Whenever you visit the same dive area several times, some dive sites seem to consistently deliver more than others, and, correspondingly, some less than you would wish. Here in Lembeh my favorites are the Aer Bajo sites and Hairball, where many uneventful starts of dives have been turned around to glorious experiences. The different TK sites on the other hand have for some reason not really caught my interest that much, despite that if I really think hard I actually have seen some really neat animals there. My expectations for yesterday´s morning dives were less than stellar, as the first dive was in Nudi retreat (coral dive, why??) and TK 3. Nudi retreat delivered a couple of cool Xeno crabs as well as a beautiful soft coral crab, which was fine, and perfectly OK. Happy with that. TK on the other hand, in the words of a well known dive resort owner, just kicked the balls out of any kind of negative feeling about that site.
Paulus, my dive guide for the day, first found a weird flat crab buried into the rope sponges that are so common in TK (pictures coming in a later blog). Just after that a great Janolus nudibranch posed nicely,
followed by a number of “commoner” nudis, and a beautifully colored devilfish, showing of its pectoral fins.
A couple of minutes later in a small patch of rope sponges and debris, two beautiful frogfish and one common sea horse were found.
That was just the start. After that, less than 5 meters apart, a flamboyant cuttlefish was hunting,
a hairy frogfish came walking by, and, finally,
a coconut octopus did his (or her) amazing show with a couple of beautiful shells, hiding, digging, watching me and walking around with the shells.
So, TK, I am officially sorry for my negative attitude. TK after this climbs significant steps on my favorite dive site list. Simultaneously, my wow for this trip of concentrating the photo shooting to a few of the best subjects on each dive, was blown to pieces. But what can you do, this was like letting kids loose in a candy store, Danes loose in a beer pub, Djengis Khan loose in a village of pacifists or Simon loose in a camera store!
As Phyllodensium Nudibranchs are uncommon, bizarre and attractive at the same time, they always make a good Blog post. Specially when they are found in numbers. Having blogged some weeks ago already about the Solar powered Nudibranch, it’s today the turn of the Kabira Phyllodensium (Phyllodensium kabiranum). As they are very well camouflaged when feeding on Soft Corals, they are very hard to spot – but once you found them, they make a very attractive subject. Specially, when they are isolated from the soft coral, like this one in the picture. At the moment we are finding 5 of them at Nudi Retreat – but we are also seeing them at some other Dive Sites here in Lembeh Strait.
The blue highlights in its brown tentacles make it already very attractive – but when you pass the right moment of the surge moving all it’s cerata to one side, you can see its beautiful orange base. Keep looking within Heteroxenia and Xenia corals and you might find one.
It seems to me, that we see a lot of Phyllodensium Nudibranchs at the moment. We encountered 4 different Types only yesterday – and 3 Solar Powered Nudibranchs (Phyllodensium longicirrum) on a single dive at “Tanjung Kubur”. The one you can see on this picture was a smaller one. As i was preparing for the shot, i realised, that there was a little fish hiding between the Cerata (tentacles) of the Nudibranch. It turned out to be a little Wrasse seeking shelter within the “arms” of the Solar Powered Nudi. This shot was taken in a brief moment, when the Wrasse came out of its solar powered home.
Even though we also saw a Blue Ringed Octopus, 2 Ambon Scorpionfishes, a Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Hairy Shrimps and other cool Critters on this dive at, the little Wrasse hiding in the Nudibranch was still my personal favourite of this Dive.
We were 6 Divers and had Johan, Stenley and Marnez as Guides with us.
The other day at TK I found (well of course i didn’t, the guides did!) a pair of Commensal Shrimp (Periclimenes imperator) sitting on the back of a Glossodoris nudibranch.
I also managed to get a few video clips of them feeding as well, these are some of my favourite shrimp, just behind the coleman shrimp… which i’ll go looking for in a few days:
As a colorful contrast to the black or grey sands in Lembeh strait, nudibranchs of different sizes, shapes and colors are plentiful here. The vivid colors of many of the nudibranchs such as those of the Risbeckia are clear messages to predators that the nudibranchs are very nasty food items, filled with poison from the cnidarian prey of the nudibranchs.
It makes a lot of sense to announce the danger of eating the nudibranchs, as they get no help from the poison once ingested, despite killing of the predator in the process. The clear colors send a powerful message to would be predators that it is not worth even trying, letting both prey and predators take care of their own business without being harmed. These kinds of signals, where bright colors give a message of a horrible fate to a predator-to-be are called aposematic signals.
Some of the other very venomous animals, such as the flamboyant cuttlefish, the mototi octopus as well as the blue-ringed octopus that we currently see every day here in the strait are perfectly sized prey for may of the carnivorous fish feeding in the sands. However, given that these cephalopods themselves try to catch fish, a constant aposematic signal would complicate life for the blue-ring and the flamboyant scaring of the prey. The solution is to turn the aposematism on when threatened and turn it of again when the danger leaves, as shown here by a mototi octopus.
Thus, both flamboyant cuttlefish and blue-ring octopus are at the same time both among the most camouflaged and the brightest colored animals here in the strait, vividly demonstrated by the flamboyant cuttlefish flashing strong colored circles or waves of vivid colors when agitated and blending in with the rubble in an amazing way whenever left in peace.
Rating Critters is a very subjective thing, but i have to say, that the Bornella anguilla is for me something like the “Queen of Nudibranchs”. For her cool shape, her nice colours and the absolut fantastic swimming behaviour – she moves her tail like an eel (therefor the name) and swims at a speed you would never think a nudibranch is be able to reach. So i was very delighted to find one on today’s morning dive … i screamed into my regulator and watched it for about 45 minutes. Whenever it started to get annoyed by my flashes it just started swimming off into another direction. A unbelievable dive. But even more unbelievable was, that – after not having seeing a Bornella for the whole year – i found another one on the second dive 😉
As i am always happy to find Nudibranchs, that are different from the ones, that we usually see in Lembeh. So it was quite satisfying to find a bunch of Lomanotus Nudibranchs. The Lomanotus live (like also Doto Nudibranchs) on Hydroids and are very small – they grow to about 1cm in size. The first one i saw some days back on a nightdive at the Waterfall (Nudi Falls 2) and the other ones at Nudi Falls itself. They were completely white … but this one, that i found at Nudi Falls, had bright red and attractive rhinophores.