Marine Life of Zanzibar
Zanzibar is famous for its abundance of reef fish and variety of small marine life. Sea creatures such as nudibranch, leaf fish, frog fish, crocodile fish, seahorse, mantis shrimp, octopus, are very common to spot. It is this that makes Zanzibar a great place for macrophotography.
Dolphins are common in Mnemba Atoll and even turtles can be found on several of Zanzibar dive sites. However, if you are looking to dive with sharks, manta rays and whale sharks, you should know that Zanzibar is not a large pelagic destination.
The bottlenose calves normally stay with their mother until the age of 1.5 – 2 years, but can stay for as long as 5 years. They have a life span of more than 40 years.
These Dolphins travel up to 100 km a day in search for food.
The Green turtle’s name comes from the color of their fat and not their shell, despite the common belief.
The green turtle is the second largest after the leatherback. They can weight up to 225 kg and reach 1.2 m in length. Green turtles are able to hold their breath for hours at a time.
Seahorses might not look like a typical fish, but they are classified as a fish.
Seahorses mate for life. In fact, they are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male carries the unborn young.
Seahorses main predators are crabs.
Mantis shrimp have the best color vision on our planet. Their eyes mounted on mobile stalks and constantly moving about, independently of each other.
The mantis shrimp has a striking punch that can reach the same speed as a .22-caliber bullet. It kills its prey with a deadly strike, so keep your fingers away!
Nudibranchs are sea slugs. They have a foot and they leave a slimy trail. There are more than 3,000 species of colorful nudibranchs.
Nudibranchs get their bright colors from the food they eat such as sponges, anemones and corals. They have a poor vision though and can not see their own colors.
Octopus is one of the most intelligent of all invertebrates. As a master of camouflage, an octopus can change the color of its entire body in just three-tenths of a second.
Octopus can observe, learn and even solve problems. They have been seen removing a plug or unscrewing a lid in order to retrieve prey from a container.
Humpbacks are acrobatic and can breech their 40 tons completely out of the water.
Humpbacks are known to sing. Their songs are complex, while each population singing its own unique song. Their songs are not inborn, they learn them from each other.
Harlequin Shrimps spend their whole life with the same partner. Together they hunt and defend their homes.
They eat only starfish. They use their sense of smell for hunting. When they find a starfish, they work together to overturn it and disable it, often carrying it back to their hiding place, where they can spend days feeding from it.
Frogfish don’t usually swim, they use their fins to walk.
A Frogfish’s mouth can expand to 12 times its regular size. Therefore, it can swallow an animal twice its own size!! And since a Frogfish does not have teeth, it will swallow it in one piece!!
Morays hunt a night. They have poor vision, so they mostly rely on their keen sense of smell to hunt.
To breathe, moray eels must continually open and close their mouths to move water over their gills. Scuba divers often incorrectly interpret this behavior as threatening.
Cuttlefish are known as the “chameleon of the sea” and rightly so. They have the extraordinary ability to change color to match their surroundings. The cuttlefish use this amazing talent to hide, hunt, communicate and even to attract a mate.
They are regarded as the most intelligent invertebrate.
White Tip Reef Shark
The White Tip Reef Shark is a very social fish. They often lay on the ground in large groups.
White tips can lie motionless on the bottom and actively pump water over its gills for respiration, unlike most other sharks who need to be in constant movement.
Trumpet fish are true killing machines. In fact, one of its most spectacular method of hunting is Shadow Stalking. The trumpetfish will find a large herbivore, such as a parrot fish, which is nonthreatening to the smaller prey, and will ride along the side of it using it as a blind. Then when the unsuspected prey gets close the trumpetfish darts out catching its dinner.
Porcelain (Anemone) Crab
The porcelain crab has 2 large claws which are simply used for defending their territory and not typically used for hunting lunch. If threatened, the porcelain crab can drop a claw. But don’t worry, it will grow back in no time.
The female crab is relatively small but is able to carry up to 1600 eggs at a time.
The Napoleon is one of the largest fish on the coral reef. In fact, it can measure up to 2.3m in size and weigh up to 190 kg.
This wrasse is a true eating machine! They feed on giant clams, eels, sea urchins, star fish, as well as other fish including smaller species of wrasse.
The Stonefish is the most venomous fish found on the Coral Reef.
They are not aggressive and tend to use camouflage as a means of defense. It usually sits amongst Coral rubble or stones, with which it blends incredibly well. Sometimes they bury themselves in the sand with only the top of the head and the eyes exposed.
Lion Fish have between 13 and 18 venomous spines on the back side of their body. However, the venom is used only in self-defense.
They are either solitary or in a group containing one male and a few females. The male lion fish is highly territorial and will protect his territory pretty fiercely.
The Crocodile fish is a bottom-dwelling ambush hunter. It feeds largely on smaller fish.
It got it’s name due to it’s resemblance to the reptile.
The crocodile fish is easy to approach and is indifferent toward divers.
Bluefin Trevally are extremely strong swimmers and swim long distances in search of food.
They are fast, aggressive fish when it comes to hunting and have even been known to even take food from the mouth of feeding sharks.
The Weedy Scorpionfish use their camouflage to blend into their environment.
To move they use their pectoral and pelvic fins to drag themselves along the floor.
When hunting, they lay motionless for unsuspecting prey to pass within striking distance.
Ghost pipefish are masters of disguise. They can look like leaves, algae, sponges and even seagrass, making them very hard to spot.
Here in Zanzibar we are lucky enough to have a few different species, such as ornate ghost pipefish, Seagrass Pipefish and Slender Ghost pipefish.
The flying gurnard cannot fly as the name might suggest, but when threatened they expand their fins/wings to scare off a predator, making it seem like they are gliding through the water.
The pelvic fins act as legs as the fish walks along the bottom of the ocean.
Indian Ocean Walkman
The Indian Ocean Walkman is closely related to the scorpionfish & the stonefish. It is usually well camouflaged, and you can often find it partially buried in the sand.
It is unable to swim efficiently and prefers to drag itself along the sand using 4 rays (legs) located on the pectoral fins.
Blue spotted Ray
Unlike other rays, the blue spotted ray rarely buries itself beneath the sand, and you are more likely to find it hidden under a rock.
It gets its name from the bright blue spots on its back. These spots are to warn predators to keep away.
The leaf fish regularly occurs in pairs.
A leaf fish will rock from side-to-side or back and forth to mimic a piece of plant.
When feeding, it awaits an unsuspecting small fish or moves toward it slowly, taking it with a sudden gape of the huge mouth.
The scorpionfish is a large group of bottom dwelling predatory fish. There are more than 200 recognised species. A number of them can be found in Zanzibar.
The scorpionfish is a nocturnal predator and spends the daylight hours blending in with the corals, rocks and sand.
Pegasus Sea Moth
The Sea moth is a bottom dwelling creature and lives on sandy beds.
They feed on whatever they can find on the seabed. Their body armor provides protection from predators. Curiously, they shed this bony external armor in a single piece in an effort to rid themselves of offensive organisms.