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No Need for Scuba to See These Creatures of the Sea - Section I, From Dry, Dry Land: Animal Planet on the Looney Front, Part 13

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 20/03/2016 Mike Arkus

My attempts at scuba diving have been nothing short of an unmitigated cataclysm. Many, many years ago when I was still young I had a go at it in Bermuda.
To cut a long story short, after a little try-out in a swimming pool, they took us out in a boat, put weights on us, and plopped us overboard. Everyone else descended beautifully to about 12 feet.
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I, on the other hand, got stuck six feet under because they hadn't weighted me down enough. And no, stop those unhelpful suggestions that they should have used mafia-style concrete shoes.
So there I was, tossed about like a bobbing float by the ocean swell, which you feel much more keenly at six feet below than at 12, struggling to descend further, unable to do so, overcome by panic exacerbated by claustrophobia.
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Now what do you do when you panic? You revert to what comes naturally. So instead of breathing through my mouth where the air pipe was inserted, I started breathing super-rapidly through my nose, trying to suck the whole frigging mask up my proboscis, and asphyxiating in the process.
Not only that, but I got seasick, too, from the swell. By the time I managed to hit the surface and tear off the mask, I puked my heart out all over the side of the boat.
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After that little experiment, I didn't try again for the next 25 years. That was at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Well, my wife doesn't go into the water, so here we are - my 13-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and Yours Truly - all masked up, weighted down, and squatting just under the surface on the hotel swimming pool floor.
This time I don't even get taken out on a boat. Before you can say 'The Little Mermaid,' I get a terrible attack of claustrophobia, a worse assault of panic and I'm most vigorously and vainly trying to inhale the mask up my nose again. I struggle upwards, flailing like a demented octopus, and just manage to get to the steps before passing out.
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Needless to say the kids do marvelously well. Boy, was my face red, and not just from trying to inhale the mask.
So whenever I get a chance to see sea creatures in their natural non-aquarium habitat without immersion I jump at it. Now, there are many places where you can do just that without even snorkelling, without even wetting your toes, let alone scuba-diving - 1) by looking on from a shore or jetty; 2) aboard a boat; or 3) though some man-made dry-preserving engineering feet.
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So, class, we're going to look at the first category in this blog, as demonstrated by all the above photos.
First - leaving aside seals and the like already clobbered in recent blogs - there are those colourful sea creatures that don't even oblige you to bend over the waters, since they emerge from the brine to display themselves on the rocks in total unabashed exhibitionism.
Such are crabs. Forget your mouldy boring browns and dull routine reds. We're talking creatures splendidly garbed in violent orange, shocking pink, blinding yellow, electric blue. Roll on up, ladies and gents, come meet Sally Lightfoot!


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OK, the scientific name is Grapsus Grapsus, and that has nothing to do with the Yiddish word for belch. They're said to have got their nickname from a dancer way back in the days of the pirates, a lass in Jamaica according to some, since they dance across the rocks.

Be that as it may, if you really want to see them in their hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, make for the Galápagos Islands where their iridescent colours attain even greater brilliance by contrast with the volcanic blackness of the rocks they scamper over, often amid the dowdier browns of sea lions, austere black and white of penguins and fabulous caerulean of blue-footed boobies.


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Compare that with this less colourful South Pacific cousin on the South Pacific island of Tuvalu.
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You also have some pretty spectacular bright yellow or deep purple giant crabs scampering over the summit of 2,800-foot Green Mountain on Ascension Island, hundreds of miles from anywhere in the middle of the South Atlantic, but these are land crabs, and nobody knows how they arrived there.
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As you approach, they stare at you, claws crooked defensively in front of their mouths, scattering sideways through the undergrowth and disappearing into their burrows if you get too close.
They can't swim and only go down from the mountain top to release their eggs by the water's edge, after which the larvae float at sea before coming ashore again as tiny crabs, scuttling up the mountain to join Mum and Dad.

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If you're looking for creatures that don't come out of water at all yet don't require you to get into water, either, home in on the South Seas, so limpid that you can see right deep down, with all that floats and swims in between.
Make for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, to the islet-studded Marovo Lagoon on the eastern side of New Georgia Island, amid volcanic peaks and emerald mountains.
Marovo lagoon


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Here the blue waters open a vivid window onto greenish-blue and purple parrot fish, banded yellows, orange and blacks, darting silver, and the red and white zebra that is the venomous lion fish with its frilly pectoral fins and blue-tinged tentacles.
Also called turkey fish, dragon fish or scorpion fish, the foot-long creature delivers its venom through an arsenal of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins, causing you extreme pain and nausea, but it's rarely fatal.
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Here in the undulating waters a whole kaleidoscope of varying hues sways, weaves and darts to and fro, and that's without counting the stationary turquoise-lipped giant clams or the duller but no less graceful sweep of the legions of reef shark.


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Such sights are everywhere in the tropical waters, whether the Caribbean and Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, or elsewhere in the Pacific, as here from the little wharf of Avatoru, on Rangiroa Atoll, 220 miles north-east of Tahiti.


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[Upcoming blog next Sunday: Whales, Dolphins and Others Sighted from On Board Ship as Looney Front Continues Its Animal Planet]______________By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon. Swimming With Fidel: The Toils Of An Accidental Journalist, available on Kindle, with free excerpts here, and in print version on Amazon in the U.S here.

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