Mi aMoray!

Hey there! It’s been a while but I am back with some new marine life to present you.

This time I would like to share my love for the moray eels. As a diver you probably already have seen many of these special animals and if you are like me, you are never sure if you can say that a moray eel is pretty. They look at you with their round eyes and big open mouth. They look angry all the time. Still, I believe them to be very unique and so much fun to observe.  Here in the Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa region of Mexico we have different kind of moray eels and would like to show you the species I have encountered so far diving with Dive Zihua. 

Photo from Dive Zihua

First, what is a moray eel?

Photo from Dive Zihua
Photo from Dive Zihua

Yes they are fish. Moray eels is a type of eel which belongs to the order Anguilliformes. The term eel describes ray-finned elongated fish. Eels can be found worldwide. Moray eels are almost exclusively marine with a few exceptions in brackish waters and a few found in freshwater.

Their mean face comes from the fact that they constantly open and close their mouths in order to create a flow of water in their gills. Their mouth is full of teeth so it creates the illusion of a mean creature.

The skin is scaleless and covered in mucus that can be toxic for some species. They are carnivorous preying on small fish, octopuses, squid, cuttlefish and crustaceans. Moray eels have a second set of jaws located way in the back of the mouth called pharyngeal jaws. They push it into the oral cavity to catch their food and carry it into the throat. Moray eels are apex predators with only few known fishes feeding on them like groupers, barracudas and sea snakes.

It’s a Moray!

Finding moray eels when we scuba dive here with Dive Zihua is a very fun game of hide and seek.  The question is are you a good moray spotter!

Jewel moray eel – Muraena lentiginosa – Morena Pinta

Photo from Dive Zihua
Photo from Dive Zihua

The jewel moray eel is considered a small specie with a maximum length of 61 cm/2 ft and can be find at depths up to 27 m/90 ft. The body can be in various shades of light brown with white spots for adults and yellowish spots for juveniles. They possess a large pair of tubular nostrils above the mouth. During our dives, we meet the jewel moray very often. I saw them multiple times swimming between rock to get to another hiding place. When they are exposed, they will retreat fast into a hole but when only the head is exposed you can easily observe them for some time.

 

Zebra Moray eel – Gymnomuraena zebra – Morena Cebra

Photo from Dive Zihua
Photo from Dive Zihua

What a cutie this one!  I have a little soft spot for their appearance I must say. The body is dark brown and white striped like a zebra, where their name comes from and can be as long as 60 cm/2 ft. The nose is short. They like coastal shallow water and coral reefs and won’t go deeper than 40 m/130 ft. Cool fact, they can release up to 10 000 eggs during reproduction. During our dives in Zacatoso reef, where I have seen the most of them and Caleta del Chon, it is not uncommon to see them in pairs at the same hiding place during mating season. The zebra eel is very peaceful and shy and will hide if a diver gets to close.

Panamic Moray eel – Gymnothorax castaneus –Morena Verde Panámica

Photo from Dive Zihua
Photo from Dive Zihua

 

This is a big specie of moray that can reach 1.5 m/5 ft long. The body is large compared to the two previous species I just mentioned. The colour can vary but is mostly dark green with a brown head and forebody with occasional fine white yellow spots. They are also known as chestnut moray eel. This type of moray is common here is Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa and it is quite enjoyable to see because of its size. During our dives, they are normally good with the presence of divers. Funny thing is, just the other day, I saw two of them fight for a same hole between rocks. One of them won and saw the other retreat to find another place to stay. Better luck next time!

Finespotted Moray eel – Gymnothorax dovii – Morena Pintita

 

 

 

 

 

 

This moray looks a lot like the panamic moray. It is actually difficult when we dive to tell what specie we saw. The finespotted moray is not very common and I had the chance to see it only a few times. The body is dark olive green to black with white fine spots covering much of the body. They can grow as long as 1.5 m/5 ft and can be found in shallow or deep waters up to 36 m/120 f. During our dives, they tend to be good with the presence of divers if you have the chance to meet one!

Argus Moray – Muraena argus – Morena Argos

Photo from Dive Zihua
Photo from Dive Zihua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the water gets colder in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa around april, the Argus moray eel shows up. It prefers to live in the deep between 18 m/60 ft to 60 m/200 ft but I have seen them in shallower sites in the Zihuatanejo bay. Their golden eyes with a black pupil gives them a little meaner look than others. The body is different shades of brown with a darker back and distinctive white blotches. They have a set of tubular nostrils above the mouth. An observation I made during our dives, is that even if morays eels tend to only show their heads or forebodies out of their hiding spots, I have only witness the Argus moray completely out in the open. They were observing us, the scuba divers, very closely giving us a very big open mouth warning if we got to close. When the water gets warm in the summer, they probably retreat to colder deeper regions and hopefully will come see us again next spring.

Starry Moray – Echidna nebulosa – Morena Estrellada

The starry moray eel or snowflake moray actually looks like a beautiful small snake. The body is white with reticulated black pattern with two rows of brown-black bars with gold spots that doesn’t meet in the middle of the body. They reach up to 60 cm/2 ft and go as deep as 30 m/100 ft. The head is small with a short nose. This is a very pretty specie of moray. During our dives, they normally do not let scuba divers get very close and will disappear in a second if you invade their space. Be quick to spot them or you might miss your chance!

 

 

There you go ocean lovers, here are the 6 species of moray eels I have encountered so far scuba diving in Zihuatanejo. They will be here waiting for you to come join us for a fun day of diving!

Let’s go dive!

Maude Jetté

Scuba diving instructor/owner at Dive Zihua and marine biologist

Cortez rainbow wrasse with Dive Zihua

Hi fish lovers!

I want to introduce you to some of the marine life present on the Pacific coast of Mexico and mostly here in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa. My first pick, is the Cortez Rainbow wrasse (Thalassoma lucasanum). I choose this specie of wrasse because summer is all about colours and that specie shows plenty. We see this specie of fish very often during our dives and they are particularly beautiful to look at.

3 steps to get to the rainbow

The Cortez rainbow wrasse passes through 3 phases before getting his final rainbow colours.

Juvenile phase

The first one is the juvenile phase. We have different dive sites with beautiful shallow reefs and this is where you can see them in abundance and by that I mean they are everywhere surrounding you. They are also very curious and sometimes like to clean you like they do other fishes from their parasites and debris. During their juvenile phase, the rainbow wrasse is about 4 cm (1 ½ in) long. They are stripped horizontally with prominent black lines and yellow and pink-red.

Cortez rainbow wrasse juvenile phase
Juveniles swimming by dozens on top of a reef

Initial phase

In the initial phase they are a little bit bigger and the coloration changes. The upper body is darker colour with a bright yellow line in the middle and a pinkish belly. In the initial phase, the wrasses are sexually mature and will reproduce in large aggregations near reef tops where they spawn in large groups by rushing near the surface in a tight ball just before releasing white puffs of gametes.

Cortez rainbow wrasse initial phase

Terminal phase

The terminal phase shows a very different fish but still very colorful. The body is no longer stripped horizontally but insteads shows a beautiful blue or purple head with a yellow saddle patch behind the head. The rest of the body is purple-pink with a blue tail. They grow to approximately 13 cm (5 inch). You do not meet the Cortez rainbow wrasse at depth, they prefer to stay above 30m (98f) deep. Compare to the two previous phases the terminal phase is more of a solitary fish and will mate one on one with the female not in a group.

Terminal phase Cortez rainbow wrasse
All the phases are present in the picture. Juvenile, initial and terminal phase

Scuba diving with the Cortez rainbow wrasse

Here in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa, the rainbow wrasse is pretty common especially the juvenile and initial phase. They make our snorkelling experience very amusing because we get to be very close and they are such a pretty fish. When we dive on shallow reefs, they swim around the top of the reef by big groups.

While scuba diving the adult rainbow wrasse catches your attention very easily with their beautiful colours. They are pretty shy and won’t let you get to close but if you keep your distance, you will be amazed by this very active fish. They are fast swimmers and they enjoy moving from rocks to rocks looking for food like invertebrates, crustaceans, worms and small fish. 

 

Of course there are plenty of fish in the see and I hope to be able to make you learn about them. I will try to show you a new specie every month. If you are curious about the fishes you can find here come scuba dive or snorkel with us and it will be my pleasure to tell you all I know about them.

Maude

Owner, Scuba Instructor and Marine biologist at Dive Zihua

PADI Women’s dive day 2018 Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

I am a girl, I am a scuba diver and I love it!

Ladies the ocean is calling and you should jump in!  Join us to participate to the PADI Women’s dive day on July 21, 2018 in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.  At the bottom of this post you will find information about our Dive Zihua event. To motivate you, I decided to do a little top 5 of the reasons why, you should scuba dive. 

1- Underwater. No worries, no problems!

Underwater, there is the sea, his tenants and you. All the other things stay at the surface. For the time you are submerge, life up there is on standby. You only focus on the excitement of seeing this different world. The colours, the movements, the sound of the reef and your breathing all comes together to create the best therapy of all! You are free of gravity, stress and responsibilities!

2- No super athlete needed

You do not need to be an Olympic champion to be a scuba diver. Even better, underwater, you do not feel the weight of your body. No pain in the joints, no sweating profusely and on top of it, it actually makes you fit and helps keep you in shape.

Under the sea we are so tiny

3- Who run the world…girls!

Even if scuba divers are still majority men, you should know that girls are actually, most of the time, better at it then guys! Women tend to have a better buoyancy control and our air consumption is better. Scuba diving can bring you a lot of joy and so much more like pushing your limits (get out of that comfort zone). It makes you more confident, you meet new friends and you have amazing stories to tell. Scuba diving is accessible to everyone who desires to try it. It is not only for men anymore.

4-Life under the sea!

You might be familiar with this little song. 

(Intro)

Ariel, listen to me

The human world, it’s a mess

Life under the sea is better than anything they’ve got up there

 

Just look at the world around you

Right here on the ocean floor

Such wonderful things surround you

What more is you lookin’for?

Now you are singing right ha ha! Well the underwater world is full of surprises. From a majestic eagle ray crossing your path to finding a lobster in a hole under rocks, to hundreds of fishes cruising around or even spotting a sea turtle eating seaweed, this emerald world will blow your heart away!

5- Makes you want to travel

You become so eager to see new places and new sea life that once you are back from one trip you are ready to go dive to the next exotic place on your list. It keeps you motivated. On top of everything you can pride yourself with the fact that you saw places the majority of people has never seen or only on television. I believe it also makes you less inclined to buy things you do not need because you want to save your money to scuba dive as much as you can on your next trip.

PADI Women’s dive day

Here at Dive Zihua we are proud of women scuba divers and we are happy to participate in the PADI Women’s dive day on July 21, 2018. If you are in the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo region July 21, 2018, we would be happy to have you jump on board.

Click on the image to see it full size and learn about our event at Dive Zihua. We will accept reservation pass the date line.

Don’t miss your chance to be part of that special day that honours the women before us that fought to be allowed to go underwater and for the place of women in that adventure sport. Let’s have a fun girl day of diving!

 

For reservation, contact us by email [email protected] or book online on our website.

We can’t wait to meet you!

Maude

Owner Dive Zihua and marine biologist

Scuba diving with sea turtles at Dive Zihua

Hello ocean lovers!

Summer is at our doors which means here at Dive Zihua, it’s sea turtle time! Every dive is a possibility to encounter those beautiful animals. If you ever wanted to scuba dive with sea turtles it is a good time to do it.

Not long ago, on May 23rd, was the International world turtle day so I decided to make this post all about sea turtles and the species you can meet during your visit in Zihuatanejo. We are so lucky here in this little tropical paradise to have kilometers of sandy beaches where the mama turtles come back to the same place every year to lay their eggs.  

Turtle season

You have the chance to see turtles all year long in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo but the summer from June until October, is considered the high season to be able to witness those magnificent reptiles.

Scuba diving with sea turtles

Lately, we already noticed an increase of observations during our dives and at the surface when they come up for a puff of air or two. It is always fun as we are gearing up in the boat to get a little peek a boo from a turtle.  It gives us high hopes to meet them face to face underwater while we scuba dive. Some of our dives sites are good locations to see them like Morros de Potosi, Solitary rock and Sacramento for example.

Olive Ridley sea turtle coming for air close to Morros de Potosi

The coasts of Mexico are visited by 6 out of 7 species of sea turtles. When you scuba dive or snorkel with us at Dive Zihua, you have the chance to meet 4 species of sea turtles.

Sea turtle siting at Sacramento in front of Ixtapa

Know your sea turtles

Here are some tips to be able to identify the species from the region. 

Leatherback sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Tortuga laúd in Spanish is the biggest specie of sea turtles. They are easy to identify because of the unicity of its carapace. Unlike other sea turtles, the carapace is covered with skin and oily flesh, with five distinct ridges starting at the neck to the tail. It is mostly dark grey to black colour with white spots. One other thing that distinct them from the others is the presence of spines in their mouth to stop their prey from escaping.

Leatherback sea turtle
Inside of the mouth of a Leatherback sea turtle covered in spines

The smallest one you can find in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and the most common here, is the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) or tortuga golfina in Spanish. The carapace is heart shaped and olive green but sometimes appears darker because of algae growing on its back. They have 5 to 9 pairs of dorsal scutes with 2 pairs of prefrontal scales on the head. This specie is known for their mass-nesting events (arribadas) when hundreds of turtles come to shore at the same time to lay their eggs.

Olive Ridley sea turtle
Olive Ridley sea turtle mating, Morros de Potosi

Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). Normally, hawksbill turtles or tortuga de carey in Spanish are easy to recognise because they have a very colourful shell with margins that appears serrated at the rear like a saw. The beak is sharply pronounced and hooked because they feed almost exclusively on sponges. They have 2 pairs of prefrontal scales.

Hawksbill sea turtle at Manzanillo
Look at the beak and the 2 pairs of prefrontal scales on this Hawksbill sea turtle

Tortuga verde is the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and is mostly herbivorous. The snout is very short and the beak is unhooked. They only have a single pair of prefrontal scales. The carapace has various colour patterns brown and green that changes in time with a yellow plastron. The name green sea turtles comes from the green fat beneath its carapace. 

Green sea turtle
The green sea turtle is the only specie in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa with one pair of prefrontal scales.

Hope I was able to help you identify the next sea turtle that crosses your path. The best way is still to see them, get in the boat it’s time to go scuba diving! Either you are in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo we would love to make your scuba diving experience unforgettable.

See you soon

Maude

Owner, scuba instructor and marine biologist at Dive Zihua

If you want to know more about sea turtles

https://www.seeturtles.org/

 

Scuba diving in Zihuatanejo

Hello friends!

 I wanted in my first blog post to give you a summary, a first glimpse, of what scuba diving in Zihuatanejo can be like.

Zihuatanejo is a city on the Mexican Pacific Coast known as the Costa Grande. The town is located around a beautiful bay. It kept its traditional feel of a fisherman village compare to her sister, the resort city Ixtapa, located a mere 5km north. Here in Zihua, life has its own pace, the beaches are amazing, the people are friendly and welcoming and I haven’t even started talking about the food!  Lets not start talking about the food 🙂

Biodiversity

But lets go back to our main subject: scuba diving. Scuba diving here is really exciting! The diversity of marine life is pretty incredible. From tiny to huge, we get a little bit of everything. The marine biologist in me is always amaze by the variety of species we can find. Seahorses, nudibranchs (sea slugs)pufferfish, coral, moray eels, whale sharks, sea turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, electric rays, octopus, sea urchins, sea stars, lobsters, and dolphins are simply a sample of everything there is to see!

 In season, from December to March, we get beautiful, enchanting, mermaids… I mean WHALES!! We may rarely see them while we dive, but have you ever scuba dove listening to a humpback whale undersea symphony? Well, here we have!

Argus Morey eel
Spotted Eagle rays
Humpback whale

Visibility and conditions

The diving conditions change throughout the year including visibility, water temperature and currents. April and May are normally the coldest months to dive. I must admit, this is no Caribbean. We are on the Pacific side and the conditions are different. Visibility is rarely 100% but can reach up to 30m (100ft). The best months for visibility are November to January with still very good conditions in February, March, July and October.

Deep Dive paradise

I don’t know about you, but personally, as a scuba diver I’ve always enjoyed deep dives. I just love to look up and see this immense wall of water above me. Here in Zihuatanejo, we have so many amazing deep dives sites to choose from. One of my favorite site is Solitary rock. It is an isolated giant pinnacle coming out of the sea just outside the bay going to 30m (100ft) deep. The marine life is very active around this rock and we always get a great show from enormous schools of fish, and it’s a pretty good place to spot sea turtles, eagle rays and whale sharks.

Solitary rock

Scuba diving in Zihuatanejo can be a very exciting experience. If you allow us, Dive Zihua would love to make you discover all its little secrets.

So now, what are you waiting for? Let’s go diving! 

Maude

Owner and Scuba Instructor Dive Zihua