Today is the first Thanksgiving I have ever spent away from my family. It’s a weird feeling. I’ve always given thanks for being able to sit next to my cousins and grandparents and gobble up turkey and pumpkin pie, but it took celebrating Thanksgiving here in Mauritius to truly help me appreciate what a blessing it is to have the family and friends that I’ve got. And I’m certainly grateful to be here with ELI Africa in Mauritius making a difference any way I can. Although I wouldn’t mind a bit of that pumpkin pie right now.
Speaking of being grateful, I know that there is a giant Javanese Moray Eel swimming out in and around the Trou aux Biches reef that should be falling to his gills thanking local diving legend Reddy for saving his tail.
I was diving with Reddy and our ELI intern Gaurav today, scanning the waters for a good location to put our coral nurseries (details to come in my next post), when we came across a lost fisherman’s trap. Stuck inside was the 2+ meter eel, squirming and sliding back and forth as he looked for a way out. I later found out it was a male from Reddy because it didn’t have a white underbelly, or imprints of the cage all over its face. Apparently, the females can get quite aggressive and violent, and we would have found the eel headbutting the cage had it been the fairer sex.
This guy had a mean looking cut on his side, possibly from a fisherman’s spear as he tried retrieving the cage. Reddy spent nearly 4 minutes prying open the cage, even using his teeth a couple times, all the while batting the eel back so that it wouldn’t bite him. Why wasn’t I helping you ask? Reddy insisted that Gaurav and I stay away, and I wasn’t about to let this truly awesome spectacle unfolding in front of me to go undocumented (pictures and video to be uploaded once my camera stops giving me a hard time). Finally, Reddy wrenched open the side of the trap. After several seconds, the moray realized his window of escape had just materialized, slowly slid out into the free open water as the three of us gave him some space, and gracefully swam away to his boulder about 30 meters away, under which he immediately inserted himself. It was a truly remarkable moment.
Reddy’s day of playing Aquaman wasn’t done yet though. About 20 minutes later, we encountered another lost cage, this time trapping about 9 or 10 male and female unicorn fish. They were beautiful fish. Mixes of grey, blue and yellow, and did in fact have extensions resembling a unicorn horn protruding out from above their eyes. At first I wondered how the cage’s owner would react upon learning somebody freed his catch, but as I looked up along the rope to its mooring, I saw that the line had been severed. No one was going to be hauling this cage up. Without any help, the school of unicorn fish were doomed to a watery grave with no food or means of escape. Luckily for them, Reddy was to the rescue, and several minutes of prying and flipping the trap set the unicorn loose unto the seas. Prior to their escape, they had been frantically swimming back and forth and slamming themselves into the cage, which kind of reminded me of the scene towards the end of Finding Nemo where they’re all caught in the net, pressing down to try and break free. And speaking of Finding Nemo…
I later found a pod of anemones housing a school of juvenile clown fish. These anemones in Mauritius didn’t sting my hand as I slid the creature through my fingers, awestruck as it latched onto my skin, kind of like a mix of sandpaper and velcro. The babies didn’t know what to make of me, and calmly looked up towards the giant mass looming over them. Obviously their parents had seen the movie, and they anxiously darted back and forth, looking as if they were trying to charge off these apparently monstrous divers coming to steal their children. They had nothing to worry about. I snapped a couple pictures and left the family to enjoy their Thanksgiving day. I do wonder if the school of 250+ barracuda we swam next to managed to find itself a full meal though. Maybe even its own Thanksgiving bird floating on the water? So much to be grateful for. It was a certainly a different yet fantastic way to spend my Turkey Day. Hope everyone has a great one.