Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - Blacktip Reef Shark

Three blacktip reef sharks circling the boat
I went to Cairns and spent a day on the Great Barrier Reef, ticking off one of my dreams. I didn't go to the outer reef, but went to Green Island just off Cairns. I had to weigh up lots of things and Green Island was do-able, on a small scale, and wouldn't leave me wrecked, and so it was a better option for me than going out further and seeing more of the reef. And even if it wasn't the most spectacular place, I loved it and now I'm going to bombard you with fish photos for weeks :)

The biggest excitement for me was the presence of Blacktip Reef Sharks. I know sharks mostly scare people, and they do scare me too but they also fascinate and thrill me. When we moored, the boat was immediately surrounded by big fish and a few sharks. The guys I went with have a license to feed the fish a small amount of food each day...which guarantees you see fish :)

The sharks caused a fair bit of concern among the tourists, most of who were overseas visitors, but I was excited. Reef sharks are at Lord Howe Island too and I'd snorkelled and dived with them there, and other than freaking me out, they were harmless. I was determined this time not to be freaked out.

I'd hired an underwater camera with a housing because my little camera was only recommended for up to 6m depth and the dive said it was 10-12m. This was a great move, because I had a whole 8MB memory card in the camera that became mine and was just for the day, and I took 500 photos over the day.
I bet you can't see the shark going over the top of that coral mound!

I decided I wanted a good shark photo. I got in for the first snorkel and not a shark to be seen...but heaps of fish and coral. Then I went for a dive, and a shark skittered close to us but you sort of have to know he's there to see him in the photos! Then right at the end of the dive, a shark came past us again, but kept his/her distance too. That was a bit annoying. At Lord Howe, I'd had them almost glued to my shoulder but didn't have a camera then!

While I was recovering, everyone took off for the island, and I remained on board. Three sharks continuously circled the boat. The crew tossed out some food, and the fish and sharks hung around. One of the guys told me that if I wanted to get a decent photo, the sharks had to not know I was there. So, I snuck into the water, lay very still, and waited for them to cruise by. My patience paid off and I was happy to get some photos.
Blacktip reef shark and some of the big fish

The crew also told me that the sharks are nocturnal but I haven't seen anything to support this. The Australian Museum website has some info on them, you can see it here. It says they're no threat to humans because of their small size, and I guess 1m or so is small in shark speak, but it's a big fish for me!

The crew also told me that these sharks have small mouths and the teeth aren't very prominent - again, I haven't seen anything to suggest that either.
Blacktip reef shark with some of the small fish - my favourite photo

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