Reef Life – Culebra, PR
The quantity and diversity of marine life on the reefs of Culebra and Vieques is mindblowing. Both islands are still low-key and affordable for visitors from the United States, and there is no charge for beach access or even parking. Once underwater, the array of tropical species is immediately apparent, even in the first five inches of depth. For that reason, it’s important to begin floating right away instead of stomping out to waist level and destroying the delicate life underfoot.
Each time I return, I look forward to the exhilaration of finding a sea turtle, eagle ray, spiny lobster, or other large, elderly creature. My favorite underwater moments however, are being surrounded by the hundreds of familiar – yet peculiar – fish, all going about their lives just inches away from me. It’s like meeting up with your old friends at summer camp every year.
Large, flamboyant Queen and Stoplight Parrot fish (second column, middle photos) are everywhere, scraping bites of algae off the rocks with their large front teeth. More secretive is the Four Spotted Trunkfish (bottom right), almost two feet long, hiding quietly under a coral overhang. Filefish (first column, third photo) come in several varieties here; this is the White Spotted one. All are woefully ugly, with faces that appear to be drawn by a toddler. They drift slowly near the reef bottom in search of tasty algae and coral snacks.