We've been parked for two days at site in the Eastern Fields Atoll of Papua New Guinea called "Carl's Ultimate," and I am not sure I'll be able to dive again anywhere else. Most of Carl's Ultimate is shallow, but a point extends out and drops off into the deep; along the slope and wall is one of the richest coral reefs I've ever seen. A dense collection of sea fans, soft corals, and other reef animals line the entire reef slope from 35 meters to 5 meters in depth, providing underwater photographers with an unlimited number of wide-angle and macro subjects. Anthias and small fish cluster above the coral just below a tangle of parrotfish, wrasses, lionfish, trumpetfish, snappers and angelfish, while jacks, barracuda, and dogtooth tuna hunt from the blue. Jacks hunt the reef with all sorts of partners: barracuda, snappers, Napoleon wrasses, trumpetfish, and others. Three large potato cods hang out in a cave at 30 meters and are so friendly that they allow divers to pet them. The big groupers are incredibly picturesque as they meander amongst colorful soft corals and schools of bannerfish and jacks. There are small and rare animals as well: pygmy seahorses, Rhinopias, intricately-patterned wrasses, Phyllodesmium nudibranches -- and we're not even really looking for macro subjects (yet).
The reef is fantastic all the time, but when the current picks up, diving Carl's Ultimate becomes an altogether different experience. The reef almost literally *explodes* with life. Millions of magenta slender anthias (Luzonichthys waitei) appear from nowhere and swim up-current over staghorn coral in dense lines by the tens of thousands. They are the lifeblood of the reef, thick piscine rivulets ever streaming and branching and merging. When the current becomes too strong, the purple nuggets shoot up into the water column and drift back, flashing this way and that way as they feed on plankton and other nutrients. Every once in awhile, a predatory squadron of jacks shoots into a rivulet, creating an streaking explosion of purple fish.
I have never seen anything like it. I've been trying to capture the moment using video, but it will surely prove to be an impossible task.