• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Yearly Archives: 2021

Hawksbill Turtle Swims in Gorontalo Waters

Hawksbill turtle is the most common sea turtle that divers see in Gorontalo. Green sea turtles also live in local waters. Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, and Leatherback turtles are the other species found in Indo-Pacific oceans.

Identifying a Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill turtle sunburst
A Hawksbill turtle swims by

Both Green and Hawksbill turtles appear similar. However, certain features help identify both species. Hawksbills have two pairs of small scales between their eyes. These are called prefrontal scales. Green turtles have a single pair of large scales. Also, Hawksbill turtles have the distinctive hook on their beaks. Hence their common name. In addition, the large back plates on their shells overlap. As a result, the rear edges of the shell looks jagged. Those plates are called scutes. Overlapping scutes are called imbricated. Hence the scientific name Eretmochelys imbricata. Lastly, the Hawksbill turtle has two visible claws on each front flipper.

A larger turtle is more likely to be a Green sea turtle. Hawksbills found in the Indo-Pacific are smaller than those found in other tropical seas. Their size at maturity is only one meter in length. They also mature much more slowly, taking over thirty years.

The Hawksbill turtle prefers certain sponge species. It also eats jellyfish, tunicates, soft corals, crabs, squid, and fish. Surprisingly, this sea turtle is biofluorescent. Perhaps its diet of certain coral species makes it so. Also, this sea turtle will close its eyes when eating a jellyfish.

Threats to Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Eretmochelys imbricata is considered critically endangered. It is illegal internationally and in Indonesia to import or export turtle products. Also, it is illegal to harass, capture, or kill Hawksbill turtles.

All sea turtle species are threatened or endangered, according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Some sea turtles think floating plastic bags are jellyfish and eat them. Eating plastic will eventually kill the sea turtle by blocking breathing and digestion.

Nesting Sea Turtles

A female sea turtle will reach forty to sixty years in age before laying her first eggs. Breeding females will lay eggs every two years. They will lay these every two to three weeks. They lay 50 to 150 eggs each time. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings. Higher temperatures produce females, whereas lower temperatures produce males.

Eretmochelys imbricata
Eretmochelys imbricata rests on a Gorontalo reef

A female sea turtle will crawl onto a sandy beach at night. Then she will dig a hole to lay eggs and recover them. Scientists believe they return to the beach of their birth to lay eggs.

Baby turtles will hatch about two months of incubation. They will usually hatch about the same time. Then they crawl as quickly as possible to the sea. Many predators from birds to large fish eat baby sea turtles. The chances of surviving to adulthood are very small. Humans still collect eggs and hunt sea turtles. This is illegal in Indonesia.

Land turtle can pull head and flippers inside the shell. However, a sea turtle cannot. Also, sea turtles secret excess salt swallowed when eating via tears.  

For your chance to see a Hawksbill turtle in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Thelenota rubralineata Graces Gorontalo Reefs

Thelenota rubralineata, the Ruby-striped sea cucumber, lives in selected dive sites in Gorontalo. This beautiful sea cucumber does not occur in abundance anywhere in Indo-Pacific waters.

Distribution of a Beautiful Sea Cucumber

Thelenota rubralineata in Gorontalo
A Ruby-lined sea cucumber in Gorontalo

The Ruby-lined sea cucumber lives at a few Gorontalo dive sites. It prefers sandy areas between dense coral ridges. Only occasionally will one crawl over Gorontalo’s hard coral colonies. Also, this sea cucumber rarely ventures above 15 meters. Miguel’s Diving staff have not seen it below 30 meters. So, its environment in limited.

Throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Thelenota rubralineata is uncommon. However, it enjoys wide distribution. Researchers have found it in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Guam, New Caledonia, the Philippines, Indonesia, the  South China Sea, Fiji, and Palau.

Thelenota rubralineata, a Recent Species

Surprisingly, Thelenota rubralineata is a recently described species. Two researchers, Massin and Lane, found it in Micronesia and described it officially in 1991. Sea cucumbers of the Thelenota genus have an internal ring of plates. This ring is called a calcareous ring. It is located between the mouth and stomach.

Thelenota rubralineata has a distinct external appearance. Various spiked protrusions occur over its back. Their tips are yellowish. Multiple small spikes occur randomly on its sides. The mazes of red lines cover its whitish back and sides. Underneath, the Ruby-lined sea cucumber has tiny feet called pedicels. These are semi-sticky. Thelenota rubralineata moves by contracting and extending its body. This beautiful cucumber has a soft body and is not venomous. Its usual size is 30 to 40 centimeters long. Its maximum size is 50 cm.

close up of Ruby-lined sea cucumber
Close-up of Thelenota rubralineata

Some people use Red-striped sea cucumber as a common name, although it clearly has no stripes. Reflecting its Latin name, Miguel’s Diving staff call it Ruby-lined.

For your chance to see this beautiful sea cucumber for yourself, please make your dive reservations and join us for some great diving.

Mooring Buoys for Olele Marine Park

Mooring buoys are a welcome development in Olele Village Marine Park. Miguel’s Diving staff determined the locations and set the buoys in 2020.

Environmentally Friendly Mooring Buoys

Since opening diving in 2003, Miguel’s Diving staff have always anchored our speed boats with care. At each dive site, we have scouted locations suitable for anchoring. Such locations include sandy places and rocky terrain. At many sites, a dive master will jump into the water to place the anchor in a hole that we have found. We re-use the same hole during each visit.

About ten years ago, the Bone Bolango Regency Marine Fisheries Department erected floating fences. Although these were not suitable for securing speed boats, local fishermen used them on weekends. This actually opened the marine reserve areas to regular fishing. During the followinge wave season, storms destroyed all the fences. One anchor block still sits at Silvertip Grounds dive site. That hard coral growth now covers that cement block. This rapid growth confirms the healthy marine environment here.

mooring buoys anchor
Steel mooring anchor

Learning from the past, the new series of mooring buoys use a different set up. A stainless steel anchor post is drilled into the ocean bedrock. A short and flexible chain connects the embedded anchor to a strong rope. Floating on the surface is an orange buoy. Boat crews then can tie to this floating mooring buoy. Sadly, one was stolen, so Miguel’s Diving crew dive down and tie to the anchor post at that dive site. At the approach of wave season, marine park monitors will remove all the rope and mooring buoys for seasonal storage. These will be re-attached when dive season returns.   

Locations Determined by Miguel’s Diving

The Tourism Department of Gorontalo Province provided funding for the mooring buoys. Miguel’s Diving staff determined the best locations. They also performed the work of implanting the anchors. There are buoys for twelve dive sites. Plus, an additional three buoys serve the snorkeling catamarans that operate out of Olele Village.

Miguels Diving at buoy
Our speed boat at a mooring buoy

Olele villagers do the monitoring of the marine reserve. They are alert for illegal activities. Thankfully, no bombing or cyanide fishing has occurred at the village or other areas where Miguel’s Diving takes guests. Since the dive sites are in proximity to villages, monitoring is a simple task. However, remote sites cannot be managed 24 hours daily. Miguel’s Diving is the only dive operator in Gorontalo that owns speed boats. To join us, please make your dive reservations directly.

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