It’s a classic while diving the Liberty shipwreck, you often have to say the divers: these are garden eels not sea grass! And read people surprise on their face… Really? That’s why you pointed at them, damn it!
When reaching the shallow area along the wreck in Tulamben, there is a last surprise for the fellow diver, a nice sandy patch “planted” with garden eels. But what you see first are just tubular shapes undulating with the swell of the nearby coastline. You see hundred of them dancing along each other and your mind automatically classifying the information that you are looking at marine plants. But you’re not. You’re looking at one particular kind of eel. A closer look would have let you know but your brain decided it might not be that interesting to linger on that.
The Garden eels (Heteroconger) live in their hole in sandy bottom and like to settle in areas with currents as these ones will carry their favorite food to them, such as some zooplankton. About one third of their body is actually visible when they are tracking their food and any threat on their way will have them slightly get sheltered to finally disappear in the sand. During the reproduction season, garden eels will set their holes close enough from each other to establish contact. Once he choose his female, the male will defend it from any other males tempting their chances.
We have two kinds of Garden eels (Heteroconger and Heteroconger Hassi) in Amed and Tulamben and there are plenty of sites where they can be found. Big groups are really impressive and it’s actually a lot of fun to swim in their direction and see them slowly getting sheltered to clear the way. Come around at Two Fish Amed if you’re curious to discover them!