Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eagle Bay, Dunsborough

This January I went snorkeling at Eagle Bay twice. The spot I visited was probably the one described in "Dive and Snorkel Sites in Western Australia" or not far from it. The area is shallow (2-3 meters), sheltered and had good visibility both times I was there (15 and 30 January). There are also many rocks on the sandy beach that extend into the sea, just as described in the book.

Looking towards the surface across a huge boulder covered with a thick blanket of brown seaweed.

What I didn't expect to find was heaps of stingers in the water, especially over the sandy area! Fortunately I wore my long-sleeved rashie, so my arms were safe although I still got stung a few times in my neck.

This was a good spot for chasing and watching fishes but not for taking photos. The fishes were quite camera-shy. In the mostly sandy area that extends to about 50 meters from shore, there are some scattered boulders. Near the boulders, I found a few schools of banded toadfish and blue-spotted goatfish, as well as a juvenile moonlighter. There were also a school of Australian herring or tommy rough.

Blue-spotted goatfish

A juvenile moonlighter

I also had a good time chasing after a school of leatherjackets around the scattered boulders. There were about 7 of them and each was 20-30 cm long. They were quick swimmers and so it wasn't easy to take their photos. I ended up with a few photos that are not useful for identification of the fish species. But chasing these bluish, greenish leatherjackets between scattered boulders were quite fun.


Around the scattered boulders, I also found a few brown-spotted wrasses that were lying sideways, with most of their body hidden under a rock, showing only their head.

Brown-spotted wrasse

On one of the huge boulder, I found a colony of zoanthids too.

Zoanthid colony (Zoanthus praelongus)

The seaweed-covered rocks just off the beach are also worth exploring although the area is quite shallow. I looked at the short video clips I made and could recognize these fishes: western buffalo bream, common buffalo bream, banded sweep, sea sweep, western pomfret, zebra fish, red-lipped morwong, and rough bullseye. In spots where it was only a few feet deep, there were also stripeys and rough bullseyes in small caves.

Stripeys and rough bullseyes

Perhaps the most interesting find was this juvenile western scalyfin. It was hanging out in a hollow formed by a ring of rocks very near the shore. The fish was about 5 cm long. It looked quite pretty, with numerous blue dots on its head and an orange/brownish body.

Juvenile western scalyfin

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snorkeling in Yallingup Lagoon, Western Australia

My last post was about my dive on the HMAS Swan Wreck during my holiday in Dunsborough with a few friends. The next day (17 January 2010), I went snorkeling in the Yallingup Lagoon. That was my second snorkel in the calm waters of the Yallingup Lagoon. I snorkeled there the first time in 2007 and was immediately impressed with the ease of the snorkel and the variety of marine life in the lagoon. The lagoon is the best snorkeling spot (that I know) for anyone who just begins snorkeling.

The Yallingup Lagoon is truly an amazing spot to snorkel because you snorkel next to some big wave breaks. And regardless of the wind, the lagoon is more or less calm. In other words, even with the big waves in sight, you know you are pretty safe in the lagoon.

The lagoon is quite shallow, about one meter or less in most part of it. Underwater, I found some seagrass patches as well as places with sandy and reefy patches. The sandy area appeared to be good for swimming. So, the Yallingup Beach really caters for the surfers, snorkelers, and swimmers.

Another view of the lagoon. The two persons in the photo were standing at the edge of a shallow reefy area, with a sandy area (light blue) ahead of them. The dark blue/green areas are the seagrass.

In this snorkel, I explored the left end of the lagoon, which is near a carpark. The lagoon was teeming with marine life. As soon as you hit the water, you would start seeing schools of fishes swimming around you. But what really impressed me was that every time I turned over a rock I would see some marine creatures.

This rock had an elephant snail (red arrow; the black creature) (Scutus antipodes) and a feather star (green arrow) (Cenolia trichoptera) sitting on it.

On this rock, there were a number of abalones (yellow arrows), two elephant snails (green arrows) and a sea cucumber (red arrow).

A purple sea urchin sitting next to a feather star. I also saw a few slate-pencil urchins in rock crevices.

Another shot of the pretty feather star.

A brittle star - a wriggly, fast-moving little animal

Some tiny sea squirts under a ledge. Each of these little stalked spheres had two large holes. This resembles other stalked and attached sea squirts which have an inlet and an outlet for water in their body. Each of the small spheres was about 1 cm or less in diameter. Behind these little sea squirts were the feathery arms of a feather star (or maybe more than one star).

Over the reef and the seagrass areas, there were heaps of zebra fish (Girella zebra) swimming around. In this group, there was one or two breams too.

There were also many striped trumpeters (Pelates octolineatus) in the lagoon, although not as common as the zebra fish.

And I saw a few small schools of old wives (Enoplosus armatus). It was quite an incredible experience as I would have to free-dive a few meters to see a school of old wives in South Cottesloe. But here in the Yallingup Lagoon, they were just one or two feet below the surface.

Other fishes I saw over the seagrass and the seaweed-covered reef included western scalyfin, six-banded coralfish (moonlighter), western king wrasse, goatfishes, and trevally. I even saw a southern eagle ray resting on a sandy patch not far from shore. There were also quite a number of fishes that I still haven't worked out their names.

When you snorkel in the Yallingup Lagoon, you must check out what's waiting for you under the ledges of the shallow reef - lots of fishes. In this spot, I saw lots of old wives (at least 30 of them) and some stripeys (Microcanthus strigatus). Who would have thought you would find all these fishes in just three feet of water!

Finally, seeing this zebra fish with a metal hook through it's mouth sure gave me a little shock!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Finally, I have left Perth and come home to Malaysia - transplanting myself from the recent scorching summer heat of Perth to the hot and humid weather of Malaysia.

This is my Day Five in Kajang, my hometown which is located about 20 km from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. Kajang is a landlocked city which I think has more shopping opportunities than natural attractions. Can I live in a landlocked city and at the same time maintain my marine life blog? Not for long I think.

Anyway, between my last post and now, I have done about 15 scuba dives and 20 snorkels around Western Australia and Tasmania. So, at least for the next couple of months, I will be living in Malaysia, but writing about my underwater adventures in Australia!