Water Simba

The bane of the Atlantic, Lionfish haunt most reefs in the Indo-Pacific. The species that I have predominantly seen in the coastal waters of Dar es Salaam have been Pterois radiate, the Clearfin Lionfish, Pterois volitans, the Red Lionfish, and Pterois miles, the Common Lionfish or better known in the East African coastal regions- the Indian Lionfish.

 

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Pterois miles, the Indian Lionfish. Previously featured in Alien Shallows, this shot was taken in about 2ft of water in a rock pool just off the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club beach. Holding my breath, I ducked under an up-turned coral head to find this big guy hanging upside down on the underside of the massive Brain Coral.

Lionfish are very interesting to me. Whilst on dives it seems that they come out of nowhere when swimming in the open, pectoral fins armed and ready to defend from attack. However the Lionfish is an incredibly territorial creature, usually making its home in one spot and then hunting in a wide area surrounding it. On one dive site in particular I’ve noticed that the coral slopes give way to an estuary of sand, with a solitary Basket Sponge situated in the middle of the sandy expanse. As I cautiously swim over to the sponge, usually leading divers or student divers, I’ve found the same Lionfish either in the sponge’s epicentre, kipping the day away, or somewhere close by waiting for an unsuspecting fish to pass by.

 

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Lionfish are ambush hunters. Generally they wait until an unsuspecting fish passes by to strike, herding it into a certain direction with it’s outstretched pectoral fins before gulping its prey up with lightening fast speed.

 

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I had spotted this juvenile from a short distance, nestled in the folds of a huge Basket Sponge. I’m unsure of the species, but at this point I was more concerned about not scaring the little fellow off. Being about a quarter the size of the palm of my hand, I moved in very close with a macro wet lens.

Like Stonefish, Lionfish are incredibly venomous. Sporting 13 dorsal spines, 2 pelvic spines and 3 anal spines, the fins of these fish are something to watch out for. the spines are used primarily as a defence mechanism to deter predators such as Grouper and Sharks from munching them, but unfortunately when humans come into contact with them it may sometimes result in a nasty jab from one of these spines. Luckily I have yet to experience this, so I will say that although Lionfish tend to stay still when you swim by, always have your wits about you, and try not to swim directly over them at a close distance. When it comes to photographing them, buoyancy is key (surprise!) but a slow approach is very useful as well. I you can get close enough then the Lionfish will reach by fully fanning out it’s pectoral fins, which creates a beautiful display making for a really rewarding shot.

 

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Wading through the shallows, I captured this young Lionfish stalking over the top of a large Brain Coral. Using the light from my overhead torch, moving in slowly for the shot and taking my time was key, as some Lionfish have been known to lash out due to their territorial nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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