By Tine Funderud and Stone Meharry, Goat Island Dive & Snorkel.
In our big blue ocean we have creatures of great size, from turtles to enormous whales or sharks that you can spot 100 metres away. However, some are small and incredibly well camouflaged.
We have an abundance of plants and fish living right there where we normally just swim past. The problem is often that they are too small or too well camouflaged to notice.
Spotting the small and hidden is a game of patience. Let’s say you are approaching a wall: slow down, control your buoyancy, hover as close as possible without touching the wall and look. Pay a little bit more attention to the wall than normal. Some tiny creatures hide in rocks or plants. By hovering quietly you are allowing them to show themselves. It’s a waiting game, but suddenly you can spot the most amazing species. Take some deep breaths and study the details on the fish or plant; you might find some alluring patterns and colours.
Going up to any wall or every rock formation closely looking for something can be tedious. There are a few things you can look for that make things easier to spot though. Try looking for slight movement or colours that don’t belong. A seahorse will stand still, impossible to spot until it moves. On the other hand, nudibranchs are extremely slow moving, but exude colour.
Other fish might be completely still and well camouflaged. With these, look for the eyes. The eyes can move in a sudden motion, and the deep black circle is very recognisable.
The outline of the fish is a good way to notice it, and regardless of its colour the outline will always cast a shadow or a break in the pattern. When a flounder is lying flat against the sandy bottom, the outline is what gives it away. Additionally you can also look for the texture and mass. The scorpionfish has a great natural uneven surface, but sometimes it stands out because of its shape. The cuttlefish, which can also change its texture, is hard to spot, but look for the outline and the quick change of colours. All camouflages have a weakness, study creatures by looking at pictures before your next dive for a better chance of finding them.
Not all organisms depend on a rock or plant-filled background to camouflage themselves. Small jellyfish or juvenile squid are mostly transparent, but one can still easily notice them. Squid are easiest to spot by their eyes, and with jellyfish you can normally spot some colour on their intestines or tentacles.
Always be aware not to harm the marine life. If you find something small, don’t show your buddy by touching it with your finger or lifting it up, use a muck stick (pointing stick) to carefully point in the area the object is or indicate the general area and let them spot it themselves. Always remember to take a closer look on your surroundings because they are filled with magnificent species.