I think divers are much like birders when it comes to certain aspects. There are the regular species you encounter depending on your region. You enjoy them and for some people even the “ordinary” bring a pleasure others don’t necessarily understand. Or perhaps it’s a combination of a setting such as forest, park, meadow, a back yard with bushes or feeders. Underwater is similar in that you can have reefs of different variety such as “patch”, “walls,” “finger”, artificial like shipwrecks which may be like the title of my non-fiction book, Islands in the Sand. The geographic location of those types of reefs dictates what species of marine creatures you will find just as the geographic location of bird habitat dictates what species of birds are seen. Yes, you do have migrations, more so among the bird population I think. There are absolutely known marine migrations which is why you get great white sharks cruising through Florida at times.
Anyway, one of the reasons our Key Largo reefs have an abundance of marine life is they have had increased protection for a couple of decades now. We don’t have the spectacular corals found deeper in the Caribbean, but we also aren’t over-fished. Among my favorites are angels, tiny blue chromis, yellow-headed jawfish, puffers, spade fish, spotted drums, trunks, midnight parrots, and file fish. Those fall into the category of regularly seen, but not quite as ordinary as squirrel fish and yellowtail snappers. On the non-fish side, I always look for sea cucumbers, anemones, tiny shrimp, and do enjoy seeing lobsters. Everyone always wants to see eels, turtles, rays, sharks, Goliath Groupers – the “big stuff” for our region. While we have all those, you simply never know if you’ll see one or not when diving. The more often you’re in the water, the greater your chances obviously.
The point to travel to other dive destinations is in general to see creatures you don’t have here. Fiji was a great example. On the drive from the airport to the resort, the driver was proudly pointing out tropical features like palm trees and hibiscus – hardly anything new for us. Underwater though were amazing masses of soft corals and so many species native to the South Pacific such as “unicorn” fish.
The only disadvantage of our local reefs are they tend to be out where a boat is required instead of places where you can just gear up and go off the shore. But the sheer volume of marine life and good dive conditions throughout much of the year is why people come.