This morning we awoke to the most glorious weather you can imagine. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was warm enough for shorts and bare feet where just yesterday we were still wrapped up in jackets. There was only one thing to do in this wonderful sunshine, so we headed for the beach (after getting a load of laundry on the line – don’t you just hate it when real life gets in the way?)
The wife and the mother and I walked down to the beach where the wife and I immediately set about exploring the rock pools while the mother started picking up sticks (I encourage all the elderly to take up a hobby, preferably something that keeps the joints limber). (Okay, okay. She picked up driftwood that she uses to make all sorts of pretty things. And though she’s a pensioner, we can’t really call her elderly just yet 😉 )
While the warmer Agulhas current flows along the coast here, the water becomes quite cold in winter (unlike the Natal coast where swimming is possible year-round) and I was not expecting to find a lot of activity in the rock pools. I was pleasantly surprised.
The pools were teeming with little fish, which a couple of boys were enthusiastically trying to catch with their little nets. It brought up fond memories of my own childhood beach holidays where I did the same without any success. I considered counselling them to place the nets in the water and letting the fish get used to them, but they were having so much fun racing from pool to pool, I decided to rather let them be.
We saw quite a few anemones, two of them on the large side, and one pool in particular was simply teeming with hermit crabs. In fact, it’s safe to say every shell in that pool was inhabited by one (for a photo, check yesterday’s post). I have long known of the existence of these little fellows. When I was six or seven I received a book on South African marine life. By the next sea holiday I had all but memorised it and recited fact to anyone who would listen (and even those who wouldn’t). The hermit crab was only one of the wonders in the book. The wife touched an anemone for the first time in her life (she didn’t want to at the aquarium touch-tank) and I found a shell still occupied by its original owner and showed her what it looks like when an anemone feeds on one.
In an adjacent pool we also discovered an Alikreukel, as it’s known here. It’s common name is the South African Turban Snail, or the Giant Periwinkle. I had often picked up their empty shells and operculums (the little doors with which the snail can seal itself in), but this was the first time I’ve found a live one. They’re an edible species and are apparently considered a delicacy. I’ll take Wikipedia’s word for it.
(At this point I should note that today I left my camera at home. The intention was to simply enjoy the day without a lens coming in the way. I did take a few pictures with my phone, but most of them were blurry, especially when photographing something underwater, as you can see with the first picture below. The second one I got via Google – clicking on it will take you to the original site. In both you can see the operculum.)
We also saw two starfish: a common starfish, pictured below, and a cushion starfish, but it was too deep underwater and so brilliantly camouflaged I didn’t even bother with a photo.
We walked so far along the beach that by the time we turned back the rising tide had already covered the rock pools completely. After climbing all the way back up to where we started, we rounded off the outing with ice cream – a fitting end to a sea holiday, don’t you think?
Because unfortunately it is the end. There’s just enough time left to sacrifice one more snoek to the fire gods and then we have to go pack. Tomorrow we wave the mountains and the sea farewell and head back to the freezing cold that is the Free State. Oh, well.
Until next time.