Plop we went off the back of Quest. 7pm. We were fighting the evening mozzies as we went. It’s been hot and still these past couple of days. A real return to hurricane season. With the weather, come the mosquitoes. We’ve had to keep the nets closed on the hatches – even during the day. Some still manage to get in though. Jack goes on killing parties in the evenings armed with his head torch.
This made it a relief to get in the dark water, to soothe our bites. Bring back the trade winds! At the same time, it makes for lovely, still diving conditions. Like a pond.
The tarpon found us on this night dive. Last time we managed a night dive without them. Mixed feelings when they first turn up. Firstly, they scare the bejesus out of you. Shark-sized and similarly sinuous, tarpon are the apex predators on Bonaire’s west coast reef. Secondly, they come really close. Suddenly a six-foot long, foot-and-a-half wide silver king pops up – right next to you. Or under you. Or on top.
The only consolation I suppose, is that they don’t have pointy teeth on display. Indeed, tarpon have funny, upside down-shaped mouths. They look a little small, compared to their size. You can really examine them of course, because they are a face away. Why so close? They use our torch light to hunt. And I noticed, because of their smallish mouths, some of them swim on their sides as they get close to a fish. Maybe they do this to try and stay hidden to the sleepy fish who is about to be gobbled. Much of the time however, the fish see them and shoots away. The tarpon turns out to be quite a polite hunter. Its mouth carries that down-turned ‘typical’ expression.
The temptation for us, being evolved monkeys holding torches, is to help the tarpon. It’s easy to find a small, sleeping fish, and shine a light on it. The tarpon – of which there were three yesterday – quickly came forwards. A lot of the time, they just swam past, missing it completely. It felt about the same brain capacity as the Finster, who’ll miss a rabbit a metre from her, then run into the sand dunes chasing one a mile off.
Still, I’m sure tarpons have their methods. They aren’t being fed dog food every day. At least they’re polite enough not to bump into us. Not really anyhow. You can put your arm out and brush their bodies with your hands. They don’t seem to mind. They are unbearably shiny, and quite smooth too. These super-sized, silver scales are unique to tarpon. Tarpon follow an evolutionary end-of-the-train-line. There’s only one of them in the family Megalopidae. This means they have a number of unicorn-style adaptations. Though when they get close to the fish, I turn the torch off. Sorry. I’d feed them mozzies instead. Or dog food.