Where Coral Trees Grow

In the past I wrote about Mahurangi Harbour a couple of times. It’s silty and the bottom is flat, yet I dive it regularly; perhaps because it often surprises me. My dive there on last Wednesday was no exception … the harbour offered a couple of surprises.

Coral tree … there is that sunken tree in the bay, it’s close to the shore, usually there are a couple of tunicates growing from it. I’s all changed now. Bushes of soft coral Alcyonium aurantiacum (dead man’s fingers) grow on it. In such a shallow water, in such a silty bay with muddy bottom.

Missing purple finger sponges … unfortunately I could not find the usual purple finger sponges. There were plenty of yellow nipple sponges and areas of orange boring sponges, but almost no purple ones.

Schools of parore … on my way back to the shore I got encircled by a school of young parore (Girella tricuspidata). Suddenly they were everywhere around me. It was a great view, however, they were very shy and kept the distance.

Sea hares everywhere … in the deeper water on the flat muddy bottom there were dozens of hairy sea hares¬†(Bursatella leachii). It’s spring the mating season is here.

Nice biscuit …¬†on the sand near the beach I found a nice cake urchin (snapper biscuit, Arachnoides zelandiae) … a friendly “see you next time” from the harbour at the end of the dive.

Note: When I speak of Mahurangi Harbour, I usually mean its mouth … I dive from Otarawao Bay beach toward the Pudding Island. As I don’t surface during my dives so I don’t know how far I get, my guess is it’s less than 1/4 of the distance.

Tree covered with dead man fingers soft coral.

Tree covered with dead man fingers soft coral.

Tree covered with dead man fingers soft coral.

Tree covered with dead man fingers soft coral.

It's mating season for sea hares.

It’s mating season for sea hares.

Strong contrast between bright colour of nipple sponge and grey muddy bottom.

Strong contrast between bright colour of nipple sponge and grey muddy bottom.

Selfie in murky water.

Selfie in murky water.

Sponge gardens of Mahurangi Harbour.

Sponge gardens of Mahurangi Harbour.

Prickly eleven-armed sea star.

Prickly eleven-armed sea star.

Tiny purple finger sponge among sea weeds.

Tiny purple finger sponge among sea weeds.

School of parore swirling around in murky water of Mahurangi Harbour.

School of parore swirling around in murky water of Mahurangi Harbour.

Colourful cake urchin (snapper biscuit) on muddy bottom.

Colourful cake urchin (snapper biscuit) on muddy bottom.