Miguel’s Diving just finished an intensive two-week underwater film shoot. The filmmaker managed to gather some excellent footage that included many of Gorontalo’s unique marine life. There was also some very funny footage of a Blackray goby getting his burrow cleaned out by his shrimp that literally kicked dust all over him. Then there was the coconut shell octopus that like many people want more spacious lodgings but find it a bit of a burden to carry. In the octopus’ case his overly expensive deluxe home came in the form of a beautiful but too large Nautilus shell. We are hoping that the film can be screened during Asian Dive Expo 2008 in Singapore in April. Best wishes to Gabor and Berenike in making sense out of all the footage!
Count on diving in Gorontalo to have some wonderful surprises. Not only are guests enjoying typically flat seas and sunny mornings, but also visibility has been an incredible 25 meters. Even one surreal Salvador Dali Sponge in a corner of a wall was visible from the surface. But today after busily photographing six Bumblebee shrimps, we sighted a pair of marlin also swimming along the surface on the way to the dive boat.
Miguel’s Diving was proud today to bring the first divers to the newly formed Olele Village Marine Reserve. Set aside by village residents themselves, the reserve protects about 300 meters of coral reef that includes its famous multiple towering pinnacles. This represents the culmination of the process begun about five years ago by Miguel’s Diving to educate Gorontalo fishers about the need to protect the reefs in their own villages. The payment of Rp. 5.000 per diver is divided 25% to the village treasury and 75% to those village residents who maintain the reserve, which is marked off by buoys. No fishing of any kind is allowed and boats must go around the site rather than pass through. Divers today descending to the first pinnacle were greeted by a large Napolea.n wrasse, a school of batfish, eight young Bumphead parrotfish, and a Blue-spotted puffer so large that it had a remora attached.
Our book Gorontalo Hidden Paradise was the theme of the annual book fair in Jakarta attended by scores of publishers and book lovers, which concluded today. Gorontalo Province had the stand directly in front of the entrance. The book’s author Rantje Allen from Miguel’s Diving spoke about the book’s development process and the special features of Gorontalo’s underwater world. The book can be ordered via the Internet from Miguel’s Diving. For more information click this link.
That’s the comment from veteran divers Steve & Shirley from the UK about diving in Gorontalo. Unjaded by over 30 years of scuba diving exerience, they enjoyed what Gorontalo and Miguel’s Diving provided during opening week of the diving season. Highlights included a dense school of hundreds of trevally, a tuna weighing 50 – 60 kilos, a very pregnant Thorny seahorse, acres of hard corals and of course Gorontalo’s many new, undescribed or endemic species of various marine life.
Intrepid divers from the USA and Canada braved the dying east winds to get a jump-start on Gorontalo’s dive season, which traditionally begins in November. Highlights this week included a large school of barracuda, a family of Napol.ean wrasse, a Hairy frogfish and a live Murex shell. We found several Mimic octopi but they couldn’t be coaxed out of their holes. However, one very friendly Sargassum frogfish (Histrio histrio) kept jumping onto divers, perhaps mistaking us for big floating debris.
Ted (USA) spent the final days of Gorontalo’s dive season diving about 15 times, enjoying great visibility, and taking photos. Traveling from Penang, Malaysia to Gorontalo in one day allowed him to make the most of his time here. Highlights included mating sea turtles, jumping dolphins, an endemic lionfish species, and his introduction to muck diving. You can access almost 200 of his underwater photos by clicking this link. The first photo is an impossible-to-shoot string of transparent, colonial tunicates against the background of blue sea. These are actually some of Gorontalo’s pelagic (open ocean) marine life, which off shore winds blow towards the reef several times a season. Thanks to Ted for sharing these photos!
During off-season this year when contrary winds make diving impractical along Gorontalo’s southern coastline, Miguel’s Diving has been assisting the provincial government in surveying various islands along Gorontalo’s north coast. These are found in the Sulawesi Sea, which stretches from Borneo to the Philippines. Diving here has been quite different from that in Tomini Bay where we usually dive. Gone are the new and endemic species we have found at our southern dive sites. Shallow sandy bottoms predominate with numerous sea fans only rarely sited in the south. Because of the more open substrate, nudibranchs have been easy to find and in great variety. Among the rocks of Raja Island Miguel’s Diving staff saw something we had never seen before: a Twinspot blenny (Escenius bimaculatus). And for good reason: it is not found in Tomini Bay but makes its home almost exclusively in the Sulawesi Sea. Diving in Gorontalo’s northern islands will not be available any time soon because of infrastructure and distance. Raja Island, a jungle nature reserve and turtle nesting ground, takes over two hours by land and another hour by outrigger canoe to reach.
Last week Miguel’s Diving staff took a survey trip to one of the islands off Gorontalo’s northern coastline in the Sulawesi Sea. These waters are a different ocean that the one we usually dive and marine life is different. While absorbed in photographing Grape stalk tunicates that are not found in our southern dive sites, our dive master noticed some flashes of blue in some very nearby rubble: a highly agitated Blue-ring octopus. Dumping lots of nudibranch photos from the memory card, he managed several shots of the ever-moving octopus before it disappeared down a crack.
Durban shrimp (Rhynchocinetes durbanensis) are a favorite of divers not only because of their striking color pattern but also because of their behavior. The high rostrum (nose) is distinctive of hinge-beak shrimp. They are found in deep crevices and holes, usually living together in large numbers. When they move, they tend to hop about, which is quite humorous to watch. A patient photographer can wait until the shrimps are no longer afraid and begin to hop out of their holes and into the view finder. But don’t be surprised if the shrimps keep hopping towards the camera housing as if to inspect a new addition to their home. Who is watching whom? Miguel’s Diving staff knows only one spot where these funny shrimps congregate.