The Apolemichthy kingi, also know as tiger angel fish, was first discovered by Dennis King and it now bears his name. Picture: Dennis King
The Apolemichthy kingi, also know as tiger angel fish, was first discovered by Dennis King and it now bears his name. Picture: Dennis King

A lifetime of acquiring greater depth in marine fish knowledge

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published May 2, 2021

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A FISH called Apolemichthy kingi.

It not only carries the name of a KwaZulu-Natal recreational diver, but bears testament to his many decades of spending time in the ocean to acquaint himself with various species of fish that inhabit the local coastline.

Dennis King, 78, who loves being underwater because he feels at home, has a species of angel fish named after him.

Its scientific name is Apolemichthy kingi, but it is commonly known as the tiger angelfish because of its distinct black and gold vertical stripes, which was discovered by King during his many voyages of discovery underwater.

King’s keen interest in fish started from the time he started snorkelling in England at age 9.

Dennis King with his underwater camera

By the time he relocated to South Africa in 1968 his fascination for marine fish had already gained depth.

King, who lived in Durban for many years before moving to St Lucia on KZN’s north coast 12 years ago, has frequented all the celebrated and not so well known local dive spots over the years.

Through the many hours spent submerged in the ocean or observing fish in his aquarium at home, King has gained vast and intimate knowledge on various species of fish found along the province’s coastline.

While by profession King is a structural engineer and has no formal training in marine biology, it has not prevented him from co-authoring a number of books on marine fish.

He has also written three books on his own, with his latest being The Reef Guide, which was launched recently.

His current project is an App that provides user-friendly information on about 750 species of fish that occur on the KZN coastline and Mozambique.

“I love studying fish. Some times I catch them, take them home and put them in my aquarium where I to get to know them.

“That’s how I started to write my marine fish books, through diving.”

As expected, King regards having an angel fish named after him as his most special achievement.

He said he discovered the tiger angelfish while diving in the vicinity of “Number 1 Reef”, off Durban, and their stripes was what caught his attention.

“When I saw it, I realised it was something I’ve never seen before.”

After the relevant authorities performed their verification processes, it was ordained the 76th species of angel fish in the world, and King’s name was attached.

Given his affinity for the ocean and its creatures, King was also appreciative of Craig Foster’s underwater interactions with an octopus in False Bay, on the country’s west coast.

The resulting documentary, My Octopus Teacher, this week, turned out to be an Academy Award winning production.

“It is an amazing documentary, which was well produced. I’m pleased they got the award. They deserve it.

King said he has dived in the Cape a few times, in a similar place in False Bay.

“It’s jolly cold there. How the guy (Foster) went there on each occasion, I don’t envy him. His experience with the octopus was remarkable.”

Underwater sights at “Fanto Wreck” near uMhlanga Picture: Dennis King

He noted that KZN had some wonderful reefs starting with Protea Banks near Shelly Beach, Aliwal Shoal (off Scottburgh), and he enjoys some of the reefs in Durban.

On north coast, he enjoys Cape Vidal and Sodwana Bay, near St Lucia, which is regarded as one of top five dive sites in the world.

“Sodwana Bay is my favourite of all the sites. It has a variety of reefs and the diversity of life is amazing. I have been diving there for many years.”

“Landers Reef“ near Park Rynie on KZN’s south coast, in all its glory Picture: Dennis King

King said he has lost none of his zest for diving and on his latest trip there, he saw some fish that he hasn’t seen in a while.

Being underwater has a calming effect on him even though he’s older now, King feels none of his aches and pains in the water.


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