Quickening

6:35pm. Thirty minutes after sunset. We jumped off the back of Quest into the quickly darkening water. Put together: quickening. Not officially the correct term – quickening being the initial movements of a fetus felt by the mother in the second trimester of pregnancy.

It still felt like quickening. The dark water was all around me. And it was the first time in Bonaire for me, diving off the back of our boat.

Jack and I went down together while the girls chilled out with a movie. We’d heard that five nights after full moon, there is a particular light show an hour or so after sunset – of ostracods. Ostracods are seed shrimp. Despite their small size, they create an amazing light show in Bonaire. The males apparently use their vomit for creating this light show to attract females. That’s all I know. Despite us getting the time right, we didn’t see the glowing shrimp vomit. At least I don’t think we did. Maybe we weren’t in the right place.

We did see many beautiful other things. A night-dive tends to be so focused. You only have your torchlight path, and nothing else in your vision. I completely love it. I’ve surprised myself with this. I’m not normally a huge fan of the dark, but night-diving works for me. I like the narrowed field of view. I like it how the two different torchlights we carry during night dives create two different worlds. The normal, white light illuminates sleepy fish. And in the case of the hunting tarpon: not so sleepy! The UV light meanwhile, shows the secrets of the reef. Stunning secrets.

Using the UV torch, we can see how the reef creatures see the reef. Surely, this is how the reef is supposed to be seen at night. After all, fish with at least four types of retinal cones, and seed shrimp with their glowing vomit, surely they can’t just see the reef as a sheet of knobbly darkness. Not when coral uses UV light so dramatically and delicately.

This is my kind of underwater world. Everything intense and in our faces as we make our way, inching along the reef. We came across a bushel of columnar sponges, strange enough as they rose, green and orange like six-foot fingers. Hidden within them, assuredly for night time protection, were at least thirty, foot-long trumpet fish. Trumpet fish are related to seahorses and pipefish – just larger. They floated, their heads-down and bottoms-up, sleeping in the sponge.

At the end of the dive, we found what we were looking for. There’s a local Caribbean octopus around Quest. Patrice saw it a few days ago in the sand. It spit ink at him. Last night, we found its home. A small, but perfectly constructed home, with an anemone perched hat-like, on top, and shells placed carefully outside. Just the octopus’s eye poked out at us. The pink and white tentacles stayed inside.

We know where it lives now. Just next to our home.

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