Silversides serve up visual treat

Ringed by a halo of tiny silversides, a scuba diver gently fin-kicks through an underwater cave as light filters in from above. 

The stunning visual spectacle occurs just a few hundred yards from George Town’s main tourist thoroughfare, yet relatively few are aware it is even happening. 

For about three weeks each year, the caves and tunnels a short swim from the Eden Rock and Don Foster’s dive shops fill with tiny fish. Larger predators – tarpon, grouper and jacks – swarm into the caves to feast on the giant silver bait ball as awe-struck scuba divers enjoy the spectacle. 

The phenomenon, which is happening right now and typically occurs every June, is an underwater photographer’s dream. 

Ellen Cuylaerts, who captured images during the past week at the Devil’s Grotto dive site, said it was a privilege to have such an opportunity right on the doorstep. 

She said: “I just love the silversides. To dive between them in the setting of the Grotto, where the sunlight penetrates even the darkest corners and the little fish move in unison to escape the lurking predators, it is heaven. 

“Photography is all about light, I try to paint with light. The challenge with the silvery fish is to capture the ambient scarce sunlight, to catch the mood of Devil’s Grotto and to add a subtle touch of strobe so the shape of the fish balls is accentuated and won’t be lost. 

“In the challenge, and the many photographic possibilities, lies a lot of the joy of this dive, but most of the time, I just hold my camera and hover between the spectacle. It’s pure bliss.” 

Sergio Coni, manager of Don Foster’s dive shop, said the phenomenon made the shore-dive from the site extremely popular during June. He said silversides could be seen at many other sites during June, including Big Tunnels, and the wreck dives of the Oro Verde and the Kittiwake. 

“It happens every summer for a couple of weeks. This time it seems they are here a little earlier than usual. It is a big attraction for divers. 

“Scuba diving inside a school of silversides is a mesmerizing experience and a great chance to observe fish behavior in close quarters.” 

silversides-stationary

The fish form a giant ball of silver. – PHOTO: Ellen Cuylaerts
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2 COMMENTS

  1. Ok, so that is where all the sprats are hanging out, I can see now why I could not find them. Well this is very good, because looking at that amount, means we will have sprats coming up now and then for a long time.

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  2. There were quite a few at the sandbar at Stingray City yesterday as well. Guess it’s a relatively safe place for them there.

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