On Monday February 24, 2020 I was diving at Molasses Reef off the coast of Key Largo, Florida with Rainbow Reef Dive Center.
I had several good shark encounters. The second one was the best. I was able to intercept a large nurse shark swimming across the reef and got within several feet of it. The Florida Museum website says, “Large juveniles and adults are usually found around deeper reefs and rocky areas at depths of 3-75 meters (10-246 ft) during the daytime moving into shallower waters of less than 20 meters (65 ft) after dark.”
Later on I had a fantastic Southern Stingray encounter. According to the Florida Museum website at Stingrays tail “can be up to twice as long as their bodies, with a sharp spine that has teeth on either side of it.”
I also encountered a small Nassau Grouper. The Nassau grouper, which is endangered, is one of my favorite groupers due to their color and stripe pattern. The Florida Museum website says, “The Nassau grouper can change color pattern from light to dark brown very quickly, depending upon the surrounding environment and mood of the fish.” This one has the stripes that fade towards the belly. The faded colors did help it to blend in with the sandy and rocky section of the reef that it was swimming in.
It’s exciting to see the larger marine creatures like sharks and stingrays, but I like to slow down sometimes and appreciate some of the smaller fish. The Queen Angelfish is one of my favorites.
Another reef fish that is a pleasure to watch is the Banded Butterfly Fish. “The banded butterfly fish is also a predator, feeding on tube worms, sea anemones, corals, and occasionally snacking on crustaceans.”