Summertime represents a magical time underwater in the Cayman Islands. Not only are the waters warmer (and seemingly clearer and bluer?) but there is a lot of underwater activity pertaining to this time of year. Summertime showcases the fruitful results of springtime love and the sea is full of juveniles.
This fantastic time for diving and snorkelling offers a new abundance of life teeming in the reef ecosystem and there are some firm favourites to be found, so keep your eyes peeled.
Juvenile Spotted Drum
This amazing creature is a tiny black and white striped fish (in its early years), with a long ribbon of a first dorsal fin. They tend to hang out in fairly shallow coral crevices so they can dart backwards and forwards, with their ribbon fin magically wafting with them. The clever name, ‘spotted drum’ comes into fruition later in its adult life, when the spots become more visual. If you can get close enough (without wiping out its coral home), you will see the black and white striped effect on its eye! The long ribbon dorsal will be grown into in later years and will become more sturdy.
Juvenile Spotted Trunk fish
Now you are going to need good eyesight, buoyancy and patience (or perhaps luck) to see these little juveniles but they are well worth looking for. The juvenile spotted trunk fish basically looks and behaves like an underwater bumblebee (sorry scientific friends!). Whilst this description is not going to win awards in a peer reviewed journal, it will help you identify what you are looking at. These juveniles are fantastic and buzz around in the safety of the coral. They are about the size of a 10 cent piece, are yellow and black and their fins look like insect wings, fluttering at a million miles an hour.
It is worth getting in touch with dive companies who know what they are looking for, such as Ocean Frontiers. Spawning is one of the wonderful mysteries of the sea – the corals (somehow) all coordinate to release their spawn at the same time. This amazing event is influenced by tide, moon and water temperature and usually occurs in late August/early September in the Cayman Islands.
Why is this so special? Well, it happens at night and has been likened to watching sparkling fizz that explodes in the sea and is very very intense. Different types of hard corals provide a different experience.
Turtles made their nests earlier in the year and over the summer and fall months the hatchlings make their brave run for the sea! The Cayman Islands has an effective turtle nesting programme managed by the Department of Environment which means the levels of active turtle nests are on the rise. Many condos now take part in protecting the nests and therefore the chances of seeing a hatching event are increased. Watching the turtle babies make a run for the ocean, laying their incredibly important tracks on their signature beach (to which they will come back in many years’ time) is something worth seeing.
The time for juveniles is now. For those of you lucky enough to see the underwater offerings that are currently on show in our abundant marine environment, there is one thing worth thinking about: the journey many of these juveniles are currently embarking upon is significant, especially for those species that take longer to mature, such as coral and turtles. These days the opportunity to survive is stacked against them and marine protection is the only way to aid future species’ abundance.