Expedition update: Saunders Reef

Saunders Reef is the most remote location targeted for the Catlin Seaview Survey. We have travelled for days along the Great Barrier Reef to encounter perhaps one of the most pristine reefs visited during this campaign. Here at Saunders, calmer winds permitted the team to explore reefs contrasting in weather exposure, all of them burgeoning in fish life. The most weather-exposed reefs were the highlight because of the abundance of large pelagic fish life. Across the dive we saw large Jacks, Tunas, Grey Reef Sharks, White Tip Sharks, Green Humphead Parrotfish, to name only a few. Coral cover was high at these sites, although low diversity of species and most of the corals are limited to small sizes because of the strong weather conditions impacting these reefs all year around. As we moved across more sheltered reefs, pelagic fish were gradually replaced by colourful reef fishes, juvenile sharks and a larger variety of corals. In these sheltered reefs larger corals offer a more complex physical structure that provide numerous habitats for common reef fish species. Our last dive today was the icing of the cake. We visited the northern most sheltered reef of Saunders, in the vicinities of a specially protected sand cay that provides nesting habitats for hundreds of turtles every year. In this dive we encountered over 70 large Green Turtles on their way to nest in the surrounding cays. These large and charismatic creatures were everywhere. Some of them were very intrigued by scooters and swam quite close… a really great way to end the day.