5 or 6 on our 1 1/2 hr dive. At the very end of our searching Heidi called me over and pointed out what I initially thought was a sea hare but what turned out to be another brand new nudibranch. This one was a bit more camouflaged with bubble-like bumps covering it and bright blue spots in between. Absolutely gorgeous!

Nudibranch wrangler in the flesh

beautiful colors contrast the sandy environment

Hawaiian damselfish charging me as they protect their home coral head

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sharks, Turtles, Nudibranchs and more at Mala Pier

I do most of my scuba diving along the south shore of maui but I do like to get out to the other sides of the island and see what differences in life and topography I can find. One of my favorite spots on the west side of Maui is the old sunken pier at Mala Wharf. The old concrete pier fell apart and sunk down in a jumble of pilings and platforms about 30ft down. This makes it a great place to find turtles, sharks, and those beautiful little sea slugs, nudibranchs. We had plenty of all of those on this dive with Paul and Ben.

This was an extra fun dive since Paul, Ben, and I all got our dive master certifications down in Utila at a place called Cross Creek. It was great to dive in a different location with very different animals. We saw 6 or 7 turtles, with 1 overly curious juvenile with a bright white number 5 written on its shell. Must have been a release from the aquarium. I was busy finding nudibranchs; 3 trembling, 2 imperial, and 10 white margin. 7 of these white margin nudibranchs were all together. I laughed to myself underwater thinking that they looked like a little nudibranch family with all sizes accounted for. More likely a mating frenzy going on knowing these guys.

As I searched for the tiny marine life Paul and Ben were busy finding some of the bigger animals in the wreckage, sharks. Paul found two big white tip reef sharks hiding under a big platform. I told Paul to swim to the other side and I would take his picture. Not knowing exactly how dangerous these sharks were he was a little too nervous to get right in their way as the bolted but I managed to snap a picture as they did. He is hiding off to the left behind the wreckage.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spinner Dolphins in La Perouse Bay

 I always try to find fun adventures for visiting friends out here in Maui. The island gives you lots to choose from. So when we awoke early to find heavy winds blowing out our kayaking plans we grabbed hiking gear and snorkel gear and headed towards La Perouse in South Maui. Sometimes on the wild side trip we come across resting spinner dolphins in La Perouse Bay and today we were in luck. We spotted the dolphins zigzagging back and forth across the bay. The winds were up but so were our adventurous spirits. So we jumped in and swam through zero visibility water to get out to where the dolphins were last spotted. The farther offshore we swam the better the visibility but the winds were kicking up more and we hadn't spotted the dolphins in a while. The wind swell sending waves into the bay made spotting even more difficult.
 I was starting to lose hope when I heard a slapping on the surface. I looked all around and saw a couple of dolphins splashing on the far side of the bay. It was great to see they were still in the area. We kept an eye on them until the swam back out way. Then all of sudden there were other snorkelers with us. I wasn't all about chasing down the dolphins while they rested so I studied there swimming behavior and swam to where I thought they would turn and swim back to. I got very lucky a few times with the dolphins totally surrounding me. They are so beautiful and graceful. I hope that my pictures capture even a little of that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gloomy for Nudibranchs

A Gloomy Nudibranch revealing itself

 Another successful muck dive here in Hawaii. I know people must wonder why we head to some of the most unscenic parts of Hawaii's near coastal underwater areas but treasures await those willing to explore off the beaten track. This dive site has very little coral reef to offer and lots of suspended sediment. It is not the normal place for an underwater photographer to go visit, but for a nudibranch hunter it can be a paradise. This blue and black 'Gloomy Nudibranch' is one of my favorites and so far I have only found it in this kind of environment. Its long extended gills and stark color contrast really distinguish this nudibranch.
beautiful lined sea hare
We think this is a baby green lionfish
Sea hares and juvenile fish are just a couple of the treasure awaiting bold divers looking for something a little different.