How To See Marine Life

Many of these tips are clichés, but they are true and it’s surprising how often people miss things because they don’t follow them.

Text by Bob Earll. Cartoons by Rico.

1. Slow down, Relax & Stop.

  • Don’t swim too fast.
  • Relax.
  • Stop and look – its why photographers see things others don’t.
  • Buoyancy – don’t crash into the seabed.

2. Don’t Look, Don’t See.

  • You need to look to see.
  • Snorkelling and diving you tend to look down and forward, its normal and see the life on the sea bed.
  • Look close up and you’ll see smaller things, up and ahead – that way you see the life in water and the landscape, and behind you you’ll see the fish following you to feed on the food you disturb.
  • Two pairs of eyes are better than one – they see things you don’t – another reason for why buddies are useful.
  • On the boat- sea surface – you’re out in some amazing places and will see some amazing marine life when you’re on the surface.

3. Observing

  • You need to know what you are looking at, your brain expects to see certain things – it needs to know what to expect – scroll though the images and it will show you what you’ll see.
  • The more you look – the more experienced you become – the more you will see.
  • Marine life comes in different sizes – look closely and you’ll see the smallest sea slugs to animals far bigger than you.
  • Shapes – marine life takes some weird shapes that you simply don’t see on land – five legged starfish or eight legged octopuses.
  • Colours – are often intense and spectacular.
  • Camouflage – can you see the camouflaged life?
  • If you dive regularly at particular sites you’ll find yourself seeing more and more.
  • Many types of marine life – species – live in particular places – caves, under boulders or with other species – knowing this will help you find them.

4. Carry a Torch

  • It provides a focus – just like in CSI – especially on night dives – it takes your eye to the subject.
  • It brings back the colours.
  • It enables you to see in cracks and crevices and in caves.

5. Location, Location, Location

  • What you see depends on where you are – obvious but important.
  • If you want to see great white sharks or seals you have to choose sites where they occur.
  • Geography determines the diversity of marine life you’ll see – with fish for example there are simply more species in the Red Sea and Caribbean than in the Mediterranean and more in the Med than off the UK coast.
  • People who dive regularly at particular sites see more and more – diving with locals is often a complete revelation!