Coral Spawning - November, 2016
To catch the natural phenomenon of coral spawning, you need patience and just a little bit of luck.
EVERY YEAR, DIVERS AND snorkelers point their torches into the darkened waters of the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia's reefs, hoping to witness the annual 'mass' coral spawning event - where many colonies and species of coral polyps simultaneously release egg and sperm bundles for external fertilisation.
The spectacle resembles an underwater snowstorm, with a flurry of buoyant gametes, usually pink or white, slowly drifting upwards in a real-life version of a shaken snow dome.
Like heavy snowstorms, large-scale spawning is a mass of confusion and low visibility.
"If lots of coral colonies are spawning, trying to find which coral is releasing eggs becomes too difficult," says Stuart Ireland, a marine biologist and underwater photographer who has witnessed the event 12 times in the last 16 years. "But you can feel it. You run your fingers through (the water) and feel the eggs as they're going up. It's a little like if you're driving slowly in the rain, and you put your head out the window and feel the little droplets on your face...it's a strange feel."
The largest event Stuart witnessed was in 1996, and he says one difference between that "intense" event and other's he's seen is "how much you smell of coral spawn" when you leave the water.
"The smell isn't a bad one," says Stuart, explaining it's similar to the scent of coral mucus when the corals come out at low tide - just more pungent. "After the intense event, we actually had to use our regulators to blow holes through the (coral spawn) slick, it was so thick," Stuart recalls.
Witnessing the coral spawning is a worthy addition to anyone's bucket list - even if your hair does smell of coral spawn afterwards. (Article credit - Australian Geographic, By:Kara Murphy | December-16-2011)
Tours to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Port Douglas, Daintree and Cairns can be booked here.
Accommodation in this area can be booked here.