As the sun rises higher in the sky and reflects off of the smooth surface of the ocean, a gentle swell rolls through the channel as the tide flows through Sandy Cay Reef.
Looking out over the horizon you can see every shade of blue from the cobalt of the deep ocean to the turquoise of the sandy bottom. The sea, cool and clear, envelops your sun-kissed skin as you slip over board, inviting you to dive deeper into its depths.
A pair of spotted eagle rays glide gracefully over the sand. Colourful fish dart left and right, weaving their way between the coral heads. Sea fans sway lazily to and fro in the current, the motion mesmerizing as a reef shark cruises by. Sun beams stream through the branches of elk horn coral stretching upwards.
Part of the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park, located just north of Little Harbour, Sandy Cay reef is known worldwide for its large concentration of elkhorn coral. The coral named for the fact that the shape of its branches closely resemble elk antlers, this fast growing coral is one of the most important reef building corals in the Caribbean.
Other species commonly seen here include brain coral, parrot fish, blue chromis, green sea turtles, ocean triggerfish and trumpet fish along with many others.
While Sandy Cay reef is a beautiful place to explore, weather conditions have to be taken into consideration. This reef is very susceptible to ocean rages and swells along with strong winds. It is also best to go on an incoming tide, not only is the visibility better but the current will carry you closer to the shore (and not farther out to sea like on an outgoing tide).
Snorkelers and scuba divers alike can enjoy exploring this reef that is teaming with life. Remember to take only memories and photos though, as this reef is protected and no fishing is allowed.
Gabrielle Manni is a freelance photographer, lover of the outdoors and a Man-O-War native.