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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

1 February 2011

Terrors of the deep

29th January 2011

The snorkelling along this coast is wonderful. Seriously, it knocks Ko Surin into a cocked hat, a veritable cocked hat. The coral is just a few yards from the shore everywhere and is a delight of different forms and colours and textures. The term ‘coral garden’ fits superbly. We snorkelled two coves today, each for over an hour, and I’ve entirely lost count of the number of different species of fish that we’ve seen. But it isn’t all rainbow fishies and smiles. I have a tale of terror in the deep to relate…

I was snorkelling along enjoying the coral vistas when a new kind of fish hove into view, about a foot long and eel-like, with a flat top to its head. All other fish swim away from us, this one came straight for me. Ugh. Defensive manoeuvres are not easy while breathing through a tube that has to stay above water. I rolled and used my fins to flap at it, but alarmingly it kept trying to dodge past and come at me, fearlessly. I kept it at bay again and again until it swam suddenly away. Following it nervously with my gaze I found myself staring at another fish of the same type, only much bigger. It was as long as my arm, as wide as my calf at the head but tapering to an eel’s tail and it was ugly as sin. It was made more horrible by a host of raw wounds on its body. And it was swimming straight at Maureen.

She had her head above water, and I surfaced briefly to hear her yelping “It touched me! Where is it! Augh!” I told her to go ashore* and ducked back under, just in time as it was going straight for her stomach. It was already past me, so I had no choice – I grabbed its tail, slimey under the water, and yanked it away. It backed off, but then came again. I yanked it’s flippin’ tail! This is crazy! It came again and I warded it off with fins, swimming almost on my back with my head canted over – I had to keep my mask underwater to see the horrid thing and my snorkel above water to breath, but also had to be facing backwards.

I kept swimming for shore in this awkward way, as the monster was utterly relentless in wanting to come at me and only my flailing fins kept it back. I chanced a glance ahead and Maureen had made good ground and was sitting on the shingle in only a foot of water. Phew. But when I turned back the fish thing had shot ahead of me. Even in a foot of water with the waves washing the shore, it went for Maureen again! I jerked my head up to yell “get ashore!” and then lunged forward and once again managed to grab its tail and jerk it away, only inches from Maureen’s legs.

We both scrambled panting ashore and the horror followed us no further. It turned out Maureen had only seen the little specimen, and she assumed it was that one bumping into her. Methinks she may have swum ashore with more asperity if she’d seen the real monster!

We didn’t go back into the water at that beach. Later we spoke to a guy at a diving resort, who explained that it was a suckerfish and although sometimes they alarmingly attach themselves to snorkellers the sucker does no harm.

No, I don’t have any photos of it for you.

* – It should be said that Maureen couldn’t swim before we started our year of travel, and has only had a few opportunities to try learning in swimming pools, so the fact that she’s snorkelling at all is something.

3 Responses to “Terrors of the deep”

  1. Nessa says:

    We are awake (almost) and time to do final bits of packing before the taxi arrives. See you in about 24 hours time!! xx

  2. Carmen says:

    Good for you and the swimming! Very impressed I must say….

    • shortclaws says:

      I felt silly afterwards, knowing it was a harmless remora. But at the time I had no idea what it wanted to do with Maureen! And a wild animal that doesn’t run away even when you pull its tail is really quite demented!

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