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Reef Report for Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Dark Skies and Manta Rays

Things got interesting here in Cairns this week, with king high tides, crocodiles in the streets, and weather that has taken a turn for the worst. Gray clouds have encroached and are covering our once blue skies.

Despite breezy conditions out on the reef, 10-metre visibility was experienced at the Fish Market, where Passions of Paradise was moored. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises Introductory divers were bedazzled by schools of baby barracuda and colorful oriental sweetlips hiding under a ledge in the coral wall.

The 10-15 knot winds hardly bothered Thetford and Cowrie reefs, which were full of life. Oodles of anemone fish pranced around in soft anemone coral, while giant clams and barramundi cod formed a peaceful backdrop. Skipper Patrick from Tusa Dive raved about the lucky certified divers who watched in amazement as an enormous Manta Ray cruised past at arms reach.

The gracious Manta Ray is the most gentle and harmless member of the ray family, as they have no stinging barb. Frequently seen dining on the surface with their wing tips out of the water; they are often mistaken for sharks. They feed mainly on tiny plankton, scooping up large amounts using their cephalic fins to funnel food into their mouths as they swim through the plankton. Manta rays can be observed quite closely by divers, but are not fond of being handled. They can grow up to six to seven metres in width and can weigh up to two tonnes. Alex, an instructor with Pro Dive, explained how the Manta Ray’s sleek silhouette is deceptive, as it appears exceedingly plump at close range. Their substantial size does not diminish their grace, as divers off Cairns are often entertained with displays of underwater ballet. Young manta rays can be found performing summersaults at the surface . . . leaping clear out of the water! They do this to rid themselves of parasites.

This weekend should see the conditions become a little less desirable, with current winds increasing from 15 knots to 20 knots. Later in the weekend should see those winds reaching up to 25 knots. Southeasterly and northeasterly winds will keep on pushing those nasty showers over Cairns throughout the weekend.

(C) Pro Dive Cairns The weekly reef report is written by Sue-Anne Chapman of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the many conversations she has with divers, dive instructors, captains, and others in the Cairns dive community. The report is published weekly in the Cairn Post, the local daily paper and appears here thanks to the courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns.

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