|Site Type:||Coral gardens|
|Depth:||Top: 7MBottom: 10M|
|Location:||North-west end of Malapascua|
With early morning starts on Malapascua you would think that night diving wouldn’t be very popular, but Lighthouse Reef is a wonderful night dive where something special happens at sunset, the splendid mandarin fish come out to play. Arriving at Lighthouse Reef on sunset, our dive boat was one of about a dozen at this popular dive site.
At first I thought we would all be crowded around one patch of coral, but fortunately each dive group settled on their own patch. With our torches off, we could still clearly see the corals in the twilight. While most of the small reef fish were settling into the coral to sleep, a group of very colourful fish were emerging.
As I watched a multi-coloured splendid mandarinfish slowly flitted through the corals, it was then joined by two others. Slowly the mandarinfish built up confidence, swimming around each other and getting closer to the top of the coral. Then suddenly it happened, two of the fish shot out of the coral, twisting together as they simultaneously released their eggs and sperm. Their nightly mating dance finished, they once more disappeared into the coral.
The mating ritual of the mandarinfish over, we could now explore Lighthouse Reef. Weaving in and out of the coral we found lionfish, cuttlefish, crabs, shrimps and nudibranchs. Numerous shells were out feeding, including cowries and volutes.
But then I saw something that really surprised me, a tigertail seahorse hanging onto the hard coral. You generally find seahorses clinging to sponges, algae and seaweed, not hard coral. And this seahorse wasn’t alone as over the next half hour we saw a dozen more. The mandarinfish were lovely, but I must say it was the seahorses that most impressed me at Lighthouse Reef.