Friendly and unfriendly fish
The great thing about snorkeling and scuba diving is that the marine life is, in general, not scared of us. Most of the time the reef population just ignores us and goes about it’s daily business. Some fish are more inquisitive and seem to seek out our company. Other fish are not so friendly and like to push their weight around. This is a wonderful thing to behold. Marine life has not yet evolved a fear of man in the way that wild, land based animals have. Snorkelers get even closer to fish than divers because snorkelers don’t blow scary bubbles.
On a recent snorkeling session in the Surin national park I was amazed how friendly the batfish were, I felt like I was being observed and played with. Turtles often show this curiosity too. Clown fish like to swim up at us away from their anemone in a “look at me!” fashion. Their aggressive attempt to defend their host is admirable. Angel fish are known to learn to recognize people. Boxer shrimps will crawl in your mouth and clean your teeth if you let them. Manta rays sometimes seem to play with divers’ bubbles.
For most snorkelers in Thailand the most common fish that they’ll see on a reef are Sergeant Majors and Rabbit fish. These are the small fish that will surround you as you enter the water in the hope that you’ll have some food for them.
If you have an underwater camera you will find that some fish are attracted to the lens, probably because they see their reflection. Small white eyed moray eels will come right up to the lens. Other fish are infuriatingly camera shy. Seahorses always turn away at the last minute and oriental sweetlips hide in the shadows.
Not all marine life is friendly, in fact quiet a lot of it will cause you pain if you are dumb enough to touch it.
Luckily most sea life is non aggressive, even the much maligned shark is normally indifferent to your underwater presence.
One fish worth watching out for is the Titan Trigger fish because they can be aggressive while guarding their eggs. They are not venomous but they have big enough teeth to break skin.
Trigger fish defend the territory above their eggs all the way to the surface so it’s best just to swim around them. If they do charge you, something they may do two or three times, you can kick them away with your fins.
You’ll know when they are angry because the dorsal fin on their back which usually lies flat pops up like a trigger.