We bid farewell to Bali, a land of enchantment, with bittersweet memories . . . sad to say goodbye yet excited about what lies ahead as we journey to Lembeh, in Part Two of my travels to the Far East.
Our group arrived at Lembeh Resort, in the early morning hours (2 a.m.), and I was infected with some sort of “flu-like” bug that didn’t shake loose from me for two days. Consequently, I lost two days of diving.
Lembeh is well known for being the muck diving capital of the world. And, that’s NOT a bad thing, it is a term coined to describe those small creatures that dwell in primarily black lava sand environments.
Lembeh is legendary for where to find the creepy, crawly exotics, and may I also add STRANGE. Actually, it could be the world epicenter of weirdness, with numerous bizarre creatures like this peacock mantis shrimp.
Lembeh Resort is a hidden jewel tucked away in a small cove along Lembeh Island. The bungalows are scattered along the hillside but arranged where guests enjoy a spectacular view of the ocean and the fiery sunsets that comes each and every day. The center building is the office, computer station, lobby, and a spacious al frisco dining area.
For seven days, I was living in a lush tropical jungle with a variety of flowers plants, and vines surrounding me yet I had the conveniences of modern day living. My large cottage had a veranda to die for overlooking the water below, the volcano and beautifully manicured lawns.
We had an “open air” bathroom. Every night after a day’s worth of diving, we could bath under the stars.
Diving Lembeh Style
Critters@Lembeh, a premier diving operations, have their own buildings, with an uw photog’s dream . . . a camera room, with separate stations to setup, each having its own charging station and a place to gather after a day of diving with comfy sofas, chairs, and a specialty coffee bar. Their lattes are to “die for.” Kerri and Herg run an extremely organized operation, that combines fun with safety. Their dive team’s infectious enthusiasm did exceed my expectations — I had my own personal dive guide, Ramly, who took very good care of my husband and me. Abner, who is exceptional as well, also led our entire group. The important thing here to remember is that the boat captain, guys helping with the gear, and our dive guides, made our diving memorable beyond belief. And, that’s just how good an operation Critters@Lembeh runs. And because its so good, my husband and I will make the long, torturous journey back this year.
Every morning our gear was assembled and carried on the boat. All I had to do was get myself down to the boat.
The boats are shallow so water entries are easy with a backward roll. Every dive was an adventure beyond belief.
Most of the time you are unable to get a clear view of Gunung Klabat volcano, but this one morning I was in luck. Its the highest volcano in Northern Sulawesi, with an elevation of 6545 feet.
We had a great group of divers, all very experienced and fun. Did I emphaize FUN? For sake of a better word, let’s just say there was never a dull moment on our dive boat.
It’s a brilliant red color with lots of tentacles, but its most extraordinary feature is a rapid pulses of what appears to be a bright blue light constantly rippling around the edges of its mantle.
Most assume its “electricity;” hence, electric clam. And here is where it gets interesting — those flashing lightning streaks of blue are bio-luminescent, not a form of electricity used to stun prey. These clams are actually filter feeders, which means that they feed on tiny particles of food passing through the water with the flow of current.
The name is deceiving . . .but still a beautiful sight to behold!
Check out Jim’s video below to see the “lightning” patches in action.
The critter king of Lembeh would have to be, hands down, the Hairy Frogfish, Antennarius striatus. To be precise, it’s called a Striped Frogfish, Hairy Variation, according to Tropical Pacific, Reef Fish Identification, by Gerald Allen, Roger Steene, Paul Humann, and Ned DeLoach. And, often, you will hear them referred to as “anglerfish.”
When you dive with Critters@Lembeh, you’re asked to fill out a “wish list” of desired creatures to photograph/see. At the top of my list, was a Hairy Frogfish. Few creatures are more fun to spot underwater due to their uncanny nature of camouflage matched by their stealthy angler. And, a Hairy is the “poster child” for anglers. Other fish lie in wait until the prey swims close to their mouth, but the frogfish lures the prey (fish, crustaceans) actively to where it can strike. The angler mimics worms, shrimp or small fish. As the prey approaches, lured in by the angler, the Hairy engulfs it in one lightning move. Recently, I saw a video where a Hairy swallowed a flounder in just a couple of gulps! It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Its not the size that matters.” Jim’s video below, called, “Slurpin” gives you a 60 second look into the life of a Hairy Frogfish.
Of the many anemonefish found in the Indo-Pacific, the pink anemonefish, Amphiprion perideraion, found on one of the most beautiful sea anemones in the world, the Magnificent Sea Anemone, Heteractis magnifica, is one of my favorites. Of course, I will always love the false clown anemonefish, better known as “Nemo.” Actually, anemonefish are a specialized damselfish, living a symbiotic relationship with various anemones. They are quite aggressive, and never far from their anemone home.
The rest of the group “chicken-out” on the night dive electing instead to share in the cost of an expensive bottle of wine, and have an impromptu wine party. Jim and I decided on the night dive, and we marvel in that decision. When we go back in November of this year, I plan to do two or more night dives . . . the dives are that GOOD. Now we are really talking creepy, crawling exotics when you do a night dive.
I came upon this most weird critter having never seen anything like it before, and I actually thought it was a piece of rubble. But under close inspection, I saw EYES, and they are staring at ME! Creepy. The Umbrella Shell, Umbraculum umbraculum, is a large opisthobranch species that has a very broad distribution throughout the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. The top of its body is covered in a clacified shell that protects the gills and vicera and is like an umbrella, hence, the species common name. It is part of the Mollusca genius, and quite large at 6.3 inches.
We found this brightly colored Humpback Prawn, Metapenaeopsis lamellata. ”What big eyes you have,” said Little Red Riding Hood.
This scary “thing,” that looks like it came straight out of the imagination of one of those graphic sci-fi artist in “Bollywood,” is called a Bobbit Worm. Gee, where have I heard that name before? Actually it reminds me of the “The Tingler” in the old Vincent Price horror movie.
According to Leslie Harris of the Los Angeles History Museum, the name “Bobbit” comes from two origins. One was because the outstretched jaws resemble a pair of scissors, and the other origin is that the erected worm looks like a male reproductive organ. Okay, I’m waiting for the comments on that! Hey, I am sticking to the myth . . . the female worm attacks the male worm’s organ. Often called a segmented sea worm, the Bobbit is the largest of the marine worms. It’s an ambush predator who hunts at night. Rumor has it these little buggers have a nasty bite about them.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get any Pygmy (Hippocampus bargibanti) photos in Bali, but I hit the jackpot in Lembeh. If you didn’t already know it, the male fertilizes and carries the egg pouch giving birth to baby pygmies. Now, is that just too cool or what. These little guys/gals, also known as the Bargibanti Seahorse, are at the most approximately 1/2 inch to 1 inch tall and well camouflaged. Actually, I would consider them the master of disguise since I would never of seen one without the help of my dive guide’s muck stick to point him out. These guys morph into their seafan habitat. A macro lens is a must for photographing the pygmy (I used Nikon 105mm macro lens).
On one particular dive, we were near the boat harbour channel, where we found a yellow pygmy. Our plan with our dive guide was to get in the water and head for the last known spot the little guy was. We scooted across the reef at about 50 feet, and whoa’la, there he was.
Better known as a Weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa) . . . I would probably call it the “Ultimate Scorpionfish.” As with all scorpionfish, it is venomous. And, actually, most marine animals are poisonous or venomous — it’s a protective mechanism or a tool to catch their own prey. Most often the term posion or venom are used interchangeably, but the terms are different. Poisons can by its nature cause pain, sickness or death if eaten. On the other hand, venoms have these effects if injected. With the Weedy Scorpionfish, as well as its cousins the lionfish, stonefish, and catfish, have venomous spines on their backs, which they use for defense. And, this brings me to a good point . . . while diving in Indonesia, a muck stick, is a must and will come in handy to keep you off the bottom. Who knows what lingers in the shadows of the black lava sand just waiting for the unsuspecting diver to mosey their way.
I saved the best for last . . . Mandarinfish or Mandarin dragonet (Synchiropus splendidus), is a small, brightly-colored member of the dragonet family, and is native to the Pacific. Because Lembeh Resort is a eco-friendly resort that practices conservation both topside as well as under the sea, the local mandarinfish population is off limits for now or shall I say the mandies are taking a holiday.
But we were able to dive a small cove where a group of mandarinfish had taken up residence in a some pile of rubble in approximately 12 feet of water. Since the mandy action comes at twilight, we were in the water just as the sun was setting. I got lucky, I had the best spot. These colorful fish of the rainbow, come out to mate and I mean quite often, like every minute or so. Whewwwww. My husband, Jim, try to get video but his mega watt lighting system, just scared the little sex kittens away from their insatiable desire for SEX. Next time, he will use my focusing light to film his video. And, Lembeh enforces strict rules on the photographing time with these “butterflies of the sea world,” we were ONLY allotted 30 minutes. And, that’s great practice, thank you Lembeh.
The mardarinfish is one of the most breath-taking fish of the underwater world. It looks more like an intricate painting than a fish. Unfortunately, its beauty may become its downfall. Due to its natural beauty, it is heavily collected throughout the Indo-Pacific for the saltwater aquarium trade. I have read article after article about the indiscriminating capturing of wild marine animals to be sold with the vast majority of fish, marine inteverbrates, plants, and reef creatures sure to perish within a month. These delicate fish do very poorly in captivity. They have special dietary needs that are not met by the vast majority of aquarium hobbyists that buy one resulting in a slow starvation.
Just scan the internet for fish, and you will find countless website dedicated to selling saltwater fish. We have a serious problem in the Caribbean with the lionfish, resulting from the release of captive lionfish in an aquarium during a hurricane. I cannot stress enough to ban places that sell wild saltwater fish, to ban restaurants that display aquariums, and more importantly, do not become an hobbyists yourself. Leave that to the large commerical aquariums, like the one in Monterey, California or the one in Galveston, Texas. They have marine biologists on duty to monitor the well being of the marine animals and/or plants.
Jim Heimer’s Videos
Mr. Heimer, again, has given me permission to post two of his videos on my blog site for your enjoyment. His first video is called, “Slurpin,” and its about a feeding hairy frogfish.
And, this next one is the electric clam firing on all cylinders.
In December, 2010, I traveled with a good friend and fellow diver, Wendy McSwain, to Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, for wildlife photography and the opportunity to capture the migratory Sandhill Crane. So keep checking back. And, as always, comments are most definitely welcome . . . good or bad.