Manzanillo's Underwater Inhabitants

By Mother Ocean

Juvenile King Angel and Red HawkfishThe striking beauty and the myriad of colorful marine life off Manzanillo's rocky shoreline make for memorable encounters--especially to new divers and snorkelers taking their first experience into the underwater world. I know. I created it all.

Spotted Sharpnose Puffer and Red HawkfishThe sides of small bays and coves, such as Playa de Audiencia, offer the novice or advanced diver or snorkeler many hours of observing sea life so remarkable it mesmerizes the observer. Here is one of my most unusual inhabitants, and each month I'll feature another species.


The Mysterious Moray

Please click on photos to enlarge

Beautiful and almost friendly Jewel MorayMoray eels are a small group of odd-shaped fish. They are the eels most likely to be seen by divers and snorkelers because they inhabit shallow depths from 5 feet, close to shore. Morays have snake-like bodies and movements, but are actually fish. Approximately 110 different species have been identified around the world. Of this number, divers and snorkelers in our area see only six species.

Spotted snake eel, shy and harmlessThe three most frequent species encountered are the jewel, green and the spotted snake eel. Normally, morays are shy, retiring animals. They spend the day holed up in small crevices, caves, or under rocks. They are nocturnal feeders and rarely emerge from their lairs in daylight hours unless enticed by the scent of food.

Green Moray at Elephant Rock, ManzanilloMoray eels are frequently seen poking their heads partially out of a crevice with their mouths open. If you watch carefully, you will notice the moray appears to be panting. It is actually inhaling water, passing it through its gills and out the gill holes. It is this breathing technique that has earned the moray eel its reputation as a dangerous sea creature. When the eel opens its mouth to breathe, the fang-like teeth are automatically bared. Humans perceive the bared teeth as threatening, but the docile moray doesn't plan on having you for lunch!

Zebra Moray, hard to find out in the openTheir color and markings can easily identify morays. Each Pacific moray is quite distinctive. The green moray (cover photo) appears dark green. The zebra moray has white bands (stripes) on a reddish or dark brown body. The jewel moray has chain-like rows or light yellow spots ringed by dark brown halos on a gray body. A close relative, the spotted snake eel, has large black spots on its body. It doesn't take long to learn to distinguish one species from another.

Enjoy your little sightseeing trips in my ocean here in Manzanillo, but please don't try to feed the morays cheese or peas, or any other unnatural food source. It really gives them a tummy ache! For more information on my marvelous Pacific Ocean creatures,