Feeding Time at Deerfield Beach

September 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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It had been a while since I had gone snorkeling, so I headed out to good ol’ reliable Deerfield Beach with my friend and her sister to see what was happening at the reef.  We had no idea how exciting this impromptu snorkel adventure was going to be!

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I’ll be honest – it started out less than stellar.  Ever since the first row of reef has been covered by sand from storms, the sea life seems a little less adundant.  It was starting to look a little bit like a reef ghost town by the time we reached the front of the reef.  We quickly learned to head to the back side of the row of reef and you’ll find more activity.  We headed South, as usual, to where the sea turtles usually hang.

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The back side of the (was 2nd row) now first row is full of colorful fish and is more or less like a nursery.  You’ll find juvenile Sgt. Majors, Tangs and Surgeonfish, Triggers, Puffers, Parrot Fish, and Wrasses as well as smaller fish like Coco Damsels and Blennies.  They’re always out and about feeding and they’re not usually terribly shy.

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Amongst the least shy of them all are the young French Angelfish that call this reef home.  What seems to be a “friendly” personality of them swimming right out to you is actually them standing their ground and letting you know thei is their home and they’re not looking for a room mate, but they’re far from aggressive (with people, anyway) and as long as you’re respectful of them they’ll put on a great show for you and happily “smile” for a photo.

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I highly recommend taking a deep breath, diving down, and getting a closer look at things.  Otherwise you might miss something cool like this Scorpion Fish, who looked like part of the rock until I was about a foot away from him.  If you’re snorkeling, diving down gives you a great chance to see a lot of different things that you wouldn’t see from the top.  On the same note, if you decide to go in for that closer look, DON’T grab on to anything to hold yourself down.  Aside from the damage you could do to the reef and anything alive that you might accidentaly touch, it’s very easy to cut yourself or get stung by something living on the rock.  Also, trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to ever grab a big handful of Scorpion Fish as certain species can pack a nasty venomous punch.

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It was at the time that we were admiring a rock covered in colorful fish, including the Scorpion Fish, that I had the feeling we were being watched.  There’s nothing creepier than feeling eyes on you out in the ocean, or at least there’s not when you were watching Shark Week an hour before being in the water.  I turned to my right to find this adorable Sea Turtle who appeared to be fish watching with us.  It seemed to be more than happy to be in our presence.

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We were clearly too busy admiring the Sea Turtle to even notice what we had swam into… that is, until we saw it taking a big bite out of a Jellyfish.  We looked around and realized that we had swam into a mini swarm of jellies!  That quickly explained why the little Sea Turtle wasn’t in a rush to leave, we had accidentaly stumbled into its buffet.  Normally, panic would have kicked in, but considering we hadn’t been stung yet (and with my luck, if anyone was going to get stung, it would have been me) so we hung out and quietly cheered him on as he demolished jellyfish after jellyfish.

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This had turned out to be the coolest Sea Turtle encounter we had ever had!  After feeding, he swam amongst us as if we belonged in the same world.  He even approached my friends brightly colored fins like he was going to touch them.  As we had learned in SCUBA classes, brightly colored air tank boots often attract Sea Turtles, so we joked that this little guy must have had a crush on her fins.  We could have stayed out there forever, except now we were starting to feel the jellyfish!

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IF YOU GO:

The reef structure at Deerfield is much different than it was before a year ago, you have to swim out further to get to the reef.  It is now more important than ever to make sure you have a dive flag!  Sure, lifeguards will alert boats coming too close to shore, but boats don’t always hear or pay attention.  It’s for your own safety!  Also, as always, while you can come in to shore from anywhere, you must go out to the reef from the private stretch of beach.  If you’re looking for the turtles, go out there and swim South.  That is where I find them every time!  JUST REMEMBER – Sea Turtles are ENDANGERED and federally protected.  While it goes without saying to respect ALL the sea life you encounter, be mindful of these guys.  While photographing this turtle there was no chasing or touching happening, he was with us on his own and if he swam away that would have been it.  The best thing to do is let them be and remember you’re a guest in their world… this typically leads to humans seeming less threatening and a better viewing of wildlife.

Have fun and enjoy!

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2 Comments »

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  1. Wow, those are fantastic pictures of the sea turtle! Looks like so much fun! We have always found them to be quite shy. Lucky for you, you found a friendly one! 🙂

    • Thank you! We’ve been seeing them there for years and it never gets old. They’re very confortable with an audience there, it always makes for an awesome trip.


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