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Madagascar: Masoala Coral Gardens

Harmony amongst the coral: A pair of butterfly fish in sync.

The Masoala peninsula is home to a large proportion of the remaining hectars of Madagascar primary rain forest. It is refuge to such rare and strange species as the leaf-tailed gekko and the red-ruffed lemur. so much I knew and so I was stoked for my first visit to that ecosystem. What I didn't know is that Masoala is also home to spectacular coral reefs, the likes of which I have not seen.

Masoala is where the forest meets the sea.

As long as I can remember, beach and sea have been the elements where I feel most at home. Whether during holdidays in France as child, as student of marine ecology in South Africa, dive master in Egypt or traveler in the Carribean or the Indo-Pacific, I found again and again that I just feel great with lots of water over and lots of sea creatures around me. I have dived with big fish, I have dived wrecks and caves, at night and with zero visibility - and I thought I had more or less seen it all.

However, I was ill prepared for snorkling the Masoala. The pristine beauty and sheer untouchedness of this place are simply astonishing. The corals are obviuosly in strong and healthy conditions, I found no traces of bleaching or broken corals, or other damage. Instead, I swam through mystifying seascapes that seemed to stem directly from the early diverpioneers descriptions of Hans Hass and Jaques Cousteau that I had gobbled up as a teenager. Corals, corals corals of all types and forms growing over and on top of each other, with intermittant sponges and giant clams thrown in. Add to that an abundance in fish and other life forms of which I had heard, but never seen, and the occasional turtle, and you get only a glimpse of an idea of what it was like.

E. O. Wilson made the term 'biophilia' popular for describing the experience and healthiness of enjoying the company of living things. I came out of the Masoala waters thinking I would like to take that to the next level and define 'ecophilia' - as the sheer joy of finding and experiencing a spot in nature that still seems absolutely healthy.

Colourful clams: Tridacna can be found in abundnace.

Corals, corals, more corals, sponges, anemone, clown fish, corals. And a thousand other things.

Here, HE is king: Lionfish exude that calm self-confidence onyl potentially deadly animals have.

Tropical sandwhich: sea, fish and coral.

Nudibranch freaks will have a feast: Only one of numerous colourful specimen.

Always a nice shot: Rhizostomae medusa from below.

Decidedly territorial, this Emperorfish was not put off by excessive photography on my part.

A blue spotted stingray chillaxing under some corals. Nice place for a snooze, I must admit.

Wall-sponges of enormous proportions find spots between the coral blocks.

A Fungia coral displaying its tentacle. This is actually a single polyp, despite being the size of a dinner plate, and the only mobile coral.

Always a beauty: a Nephtheid soft coral all contracted and curled up for sleeping through the day.

A colony of brigth orange anemone add yet another splash of colour.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these gorgeous photographs and impressions with us! Now I don't need to go there and possibly "touch the untouched areas" - I have it right at home! :)


Anonymous said...

Haha, if that is the result, Sammy, then my worries are insubstantial... I was really debating whether to post about Masoala, as I am afriad it will inspire more people to come here...
but your comment puts a whole new angle on that. :-)
Gruesse nach Konstanz.

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