Review: The Reef Guide

By SALLY SCOTT Time of article published Aug 6, 2014

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by Dennis King and Valda Fraser (Struik Nature)

As all divers know, there is a world beneath the sea that pulsates with life and beauty in many different forms. The experience of just sitting by an anchor, watching this world float by, (as I have often done) should be on every bucket list.

Avid KwaZulu-Natal divers Dennis King and Valda Fraser know this world well. It is where they shed their earthly skin and become one with the teeming life in the ocean. Experienced and passionate divers, Fraser and King are almost more at home under the sea than on top of it.

Their joint passion for studying fish and marine life has developed into The Reef Guide. The beautifully illustrated book, focusing on fishes, corals, nudibranchs and other invertebrates, was launched last month in Durban, with photography by King and meticulously researched information, with the help of other experts, written by Fraser. It is well on its way to becoming something of a marine bible for divers.

A practising structural engineer who lives in St Lucia, King is one of South Africa’s most prominent underwater photographers. He has published three marine life books. A tiger angelfish Apolemichthys kingi he discovered is named after him.

A keen diver for 25 years, Fraser, who lives in Pumula, near Port Shepstone, has written about nudibranchs and documented many new distribution records. She also has a species named after her – bornella valdae, a nudibranch she encountered while diving off the southern KZN coast, in 2009.

The Reef Guide documents about 800 reef fish and invertebrates found along the east and south coasts of southern Africa. The relevance of the information also stretches as far as the Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, the Comores and the Maldives. Included in a full alphabetical index are references to fish families, with preliminary identification by shape, eyes and so on and differences between adult and juvenile fish.

Both divers have a keen eye and are talented photographers; information was often gathered in challenging diving conditions.

The Reef Guide is a wonderful achievement and an excellent research book for any marine fan. It is a work of passion, says Fraser, “After all these years, we are still in awe of the majesty of the ocean.”

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