If you’re not careful, you’re going to tread on something!
Walking in the shallows
Well okay you’re not likely to step on any of the bigger fish, or the smaller ones come to that since they mostly move so quickly like the goby pictured below.
What you may do is damage some of the more delicate things…
Poking its head out
This little guy takes over empty worm burrows, excavating the space to make himself a home (you can see his spoil pile spread around on the surface). He’ll spend a lot of his time hiding below the surface, popping out to snaffle the odd passing morsel. He’s a member of the sand eel family.
Filamented Sand Eel
The tiny stripy guy here is a filamented sand eel (I think!). He’s quite hard to spot until he ventures over a patch of consistently lighter coloured floor as here.
Then again there are those things that are waiting to get their own back and do a little damage to the unwary.
These spiny urchins don’t actively go out of their way to attack swimmers, but anyone who treads on one will certainly know about it because those spines are really sharp.
Whether you swim in it or just paddle around it enjoy the seashore, but be aware… you will not be alone out there
I can’t make up my mind about this little damsel… is she a Maldives Damselfish or a Staghorn Damselfish? Perhaps a Silvered Damselfish?
Damselfish, but which one?
Yes Usky has yet another sub-species identification conundrum.
It’s a good job I’m not stressed about this isn’t it? Otherwise I could be mistaken for a damsel-in-distress!
Juvenile Naso ‘Lipstick’ Tang
The naso tang, commonly known as the Orangespine Unicornfish, or Lipstick Tang, is a Pacific species native from Hawai’i southward to central Polynesia, westward through Micronesia and Melanesia, through the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa.
The body of this fish is light to dark gray. It has a patch of bright yellow on the forehead with an yellow accented line that extends from below the eye down to behind the mouth. The body of the fish darkens with maturity and males grow ‘streamers’. The above image of a juvenile naso tang.
So when I spotted what I thought was an adult naso tang swimming along a Red Sea reef I started getting really excited because my first thought was ‘this fish shouldn’t be here!’
Turns out the fish wasn’t a naso tang, but a naso elegans: common names include Elegant Unicornfish, Orangespine Unicornfish, Lipstick Surgeonfish, Indian orange-spine Unicorn, Smoothheaded Unicornfish.
Identifying fish species can be a bit of a nightmare as mistakes can be easily made. I thought for a short while I’d found a fish well out of place while swimming in the Red Sea, but sadly for me a little research has highlighted my mistake.
Right or wrong identification it is still a beautiful fish don’t you think? So what shade of lipstick is your favourite?
It amused me while I was swimming in the Red Sea to find myself being watched almost as closely as I was watching the fish swimming around me on the reef. In this particular instance the observer was a Parrotfish.
Parrotfish get their name from their mouth parts, which resemble a parrot’s beak and are used to graze algae from the living coral. There are around 90 species of these brightly coloured fish some of which, like the one photographed here, are extremely inquisitive and are not shy when it comes to approaching ‘foreign’ objects floating around their environment.
In my last post I spoke about ‘swimming with the masses‘ on the local reef at Sharm el Sheik. Here’s another example of the type of fish who are more than happy to swim with/around visitors.
Zebrasoma desjardinii – Desjardin’s Sailfin Tang
These are one of several species of Sailfin Tang common in the Red Sea. This particular type is known as Desjardin’s Sailfin Tang and yes they really were so close the fish on the right brushed my face as it swam past. I guess it could be a little off-putting to some to be ‘mugged’ by a shoal of fish, but I loved it and can’t wait to repeat the experience.
Swimming in the bay from the beach in front of the Iberotel Palace in Sharm el Sheik is a pretty boring experience, which can be made far more interesting by either walking or taking the hotel’s courtesy boat to the reef that runs along the left hand side of the bay (the recommended safe swimming area is marked in red on the image below).
The bay at Sharm el Sheik
Walking around to the reef takes approximately 10 minutes, but does mean crossing several ‘private’ beach sections and manoeuvring around a couple of fences. The hotel’s courtesy boat runs regularly and makes the crossing to the small jetty to the left of the red marked area in around 5 minutes.
The recommended safe swimming area
The abundance of marine life is apparent as soon as you enter the water and progress along the reef. I lost count of the number of species on display here, but these little guys literally wait to mob swimmers as they take the plunge.
For the most part these are scissortail sergeant fish (the silver and black stripy ones) with black butterfly fish.
Black Butterfly and Scissortail Sergeant fish
You’ll find numerous other types here, but these guys will swim with you in ‘convoy’ forming your own private shoal as you explore the denizens of the reef.
Many people fall in love with the brightly coloured fish found swimming in the warm waters of the Red Sea, but in truth there are just as many wonderful colours to be seen among the varieties of coral and molluscs on view. Take this stunning blue clam for instance:
These are abundant on the reef and come in all sizes… you wouldn’t want to put your fingers too near the bigger ones, believe me!
Then there are the worms… several varieties and no idea what they are called, but some of them, like these tiny feathery orange ones, are very pretty too:
These really are very small and grow among the corals. If you get too close they shoot backwards into their burrow, so just the one (not very good) shot of the little chaps.
Two angels must qualify as something heavenly surely, even when those angels are angelfish… and if you look in the background you’ll see a spotted ray swimming below the coral reef’s edge.
Two Angels and a Ray
Genus Pterois, the lionfish is a venomous marine fish sometimes known as zebrafish, firefish, turkeyfish or butterfly-cod is characterized by conspicuous warning coloration with red, white, creamy, or black bands, showy pectoral fins, and venomous spiky fin rays. The Lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific.
This particular example was caught on camera in approx. 8 metres off Tiran Island in the Red Sea with an Olympus Stylus TG-3 tough compact.
Genus Pterois: Lionfish
Genus Pterois: Lionfish
Genus Pterois: Lionfish