Top 10 Memorable Ocean Experiences of 2011: No. 06 – Big G in the Shadows

Big fish are rare nowadays. Even in the times of Arthur C. Clarke’s early ocean explorations, the big groupers were getting hit with unsporting (not to mention illegal) spear fishermen donning tanks and hunting these gentle giants out of existence. Every now and then I see a grouper that’s a couple of feet long and I get inordinately excited. It is sobering to think that 30-40 years ago these would not have been of much note.

For a big fish to survive now, it has to be canny and clever. It is literally survival of the fittest to ensure it doesn’t end up with a spear from the likes of Kalu Mahathaya and Ikkiya amidships. There is such a fish on a wreck in Colombo and a sighting of it is a rare treasure. I have seen him a few times, most memorably on a night dive (more to come on that later) but the majority of the handful of sightings had been from a great distance and for a fleeting moment.

The closest I got to him in 2011 was one day towards the latter of the season. It was one of my occasional dives with Colombo Divers, as PP was accompanying me and didn’t have the benefit of owning her own gear. We stuck behind the dive guide and the main group and as we rounded the stern of the ship, the guide turned back to me and excitedly gestured that she had seen something big. They peered down and then continued on as it was obvious as whatever they had seen was not there anymore. I couldn’t spot anything either in the bluish haze.

As we came up behind them I looked down and saw it. Obviously thinking that the divers had moved on, Big G stuck his head out of his hiding place and looked out. On spotting us, by this time I had PP’s hand in a firm grip and was pointing her attention downwards, the grouper immediately retreated back. Big G had apparently thought that the divers had moved on and decided to check if everything was clear providing us with a superb sighting. The one thing that stood out about this was the sense of scale. The overhang under which the grouper was hiding was one I was very familiar with so it was quite something to realize how big this fish was. One of the last giants of our waters. May Big G continue to dodge the spears and provide us with more thrilling sightings in the future.

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