Oh That Orange Eye

Large-bellied seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis in Mahurangi Harbour.

There is a diving spot about an hour from my home. It is supposed to be a great place to meet seahorses. I saw pictures from my fellow divers proving the rumour was true. I did many dives there, yet I haven’t seen a seahorse there yet. I saw a pipefish once or twice, but no seahorse.

There is a harbour on my way to that seahorse spot. It is popular among fishermen and sailors, not so much among scuba divers. It is silty, visibility is usually bad, or even worse. I dive there occasionally, because murky water means colourful sponges start appearing in quite shallow water. Also plenty of interesting tiny critters can be found there if one is patient.

Once I went for a photo dive in the harbour. The visibility was really bad, I was swimming slowly with my fins up and my mask very close to the silty bottom. I was on my way to a flat rocky reef so was not expecting anything interesting on the patch of silt between the shore and the reef. Then suddenly it was right in front of my mask. I almost hit it with my nose. A perfectly camouflaged seahorse. Not yellowish or brownish as it is usual, but gray, a perfect match for the gray silt on the bottom. Well, almost a perfect match. A perfect match except that orange eye. That bright orange eye. I could not believe I found a seahorse there, even without looking for it.

That happened a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen a seahorse in the harbour since then. Yet every time I go for a dive there I hope I will meet it again.