So here is the first instalment by the brand new guest blogger at NAD! My name is Bent Christensen, an avid underwater photographer visiting Lembeh for the fourth time in two years, and already planning my next trip! On my day job I teach ecology at a swedish university and run a small media company focused on coral reef and rainforest ecology, guaranteeing me trips to exciting and warm places when my home in Sweden closes down in darkness, snow and temperatures way below zero.
What is around right now in Lembeh then? As always when coming here, something new is showing up. Currently a lot of nudibranchs, many of them small, are around right now. Even the excellent guides seem to be somewhat uncertain on the name of some of them, and that is a feat considering the thousands of dives the guides have done here in the strait. There is also a lot of baby frogfish now, with around five to ten being spotted on each dive to day. The blue-ring season got a jump start yesterday, with three different blue-rings seen on one dive. Flamboyants are around, both big adults and some coming right from the egg. Mimics and wunderpus are seen, but that more or less would be expected, as are pygmies of different kinds, devilfish, xeno crabs, pom pom boxer crabs, stargazers and all the other usual suspects rare most places but quite easily seen here.
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 …
In this exceptionally good winter season in Lembeh Strait there are not only a lot of critters around, but also a lot of unusual ones. For example Nudibranchs: besides the – more commonly seen – Chromodoris, Hypselodoris, Glossodoris, Flabellinas and so on, we are also seeing many other, more uncommon, nudibranchs. Specially in habitats like Ascidians, Hydroids and Soft Corals we are finding a lot of very attractive Nudibranchs and Slugs. I specially like the crypticly shaped ones with lots of filaments – the ones where you have to look twice to figure out, what it is. The above gallery shows a small selection of the last days …
On a muck dive this week we saw a unusual high number of Ceratosoma Nudibranchs in different colours – yellow, white and red. I stopped counting at around 20. The nicest one of them was without doubt this one: It had 2 Emperor Shimps hitchhiking a ride on its back. I am always happy when i find these colourful shrimp on nudibranchs – but finding two of them on a single nudibranch is always something special. I am also very thankful, that the shrimps did not pick a red ceratosoma … they make a much better contrast on the yellow one 😉
Emperor Shrimps are famous for hitchhiking on other marine animals such as Sea Cucumbers and various Nudibranchs and they are frequently seen on Lembeh Strait’s beautiful black sand muck dives. But today i have seen one for the first time ever taking a ride on an adult female flamboyant cuttlefish. When photographing it the flamboyant cuttlefish got a little nervous and started to “walk” away but the shrimp stayed on it like a rodeo rider – no matter how much the flamboyant cuttlefish moved. After the cuttlefish calmed down a little bit i realized, that the shrimp always stayed on the back end of the cuttlefish’s body … and after a while i found out why: whenever the shrimp approached the cuttlefish’s head the flamboyant started to rub his tentacles over his head trying to get the shrimp off. So it seems that this symbiosis is only one sided and not desired by the flamboyant cuttlefish. But one thing is for sure: It was a great experience – like always when diving in Lembeh.
Diving in Lembeh Strait is good all year round – but the Hot Spots constantly shift. Sometimes a place is full of critters and some weeks later they are gone just to pop back up on another place. And we found our Hot Spot for this month: A nice rubble area in between 15 and 25 meters with countless critters to be discovererd (and no … we won’t write here which divesite it is ;)).
When we went back there yesterday we found 5 Frogfish (4 Painted Frogfish and one Scarlet Frogfish) and 9 Tiger Shrimps (one with eggs) on just one dive. But it is also all the little things we find in between – a lot of Nudibranchs of various species, Pygmy Cuttlefish, Flatworms, Shrimps, many different kinds of Scorpionfish, rare Gobies … it is a real Lembeh Dive where you basicly hop from one photo subject to the next. This shows clearly how different Lembeh can be, when you visit at different times of the year – and when you try different spots.
The Emperor Shrimp (Periclimenes imperator) is a commensal shrimp and a member of the Palaemonidae. Sounds strange, but looks really beautiful: Characteristic is its attractive red, white and purple colouration and its commensalism. The Emperor Shrimp can be found on several species of Sea Cucumbers and Nudibranchs (for example Risbecia tryoni, Cerathosomas, Spanish Dancers, Melibes and others). Usually they pick relatively big nudibranchs. Emperor Shrimps can be up to 2,5 cm in size and always stay on their host.
Best places to find Emperor Shrimps in Lembeh: Basicly any Divesite with sandy bottoms (for shrimps on sea cucumbers and Nudibranchs) or also rubble (for shrimps on Nudibranchs).
Best lens to shoot Emperor Shrimp: Any Macro Lens from 60mm (shrimp or shrimp with background) to 100mm (shrimp only) – or even diopters & teleconverters (for super close ups).