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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter in the Tropics - Part II

Here's a few pictures of some of the fish and critters we found both above and below water.  If you missed the first post in this mini-series, go here, or just keep scrolling down till you get to the previous post.

Crabs everywhere!  This one had a nice, purplish color.

Blood-thirsty shark?  Not yet.  But big, toothy Moray eel...yeah, we see a few of those each time.  So far they've proved to be rather nice, but we haven't tried to catch one yet.  I don't think I'd want to, having seen the size and sharpness of their teeth!  This one was probably about four feet long and as big around as my upper arm.  We've seen them bigger.

A little pipefish about seven inches long, anchored by his/her curly tail in the bed of sea grass.  In some ways it resembles a seahorse, and is in the same general family.  Speaking of the grass, this is what the turtles come to graze on.  There are always a lot of turtles around Derawan, mostly Green Sea Turtles, but sometimes Hawksbill Turtles as well.  They can be found lazily drifting around these grassy areas, munching away.

Turtles are like salmon, in that they return to their birthing place to lay eggs (except that they don't die afterwards--at least they don't plan to die.)  Many of the sea turtle species are now endangered, so it's pretty cool to get a chance to see so many.  This time, at Sangalaki and Derawan, we got to see some brand new hatchlings.  In both locations there some men who jaga (watch) over the turtles to protect them from those who may want to eat the eggs (a delicious food that has other "health and wellness" properties according to many Indonesians), or the turtles themselves.  Britton got to help a few of the hatchlings out of their sand hole and release them on the beach where they made a wild dash for the sea.

An adult turtle swimming back out to sea after grazing in the grassy areas around Derawan.

Nemo and his daddy!  Actually, there are many different variations of anemonefish, but this is probably the most striking in my opinion, and of course the one made famous by the movie, "Finding Nemo."  The males are the brightly colored ones that we all know so well.  This happens to be a False Clown Anemonefish.

And peaking out from behind this gorgeous, giant purplish-blue sea anemone, is a Pink Anemonefish.  This was about 15 or 20 feet down, but the color was still just stunning.  I've never seen an anemone quite like this one.

Of course, there are many different types of star fish as well.  Here are two.

One of our favorites, a nudibranch.  They come in hundreds of different colors, patterns and shapes--but are almost always vividly bright and attractive.  They tend to be about one and a half to two inches long, and move very slowly.  Think slug...except really, really pretty.  What's unique about nudibranchs, is that they carry their gills on the outside of their body.

When you see a brightly colored or striped fish, that's about six to 12 inches long, and it's NOT afraid of you...well, that probably means that you SHOULD be afraid of it!  This is called a Red Firefish, also known as the Volitans lionfish, part of the Scorpionfish family.  Their fins and spines are venomous.  They tend to hang out in pairs (male and female) under large corals during the day, and become active at night when they hunt and eat other fish.  This particular coral bloom is home to two large pairs, which I visit almost every time I go to Derawan.

Here's another variation that was almost totally black and white.  I've seen only one other that was colored like this.  It's very striking!  But again, any fish that does not run away, especially when you approach it probably knows something that you don't. :)

One of our favorite things to do is night snorkeling.  If you're the kind of person who gets that weird creepy-crawly feeling when you're out in the ocean, or a river or lake, because you feel like something is going to come up and chomp on you--well, then night snorkeling is probably not for you.  You know how your car headlights illuminate a narrow beam of light on a foggy night, well, imagine swimming in near total darkness, right on the edge of the reef where it drops away into complete inky black nothingness, with the only illumination being a solid, narrow beam from your dive light.

But seriously, it's a lot of fun.  Really!  The entire reef changes scenes.  Many fish come out to hunt (like the lion fish, which we've seen often and have to be wary of) and seek food, while others go to sleep.  We've seen squid, giant see slugs, sting rays, lobsters, cuttlefish, and even a large octopus, not to mention many, many types of fish out hunting and being hunted.  This time we saw a bunch of parrot fish sleeping in the coral.  It was really funny looking, as they were straight up and down, and totally out of it.  This one is about a foot long.  You could go right up to them and poke them, and it would take three or four seconds before the fish would wake up and then groggily swim out before suddenly freaking and darting away.  Call it the snorkeling version of cow-tipping.

There were tons and tons more fish and "critters", but it's hard to take underwater pictures, especially fast ones, so most never make it onto "film".  But you get the idea.  Check back soon for the third and final post related to our recent island trip.


Ginger said...

I'm with your wife - I think you described my worst nightmare with the inky blackness, etc. Thank you for sharing God's amazing ocean handiwork so us landlubbers can enjoy it too. :)

The Other Alice said...

Wow! All those creatures are amazing! I've got to get my brother to see these...

ismile4christ said...

Okay. I teared up a bit, and almost started crying. Have I mentioned that I love animals? I think I have. Slugs are cool. Sea slugs look even cooler. I'd hold a crab. I pull crawfish out of their holes by letting them grab on to my fingers. To hold a baby sea turtle...*speechless*...Our King never ceases to amaze me!

Thanks for sharing your God-given talents!

BlessingCounter said...

All these tropical activities are paridisical. No need to pine for snowmen-- sand castles, shell-hunting, snorkeling beats all!