Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Snorkeling Around Bocas del Toro: The Good, the Bad, and the Slimy

Beautiful tableau of sponges, sun anemones, spiny lobster, arrow crab, and a little Mithrax crab

Boy, we miss the brilliantly clear water of the Bahamas! Here in Bocas, you can only see the bottom when it’s really shallowing up, so our hopes weren’t high for snorkeling (and if you’ve read this blog before, you know that we adore snorkeling and being in the water in general). Anyway, you’ve got to try, and that’s what we did, jumping in the water whenever we had a chance. What we discovered was that, no, snorkeling here isn’t like in the Bahamas or the eastern Caribbean, with clear water, big coral heads and reefs, and abundant large fish. It’s different, and in an entirely cool way. It’s invertebrate heaven! Okay, maybe since my (Anne’s) research has always focused on marine invertebrates, I’m biased. At first glance, the substrate is mostly rubble, some grass, some coral, but take a closer look, and wow! Shrimp, crabs, sea cucumbers up the ying yang, sea stars, you name it, and not just the one, maybe two species you see elsewhere, but loads of species living in the rocks and holes. Here’s a small sample of some of what we’ve seen. The pictures aren’t terrific because it can be difficult holding position underwater while trying to focus on the small stuff, but hey, when I look at my pictures, it puts me right back in the water, and that’s what I take them for.
Critter-covered mangrove root

Batwing coral crab
Look into my sponge...

Pederson cleaning shrimp (blue and white, left and center) and banded coral shrimp (red and white, right)

Ocellate swimming crab Portunus sebae

Lovely reticulated sea star

What's NOT growing on this coral - not much!

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