The Jacky O' of the sea!
After about 25min into our dive at Rifu Bayena I suddenly heard a loud scream. Jean, one of the divers trying to get my attention! I immediately saw what she was getting so excited about.... a new unfamiliar species for my three experienced divers who've done close to 300 Mnemba dives just at Mnemba atoll .... This was definitely a first for them!
We all admired this most uncommon fish called a Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans or Dactylopterus Orientalis). A very spectacular fish closely related to the Scorpion fish family and very rarely noticed due to its perfect camouflage. They are bottom dwelling fish that live mainly in sandy areas with coral rubble, in coastal reefs down to 100m deep. It's main features are the very broad pectoral fins (similar to a peacock) with a pattern of iridescent ocelli and scribbles, which are spread out when the fish is alarmed. It also has two large red eyes.
This time I spotted a thin long dorsal fin, brown, sticking up like a razorblade, apparently meaning the animal felt threatened. No doubt as three of us were snapping away with our camera's, the flashes giving the fish a fright of its life! We kept circling it trying to get some good shots!
After about 10 minutes of great excitement,making the diver's aware of what we were looking at by writing the name of this unusual species on my underwater slate, we noticed we were reaching the no decompression limit and were therefore forced to ascent.
Most probably a big relieve for the fish that glided away close to the bottom into a safe area...
One of our divers wrote back on my underwater slate.... THE Jacky O'!!!
Posted: Mnemba Island by Leen Charle, Date: 3 January 2008