Like People, Reefs Have Personalities!
Technically, just about anything that rises up from the seafloor – a stone-pile, a ledge, or even a deliberately scuttled ship – can be referred to as a “reef.” But when divers talk about reefs, they are almost always referring to collections of corals and sponges that have congregated in one space. Of all the millions of scuba dives done all over the world every year, the vast majority of them are done, not in open ocean, but on coral reefs.
Why? Because that’s where the wildlife is. And it’s there at any scope at which you wish to examine it. Swim up to Manta Ridge, in Yap, and you are apt to see a giant manta ray hovering in the current over the top of the reef, waiting patiently as small fish pick parasites off his skin. Yet you can also decide beforehand to pick just twenty square feet of an enormous coral wall in Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay, spend the entire sixty minutes of your dive examining that, and come away fascinated at the dozens of different life-forms you observed there.
And sometimes, it’s the whole reef that you come to see. Every autumn, during a specific cycle of the moon, the entire reef around Curacao erupts as the corals begin spawning, releasing eggs and milt into the water. Even more frequently, the sponges reproduce in a display that looks as if each sponge has become a living chimney, “smoking” underwater.