I could be posting about the Hairy Octopus, billions of Blue Rings, Wonderpus, Bumblebee Shrimps, Harlequins, Ambon Scorpion Fish, Hairy & Green Shrimps etc, but im too busy to go out taking pictures and im so out of practice it will be embarrassing to compare them to Bent‘s Pictures.
In the mean time, Paulus and Joni were able to go out yesterday afternoon and try getting to grips with some different cameras. They were using a Canon 7D in a Nauticam, a Canon S95 in a Canon Housing, and a Canon 5Dmk3 in an Aquatica. We headed out on the housereef and within a few minutes they found a mantis with eggs in about 3 m. So after a while i signaled to them that i would go to the wreck and leave these two highly experienced guides to finish off with the Mantis and then meet up with me at the wrecks.
I happily started taking some snoot pictures at the wreck and got so engrossed I lost track of time, about 30 minutes passed and they still hadn’t arrived. It turns out the two muppets were playing around with the camera so much they had lost their reference points and swum in the wrong direction (about 200m away!). So for anyone that has got lost during a self guided housereef dive at NAD, you don’t need to feel bad, some of the best guides in Lembeh also get lost when distracted with taking pictures!
Eventually when we met up again, they made some attempts at Lembeh Sea Dragon Shots. Next time they are only going to be allowed to shoot some of the easier things, the hit rate of good shots was a little low.
One thing that I found interesting was that both of them only took about 30 pictures between them, if it wasn’t going to be a good shot they didn’t even bother to pull the trigger. Many people only shot like that when they had film in their camera. They also wanted to to the new ‘Shoot 5’ rule that we have been using for the last month, shoot 5 pictures nice and slowly then let someone else get 5 whilst you review. It makes your pictures a lot better in the end as you are forced to check and avoid silly errors, and stops too much unnecessary flashing of the critters.
Soon the other guides will be finished with their guests and it will be their turn to start the learning process!
The molluscs is a big and very diverse group consisting of animals as different as a mussel and an octopus! Most colorful and strikingly patterned among the molluscs are the cowries, used as currency in different cultures over time and now prized collector items due to their shining and often brightly coloured and patterned shell. However, what we as divers see, is not the shell itself, but the soft mantle of the animal, wrapped around the shell. The mantle is usually even more beautiful than the shell itself, often bearing a striking similarity to the prey of the cowrie, with tentaclelike protrusions if feeding on coral species. Due to the potent poisons used by cowrie prey as a deterrent to predators, cowries are often adapted to only a single prey species. Thus, being specialists, cowries sometimes has achieved more or less perfect similarities to their prey of choice, making many of them very hard to find, and among the best examples of camouflage.
There are exceptions to this rule though. The first cowrie of the day was found at 30 meters of water in Angel’s Window. It was the very rare tiger cowrie, which with its striking black and yellow probably is very obvious. Interestingly enough, tiger cowrie finds are rare enough that they merit a blog entry in itself, as can be seen if you go to earlier entries in this series. Tiger cowries feed on a genus of sea fans, which seem to occur in the deeper range of “normal” diving, thus maybe explaining the few observations of this cowrie.
The second cowrie was situated just half a meter or so from the tiger cowrie. This was a wire coral cowrie, which also is a cowrie I have never seen before. I would probably rate the looks of the wire coral cowrie even higher than that of the tiger cowrie, but both are decidedly striking animals. BTW, between the two cowries we found two baby clown frogfish, making this square meter or so the hot spot of Lembeh today.
Finally, Paulus and Joni found my absolute favorite cowrie, one of the small ovulids living and feeding on soft corals of the genus Dendronephtya. There are several very similar species, and detailed examinations are needed for exact species determination for some of them. Paulus and Joni found not only one, but two of those tiny, and very well camouflaged animals, once again showing that a great guide with good eyes make a lot of difference on muck dives.
As a teaser for tomorrow’s entry, this nightdive´s tally of cephalopods was two flamboyant cuttlefish, one coconut octopus, two reef squid, one wunderpus and one bobtail squid. And that was in one hour! The last couple of days and nights have included additional sightings of starry night octopus, several (many!!) blue ringed octopus, mototi octopus, broad-club cuttlefish, pygmy cuttlefish, long-armed octopus, mimic octopus and reef octopus. So, if nothing else steals the headlines, the subject for tomorrow will be the smart invertebrates, the octopus and their closest relatives.
Nudi Falls is one of the dive sites in Lembeh Strait that you can dive over and over again – at night, in the morning, for the second morning dive or for the first one. And it is always nice. Some of our guests requested to go to Nudi Falls again so that’s why we went back there yesterday morning for the first dive. The critters were all there and we saw countless different nudibranchs and shrimps (including some nice Hairy Shrimps). But the most beautiful thing if diving there first thing in the morning is that there can be very beautiful sunrays in the shallows – specially when the visibility is as good as it was yesterday. This picture is taken in 4 meters of water right under the boat. Thanks to our Dive Guide Joni for posing for this picture …
Yesterday morning we went to Angel’s Window for the first dive – a popular Coral Dive on the northern side of the Lembeh Strait. It is a Pinnacle with a cave swim-through, nice walls, good coral life and many critters such as Pygmy Seahorses, Boxer Crabs and Nudibranchs. But yesterday this dive was specially beautiful – the current was very mild and the visibility extemely good (for Lembeh). In this picture you can see our Dive Guide Joni enjoying the fantastic diving conditions. I took this shot from the ladder of the boat and it shows, that you can see the entire piccacle from the surface. We hope to have similar conditions today …
Before we get busy in early march we started yesterday to service all of our tanks. We opened 60 of them, cleaned them, soaked them, re-cleaned them and visually inspected them. We also disassebled all parts of the tank valves, replaced O-Rings and Washers and put them back together. Until the end of the week we will do the other half of the tanks. Involved in this project are all compressor staff, diveguides and also Simon and Serge. In the picture you can see our guides Indra and Joni cleaning tanks, our compressor man Rustam opening valves and Simon keeping track of the serial numbers and replacements done. Besides this “big service” we also service our tanks a monthly basis in smaller lots – 20 tanks at a time. At Nad Lembeh we have aluminium INT and DIN tanks available in two sizes: 80 cubic feet and 100 cubic feet.
On yesterdays morning dives we wanted to go to Batu Sandar 2 (or “Rojos”) but there were already 3 boats on site (2 directly on the dive site and one boat just jumping next to the dive site). So we decided to try something new and avoid the crowds. We kept going until we reached a little beach in between Batu Sandar 2 and the next village … and jumped in. It turned out to be a very good decision: Not only had the dive site an attractive mix of corals, rubble and sand – there were also lots of critters around. Directly after decending i found a little hairy type of octopus which was the first highlight of the dive. Then we had nudibranch galore – with one cool species after another, xenia coral shirmp, nice crab species and even a mimic octopus in the deeper, sandy part of the dive site. So even though we did not get to go where we planned we still had a fantastic dive with lots of critters and even more privacy: Our 4 guests had the dive site for themselfs with 3 Spotters – Paulus, Joni and Serge. The picture shows a tiny Cryptic Phyllodensium nudibranch on a little ascidian. We will go back there soon and we are also already thinking about a name.
Before i even start with this post: Thank you to everbody crazy enough about diving to read our BLOG on Christmas day. We hope you all have a good time where ever you are – even if there is no Muck diving around.
But back to the post: Of course we don’t have snow here in Lembeh and also no real Christmas Trees. But North Sulawesi is still a strongly Christian region and Christmas is very very important to the people here. So even if you don’t want: these days you hear Christmas songs all the time. Having these melodies constantly in my head since a month (or more) i knew straight away that i found the perfect shot for my Christmas BLOG Post when i saw this goby sitting on the cover of a old generator on NAD Housereef. As if he knew it, he posed exactly on the one spot, where you could still read the print that says “silent”.
And actually: Here at NAD Lembeh it is really gonna be a “Silent Night” as most divers checked out yesterday. We only have 3 guest left and are getting full again from tomorrow on. So we whish everyone a “Merry Christmas” and say good bye with a little Christmas present for all our BLOG readers: A picture of a Soft Coral Shrimp – such a beautiful shrimp … found at Pante Parigi by our Guide Joni.