Jun 012014
 

Ahh, the white sand beach…

Matangi Island, Fiji

Matangi Island, Fiji

It’s the quintessential daydream.

Trunk Bay, St. John

Trunk Bay, St. John

It’s the kind of image that inspires notions of quitting one’s day job and purchasing a one-way ticket to the islands.  No shirt, no shoes, no problems.

The non-curious sort will be perfectly content to stroll on the white beach, perhaps clutching a tropical libation served in a coconut shell.  And really, what’s wrong with that?

But others may marvel at the dazzling white sand and wonder how it got there.

It’s simple really.  That white sand is composed primarily of excrement. Parrotfish poop – bluntly stated.

Bonaire Parrotfish - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Bonaire Parrotfish – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Approximately 80-90 species of parrotfish inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans around the world.  Divers, snorkelers and swimmers are undoubtedly familiar with this commonly seen brightly colored fish.

parrotfish photo

Parrotfish play a critical role in the health of a coral reef ecosystem.  Their fused, beaklike front teeth allow them to break off and ingest pieces of coral.  The algae on the coral provides the fish’s food source, while the coral is ground up and excreted as sand.  It’s this excreted sand that forms the beach upon which we all love to lounge.

Parrotfish, by Mr. Reeftraveler

Parrotfish, by Mr. Reeftraveler

Parrotfish at Cleaning Station, Bonaire

Parrotfish at Cleaning Station, Bonaire

Pretty Parrotfish M

Notice the prominent, fused front teeth

Here are some other interesting facts about the parrotfish.

-This fish changes sex throughout its lifespan, beginning its life as a female and eventually becoming male.

-It’s bright coloration makes it easy to see, but it is easily heard as well.  It produces an audible crunching sound when biting coral.

-A parrotfish can produce 200 pounds (90kg) of sand per year, and the larger species can produce even more.

-At night, many types of parrotfish produce a transparent sack which encases them to provide protection while sleeping.

-The larger species of parrotfish, such as the bumphead or the midnight parrotfish grow up to 3 feet (1m) in length.

Midnight Parrotfish

Midnight Parrotfish

So now you’ll be prepared the next time your beach going toddler asks, “Daddy, what is white sand made of?”.

Nov 112013
 

In my last post I promised to show you more photos from the extensive house reef at Gallows Point on St. John.

Although we didn’t see the moon jellies this year, there was plenty of other sea life to watch and photograph.

Hawksbill Turtle - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Hawksbill Turtle – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

Octopus - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Octopus – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Reef Squid

Reef Squid

Squirrelfish - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Squirrelfish – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Christmas Tree Worms

Christmas Tree Worms

Flamingo Tongue - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Flamingo Tongue – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Curious Squirrelfish

Curious Squirrelfish

Do you have a favorite St. John snorkel spot?

Nov 052013
 

In September we spent a week diving and snorkeling the waters of St. John.  Our lodging of choice on St. John is Gallows Point, due in part to its extensive house reef.

Gallows Point House Reef

Gallows Point House Reef

The resort layout is perfect for snorkeling.  The walkway (pictured below) makes it easy to access the reef.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many different creatures call this reef home.  Here’s a glimpse at some of them.

Feather Duster Colony

Feather Duster Colony

Nurse Shark

Nurse Shark – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Front View - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Front View – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Peacock Flounder

Peacock Flounder 

Squirrelfish

Squirrelfish

Feather Duster

Feather Duster

Trunkfish

Trunkfish

Check back soon for more photos from Gallows Point Reef.

Oct 182013
 

…and I don’t mean rest and relaxation, although that’s welcome too.

I’m referring to the Rum & Root Beer – made famous by the guys at St. John Brewers.

Root Beer

When I first saw it on their drink menu, it seemed to me like a strange (and frankly unwelcome) combination.  I quickly changed my mind at the very first sip.

The simplicity of this concoction is part of its appeal.  St. John Brewers uses its own handcrafted root beer (see photo above) and Cruzan Rum.

To make it at home, I’ve been using Virgil’s Root Beer (we don’t have St. John Brewers root beer at home) and Rom Rincon, (a handcrafted, boutique rum from Bonaire).

Have you tried R&R?