The reduced visibility is not caused by particles in the water column. In fact, the water is unusually clear today. The low vis is caused by fish, millions of them.
The enormous sardine baitball keeps changing shape. It can grow dark when the school obliterates the sun.
I’m looking around for my wife.
Where is Dorte? It’s easy to get lost in the tornado of swirling fish.
Suddenly a large hole in the solid wall of sardines opens up and she rushes towards me, scooter on full throttle.
I know her body language, and I can tell that she’s having a blast.
The school moves as if it were one large organism and the majestic scenery keeps changing. I shoot with the camera on automatic to accommodate for the constantly shifting light conditions.
With my rebreather I can dive under the sardines without disturbing them with exhaust bubbles, and Dorte keeps finding new photogenic ways to position herself in the school. I’m having a blast too!
A DPV provides a good way of appreciating the baitballs at Moalboal.
Moalboal is famous for the sardines. They used to stay around Pescador Island, but a few years back suddenly decided to relocate, and now hang out close to the shore at Panagsama Beach, just a few minutes’ boat-ride from our resort’s jetty.
Nobody can explain why they moved or why they stay, but the local authorities recognise their value and protect them for the benefit of the tourist industry.
Fishing is allowed only with hook and line, and many local fishermen now make money offering boat-rides to snorkellers instead of catching the sardines.
Hook a sardine, and they can sell it only once. The fishermen can sell a live sardine to the tourists every day.
The baitballs illustrate the biological concept of safety in numbers. Predators are believed to get confused when approaching big schools of fish, and have difficulty in singling out individuals.
“Sardine” covers a handful of species in the herring family and there are a couple of separate schools at Panagsama, with distinctive species and slightly different sizes, shapes and colours.
Many divers travel to Moalboal just for the baitballs, but the destination has far more than a can of sardines to offer the guests.