When you live out on an island for weeks and even months, you get obsessed by some pretty interesting stuff. This last March we met a Pygmy Octopus living just a few feet from our shore. I got to see him several times, but by far his best friend was Elora Kooistra, the island dive instructor. She became totally infatuated with him, she named him Egbert, and took hours and hours of high-quality videos of her interactions with him.
A couple of our guests first found Egbert when they were snorkeling right in front of our kayak beach. He was living in a conch shell about 20 feet out. They showed the rest of our guests and guides, and one whole afternoon about 15 people were out there watching him in about 6 feet of water. Our kitesurf instructor Lauren Bibby and our island manager trainee Kyle Lowis, who were best friends with Elora, went out the next day with Elora to see if he was still there. When I came along the three of them were taking turns holding their breath while snorkeling with a GoPro filming Egbert while one of them stood on the other person’s back so the camera-person could stay down while snorkeling to get long, uninterrupted shots.
Then Elora decided it made way more sense to do this with scuba gear, so she would weigh herself down with a bunch of dive weights and take a scuba tank and in this way she could hang out with Egbert as long as she wanted. This went on for weeks. Eventually Kyle and Lauren reached the end of their shift so they left the island, but Elora and I stayed on and Elora continued to visit Egbert every day. For a while she lost him when he moved to another shell, but she hunted until she found him again.
She would take raw fish to him. He would fight nearby Damselfish over the treat. He would also grab Elora’s hand, and he learned to open a jar with the fish in it, and other entertaining past times. Elora got it all on camera. Every night she would bring her phone down to our dining hall and show me the latest clips of Egbert. It was super fun.
Recently an animal-lovers website made a video using Elora’s clips and it has gone some-what viral! (3 million views!) Check it out.