Play It By Ear and Make Friends With the Fish!

The highly energetic, beautiful reefs of Clipperton are dominated by moray eels. I’ve never seen anything like it. Typically, with most of their long bodies hidden inside holes, you only see their heads and the constantly opening and closing of their mouths displaying a fierce array of teeth. It’s different here – they are constantly out hunting.

Moray eel on the reef at Clipperton Island. Photo by Manu San Felix.
Moray eel on the reef at Clipperton Island. Photo by Manu San Felix.

The mass of fish and morays was so dense at 90 feet that I could barely see Manu, our great underwater producer, so I stopped to admire the vitality and power of this healthy reef and immediately I had morays under my arms, in between my legs, around my neck and they took it in turns to press their noses on my mask so that we could have a staring competition. I could see that Manu had them everywhere too and it was great fun too see them wrapped around his camera.

Bang! I thought my ear was ripped off. A moray had decided to try my left ear and I knew it was a good sized bite because my green blood flowed all around my head (blood looks green when you are deep due to the color filtration effect of sea water).

Paul Rose being bitten by a moray eel. Photo by Manu San Felix.
Paul Rose being bitten by a moray eel. Photo by Manu San Felix.

We stayed for a while so that we could film more and then as we started on our long ascent I could see that I was being trailed by an ever increasing school of groupers, snappers, rainbow runners, blackjacks, snappers and of course morays. They were all following my green stream and even though my ear was painful I was happy to lead a few hundred fish on a parade across the reef.

Dave McAloney, our Diving Safety and Medical Officer, has done a great job cleaning my four cuts and sticking things together with tape. I’m as good as new and happy to be reminded that getting up close and personal to the marine life here at Clipperton Island demands respect.

Moray Eel Newsflash:

On the very next dive Manu was again covered in moray eels and a big one got wedged underneath his arm and so wrapped in his diving gear that at 100 feet underwater Manu had to remove his SCUBA gear, untangle the moray and put the gear back on. The moray still won the little battle by biting Manu’s hand. Morays rule here, no doubt about it!

Moray eel tangled in Manu’s SCUBA equipment. Photo by Shmulik Blum.

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Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Paul Rose is an ardent explorer, television presenter, journalist, author, and Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, and an Expedition Leader on the Pristine Seas team.