Every now and then, we divers are treated to surreal scenes. This was one of those times.
I have only had this one opportunity to dive in a mangrove. This is where trees grow, roots in the ocean. That’s right – trees growing in salty water. It makes your head hurt, just thinking about how that could be. The trees are specially adapted to exist in the high salinity of the ocean, and to somehow extract nutrition from a silty ocean floor.
This mangrove is in southern Raja Ampat (a group of islands in eastern Indonesia). A bit farther to the north is another beautiful mangrove, with bluer water, but in that one, salt water crocodiles are known to live. Much as that would be a cool photo opportunity, the risk of getting chomped is for real. Although we were told there had been no salties spotted in this large mangrove, I will admit that I was constantly scanning the area as I floated in the shallows, trying, unsuccessfully, to photograph groovy archer fish (which knock down their flying insect prey with a jet of water blown out of their mouths). Unsuccessfully, as I was shooting with a very wide angle lens, and they are pretty small fish ;^)
The mangrove is a bit of a nursery for juvenile critters. There are many places to take shelter from predators amongst the sinuous roots. There is also some coral growth, both hard and soft, along the periphery, which made it a pretty, though slightly scary, place to visit.
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