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Day 6: Noggin Reef and Nathan Reef

Noggin Reef
Our first stop for today was at a unique reef known as Noggin Reef! I decided to snorkel as soon as possible, because the above water view of the reef looked amazing!!! When I swam out a bit into the reef, I noticed something I did not expect to see. A large amount of algae! There was algae all over the reef and on some of the hard coral. There was also a high amount of soft coral in this area as well. At first, I was a little disappointed, but then I started to notice all kinds of other life. This was actually one of the most active reefs I have seen so far! Despite the presence of algae on the hard and dead coral, there was a massive amount of fish and other marine animals!
There were huge schools of parrotfish swimming along and were feeding on everything. There was so much crunching, they reminded me of a PacMan Fish! There were a lot of unique fish here as well. There were many areas and crevices that had seas anemones and clown fish. I saw at least three different kinds of clown fish, which really caught my attention. I saw five species of butterflyfish, three species of angelfish, and six species of chromis. There were many crevices in this area that hid grouper, squirrelfish, and baby sweetlips. I loved looking at all of the wrasse species that were swimming around. Personally, I think the slingjaw wrasse was my favorite fish on this dive….or maybe it was the spotted boxfish…Oh!!! I did like to watch the side spot goatfish look for food. They were a very interesting fish to observe!!

I saw a shoal of squids swim past me. They were red and as long as hand. When I was getting my camera out, one of the squids turned instantly white and looked right at me. It looked at me for fifteen seconds before moving on with its shoal. The squid I saw seemed very different from the rest of the marine animals I encountered. They seemed to be intelligent and very aware of their surroundings.

I loved to look at the different species of sea cucumber and seas stars I found at this reef. I heard that this reef had some problems with crown of thorns, which is a large sea star that feeds on coral and algae. They were native, but their population exploded due to the water chemistry and the abundance of food. Even with some problems this reef did encounter with algae, I would say this would be one of the most active reef systems I have seen. Even the outskirts of the reef system had large schools of fish such as fusiliers and milkfish. My favorite fish species were the slingjaw wrasse, vagabond butterflyfish, milkfish, diagonal lined sweetlips, Pacific doubled saddled butterflyfish, red and black anemonefish, and the blue-line damsel fish.
Nathan Reef
Has anyone seen Finding Nemo? Well, Nathan Reef reminded me of the reef at the beginning of the movie! This reef was so diverse and colorful, I was in shock about how beautiful this place was!!! I swam the most at this reef, because there was so much to see! The current was strong, but it was worth seeing all of the unique fish!
The boulder coral was massive and must have been a few thousand years old! On these large boulder coral the size of a living room, you could see a variety of colorful Christmas tree worms. There were bright blue and yellow worms that popped out of the coral. The crevices found within the coral contained sea anemones and clown fish. Some of the large coral in this area provided home to hundreds of chromis and anthias. The fish were so colorful, I thought that some of these colors never existed in the wild!

I followed this large school of parrotfish and surgeon fish. The surgeon fish led the pack of hundred parrotfish. When the surgeonfish come to a coral spot they like, the parrotfish watch them. When the surgeonfish begin to feed, the parrotfish all at one time fed in the area where the surgeonfish were. I noticed this event at other reefs stops as well and it only happened around 12:00 to 1:00pm.
There were sand flats to explore in this reef. I saw goatfish, stingrays, and sandperch all over the place. The stingrays like to remain hidden and the sandperch pretended that they were small pieces of broken coral, which was interesting to watch!! The goatfish must’ve been every fish’s best friend. The fish would go around and dig up food with its whiskers and the fish following the goatfish would pick up the scraps. Some of the wrasse were a little too aggressive and the goatfish did not want any part of their shenanigans. I observed a blue striped cleaner wrasse cleaning different fish of parasites. An orange socket surgeonfish passed by and the cleaner wrasse rushed to the surgeonfish. The surgeonfish did not want to be cleaned, but the cleaner wrasse was persistent! The surgeonfish got really upset and chased the cleaner wrasse for a good fifteen seconds!

I loved watching the barramundi cod! These massive fish were white with brown spots! They looked like a reverse colored black crappie on steroids. I was looking at one and it looked straight back at me for a bit. Then barramundi became paranoid and swam quickly away when I tried to get its picture. I guess it was camera shy or it had a bad experience with cameras before.
After a long snorkeling session, I noticed a lot of black noddys, fairy terns, and shearwaters diving under the surface of the water to the right of our boat. They were feeding on a school of fish and each of the birds were very active in diving. Afterwards, some of the black noddys rested on top of our boat and the glass boat after they ate their share of fish.
Nathan Reef was my favorite reef of the trip!! I saw so many colorful fish and experienced so many interesting symbiotic relationships in this area. There was a strong current, but the amount you saw on this reef would blow your mind!! My favorite fish species of Nathan Reef were the bicolor angelfish, orange finned anemone fish, Pacific sailfin tang, anthias species, slingjaw wrasse and the barramundi cod. I also enjoyed viewing the pineapple sea cucumber.
(Side note: Keep your eyes peeled during the day time when traveling between reefs, you could see a pod of bottlenose dolphins!)

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