Sunshine tried to burn the clouds off this morning, our six month anniversary of traveling, as we motored out to Coral Garden, a reef just off Kuata's northwest corner. We had recalled spotting it from our hike the other day, so now we get to dive it! The reef top is only 10 to 15 feet deep at low tide, but it drops down on all sides to 80 or 90 feet. The wall looked much like Kuata Wall did yesterday, with lots of healthy hard corals, the occasional small branch of soft coral, sponges, anemones, and an abundance of fish. A couple nudibranchs, giant clams, and a huge lobster kept us entertained, but the reef itself was pretty enough on its own. As we shallowed up onto the upper parts of the wall, we came to a spot that was carpeted with anemones and the resident mob of anemonefish - I counted over 20 of them in one place! Up on the reef top, the shallow water surged back and forth while we puttered around under the waiting boat, just in time to see a big whitetip reef shark cruise by. Nice way to end the dive!
After lunch and a couple hours of lazing on the beach, we geared up for another dive that we would do from shore this time. It took several minutes of swimming to get below 5 feet since the reef is so flat near shore, but then it dropped off a bit to a flat sandy bottom with a small wall and bommies dotted in the sand. Leopard blennies, puffer fish, giant clams, pretty purple nudibranchs, a lobster, beautiful coral, and lots of seastars made for a fun and interesting dive. When we returned to the shallows near the beach, we were faced with what looked like a shimmering silver wall, which was actually an enormous school of sardines! They were packed so dense that you couldn't see through them, and they filled the water column (3 or 4 feet deep), so there was nowhere to go but through them! Something must have been chasing them, as they were darting back and forth, whizzing by our faces and completely enveloping us in their swirling school. It was crazy! It also explains why we had noticed large numbers of sea birds circling over and diving into the water at this end of the beach. It's a pretty weird feeling to be surrounded on all sides by tiny, fast moving fish!