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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.

 

Trip Report - (November 2010)
Report from Wakatobi Dive Centre

Stonefish shuffle themselves into the sand to look completely inconspicuous, revealing just a toothy frown and a pair of eyes. In the marine world, one commonly used survival tactic is Camouflage. Fish either use this to eat, or avoid been eaten. It's not only the tiny critters - some bigger creatures are hidden in plain view, right in front of our eyes. Guests in November concentrated on the various camouflage tactics of Wakatobi's common residents and share their collection of findings.


photo by Ken Knezick

Stonefish shuffle themselves into the sand to look completely inconspicuous, revealing just a toothy frown and a pair of eyes.

Like Scorpionfish, Stonefish Synanceia verrucosa are ambush predators. They sit and wait, remaining motionless often for hours at a time. When a small fish swims past they open their huge, crooked mouth, and suck the unsuspecting fish, crustaceans or cephalopods in, whole, with lightning speed!


photo by Wendy Jansson

photo by Michael Strazanova

photo by Peter Taylor

For defence, they have extremely poisonous spines running along their dorsal ridge. If stepped on, as a last resort to save themselves, the pressure squeezes the toxin out of the sack at the base of the spine.


photo by Aki Ihalinen

Cuttlefish and cephalopods like the Cuttlefish, Octopus and Squid are the best colour changers in the world. Combining the use of Irridophore cells (to reflect ambient light - very much like little mirrors), Chromatophore cells (little bags of coloured pigments, which can be stretched or contracted, to achieve desired colours and patterns) and leucophore cells, this intelligent invertebrate changes colour for camouflage against predators,.. to be inconspicuous for hunting,.. and for complex communication with others.


photo by Mario Vitalini

photo by Wendy Jansson

Another well camouflaged animal is the Whip Coral Shrimp Pontonides unciger. This tiny shrimp is only found on the black coral (Whip coral) Cirripathes then camouflaged with polyps. They feed on parasites, algae and plankton. They are very looks similar to Zanzicar shrimp Dasycaris zanzibarica but they usually living over 30m/100ft deep and they have a bump on the head.

With a crocodile-like smout and head, the solitary Crocodile Flathead is another who changes colours to blend with his surroundings.

Frogfish are another expert in camouflage. Coloration varies from species to species, and even within the same species. Textures range from smooth velvety skin, to algae covered warts, and even spots that look just like those of a sponge.


photo by Ken Knezick

Spot the frogfish in this picture! photo by Doug Richardson

 


Trip Report - (September 2010)
Report from Wakatobi Dive Centre

In the Indo-Pacific, many animals have symbiotic relationships. Some hitchhikers find a host, often to go for a "free ride". Throughout September, this has showed itself time and again.


Photo by Luca Gialdini
 
Photo by Asti Livingston

The Longfin Batfish, (Platax teira) has two isopods near their eye. (Photo above left) The isopod (Anilocra nemipteri) attaches itself to their tissue to feed on leftovers from Batfish. They look mean, but will only leave few visible scars, so no harm done.


Photo by Luca Gialdini

Another free rider seen this month is the tiny emperor shrimp, (Periclimenes imperator), riding on the Granulated sea star (Photo above). The shrimp feeds the gastropod's fecal pellets - Lovely!


Photo by Walter and Josi Nihot

Arguably, the most well known hitchhiker is the Suckerfish, (Remora sp) (photo above and right. They love to attach themselves with larger marine life, such as turtle's, shark's or even divers! Different species grow to form 30 to 90 cm long (1-3 ft) and their head is a flat, oval sucking disk.


Photo by Rene Fritschi


Photo by Luca Gialdini
 


Photo by Luca Gialdini

With a passion for photographing the reefs "hard to find" critters, guest photographer Luca Gialdini was happy to get a great shot of a Harlequin Crab (Lissocarcinus laevis) beside an anemone. A few dives later, to his Surprise, his guides expert eyes spotted the same species on the tip of a soft coral. Only this time it was a Juvenile, around one tenth of the size! (Photo above right). They usually live in symbiosis with tube anemone or on the sand or rubble area, feeding on plankton.

 


Trip Report - (August 2010)
Report from Wakatobi Dive Centre

It's not only Divers that are attracted to Wakatobi's pristine and diverse underwater ecosystem. Over the last month, Wakatobi Dive Resort has hosted more than 27 snorkelers, some of these returning to the Resort for the second or third time!

Whilst husband and father Fabio enjoyed the scuba diving, two avid Italian snorkelers, Paola Ruggiero and her daughter Chiara explored Wakatobi's healthy shallow reef system. "Chiara and I are snorkelers; Fabio is a diver. Wakatobi is the perfect place for both and the only place we have ever found where the snorkeling and the diving are both so good. We were in the water all the time, there wasn't even enough time for reading!" said Paola.

Keen for new underwater experiences, Paola and Chiara were thrilled to be the first guests ever to try Wakatobi's Fluo Snorkeling experience. Aside from the abundant fluorescent corals, they saw Goatfish, Scorpionfish, Moray eels, slipper lobster and many more, all displaying their bright fluo colors!

"Fluo-snorkeling was really such a beautiful and special experience - so dark, the blue, blue light.. and a world of colors. We saw 2 big lobsters fluorescing orange, really close by, so we could see all the patterns on his shell. We saw a fluorescing orange Slipper Lobster, a fluorescent Scorpionfish with a bright orange fluo ball in the middle of his head! A world first! We saw a Crocodilefish fluorescing lime green - another world first, a moray eel brilliant yellow, tube worms, fluorescing like a Christmas decoration, really beautiful, in the middle of the sea grass - and all around the sea grass was a deep purple-red fluorescent - really so beautiful."
Paola Ruggiero August 2010

 


No El Nino @ Wakatobi
Report from Wakatobi Dive Centre - (June 2010)

At a time when the world is experiencing what's been called the worst 'El Nino' yet, Wakatobi's reefs are not only flourishing, but with the recent drop in water temperature last month, are thriving - the most rare of marine critters are suddenly repopulating the reef and numerous diverse marine creatures are reappearing en masse!

Severe coral reef bleaching and even mortality has been reported worldwide, from The Maldives to Thailand's outer islands; the Caribbean to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The waters in Wakatobi have been warmer for a longer period than normal. Yet only this last month was a very tiny amount (less than 1%) of bleaching noticed over a huge area of many kilometres of coral reef. Now, with the drop in water temperature now, these few corals have an optimal chance of full recovery.


PEPPERED MORAY - (Siderea picta)
 
GIANT MORAY - (Gymnothorax javanicus)

ORNATE GHOST PIPEFISH - (Solenostomus paradoxus)
 
ROBUST GHOST PIPEFISH - (Solenostomus cyanopterus)

Not only are the corals doing fine, but it seems just a couple of degrees drop in temperature is all that is needed for Wakatobi already busy reefs to be flooded with new critters. Rare and wonderful marine animals are literally appearing out of nowhere! The waters are crystal clear. Wakatobis famous resident pygmy seahorses have gone from being present on 2-3 specific dive sites, to being visible on multiple dive sites, Ghost pipefish seem to have multiplied, hairy squat lobsters have come out of hiding... Orang-utang crabs are everywhere! All the sponges seem to have re-attracted their own moray eels. And numerous rare and unusual nudibrancs are visible at every turn.


ORANG UTAN CRAB - (Achaeus japonicus)


NUDIBRANCH - (Ardeadoris egretta)


PONTOH'S PYGMY SEAHORSE - (Hippocampus pontohi)

The reefs in Wakatobi are protected fiercely. Used as a baseline by Scientists as 'what coral reefs should be', they are so pristine, unaffected by pollution or damage and untouched, that they are in optimal health to begin with. Other than the warmer waters, there is absolutely no other risk factor to influence their survival. It looks like Wakatobi's protected haven, a 'coral reef oasis', is the very difference between life and death.


Wakatobi's Ultimate Macro Sites
Report from Wakatobi Dive Centre - (June 2010)

During a dive to one of Wakatobi's ultimate macro sites, Kollo Soha Beach, a special creature decided to make an appearance. First discovered in Wakatobi in 1999 by the resorts Founder Lorenz, in the center of a large red Gorgonian in the midst of a hydrozoa on the gorgonian, and next identified off Bunaken Island in 2002, the extremely rare and cryptic Brown Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus Severnsi), was discovered by one lucky Guest, Shaowen Lin.

In just 9m/27ft depth, camouflaged amongst the Halimeda algae, this tiny member of the Syngnathid family was seen actively jumping around in front of our very eyes. Shaowen hovered motionless with his private guide, before snapping this fantastic shot of the Pygmy, perched atop a Halimeda branch.

It was also a busy week for the Anemone fish. Beside the Anemones, many eggs were seen. The caring parents use their fins to bring fresh water to the eggs, removing debris and dead eggs with their mouth with great precision, and keeping other fish away. This close up shot is of a cluster of Clark's Anemone fish eggs.

At the Dive Site, Dunia Baru, we found beautiful Pinnate Batfish juveniles (Platax pinnatus), hiding between in the Cabbage coral. This picture shown is a large juvenile with a brilliant orange margin around body, already with the white bar of its adult stage appearing on the side.

All photo are taken by Shaowen Lin at Wakatobi Dive Resort this week. Thank you very much for sharing your great photos!!


Brown Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus Severnsi)

Clark's Anemone fish eggs

Pinnate Batfish juveniles (Platax pinnatus)
 


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