Tom and Dan spent a couple of hours this morning in the mangroves off the Passe Houareau channel between the islands of Malabar and Grande Terre photographing and filming the abundant marine life. There wasn’t enough room in the unstable and leaking tiny tin boat for the whole team to get to the mangroves, so I waded with a bright yellow pelican case full of camera equipment balanced on my head towards the circling frigate birds. Not far down across the lagoon the boat came into view and I abandoned my plan of photographing the circling frigate birds ahead in the harsh light and squeezed in a quick snorkel in the channel in the last half hour before we had to escape from the out-going tide. It is the healthiest mangrove system I have ever seen, with countless fish species and numerous hawksbill and green turtles. All levels of the ecosystem were present, from the fish that graze algae and nibble on sea grass to predators such as barracuda and the black tip reef shark, who has accompanied us on almost every single dive on Aldabra. Lined with knotted roots where black spotted snappers mingled and studded in large coral outcrops surrounded by schooling fish, this channel was particularly impressive, and one that deserves more of our attention. We reviewed Dan’s footage this evening and it truly captured the spirit of an intact mangrove forest! It also reconfirmed what we have been finding – that the basis of what makes a great still photograph and HD film are totally different. Video is all about the movement and photography is about capturing a moment. Tom wasn’t particular pleased with his results but he made up for it by getting some unique shots of jacks from behind the boat.
Our time at middle camp was cut short for lack of fuel and we motored back to base this afternoon, with the intention of going back there for a couple of days. I was lucky enough to get in the water this afternoon to photograph one of my favourite sharks, the silver tip. As their name suggests their fins, especially the pectoral fins, are splashed with a prominent silver sheen. Shy at first she soon lost her inhibitions and became a very fast and inquisitive subject. They can reach up to 3 metres but we are only seeing small ones here of 1.2 metres, mainly because the fully grown adults are most likely in deeper water – if they have not all been fished out.
On our way back to base we found more mating turtles. Not in crystal clear deep water today, but surfing on the back line! Dan snuck up to them on SCUBA but feeling vulnerable they didn’t stick around and took off for more peaceful waters when he got close.
Every evening is beautiful here, but this evening there is a huge cloud over the Atoll with a rainbow leaping across it.