Eighteen hours of lemon sharks! Eighteen hours! … We collected R2 this afternoon and as soon as we were back James downloaded the data and sat watching R2’s recordings. A mix of characters swam past R2’s eyes: plenty of squid, a few green turtles, one swam straight into the camera and eyed it out suspiciously – giving us a full close up, but it was the sicklefin lemon sharks that stole the show, appearing on camera for most of the night and morning. Alas, not one tiger shark or any other large shark was recorded. It really does look like all the large sharks off Aldabra are no more.
On a happier note, our drift dive up the main channel this afternoon on the incoming tide yielded some good images of a couple of grey reef sharks and more lemon sharks. Dropping in on the left side of the channel I looked down and was taken by surprise to see the undulating ripples of the sand on the floor of the channel. The water was the pure royal blue that only comes with excellent visibility and filled with dancing light rays. The current didn’t leave me with time to investigate the deeper part of the channel there and we had to fin hard to get to the side of the coral reef, where it slopes down in a dramatic wall of colour. It was one of my favourite free dives, mainly because the grey reefs were extremely inquisitive, and each time I dived down below them one would turn and swim straight up to me –just to check out what I was and what I was doing there. The good visibility enabled a bird’s eye view of the channel, from the decadent coral wall to the sand and rubble floor. On the surface, however, visibility for part of the dive was down to almost nil as a thick black cloud battered the water’s surface with such heavy droplets of rain that we lost sight of the boat. Not wanting to end up separated and being swept into different parts of the inner lagoon Tom and I stuck close to James, who was dragging the bait drum attached to a very obvious red buoy, while Rainer and Dan were watching the turbulent surface from below on SCUBA.
Tomorrow we shift gears again from diving in the main channel and reef dives on our baiting stations and return to the magical mangrove forests in Pass Houareau, in between Malabar and Grande Terre islands. We will be camping in the little research hut known as Middle Camp, which will give us the opportunity to work that part of Aldabra for three days… and two nights. Mangroves are one of my favourite ecosystems and crucial for the health of oceans. There is no internet connection there so I will be left talking to the frigate birds, but look forward to sharing with you what we find, film and photograph upon our return.