Octopus in Culebra

Culebra octopus

The Fascination

Ever since I saw my first one, every time I snorkel, I seek out octopuses. They are night hunters who hole up in dens during the day. These dens are marked by the empty shells of the animals that sustain them. I’ve become skilled at locating them. Wherever there is suitable habitat (rocks or coral mounds teeming with life), I usually find an eyeball staring back at me or the curve of a soft, tentacled arm tucked in a hole.

Shells of the eaten and a tentacled octopus arm

First Encounter

On the first snorkel in Culebra (at Playa Tamarindo), I found a “friendly” octopus. He would rise up from his den enough to get a better look at me. When I dove down to get a closer look at him, he’d scrunch back down and bob right back up after I passed. He seemed as curious about me as I was about him. That’s my second favorite kind of animal encounter.

Beyond the Imagination

The next day, we made the short hike from Bahia Flamenco to Playa Carlos Rosario. Reportedly, the best snorkeling on Culebra. We’d been in the water for a while and had started back toward the break in the coral leading to the beach when I swam past a free-swimming octopus! She was on the back of a coral mound, using her arms to crawl across it. Once she realized that I was watching her (octopuses are crazy-smart), she jetted down to the bottom and pressed herself flat, turning the color of the coral. This remarkable color transformation – instantaneous and perfectly matching – is an unbelievable adaptation. I can’t get my head around it! I’m floating, still in the water, quietly watching. She feels too exposed and vulnerable. She moved across the sand to a rocky area where she could tuck herself safely away. I left her in peace. A free-swimming octopus. In the middle of the day. Best day ever!

Doubly Unbelievable

The following day, we snorkeled at Playa Melones. It’s a smaller area with less diversity than Playa Tamarindo or Playa Carlos Rosario. Rock slides along the near shore create the habitat. It’s threatening rain to the west. We slip under the waves anyway.

Playa Melones

We were in three to four feet of water, almost back at the beach after a shorter snorkel. I was watching a grouper holding on to coral with his pectoral fins in the rocking surf and a colorful trunkfish foraging along the sand when an octopus swam right under me! I gasped and immediately turned to watch her.
culebra OctopusRob filmed her with the GoPro, his arms outstretched toward her. She flared to communicate, “Look at how big I am! Don’t mess with me” and flashed darker hues. As she jetted across the sand, she was the sand.

As she stopped at the rocks, she was the rock. Culebra octopusWe only spent a few minutes with her. She was out in the open and, despite having approached me, was now uncomfortable with our company.

I can’t believe it! Two free-swimming octopuses! This makes Culebra one of my favorite places to snorkel.Culebra octopus

If you’re interested in purchasing or licensing any images you see here, please email me at SNewenham at exploringnaturephotos.com, and I’ll make it happen.

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2 Replies to “Octopus in Culebra”

  1. Wow, octopuses surely use the instant colors for them to blend in – amazing! I enjoyed seeing Rob’s videos with you snorkeling right above that octopus – really COOL! I can only imagine how you must have felt to experience blending into this part of nature!

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