We are still in neap tides. Yesterday, like today, the low water prevented us from crossing over the reef until after lunch, but this is Aldabra and a gateway to another world. I never get bored of photographing the shore birds, such as the endemic dimorphic egret or the more common white egret. The harsh middle of the day sunlight makes good exposures almost impossible, especially when the dimorphic, which is dark brown in colour, is in the same frame as the dazzling white feathers of its cousin, but afternoon dives make morning topside photography in beautifully soft light possible.
A team of prestigious IUCN scientists arrived on the island a few days ago. They are here to do coral reef surveys and it is very exciting to be here at the same time to bounce ideas back and forth and catch up on the latest in coral reef research work across the Western Indian Ocean. After-supper discussions last long after our Creole meal and are followed by the sounds of fingers tapping on keyboards, which continue past midnight. We joined the IUCN team on a reef dive yesterday afternoon, located west of Malabar Island near Pass Gionnet (in between Polymnie and Malabar), a new site to us. Dan filmed them as they hovered over the coral, clutching plastic slates and noting factors such as coral cover, fish diversity and coral disease along each line transect. I look forward to learning more about exactly what they are doing this evening, as tonight it is their turn to give a presentation.
After leaving them we headed back towards our bait station 2 and James deployed R2D2 (the remote camera). Yes, after much consternation and determination on James’ part it is working, and as I write R2 is sitting on the reef recording anything that swims within its view. We are all very much looking forward to seeing what R2’s lights flashed in the dark last night.
By 17h30 we were skimming back over the top of the reef but the tide was already too low and we had to push the boat when it got stuck on sea grass beds in the shallows. Back on land Tom and I photographed the coral fossils in the champignons against a cloud-bellowing sunset. The distinct fossil corals decorate the limestone like a patchwork quilt, and sitting in the maze of champignon caves I feel as if I am in a true Jurassic Park. The rocks are alive, speaking of another, more prehistoric time they gurgle and crackle with water and air bubbles and shuffling crabs. These fossil corals, upon which Aldabra is built, reach down well over 1000metres.