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.
This morning we had two fantastic dives again here in Lembeh Strait … the first one at Critter Hunt and the second one at Nudi Falls. Besides many cool critters such as Wonderpus, Seamoths, Nudibranchs and other things we saw two tiny shrimps of the same species. I found one on the first dive and our dive guide Indra found one on the second dive at Nudi Falls. They are shrimps of the genus phycocaris (just like the hairy shrimp) and are about the the size of a grain of rice (slightly smaller even). They can be found on rocks and debris. Oh … and this afternoon our Guest Martin saw a Manta Ray at Aer Prang – his first Manta ever.
This week we had a couple of wonderful dives at TK Bay – with many different critters including Velvet Ghost Pipefish (white), Seahorses, Cockatoo Flounder, Coconut Octopus, Tiger Shrimps and many more. But the highlight was for sure this couple of mating Wonderpuses. We watched them mating for about 10 minutes before they split. Even though i have seen this before, this was the first time carrying a camera. And it was also pretty much the first time that i used the video function of the 7D (in almost 2 years …). So here is some shaky and out of focus footage of this very special moment:
The Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is surely one of the signature critters of the Lembeh Strait. Even though it can be seen throughout South East Asia (and also some other locations) it is way more likely to encounter this critter here in Lembeh. The Mimic Octopus grows to about 30cm in length (arm length) and is a day active octopus that hides in sand holes – these are abandoned holes that it does not build by himself. The main feature of the “Mimic” is its attractive stripe pattern that he displays when it is excited or scared. The other feature are the different unusual movements and poses that the Mimic Octopus performs. These movements are often described as the mimicing of other animals such as a flounder, a lionfish, a sea snake and others. What the Mimic Octopus is definately doing is sending out a warning with its stripe pattern – wich is the universal signal for “carefull i am poisonous”. But one thing is for sure: it is magical to watch the Mimic Octopus perform and everyone should see this for himself.
The Mimic Octopus is mostly lured out of its hole by diveguides. By tapping their Dive Stick (Muck Stick) in the sand in front of the hole, they make the octopus curious and he will come out to check it out. It is really bad, if dive guides break the hole of the octopus by poking it out with a long stick from underneath. Because like this the octopus has not only to look for a new hole – during that time he is also exposed to dangers.
The mimic os often mistaken for the wonderpus (Octopus photogenicus) and vice versa. And on the first look, they seem to be quite similar – they are about the same size, live on the ground, hide in holes, have a striped pattern and the typical “antennas” on top of their eyes. So what is the difference between a Mimic Octopus and a Wonderpus? There are some very easy points to distinguish them:
1. The Stripes: The stripes of the wonderpus go all the way through to the suckers, whereas the pattern of the mimic has a white line at the one side and some stripes even don’t go through on the thin side of the stripes. Also the Stripes of the Wonderpus are cleaner (have a sharper boarder) than the ones from the Mimic – they seem more painted.
2. The Colour: The Mimic is (dark-)Brown-White striped whereas the Wonderpus has a redish-brown or orange tone.
3. Head/Eyes: The Eyes of the Wonderpus have a drastic V Shape. The Eyes of the Mimic only have a slight V Shape and are almost straight.
4. The head of the Wonderpus also often has a pulsatin patters (so the pattern is animated) … a little bit like with a Flamboyant Cuttlefish. The Mimics patters will come and go … but it wont move.
5. Bottom Structure: The Mimic lives rather in Sandy Bottom and the Wonderpus rather in Rubble-Sand (rougher).
Best places to find Mimic Octopus in Lembeh Strait: All Muck Dive places like Batu Sandar 2 (Rojos), TK 1-3, Retak Larry, Jahir, Aer Bajo, Madidir, Tandu Rusa etc.
Photo Tips: Use a 60mm lens (for close ups) or wider … basicly anything goes until Fisheye with teleconverter.
Yesterday we had a terrific second morning dive. After a rather mediocre dive at “Hey Nus” we went to Teluk Kembahu for the second dive. There we found several seahorses, Coconut Octopus, Mimic Octopus, various cool nudibranchs and lots of other cool stuff. But the real highlight of the dive were these two wonderpus mating. Our guide Joni found them and his guests Kristine and Bruce were lucky enough to witness this very special moment. You can clearly see, that the male has a rather orange-brown pattern and the female a rather white-brown pattern. The male is just jumping on the female in this picture – thank you very much to Bruce for this cool shot.
Even though we have “Low Season” there is still a lot going on our Housereef … here is a little Update on the Critters we are seeing right off the Beach these days:
Our little colony of Lembeh Sea Dragons is spreading from Banggai (our older Wreck) to our newer Wreck – there are now 5 Lembeh Sea Dragons on the new Wreck. Around the Wreck (aroun 7 Meters depth) you can find a small Population of Twin Spot Gobies. If you then swim from the Wreck and keep the Slope on your right shoulder you reach a little Rubble area where we have seen a nice Wonderpus Octopus and Bobtail Squids recently. Skeleton Shrimps are also very common around the wrecks.
Every now and then we see a juvenile Sailfin Snapper on the housereef (usually in the area between the wrecks) which is a VERY beautiful fish … the threadlike fins will grow shorter once the fish turns adult.
Everywhere on the Slope you will find little brown sponges with a lot of spoge carrying crabs that camouflage themselfes with pieces of sponges that they cut out and hold on their bodies. Some sponges also have Paaron Shrimps on them.
The deeper Rubble area under Banggai still offers good nudi life including well camouflaged Sponge Slugs and the beautiful Ceratosoma Sinuata. Also several Chromodoris, Halgerdas and other cool nudibranchs are around.
In the Corals in the shallows you can find the “Hairy Coral Goby”, Orange Spearing Mantis, Mandarin Fish, Squids & big Shrimps (at night) as well as a Double Ended Pipefish in the seagrass.
… of course there are also many other things to see – and sure we did not find all of them yet. But maybe you want to find the next cool thing on NAD Lembeh Housereef?