Spring has Sprung!

It’s April and as the water temperatures are slowly creeping up to the mid-70s, the creatures underwater are getting frisky!

I get the pleasure of spending at least 3 days a week underwater at the Blue Heron Bridge (BHB) dive site, which is roughly 6-9 hours a week underwater just at this one dive site! Because this site is located in the intracoastal zone near the Palm Beach Inlet, it is under the dramatic push and pull of the high and low tides creating a very dynamic environment. I have seen brown and green algal growths that show up almost immediately and quickly disappear, lasting only a few months. I have seen beautiful orange sponges grow to over 12 inches, only to get washed away quickly with a strong outgoing tide. Even with the environment changing so drastically in such short amounts of time, so many unique creatures thrive there, and most importantly this time of year, find mates and reproduce.

Right now, many incredibly obscure creatures are showing their faces at BHB, in hopes to create the next generation of obscure, incredible creatures. That is correct, April is a very important month for several species below, and above, water… It’s mating season! Love is in the air, I mean water, and at BHB we get to see species that only show up this time of year in search of a mate. Mating season also reveals behaviors in adults only seen this time of year, and don’t forget juveniles! (Who doesn’t love a tinier, even more adorable version of these cute creatures?)

Many divers have seen the Banded Jawfish (Opistognathus macrognathus)all year round, carefully cleaning and rearranging their shell-door mats. During mating season, you may find the interesting behavior of male-mouth brooding.

When it is their time to mate, and they have selected wisely, the males actually carry the fertilized eggs in their mouths! This is one of nature’s ultimate forms of protecting and caring for young. If you are lucky, you may even see the males gently, but rapidly spit the eggs in and out of their mouths to clean the eggs.

One creature, only comes from April to late summer, shows up to BHB each year to eat and mate, eat and mate. This is the Striated Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) and is a very obscure creature indeed. They apparently rely on camouflage, which they wear so well, as they sit in one spot for a very long time. They only seem to move a few feet away when they feel it necessary, either to feed or in search of their mate. 

The most obscure creature, I believe, to show up for love in April, is the Ragged Seahare (Bursatella leachii).

 Seahares are closely related to sea slugs and nudibranchs, however being some of the largest members of their family. They get their name from a pair of appendages on their heads called rhinophores, which resemble rabbit or hare ears. Seahares are actually hermaphroditic and can mate in piles of other Seahares of the same species! So, you may see them alone, in pairs, or in large clusters of individuals…a tangled mass of hairs (pun intended), leaving only fertilized eggs behind.

 What I find to be a very interesting fact about the Seahare, is that they have a simple eye, meaning they can only detect light from dark and yet they can still locate others to mate and carry on the gene pool. 

They say April Showers bring May Flowers… I’m excited to see what will sprout in May from all of our underwater April Lovers! 

September Blog

Beneath the calm of the ocean, deep under the warm summer waters, giants begin to gather. One by one they arrive after their long journey, stopping only once they reach South Florida's beautiful coast. These gentle giants stare wide-eyed as curious divers navigate above them. Amidst giant schools of baitfish, hundreds of these incredible creatures aggregate for the sole purpose of creating the next generation of giants.  

At the end of each summer, from mid-August through September, Goliath Groupers take over numerous South Florida reefs and wrecks as they come together to spawn.  Driven to Palm Beach by instinct and the urge to mate, they aggregate in mass traveling from as far north as Georgia and as far south as the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast.  Growing from four to eight feet long, these friendly fish can weigh upwards of eight-hundred pounds making them giants of the sea.  Divers often hear the Goliath’s familiar “Boom,” which echoes loudly through the Atlantic. This loud and stirring noise signals a mating call between the groupers.  One boisterous “Boom,” soon begins a crashing symphony of loud calls in return, and within weeks of their arrival the spawning takes place.

Deep wrecks disappear behind schools of these large and friendly fish. Lurking in between concrete pylons and inside wreck corridors, divers glimpse into the ever-growing marine life habitat that many of these friendly fish call home.  Crabs, an important portion of this habitat, act as the grouper’s primary food source; however, Goliaths can be opportunistic feeders once they arrive as they fast for the entirety of their long migration.  Their annual aggregation marks the culmination in the species’ mating practices, ensuring young grouper begin to roam the sea.  Increasingly popular, these annual aggregations attract divers from across the globe. 

The mass aggregation thrills those who delight in both marine life and conservation.  As a protected species, Goliath Grouper maintain their safe haven in Florida’s Atlantic ocean.  In the not so recent past, these gentle giants were fished to near extinction, hung up as trophies, and almost disappeared from the Florida waters.  Now, under Federal protection, their populations are beginning to slowly rebound.  Instead of luring them on-board, visitors now celebrate their arrival greeting them beneath the ocean.   Artificial reefs such as “Warrior Reef" and the "Mizpah Corridor" are favorites of the Goliath Grouper, offering them habitat and shelter. The “Warrior Reef” comprised of high school building materials and the Mizpah wrecks interior hull, provide habitat large enough to suit the Goliath Grouper’s grand stature.

As Goliath Groupers begin to re-establish a healthy population, those above the surface work to advance public awareness about these incredible creatures, and the importance of their continued protection.  If you would like to see Goliath Groupers please contact Pura Vida Divers to schedule "Grouper" dive. With trips going out each and every day Pura Vida Divers strive to create a fun and safe diving experience for guests of all diving levels.   Call us at (561) 840-8750 or find us online at www.puravidadivers.com.

Paul’s Reef & Tear Drop

All of Palm Beach’s reefs are beautiful and unique and Paul’s reef is certainly near the top of the list for its perfect balance of reef and fish life. There is no mistaking this reef. Swarmed in schools of fish and adorned in corals of all kinds, one visit to Paul’s reef and you’re hooked!

Our dive began midway through this long reef system as the current was neglegible and reaching the northern end reef patches of this reef is a must. These patch reefs are covered in corals and fish life including a couple of large goliath groupers. Throughout the dive the group encountered eels, squids, a sea turtle, and tropical fish of all kinds.

For our second dive we headed north to Tear Drop reef. The colorful corals and fish life kept the group entertained throughout the dive. During both dives we enjoyed a very light north current, 40-50ft+ of horizontal visibility, water temperatures in the lower 70s, and  sunny 80+ degree air temperature back on the boat. This is how winter is meant to be spent! Get away from the snow and join us for some great diving in Palm Beach, Florida.

Sea turtles, sharks, and more…

Our group of divers today enjoyed two great dives on Bath and Tennis reef and Breaker’s reef. Conditions were nice with up to 60+ feet of visibility, 76 degree water temperature, 1-2 foot seas and a light north current.

Bath and Tennis reef had its share of sea turtles, gorgeous corals and tropical fish galore. On Breaker’s reef the current settled down even more and the visibility improved, too. Crossing the cable on 4th Window, a bull shark came swimming by in front of the group making two passes before swimming away.

Conditions underwater are feeling more and more like summer with the water temperature warming up and more sea turtles showing up. Come out diving with us and experience some of the best diving in Florida.

Special thanks to Bill Walker for hosting our divers while Sirena is in the boat yard.

 

Diving Blog

March 2015 Social Night: Leatherback Sea Turtle Presentation

March 9, 2015

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest of all living sea turtles and the fourth largest modern reptile. They have the widest global distribution of all reptile species (possibly of any vertebrate), and inhabit all of the worlds oceans except the Arctic. But did you know that Leatherback sea turtles are threatened with extinction?

In honor of the Leatherback sea turtle, Pura Vida Divers will be hosting a Social Night on March 13th, 2015 to raise awareness for these amazing creatures. This is a FREE event!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a diver, surfer or beach goer, everyone is welcome to attend. So join us for an evening of socializing, delicious food, and Leatherback sea turtles.

Shana Phelan, Pura Vida Owner/Operator and Environmental Conservation Adviser, will be presenting. Topics will include: Leatherback ecology (habitat and behavior), “Sea Turtle Manners” (what we should and should not do when we see Leatherbacks locally), and what we all can do to protect Leatherback populations world wide. For more information about Shana Phelan, please see her bio at the bottom of this blog.

Our team will be providing drinks and appetizers, and guests are welcomed to bring a small covered dish of food to the Social Night. This way everyone is sure to have their favorite dish. This is not a requirement! If you are unable to bring a dish, please do not let the dish prevent you from coming.

We will also have a 50/50 cash drawing to raise money for The Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island. So don’t forget to bring some cash!!

Itinerary for the Evening:

6:15 – 7:00 Happy Hour!
(Food, drinks and socializing)

7:00 – 7:45 Presentation by Shana Phelan

7:45 – 8:30 50/50 cash drawing

Please RSVP by Monday, March 9th, 2015
(561) 840-8750
info.pvd@puravidadivers.com

To find out about our future Social Night Presentations please visit our 2015 Social Night & Events Schedule.

Meet Dive Instructor Shana

Pura Vida Dive Shop Owner Operator, Environmental Conservation Adviser, PADI Staff Instructor, DAN Instructor, EFR Instructor

Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Shana Phelan graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina with Marine Biology and Environmental Science Degrees. After initially moving to Florida to pursue a career in diving she returned to the Carolinas where she completed her Masters Degree in Coastal Environmental Management at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. She has worked with the Loggerhead Marine Life Center as a Marine Biologist and Researcher studying endangered and threatened sea turtles including the elusive Leatherback. In 2002, she was interviewed by The Discovery Channel in regards to her research, and in 2005 she worked with WIDECAST to create a Sea Turtle Trauma Response Field Guide which is now used throughout the Caribbean. She returned to Pura Vida in 2005 as a Co-owner and serves as the Administrator of the Palm Beach County Diving Association.  In 2013 she was selected to serve as a Team Member for the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI).  In addition, Shana is a PADI Staff Instructor, DAN Instructor, EFR Instructor, and TDI Instructor. Her favorite dive sites include Juno Ledge and Fourth Windows.