My strapline says: scribbler, scuba diver and unrepentant vagabond, so I thought it was high time I told you something about my scuba diving experiences. Here is a little tale about the unicorns of the underwater world…
The first time someone mentioned unicornfish I was intrigued. Unicornfish? Surely the stuff of legends and fairytales! Of course the reason for this name is more prosaic. Unicornfish have a protrusion between their eyes, some more obvious than others.
I have to confess to feeling somewhat disappointed when I identified my first unicornfish. Visions of endearing fish in My Little Pony colours were shattered.
Drab in colour, it is the ‘horn’ that makes this fish recognisable rather than its ‘plumage’.
So, I ignored unicornfish in favour of the flamboyant and flirtatious strumpets of the fish world. I allowed myself to be diverted by multi-coloured parrotfish, cute anemonefish - or clownfish - decked out in orange and white, delicate butterflyfish, angelfish and strangely angular boxfish. And who wouldn’t be seduced by the Many Spotted Sweetlips with its Angelina Joliesk-pout?
|Many Spotted Sweetlips|
Yet, the unicornfish had something up their metaphoric fishy sleeves that would knock the others’ behaviour into a cocked hat… their curiosity of divers and our bubbles.
Pause for any length of time around unicornfish and they’ll hover above you in your stream of bubbles. There is something enormously appealing about any wild creature that is willing to interact.
|Waiting for the unicornfish|
Now, whenever I spotted unicornfish on a dive, I would wait to see whether they would approach and hang out in my bubbles. Whenever they did, their demeanour reminded me of those Japanese macaques – you know the ones that sit in the hot water pools with sleepy-eyed, stoned expressions?
The last time I saw unicornfish I was diving in The Maldives. One bold individual hovered just above my head, enjoying my bubbles. I reached out reflexively, as I often do. It’s a futile, harmless gesture because no fish will tolerate human contact. On this occasion, the unicornfish stayed put and allowed my fingers to brush, ever so softly, against his surprisingly velvety skin.