Beneath the waves, just yards from sunworshippers on Accra Beach
“The water is the blue of a cloudless summer sky. Sometimes, I feel I can see for miles.”
“There’s no longer enough Barbados reef fish for each of us to take one for the pot.”
Shot for the pot, my friend from the reef
I’d spotted the dive buoy bobbing along the reef line. And a black snorkel occasionally broke the surface.
So I had an idea that someone was spearfishing – hunting down the friends I said hello to every morning.
It’s a ritual now. After a brief chat to vendors getting ready for the tourists, I swim out to the man-made reef off Accra Beach and along its outer edge.
Most days I see a turtle nibbliing on the seaweed. It’s about the size of a bicycle wheel and I’ll dive down, look it in the eye until I have to surface or it saunters off.
I’ve seen a chainlink moray eel hiding among the rocks (the markings resemble the skin of a giraffe).
I once turned the corner at the far end to see a very large spotted eagle ray. Including tail, it was six feet long, propelled by gently wafting wings at least five feet across.
Gave me a bit of a shock, I can tell you.
Often, the clarity is stunning. Sometimes I feel I can see for miles. Under the surface, the water is the blue of a cloudless summer sky and the sunlight reflects off the white sand which is driven into tiny dunes by the current.
Large shoals of electric blue parrot fish swim in and out of the dancing sea fans. Silver coloured jacks and striped sergeant majors dart around or, if a swell is breaking, move back and forth together in a mesmerising motion.
And then there is Barry the Barracuda, with his thin, menacing smile and very sharp, vicious looking teeth.
Barry, a fast, mature, silvery predator with black translucent tiger stripes along his flanks, is almost as long as I am tall and was patrolling the far end of the reef.
I usually only turn for home when I reach the outer marker. When Barry is in residence, I cut the swim short.
Early one morning, I saw the dreaded lion fish, Despite its beauty, this invasive and highly skilled hunter is wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, with its huge appetite for reef fish. Fortunately I haven’t seen it since.
Barbados reef fish may survive this predator, but not the relentless pursuit of the speargun. There’s no longer enough Barbados reef fish for each of us to take one for the pot.
I sensed the young man wading out of the sea, dragging his red and white marker buoy, knew this. He made straight for his car, looking sheepish, keen not to attract attention.
He had a full bag of booty strapped to his waist. And at the tip of his speargun, a small saucer-sized fish – one of my sergeant major friends I feared – its tail flapping out the last of its life.