I am a photographer who mainly works in the Red Sea and Europe; I’ve only managed to dive a few times in the Caribbean, once in the Windward Isles and once off the Yucatan Peninsula – two quite different locales within the Western Tropical Atlantic Region. The amount of sponge life that I found there recently was so different from my previous experiences.
I’d never seen so many sponges on a reef, everywhere were huge growths of Barrel Sponges, Vase Sponges, and of course, the huge ‘organ pipes’ of yellow Tube Sponges. I can’t tell you just how different these ‘squishy’ reefs were compared to the hard coral dominated reefs from most of my earlier tropical experiences.
It must be pointed out that sponges on a reef are not always welcome, some reefs in the region host more sponge biomass than would be expected, due to the overfishing of sponge-eating fishes. Couple that with loss of hard corals from disease, storm damage, and the rest of the usual suspects, and the spongey reefs lose their appeal a little, but you must agree, some of these huge sponges are impressive and make great photographic subjects!