Look but don’t touch these sea creatures
It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed with all the exciting reef sights when you snorkel or dive in Fiji. Most marine life will barely notice you and go about their fishy business. Some will get up close and say hello and others you should never touch. These creatures are in the absolute ‘no go’ zone. Get acquainted with which ones to watch from a distance.
Have fun checking out these amazing creatures and remember the golden rule of “look but don’t touch” and you will have the best time.
Word to the wise. Moray eels can and will bite. These intimidating marine creatures generally hide deep within reef crevices and coral overhangs, darting out at lightning speed to catch their prey. Obviously, humans aren’t on their menu but if you are lucky enough to spot one while snorkelling, it’s best to stay well away.
Banded Sea Snakes
Sea snakes are actually quite interesting to watch swimming – from a safe distance that is! The highly venomous banded sea snake lurks in tropical oceans the world over and is occasionally found in Fijian seas. Please don’t stress though, the snakes are content doing their own thing and are seldom aggressive to people. Stick with the ‘you go your way and I’ll go mine’ motto and all will be fine.
Sea Urchins are found anywhere there is coral reef. Their spikes are part of their self-protection mechanism and can be toxic to your blood system if you get spiked. Keep a keen eye out for sea urchins when wandering along the coral reefs on low tide. Again, look but don’t touch. On a positive note they photograph well.
Blue Ringed Octopus
On a scale of friendly to deadly, the Blue Ringed Octopus rates highly on the side of – you guessed it – deadly. Again, human encounters with them are extremely rare, so it’s really not worth worrying. These critters camouflage well within rocks and crevices, so it’s good to be aware that they may be present. Recognize them by the trademark neon blue rings that envelope their small bodies.
The name ‘Fire Coral” is perhaps a great indicator of why this marine species should be on our “don’t touch list”. Fire Coral is actually not a true coral, it’s more of a hybrid thing. Point is, if you get a cut from it, it stings, quite a lot. A sharp burning sensation and, on occasion, a skin rash may follow. The pain will be minimal and localized but it’s best to avoid it happening altogether.
Pufferfish are not for touching and certainly not for eating. Don’t deliberately go near them! The pufferfish is a common sea creature in the South Pacific region, so it’s not surprising that snorkellers may encounter them. The pufferfish is toxic! Very poisonous to humans if ingested and best to be totally avoided. In saying that, a pufferfish will not be bothered by you one bit. It generally just swims along in a non-threatening manner.
Stingrays appear nice enough, they look pretty calm and seem to just cruise along with the gentle ocean currents. Here in Fiji they are a highlight to see snorkelling but it’s definitely a ‘look don’t touch’ experience. On the end of a stingray’s tail is a poisonous barb capable of inflicting great pain and very, very rarely, a fatality. Please don’t be scared of these cool sea creatures though. They always stick to their ocean zone!
The rabbitfish won’t cause you any harm unless you were to touch one. It’s their spiky fins that hold venom. Yes, they are poisonous. No, you’re unlikely to be troubled by one. Snorkelling in Fiji is a very fun activity, just be aware that there are some creatures to be avoided.
Crown of Thorns Starfish
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) species is that it isn’t real pretty. This serves as a natural warning to be cautious. They come in a range of colours from purplish blue, to grey’s and greens. It’s the long poisonous spikes that might cause the damage to you. Also, worth noting is that these guys are a big problem for coral reefs all throughout the Indo-Pacific region. COTS are an invasive species that are unhinging delicate marine eco- systems.
The aforementioned are very sensitive sea creatures, it is important to remember the golden rule ‘see but don’t touch’.
Remember to pack good snorkel gear and always go with a buddy and/or a guide.