Wounded klipfish at Long Beach

Diving and touching

There is always a lot of opinion from divers on the “touch or don’t touch” issue and so often it is the photographers who have the most to say. These are the people who will sprawl themselves out on the sand in order to “protect the reef”, totally unaware of the multitude of creatures that live just below the sand’s surface. They will advocate… DONT TOUCH loudly but will blind a creature repeatedly with huge strobes in the interest of getting the shot. These creatures may not be able to see for several minutes after this blinding flash and could quite easily be eaten the second you move off.

I am a freelance instructor and love the ocean. I am not an expert in any particular aspect of diving so when I don’t have students I dive for pleasure. Occasionally with a camera, occasionally with a small video camera and I occasionally touch the wildlife.

We all have our own opinions mostly based on our own experiences and the campfire stories we tell and listen to. Should we touch or should we not? I believe that if the creatures want to be touched you will be able to, and if they don’t want you near them it just won’t happen. This excludes sudden grabbing… This must be avoided. If a creature in the ocean allows you to approach slowly, suddenly reaching out and grabbing it is definitely a no no.

This is a video clip of a black cheek moray taken over several months. I visited this eel almost every day while working in Mozambique, and sometimes several times a day for six months. I offered my gloved hand and on day one got bitten… sore… by the third month this black cheek still tried to bite me occasionally, but it was far more gentle and sometimes she just rubbed her head on my hand.


A honeycomb moray I also visited almost daily would lift her head for a rub and if you took your hand away she would nod her head up and down until you stroked her chin again.

Moray getting a chin tickle
Moray getting a chin tickle

This potato bass would follow you around on a dive until you rubbed her chin. If you ignored her she would bump you several times to get your attention.


Klipfish at Long Beach are also often friendly and will sit in your hand if you stay still, make slow and gentle advances and don’t try to grab them.

Wounded klipfish at Long Beach
Wounded klipfish at Long Beach

This klipfish has a wound and over the last few weeks we have seen the wound heal slowly. A fish with such an injury would be expected to be jumpy, but not so, it is almost as if she comes close to show you, as I have seen this fish numerous times.

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Scuba diver, teacher, gadget man, racing driver, boat skipper, photographer, and collector of stray animals

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