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Wakatobi Trip Reports

Keep the Wakatobi experience alive after you return home or build excitement for your upcoming adventure. Visit this page for regular reports from Wakatobi dive staff on recent marine life sightings.


Report by Lorenz (October 2009, Trip 31)

On a morning last week our dive boat Captain Syamsuddin observed 3 spotted eagle rays Aetobatus narinari cruising in the shallows right beside the jetty!

The spotted eagle ray is a cartilaginous fish found in shallow coastal water by coral reefs and bays, in depths down to 80 meters (260 feet). They are members of the eagle ray family and can be found globally in tropical regions. The spotted eagle ray can be identified by its numerous white spots or rings on its blue dorsal surface, white belly, a long whip-like tail, and distinctive head that somewhat resembles a bill.

Learn More about the Eagle Ray Here!

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A male pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus Denise)
giving birth.

Pygmy Seahorse Facts - Slide Show
Richard Smith is sharing today some insights into the life of the pygmy seahorses. He has found out a lot about this tiny fish - some of the basic facts are depicted in a slide show -

Report by Richard Smith (October 2009, Trip 30)

As a serious Nudibranch aficionado I have been scouring the reefs of Indonesia for the past 10 years in search of these kaleidoscopic sea slugs. As a result it isn't too often that I come across a species I've never seen before. Having said that, this week I have found species that are new to my list.

Noumea crocea is a bright lemon yellow slug with a pale edge to the mantle (frilly bit around the animal) and a long tail. The animal I found measured around 5 cm in length. The other species I saw was a pretty special species in a rare group of nudibranchs and named Trapania brunnea. It was less than 1 cm in length. The colouration was mottled brown and white and had the typical head shape which is a tell tale sign of a Trapania. I have also been seeing relatively often a species which doesn't actually have a scientific name. Dendronotus sp., as it is referred to in the books, is quite spikey looking and colourful when you have chance to look up close.

Trapania brunnea

Dendronotus sp.

Noumea crocea

Gymnodoris ceylonica

Then there are nudibranchs such as the colourful Gymnodoris ceylonica, that hunt other slugs on the seagrass blades. Seagrass meadow: Our boats drive over it, we relax at the jetty bar right next to it and we even swim above it to get to the House Reef but we rarely take much time exploring it! I am talking about the seagrass meadows that are in front of the resort between the beach and House Reef drop off.

This area is packed with an amazing array of animals that you are unlikely to see on reef dives as they are so well suited to the seagrass habitat. The Lizard fish wait motionless for a hapless fish to wander too close and Filefish hang motionless next to eel grass confident enough in their camouflage not to shoot off.

Next time you have an afternoon free maybe the seagrass meadow is a great and shallow place to spend an hour. Providing you can limit it to only one hour!

Other special sightings this week included a free swimming Ribbon Eel at Roma, and at Kollo-Soha Beach we found another Pygmy pipedragon. A common photogenic little fish here is the Bicolor Dottyback or Royal Dottyback; a very aggressive and territorial fish despite its small size. Smaller mild-tempered fish are liable to be attacked and bullied by this Dottyback. It has two bold colors; the anterior portion is purple and the posterior portion is bright yellow.

Lizard fish
Lizard fish(Synodus variegatus)
Pygmy pipedragon
Pygmy pipedragon (Kyonemichthys rumengani)

Blue Ribbon Eel
Blue Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita)
Royal dottyback
Royal dottyback (Pseudochromis paccagnellae)
Seagrass Filefish
Seagrass Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosum)

Report by Lorenz (September 2009, Trip 29)

Some Pelagian guests encountered a tiger shark at Buton island, and Pasarwajo Bay underlined its reputation of an excellent muck diving area.

Pelagian & Resort guest Saskia van Wijk had two great trips on Pelagian and in the Resort. See some of her images below - the tiny blue ring Octopus on a tunicate was a nice surprise!

The Blue Ring Octopus, Hapalochlaena lunulata has a life span of about 1 1/2 years. Despite their small size and relatively docile nature, they are one of the world's most venomous animals. An individual Blue Ring Octopus tends to use its dermal chromatophore to camouflage itself until provoked, at which point it quickly changes color, becoming bright yellow with blue rings or lines. It hunts small crabs, hermit crabs, shrimp, and may bite attackers, including humans, if provoked or stepped on.

Blue Ring Octopus
Blue Ring Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) on Tunicate
wimmer crab
Swimmer crab (Lissocarcinus laevis)
Commensal shrimp
Nudibranch (Chromodoris albopunctata)
Chromodoris albopunctata
Commensal shrimp (Periclimenes colemani), exclusively found on the fire sea urchin
Juvenile Clown Frogfish
Juvenile Clown Frogfish (Antennarius maculates)
Crinoid shrimp
Crinoid shrimp (Periclimenes amboinensis)

For a gallery and slide show with more of Saskia's photos  click here!

Report by Lorenz (August 2009, Trip 26)

During this seven days trip our guests on Pelagian saw Sperm whales at Buton island! They were between 10 - 15 m long. Sperm whales are generally easy to distinguish from other large whales at sea, even at a great distance. The images show the characteristic small rounded dorsal humps and wrinkled body surface. The fluke is broad and triangular with a nearly straight trailing edge, rounded tips, and a deep notch. In the short clip you can as well observe the uniquely angled bushy blow to the left, caused by the single S-shaped blowhole at the left front of the head.

Sperm Whale @ Burton
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Sperm Whale @ Burton
All photos by Sherry Tryssenaar. Video by Wakatobi staff.

Sperm Whale Illustration

'Pygmy-Richard' Smith is back in Wakatobi Resort for his studies.
Here his first Trip report:

Hippocampus denise
After one year away from the reefs here at Wakatobi I am back again to conduct more of my fieldwork on the pygmy seahorses in the area. The reefs have some of the highest abundance and diversity of species that I have seen, so Wakatobi Resort is the perfect place to observe behaviours and elucidate their ecology. Since I was last here, the two species of free-living pygmies that live on the reefs have officially been given scientific names. The white pygmy seahorse that is often found living in and around patches of Halimeda algae is now called Hippocampus pontohi, and the much less common brown pygmy with patches of orange and red is known as H. severnsi. Also common are the two species that are the focus of my study, H. bargibanti and H. denise. Both are obligate gorgonian-associated species, which basically means they live on gorgonian fan corals and are not found elsewhere on the reef. Both of these species are commonly found on the House Reef and many of the other dive sites around the resort. I was searching the House Reef for a suitable group of H. denise to observe the social and reproductive behaviours. I have been very lucky in finding a group of four on a gorgonian coral, where I spent 45 hours observing a group two years ago. It will be very interesting to see what goes on socially in this case. My plan for the coming trip is to continue with my observations of this group as well as getting out to some of the other sites to observe the pygmies there. I will look forward to seeing how the other sites have changed over the past year and seeing whether some of the residents are still present 12 months on.

Hippocampus bargibanti Hippocampus pontohi Hippocampus severnsi
All photos by Richard Smith

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