Dive The Diymba Kupotha (www.DiveSriLanka.com)
Reef of the Maori Wrasse and Potatocod
By Nishan Perera

Depth:20 Meters


A fully grown Napoleon (Giant Maori Wrasse) checks us out

No smaller, and equally curios, a Potato Cod joins the fray!

We are diving at Diyamba Kupatha, or the Napoleon Reef, within visible distance from the dive center. The reef is known for sightings of large Maori Wrasses, or Napoleon Wrasses as they are popularly known and I take my camera along in the hope of photographing a few.

The sea is calm, and the reef top at around 5m is clearly visible beneath the boat. The dive instructor is taking two students out and offers me the option to dive alone, so after a few tips from the instructor on where to find the likely fish spots I take a compass bearing and roll into the water. Visibility is around 15m, and below me is a terrain of flat rocks, scattered boulders and intermittent cracks and ledges. There isn't much to see apart from a few scattered corals and some reef fish which bring life to a an otherwise drab landscape. Almost bored I take a few photographs of soft corals before descending to a sandy bottom at around 17m, and then follow the reef edge in a northwesterly direction.

Suddenly a shadow looms above me. I look up to see a large Maori Wrasse only a few feet above. It circles me and then swims away into the distance. Excited and hoping for another sighting I swim further along the reef. Ahead is an area with large boulders, ledges, and a small but sharp current swept rock face covered in soft corals and small sea fans. It's like an oasis in a desert, and reef fish of all types and sizes are everywhere. A school of yellow finned Trevally swims purposefully past me towards an unknown destination, Damselfish flutter above coral heads like playful butterflies, and groups of Goatfish and Snappers seek shelter under ledges and behind rocks as they rest before their nocturnal feeding forays. A large school of grunts form a moving, twisting ball, while Bannerfish gather in perfect formation against a gentle current. Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Emperors, Bigeyes, and Fusiliers are everywhere and a couple of small Moray Eels peer out of a hole to check out the action.

Then, in the distance, a large shape attracts my attention. I move towards it slowly and before me is a large Potato Cod, wary but relaxed, and hovering above the reef contently. The large Maori Wrasse reappears, but is now followed by three others. On of them is a full grown adult nearly two meters in length. I have been so amazed that I have forgotten to take any pictures. Suddenly I'm spurred into action and start clicking away. Photo opportunities are everywhere and it's a case of deciding whether to photograph a perfect formation of fish or a large Wrasse that is letting its curiosity get the better of it.

Seventy five minutes and a hundred photographs later I surface. This was one of those rare days then everything goes well and every fish in the area decides to swim past you.

It was definitely a dive to be remembered!

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(c) Article and Photos: Nishan Perera