A Quick Trip to Redang: Anemones and Their Fishes

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

As always on a dive trip, I’m fascinated by the vividly coloured anemones and their impossibly cute fish. I never get tired of taking photos of them. This time at Redang, some of the anemones were also affected by the bleaching and there were some very unusual colours. This green and blue anemone wasn’t so badly affected as it’s pretty close to the usual green and purple. It made for a beautiful contrast with the bright orange clownfish!

IMG_2358

Less normal was this bleached out specimen, though the white and pastel purple-blue was so pretty. Equally pretty was the baby anemonefish taking shelter here.

IMG_2166

We then got down to even more bleached anemone, with this little fella both wary and curious of the intruder with the lens.

IMG_2180

The worst bits of bleaching hit the panda clownfish. Check out this poor shellshocked fish. My heart goes out to him.

IMG_2168

This anemone is not normally white or even pretty fluorescent orange, it’s usually a dark orangey-brown, quite similar in colour to the pandas themselves.

IMG_2199

It was really sad how they sat glumly in their bleached homes, not being able to change anemone because they were evolved to only live in one type.

IMG_2205

I hope the bleaching has stopped and the anemone recovered by now.

IMG_2312

Advertisement

September in Bali: Menjangan Island

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I was in Permuteran to dive two very different locations. The first was Menjangan Island, also known as the island of the deer. To get there, we had to abide by a whole bunch of rules. I like multi-coloured signs like this and I especially liked the rather paternalistic exhortation to make sure all your diving equipment was attached securely to your body.

CIMG3453

While the diving at Menjangan Island wasn’t quite as spectacular as the other places I’d dived for this trip, it was very relaxing as there weren’t any challenging currents. The water was beautifully blue as usual and while there weren’t as many pelagics, there was still the odd gem or two. This yellow-spotted trevally was one of them.

DSCF1846

Here also was the second time in my diving career I saw a school of squid in broad daylight. The last time I saw a school of squid, it was my first dive. It took more than a hundred dives to see them again.

DSCF1560

Closer to the reef were plenty of longfin batfish. Here, they seemed almost excessively friendly, changing quickly from their day colours…

DSCF1554

… to night colours as they came in close, as they did when wanting to be cleaned.

DSCF1553

For some really odd reason, one of them swam right up to me, as if it was expecting me to do the cleaning honours for it.

DSCF1813

There were plenty of parrotfish around. I’m surprised how little photographed these fish are. I think it’s something to do with how shy they are and how they just don’t stay put in one place.

DSCF1793

There were others like this grouper that I can’t find in my fish ID book…

DSCF1496

… and more familiar ones like this Indian doublebar goatfish hovering over some coral.

DSCF1786

Some of the fish came in schools, like the two-spot snappers in their brownish grey raiment.

DSCF1792

Others were more solitary, like one of my all-time favourites, the juvenile harlequin sweetlips. I can’t get enough of its unique polka dot pattern.

DSCF1829

Some fish lived in crevices, like this yellowbarred jawfish emerging in search of prey.

DSCF1504

Others like this fire dartfish seemed to simply hover in one place posing for the camera.

DSCF1545

There were other fish that lived in crevices, and some of these you won’t want to get too close to. This fimbriated moray eel is one good example.

DSCF1770

Some were small and really difficult to get close to, like the goby. I can’t tell for sure whether this is a common ghostgoby.

DSCF1820

I think this is a large (!) whip goby but as usual, I can’t be sure.

DSCF1653

Other fish are much more easily identified, like these panda clownfish, also known as Clark’s anemonefish. They were so at home among the stinging anemones…

DSCF1500

… as was this anemone shrimp.

DSCF1510

Rather camera-shy was this hermit crab, which hid its face swiftly under its shell as the camera clicked.

DSCF1471

And then the ones that didn’t seem shy at all – the nudibranchs. I saw a white flabellina that seemed to mimic the coral it was on.

DSCF1466

There were others that were even more unidentifiable, like this strange blue one with an orange and white strip outlined by deep blue running down the middle.

DSCF1851

I tried to take some nudibranch portraits, some not quite coming out as I’d like as the flash refused to fire.

DSCF1804

And others came out much better, with a pensive, slightly lonesome feel that seems quite at odds with the experience of being a nudibranch, perhaps.

DSCF1509

September in Bali: Underwater Macro

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Bali as a dive destination really surprised me with the sheer variety and quantity of wildlife to be seen. The rich coral life supported many species that were rare at other more famous dive areas in the region. I could choose no better place than Tulamben to start taking underwater photos. There were lots of  Nemos to shoot, though some were shyer than others, like these false anemonefish or clownfish.

DSCF0043

The pink anemonefish flashed a bright pink against the brilliant green of their protective homes. Even so, they sulked at the camera rather disagreeably.

DSCF0663

It was this panda clownfish that finally posed nicely for me while guarding his pink eggs at the base of the anemone.

DSCF0250

Next up, the challenge was to spot and shoot the pygmy seahorses. My task was made far easier with the world’s best dive guide ever, Wayan. It was amazing how he could spot the little creatures so easily and point them out carefully. Here, you can see how tiny a pygmy seahorses is.

DSCF0019

Here’s the Denise pygmy seahorse up close, looking so elegant and fragile.

DSCF0285

Less delicate looking was the regular Gorgonian pygmy seahorse, though this male is very obviously pregnant. For seahorses, the males carry the eggs while the females swim free. What a great arrangement.

DSCF0526

Other rare fish included this longnose hawkfish, a very pretty fish that started my subsequent fascination with hawkfishes of all shapes and sizes.

DSCF0287

Then there was the jawfish that burrowed in the sea bottom, only revealing its face and yellow eyebrows to the surface.

DSCF0294

And there was the funny-looking ribbon eel that showed off its striped blue body and brilliant yellow mouth, looking like it had a tragicomic accident with a fluorescent yellow marker pen.

DSCF0357

Another interesting find was the robust ghost pipefish that looked remarkably like leaves gliding along in the current.

DSCF0301

Here’s a video with a pregnant one, you can just about spot its eggs in between its ventral fin parts right at the end of the video.

There were also other creatures like this pretty little cuttlefish so well camouflaged against some stinging coral.

DSCF0730

And then there were the pretty nudibranchs, also unglamourously known as sea slugs. There were pink ones with yellow trimmings…

DSCF0319

… black and white ones with orange trimmings…

DSCF0280

… purely blue ones…

DSCF0458

… and even pairs with pinkish brown splotches on them. I bet these fellas must be poisonous, otherwise they’d be way too easy to be spotted and gobbled up!

DSCF0689

Guest Post: DC Dives Redang – Night Dive

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course comprises several specialty dives, but the main reason why people take it is to dive deeper than 18 metres (up to 40 metres for a qualified advanced diver) and to do night dives. I love night dives. Once you get past the spookiness of utter blackness surrounding the nimbus of your torch, you get to enjoy a whole multitude of sealife that you can’t ordinarily see during the daytime, as well as a whole set of different behavioural patterns. Because of the pitch-black nature of the surroundings, camera flashes also fire at maximum efficacy, which makes for very beautiful photos. For my first night dive, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

anemone - night

See how the flash brings out the beautiful purple highlights of the anemone? Another example of the vibrant purple can be seen in this picture of a flibonella.

flibonella - night

WS also uncovered a cute false clownfish that was outside its protective anemone home.

false clownfish open - night

The poor little critter soon realised that it was attracting unwanted attention, and ducked into its home for cover…

flase clownfish hiding - night

… until it was completely covered by the anemone’s stinging tentacles.

false clownfish hidden - night

Nighttime also brings out the ambush predators, such as this spiny scorpionfish. The sharp spines on its back contain a poisonous toxin that can really hurt.

spiny scorpionfish - night

We also saw this beautiful, and aptly-named twinspot lionfish.

twinspot lionfish - night

Overall, this was a great introduction to night diving.

Diving the Similans: Small Fish

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I’m not very lucky with big fish. Whenever we’re out for a dive to see something like a special sort of shark or bumphead parrotfish or whatever, I rarely get the first glimpse. Also, my group is invariably the one that doesn’t see anything while other people spend ages looking at it. Case in point was that my group was the only one throughout the whole 4-day trip that didn’t see a single leopard shark, not even at the dive site named after them.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t see as many big fish or perhaps just out of sheer perversity, I like taking pictures of small fish. Each trip, I take one of the prerequisite photos of clownfish. These here playing in the anemone are called false clown anemonefish. It’s funny how they look so cute frolicking among the anemone tendrils yet have such grumpy expressions up close.

DSCF7424a

Next is a series of my favourite little fish: the hawkfish family. These are infernally difficult to get good pictures of because they’re very shy. The pixy hawkfish is one of the shyer ones. Even though they’re rather common, most of the time I see them peeking out from a coral crevice. Either that, or the dart of a tail into shelter. I like the way it cocks its head very slightly to one side as if posing for a picture.

IMG_0064a

Much less frequently, I spot the freckled hawkfish. It’s funny how it comes in two variations. I like the one with bright orange-red and white streaks better.

IMG_0072a

The duller version somehow looks a million times grumpier. It still has freckles on its chin, just not the cute bright red ones of its prettier variation.

IMG_0126a

The trick to small fish is merely patience, not luck. Once I spot one, I normally lie in wait for it to emerge and get used to me. Most small fish like either pause for a while to rest on a bit of coral, or stay in their own territory. It’s not terribly hard to get in a few shots in good light for fairly decent photos. Plus, good pictures compensate loads for bad luck with big fish.