Friday, October 23, 2009

Sydney snorkel - Fairlight Beach

14th October, morning

After 4-5 hours of overnight flight from Perth, I arrived in Sydney in the morning. This vacation in Sydney was a gift I promised myself for all the hard work I did over the last 1.5 years. When planning for my holidays I read about the many harbor and ocean beaches around Sydney. Naturally snorkeling and beachcombing would be two important tasks that I should undertake in Sydney. And I had a week to do that.

14th October, afternoon
Fairlight Beach

The first beach I visited was the Fairlight Beach. It was not very difficult to get there: I just have to take two trains and a ferry and a 15-minute walk. The guides that I have studied in preparation for the trip to Sydney say that the beach is good for snorkeling because even in shallow water, there are many fishes. (The only problem that day was that the weather was sort of cloudy and waiting to rain!)

Soon after I hit the water, I noticed there are lots and lots of sea urchins and sea tulips around. The sea urchins and sea tulips are both much larger than the ones I often see in shallow water off Perth beaches. That was exciting for me, a sign that I would be seeing marine creatures in Sydney which I wouldn't usually see off Perth beaches.

FYI, all photos below were taken in shallow water (2 meters or less).
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Sea tulips
These sea tulips (Pyura species) are 2-3 times larger that similar ones I have seen at Cottesloe. The stalks of these sea tulips are a foot long or so.

Yes, even in shallow water, I saw many schools of fishes. However, getting good shots of them was tricky as the underwater visibility wasn't good. In addition, many of them just swam too fast! The water wasn't too choppy anyway.

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Ludericks (Girella tricuspidata)
The fish has 11-12 thin bars on the side of its body.
It is a very common coastal species in New South Wales waters, but apparently absent from the west coast.

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Rough leatherjacket (Scobinichthys granulatus)
Rough leatherjackets are also found in WA. When I snorkeled at Cottesloe (Perth), I usually had zero luck photographing leatherjackets. They are just too shy, too fast, or hide up most of the time. So I always thought I would have to SCUBA dive in deep water to get some good shots of leatherjackets. Fairlight Beach is apparently a good place to see leatherjackets. I could see a few different species of leatherjackets swimming around/past me.

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Yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis)
Again, a common species in New South Wales waters but apparently absent on the west coast.

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Stripeys (Microcanthus strigatus)
This species can be found in Perth waters. They are nice to watch when they swim around in a school of 10 or more - they just look like some underwater butterflies when they move around!

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Crimson-banded wrasse (Notolabrus gymnogenis)(female)
I initially thought that this is a brown-spotted wrasse. Later, I was convinced that it should be a female crimson-banded wrasse. This is another common species on kelp-covered reefs in the Sydney region, but not found in Perth waters.

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Red morwong (Cheilodactylus fuscus)
The red morwong is the most common morwong on New South Wales reefs. The fish is confined to the east coast of Australia. On the west coast, the most commonly sighted morwong is the red-lipped morwong (Cheilodactylus rubrolabiatus). The red-lipped morwong is indeed the first fish I learnt to recognize and the first fish I got bored photographing. They are just everywhere I go.

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Easter blue groper (Achoerodus viridis)
Another fish that is not a Western Australian.
I have read about the inquisitive and friendly nature of the blue groper before. Unfortunately, the few blue gropers that I met off Fairlight Beach just decided to not pay any attention to me!

I was in the water for barely half an hour before it started raining! I didn't mind the rain but without adequate sunlight, underwater visibility just got worse. So I made my way to the shore. The last photo I took was this sea hare (Aplysia dactylomela) that looked like it just fell off a rock and landed head-first to the ground!

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ria said...

WOW, what fabulous photos and marine life!

It's so good to go snorkeling with you again on your shores. I missed your trips.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Chai
Great to see you back Blogging. Lots of good fish, eh? Shame about the water quality. The harbour is probably worse.
Lovely to meet you in Sydney.
I still have not processed all my photos from Long Reef.
As soon as I got back, I got caught up in new season Orchids. It has been crazy busy ever since.
Best wishes.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Hi Ria,

Nice to hear from you again. As it gets warmer, hopefully I can spend more time snorkeling again. Also, exploring the Cottesloe reef at low tides is something that I must do more thoroughly this spring/summer. Expect to read about interesting small marine critters!

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Hi Denis,
It was really nice to meet you in Sdyney. I surely learnt a great deal about birdwatching from a master :)

Anyway, I am still processing the photos of marine life that I have taken. It is surely time-consuming finding out the id's of creatures. When this is done or when it gets boring I will move on to the non-marine life photos I took. FYI, besides the goanna we saw in the Royal National Park, I later saw an eastern water dragon on a walk from Clifton Gardens to Balmoral beach.