IT’S CHRIST­MAS!

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Contents - By Mathieu Meur

The wa­ters around this tiny is­land are home to some huge hap­pen­ings

Ju­lian Rocks is lo­cated within the Cape By­ron Ma­rine Park, just off the coast of North­ern New South Wales, Aus­tralia. It sup­ports amaz­ing bio­di­ver­sity and is a fan­tas­tic place to see both trop­i­cal and tem­per­ate wildlife. Dur­ing the sum­mer, manta rays cir­cle the rocks and leop­ard sharks cruise up and down gullies. In the win­ter months it is an ag­gre­ga­tion site for the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered grey nurse shark.

As a dive site it can be pretty ex­posed to the el­e­ments, but luck was on our side that day – the sun was out, there was not a breath of wind and the ocean looked calm, blue and clear. I was ex­cited to get in the wa­ter. No sooner had we rolled off the boat for our first dive and re­grouped at the bot­tom, our guide pointed up­wards. There was a beau­ti­ful green tur­tle eat­ing a large jel­ly­fish! With ex­cite­ment and cu­rios­ity, we slowly as­cended to watch.

Stum­bling upon rarely-seen feed­ing be­hav­iour is al­ways a thrilling ex­pe­ri­ence

The tur­tle didn’t even no­tice us be­cause it was to­tally fo­cused on chew­ing the juicy cauliflow­er­like ten­ta­cles of the jel­ly­fish, bit­ing into them with what looked like pure en­joy­ment. How­ever, its meal was sud­denly in­ter­rupted by a sec­ond tur­tle and then a third!

It had now be­come crowded around the jel­ly­fish and the tur­tles would use their flip­pers to push each other back with de­ter­mi­na­tion. When it needed to breathe, a tur­tle would tow the jel­ly­fish to the sur­face with it so as not to lose its prized meal to the com­pe­ti­tion. A school of small fish that had been liv­ing amongst the jel­ly­fish ten­ta­cles stayed loy­ally next to their home at all times even though it was be­ing de­voured, hud­dled to­gether as far away as pos­si­ble from the sharp rasp­ing beaks of the tur­tles.

Af­ter watch­ing the ac­tion for al­most an hour, it was time for us to leave the wa­ter. We got back onto the dive boat feel­ing in­cred­i­bly lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to wit­ness nat­u­ral be­hav­iour like this.

When it needed to breathe, a tur­tle would tow the jel­ly­fish to the sur­face so as not to lose its prized meal

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