Giant Groupers (Ephinephelus lanceolatus)
Giant, or Queensland Groupers are the largest of all Reef Fishes and have been reported to attain lengths of up to 270cm with a weight of up to 300 kg. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that all of our Ratus, or Chiefs, have started out as a small Adi, or Princess, and developed into males when reaching approx one meter in length.
“Ratu Rua” translates as Chief Two. “Ratu Dua” (Chief One) disappeared over a year ago leaving the site to his protégé.
Ratu Rua cannot be missed when he turns up: the biggest of our Giant Groupers, he is about 1.8m/6ft long and the size of a small car. When he feeds, his cavernous mouth shoots out and opens wide enough to not only swallow the food, but also quite possibly the whole bin as well. He is always seen with his huge escort cloud of commensal Jacks collecting the scraps that he leaves behind.
Upon closer inspection, we discovered that those Jacks comprise two species: juvenile Golden Trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus), a species known to associate with larger Fishes and frequently seen with our Bull Sharks and especially, selected Lemon Sharks; and juvenile Jacks of the Genus Pseudocaranx which was hitherto believed to be antitropical, leading us to the assumption that this may well be a new, undescribed species.
“Ratu Tolu”, or Chief Three is of medium size and features an escort of about 7-8 Golden Trevally and one Pseudocaranx Jack. He is the most resident of our Giant Groupers and loves to partake in the fish feed at 30m
“Ratu Va” or Chief Four is a rare visitor and can be identified by a large tumor on his lips
“Adi Lima” is smallish and still features remnants of her juvenile colouration, principally the typical yellow rims to her fins and pronounced mottling on her flank. At 1m length, she’s very likely just on the cusp to becoming a Ratu.
Other notable Groupers that can be seen on the dive are large Malabar (E. malabaricus) and Brownmarbled (E. fuscoguttatus) Groupers roaming the Arena at 30m and the ubiquitous Highfin Groupers (E. maculatus) that lurk next to the feeders hoping for a quick meal.
Java Moray Eels (Gymnothorax javanicus)
Also called the Giant Moray, this is the largest species when measured in combined length and girth.
Tammy is a photographer’s dream subject. She seems to love the camera and is happy to pose all day long for picture after picture. Usually found on the shallow slopes in the Reserve, she has set up house and keeps a watchful eye on proceedings!
This is the equally friendly Moray that always hangs out at, or next to the Take Out hoping that one of the feeders will notice her and present her with a succulent morsel of fish. As the name implies, she can be easily identified by a large wart behind her mouth.
Napoleon Wrasses (Cheilinus undulatus)
Also known as the Giant Humphead, or Maori Wrasse, several individuals roam Shark Reef.
The largest of the males but still a youngster for his species, Hamilton is probably about 2-3 years old and weighs an estimated 100kgs/200 lb! Quite a regular at the Big Fish Encounter, he is very accustomed to the presence of people and can often be found hovering in the bubbles rising from the divers.
Other notable Fishes
Speckled Snapper (Lutjanus rivulatus)
One large individual attending the feeds. Of note, together with the Bohar, this is one of the most ciguatoxic fishes on the reef.
Red Bass (Lutjanus bohar)
Red to reddish gray, they hang out in a large school at the outer edge of the reef. Brash and greedy, they feature large canines that are one of the principal reasons why our feeders wear chainmail gloves!
Giant Trevally (Caranx ignobilis)
The biggest of all Jacks, these are the silver and black battle tanks mobbing the feeders. This is a powerful apex predator that has to be respected and handled with circumspection.
Other notable Trevally include the schooling Bigeye (C. sexfasciatus) that sometimes wander over from Beqa Lagoon, and the hunting packs of beautiful azure Bluefin (C. melampygus).
Rainbow Runner (Elagatis bipinnulata)
Beautiful and elegant, they can reach one meter in length and will cruise in from the deep whenever we feed the sharks.
Yellowfin Surgeonfish (Acanthurus xanthopterus)
One of the largest Surgeonfishes. Blue to grayish brown with yellow to yellowish pectoral fin, these are the cleaning crew that mops up the Arena and the Take-Out after the feeders have left.
Indo-Pacific Sergeant Major (Abudefduf vaigiensis)
Feisty like all Damselfishes, this is the fish most hated by our photographers as on top of nipping anybody coming too close to its eggs, it comes in a huge school that will engulf the feeders and the Sharks and inevitably ruin a large portion of the images.
There are several species present of which the Blue-and-Yellow Fusiliers (Caesio teres) will provide for awesome images when resorting to swimming in tightly-packed formation.
Sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates)
A member of the Remoras, or Suckerfishes, this distinctive striped fish can be frequently seen attached to our Sharks, bigger Fishes – and even other Remoras! Sharksuckers are very likely not parasites but instead, commensals that feed on food scraps and maybe even the hosts’ ectoparasites.
Narrowbanded Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commersoni)
Walu in Fijian, this is a prized food fish that will regularly sneak in on the feeds trying to ambush one of the smaller fishes whilst their attention is being diverted by the action.
More Fishes can be found by consulting the Shark Reef Fish List.