• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Author Archives: rantje

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.

Travelers Choice 2020 Award for Miguel’s Diving

Travelers Choice 2020 has been given to Miguel’s Diving Gorontalo. This prestigious award goes to the top 10% of worldwide travel businesses on TripAdvisor.

Travelers Choice 2020

On July 28, 2020, TripAdvisor announced the winners of its 18th annual Travelers Choice Awards. This recognizes the best travel-related businesses worldwide. In addition to dive centers, like Miguel’s Diving, hotels, restaurants, and airlines are included. The Travelers Choice Award replaces the Certificate of Excellence given in previous years. Miguel’s Diving has earned the earlier Certificate of Excellence for five years in a row. The 2020 award marks the sixth year achieving recognition via TripAdvisor.

Travelers Choice 2020
Recent TripAdvisor Awards

Only 4,817 business worldwide achieved the Travelers Choice 2020 recognition. Over 8.7 million businesses have a listing on TripAdvisor. They consider millions of reviews left by the public. TripAdvisor evaluated reviews made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They analyzed reviews for quality and quantity to identify businesses with outstanding service.  

Passion for Excellence

Lindsay Nelson is the chief experience and brand officer for TripAdvisor. In announcing Travelers Choice 2020, Nelson said,

“This has been a tough year for our industry. But the global desire to go and explore, whether the destination is an hour away or across the world, remains strong. We’re passionate about guiding travelers to the good out there, especially the good found within these recognized hotels, restaurants and airlines that rise to the occasion in offering the best of the best.”

Rantje Allen extends the deepest gratitude to our guests who have reviewed Miguel’s Diving Gorontalo on TripAdvisor. “Without the support of our diving guests, we would not achieve this prestigious award,” he added.

About TripAdvisor

As the world’s largest tourism site, TripAdvisor contains more than 860 million reviews. Prior to the pandemic, 463 million travelers accessed the website each month. Considered the ultimate travel review site, TripAdvisor is available in 28 languages and 49 markets. Content includes travel planning, price comparison, and guest comments & pictures.  

For your chance to enjoy excellent service, please book your dive trip with Miguel’s Diving.

Pilot Whale Video

Pilot whale video from a calm day on Tomini Bay in Gorontalo made the rounds on social media. One of Miguel’s Diving staff shot the video as a large pod swam by his fishing boat.

Short-Finned Pilot Whales

The cetaceans seen in the video are Short-finned Pilot Whales. Their scientific name is Globicephala macrorhynchus. Distinguishing features include a rounded, bulbous head. Its fins are set forward on its body and point sharply back. The mouth slants upward. Mostly, its color is uniformly black. Some individuals exhibit a diagonal stripe from eye to dorsal fin and a cape. Sometimes, a lighter belly patch is visible. The body is slender but robust.

Short-finned pilot whales breaching

Short-finned Pilot Whales are among a group of marine life called blackfish. These cetaceans are mostly jet black in color. The Long-finned Pilot Whale is not found in our area, as it prefers the cold waters of the northern and southern oceans. In Gorontalo, Miguel’s Diving staff have seen other blackfish species. This includes Pygmy Killer Whale, Melon-Headed Whale and False Killer Whale. Surprisingly, Miguel’s Diving staff and guests also see Killer Whales or Orca. In addition to the pilot whale video, we have videos of orca in Gorontalo.

Human and Pilot Whale Encounters

On their days off, several of Miguel’s Diving staff venture into the deep waters off Gorontalo. Their goal is to catch Yellowfin tuna. They use traditional handline method. After a tuna is hooked, the fisherman will pull in this catch using only his skill and the strength of his arm. This will take over an hour. Typically, tuna will weigh between thirty and eighty kilos. The fisherman’s small outrigger canoe has room for only one fish at a time. This demonstrates the sustainability of their traditional method.

pilot whale video
Outrigger canoes in Gorontalo

If the fisherman pulls in his catch at sees only half a tuna, that means that a Mako shark has eaten the other half. The shark will purse the fisherman returning home with his catch to get the other half of the tuna. However, if the fisherman pulls in his tuna and sees only a string of bones, that means a Short-finned Pilot Whale has eaten the meat and eyes.

During tuna runs, after a few whales appear, they will call others. In the coming days, more and more pods of pilot whales appear in the fishing area. Numbers reach hundreds upon hundreds. When this occurs, the tuna will panic and flee the area. The fishermen are left behind, but the pilot whales will pursue. The name for his whale in Gorontalo language is paupau.

Pilot Whale Video

Recently, Boka, one of Miguel’s Diving staff, was at sea in his outrigger canoe when a pod of pilot whales began to pass. Using his cell phone, Boka shot this pilot whale video. Short-finned pilot whales do not breach often. So, the breaching seen is this video is remarkable. Also, viewers can hear the whales exhale as they breach the surface. Divers occasionally see them during surface intervals when we move the speed boat to the next dive site. For your chance to see cetaceans in Gorontalo, like pilot whales, please book your trip with us!

COVID 19 Measures at Miguel’s Diving

covid 19 measures
Temperature check before boarding

COVID 19 measures that we take at Miguel’s Diving are designed to help lower the risk of transmitting that virus among guests and to our staff. In addition to new normal precautions, we have special protocols designed for our divers. We combined measures suggested by Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Divers’ Alert Network (DAN). Also, we customized them to fit our situation here in Gorontalo. We have diving protocol posters in English and Indonesian on display at the dive center for easy reference. 

New Normal Protocol

  • Hand washing with soap & water for at least 20 seconds
  • Social distance of 1.5 meters; when not possible, wear a cloth/health mask
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth
  • Cough away and into the elbow

COVID 19 Measures for Divers

  • Bring only necessary personal items on board
  • Check body temperature prior to leaving hotel
  • Wash hands on board with soap
  • Ask staff for drinking water, coffee, etc.
  • Ask staff to open/close the dive tank
  • Wear a cloth/health mask on board
  • Clean dive mask with baby shampoo or cleaner, not spit
  • Keep dive mask on at ocean surface
  • Clear sinuses in ocean away from others
  • Maintain social distancing when waiting to ascend the ladder
  • Keep dive mask on when ascending the ladder

Additional services from the dive center

COVID 19 protocol poster in Indonesian

  • Body temperature check daily for guests & staff
  • Soaking of each regulator & mask set for a minute in 22ml Clorox/L water
  • Disposable health mask if guests forget to bring
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of our vehicle after each trip

These are the COVID 19 measures we take to guard the health and safety of our guests and staff. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding.

In order to enter Gorontalo, travelers must show a negative COVID 19 test result. This is in effect for arrivals by air, land, or sea. As a result, Miguel’s Diving does not ask to see a guest’s test.

Reef Safe Sunscreen for Gorontalo

Reef safe sunscreen is a concern of divers around the world. This includes guests of Miguel’s Diving. Divers need to protect our skin from harmful ultra-violet rays but also to protect the marine environment from harmful chemicals.

Strategy One: Physical Barriers

Although various media sources highlight the need for reef safe sunscreen, we suggest another strategy first. Physical barriers provide much better protection against sun rays. Most divers already use a great barrier. We wear wet suits, which can cover skin from ankle to wrist. During surface intervals, divers usually open the top of their wet suits. Rather than coat your shoulders and arms with creams or sprays or oils, please wear a T-shirt.

Another must-have item besides reef safe sunscreen is a wide brim hat. This keeps sunlight from hitting your head where sunscreen cannot be applied. A wide brim helps shield a diver’s face and neck. Moreover, sunglasses with appropriate ultra-violet protection are a must for divers.

on the dive boat
Our blue canvas helps protect from sun rays

To assist in decreasing the need for our guests to use lots of sunscreen, each of our dive boats has a complete canvas top. Moreover, this would be considered another physical barrier.

Mineral blockers that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide coat the skin and reflect ultra-violet radiation off the skin. The media generally consider a mineral blocker to be reef safe.

Strategy Two: Reef Safe Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing ultra-violet light and converting the radiation to heat. The two most harmful chemicals in sunscreen are oxybenzone and octinoxate. Research suggests that these could potentially harm marine life. Locations with high tourist volume are most affected.

Researchers estimate that up to six thousand tons of sunscreen wash into the ocean annually. In the United States, both Hawai’i and some Florida locations have banned the use of products containing these two ingredients. Gorontalo hosts very few tourists, which greatly helps to limit potential damage.

reef safe sunscreen
Read the active ingredients of sunscreen

To avoid purchasing a product that is not a reef safe sunscreen, simply read the label. However, divers should recognize that scientists have not determined the definition of “reef safe.” That is why divers should use the first strategy of physical barriers. Then divers can apply sunscreen only on the face and hands. Dermatologists suggest that sunscreen should be applied every two hours. The first application should be before you enter the water. That way the sunscreen has time to dry on your skin rather than wash on immediately into the ocean.

Additionally, Miguel’s Diving requests that guests not use aerosol sunscreens onboard. Particles of these sprayed chemicals drift in the air onto the dive boat, other guests, and over the waters.

To dive with an operator dedicated to protecting Gorontalo’s marine environment, please make your dive reservations with Miguel’s Diving.

Salvador Dali sponge spawns

Sponge spawning of a Salvador Dali sponge gave divers a glimpse of a rarely witnessed event. Occasionally, Miguel’s Diving staff witness a large sponge releasing sperm into the current. This video records the only time we have witnessed spawning of a Salvador Dali sponge.

Salvador Dali Sponge Spawning

Most sponges are hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproduction capacity. Other sponges, like Barrel sponges, reproduce by spawning. Males release clouds of sperm into the current. Since the sperm is buoyant, the event looks like the sponge is smoking.

A female sponge will release eggs into the current. However, eggs are negatively buoyant, so the eggs sink to the ocean bottom. Some eggs may remain inside the ex-current opening of large vase and barrel sponges. When a female sponge releases her eggs, the nearby area of ocean bottom will look as if snow has fallen there. Miguel’s Diving staff have never seen a female sponge releasing eggs.

Spawning of a Salvador Dali sponge

In the video of a Salvador Dali sponge spawning, notice the clouds of sperm into the current. This indicates that the sponge is male. No one knows how often a particular sponge will spawn. Miguel’s Diving staff have witnessed simultaneous sponge spawning among numerous sponges over a certain area of reef.

Gorontalo’s Surreal Sponge

When Miguel’s Diving first opened diving in Gorontalo, we discovered a strange and giant sponge. No one had seen this morphology before, although they were quite common on Gorontalo’s deep walls.

The surreal surfaces of this sponge reminded us of the Spanish painter Salvador Dali. So, we began calling it the Salvador Dali sponge.  

A Local Morphology of Petrosia lignosa

Sponge spawning of Salvador Dali
First ever photo of a Salvador Dali spoge

In order to discover the identity of this unusual sponge, we sent two samples to Nicole J. de Voogd. She was studying sponges at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Zoological Museum, University of Amsterdam. The interior bodies of sponges are composed of mazes of microscopic spicules. Each sponge species has a unique pattern. After looking at the two samples we sent under a microscope, Nicole could identify our Salvador Dali sponge. It is Petrosia lignosa.

The genus name Petrosia actually means “stony hard.” When compared with other sponges, all Petrosid sponges are hard and rock-like. So far, Petrosia lignosa is known only from vertical walls in eastern Indonesia. It was first described in 1925 from the Togian Islands, south of Gorontalo. However, in other locations this sponge lacks the distinctive swirls found on our Salvador Dali sponges.

No one knows why this sponge looks so different here in Gorontalo. According to Nicole, the “Salvador Dali sponge” would be a locally unique morphology of Petrosia lignosa

Although divers cannot expect to witness sponge spawning, Salvador Dali sponges are common in Gorontalo. For your chance to see some for yourself, please make your dive reservations and join us for some great diving.

Who is Miguel?

Curious travelers sometimes ask this question. At other times, divers call the dive center and ask to speak with Miguel.

Who is Miguel: The Official Answer

He is the first son of the company’s founding director Mustafa Abulhajat. At the time of exploration work for the dive business in Gorontalo, he was only four years old. Now however, our dive center is ready to enter its eighteenth season. Miguel is now in his mid-twenties.

Arriving from a motorcycle trip

To understand who is Miguel, one must realize that he is not only a scuba diver. He also loves to sky dive. Another passion comes directly from his father. That is long distance motorcycle trips. Miguel has driven the mountainous Trans-Sulawesi highway from his home in Manado to Gorontalo. That trip took several days. Each trip he will stop by the dive center for a photo op.

The current answer to the question who is Miguel has a professional angle. He has a post with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Beside speaking Bahasa Indonesia and Manadonese, he speaks English, Dutch, and French. At the time of his appointment, he ranked number three out of one thousand candidates nationwide. Not doubt, the crew at Miguel’s Diving is very proud of him.

Pioneers in the Dive Industry

Miguel school boy
Miguel as a schoolboy

Who is Miguel also has a family answer. His grandfather was an influential figure in the early days of tourism in Manado. His father counts among the first Indonesians active in diving Bunaken. His grandfather also ran the first electrical lines to remote western Gorontalo. In those days, no bridges crossed the rivers there.

Originally, Mr. Mustafa created Miguel’s Dive Club to support diving activities around Bunaken Marine Park. After he made the decision to open diving in Gorontalo, the company name became Miguel’s Diving Center. We are the pioneer dive operator in Gorontalo. Other operators have come and gone. We have operated seasonally since opening in 2003.

Experience Counts

who is Miguel
Graduating with a law degree

Our business model is based on ecological sustainability and community development. To sail and dive Gorontalo waters requires experience of the area’s micro environments. So, we train Gorontalo fishermen as dive staff. Our guests benefit from their local knowledge.

Miguel’s Diving provided the push to create Olele Village Marine Park. Our staff are officially recognized as guardians of Gorontalo’s marine environment. This includes community education and input to government programs. They also report violations to marine patrol officers.

For your chance to dive with Gorontalo’s pioneer dive operator, please make your dive reservations with us.

Galaxy Coral Forms Massive Colonies in Gorontalo

Galaxy coral forms the largest hard coral colonies in Gorontalo. Massive mounds and columns of this spiky coral astound passing divers.

Stars of the Reef

A colony of Galaxy coral is made up of countless individual corallites. A single Galaxy corallite measures between three and four millimeters. A corallite is composed of a circular polyp, which is living. Surrounding the polyp are ridges that radiate from its center. These radiating ridges serve to protect the polyp from predators. These radiating ridges give each individual polyp the appearance of a star. A colony composed of countless stars gives rise to a galaxy of coral.

However, divers should be careful when approaching Galaxy coral. Those radiating ridges are extremely sharp and can easily cut one’s skin. Moreover, the scientific term for radiating ridges is septa.

Galaxea astreata

Galaxy polyps in Gorontalo
Galaxea polyps open

The most common Galaxy coral in Indo-Pacific waters is Galaxea astreata. Usually, its colonies are low and encrust the substrate. At other times, it forms upright columns. For Galaxea astreata, its septa count is eight to twelve. Usually, it does not fully extend its polyps during the day. This helps protect it from daytime predators. In the closeup shot from Gorontalo, note the white-tipped polyps in this daytime photo.

Galaxy coral in Gorontalo

Galaxy coral colonies
Massive Galaxy colonies in Gorontalo

The large and notable Galaxy colonies of Gorontalo are most likely Galaxea astreata. In total, there are ten species of Galaxy corals. Possibly, Galaxea fasicularis is the coral found at dive sites here because it forms the largest known colonies. In Gorontalo, Galaxy corals form colonies larger than a city bus. This colony size is far larger than any described in scientific literature. In the wide angle shot from Gorontalo, note that the corals far in the background are still part of this massive colony of Galaxy coral.    

Two factors contribute to the giant size of Galaxy colonies in Gorontalo. The marine environment here is extremely healthy. Also, Galaxy corals possess special sweeper tentacles. These are a defensive organ tipped with powerful stings. Those stings keep other corals from living close by. That makes room for the colony to expand.

Galaxy corals not only feed on plankton caught with the polyp’s tentacles. Inside its body live zooxanthella. These convert sunlight into food. Notably, Gorontalo lies slightly north of the equator, so sunlight is abundant.

For your chance to marvel at the Galaxy coral found in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Bottlenose Dolphin Video

Bottlenose Dolphin video from Gorontalo, Indonesia, brings joy to those who love the sea and its many inhabitants.

Side Job with Benefits

Miguel’s Diving is committed to educating and training local Gorontalo people to work in the marine tourism sector. As a result, almost all of our staff are local fishermen. Moreover, all of our dive staff have successfully trained to be PADI dive masters.

On days when they are not diving, our dive staff often head to sea to fish. Gorontalo is an exporter of high-quality Yellowfin Tuna. The tuna is caught by handline from small wooden boats. These boats are outrigger canoes and made by hand in the village. A fisherman here can only catch one tuna at a time. That makes this local style of fishing most eco-friendly.

Bottlenose Dolphin Video

At the urging of Miguel’s Diving, our dive staff bring their handphones sometimes when they go to sea. One day, Boka, one of our dive masters, joined a school of happy dolphins. He made this Bottlenose Dolphin video to share. Enjoy – the dolphins clearly did!

A Pod of Bottlenose Dolphin play in Goronotalo

Cetaceans are commonly seen in Gorontalo waters. Ocean depths drop below four kilometers not far from our coastline. In this Bottlenose Dolphin video, the proximity of deep blue waters to shore is clearly visible.

Pods that Pass

Pods of Bottlenose dolphin often pass through Gorontalo waters. Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins tend to be smaller than those that stay in deep water. Indeed, they are the smallest cetaceans we see regularly. Adults typically measure less than two meters long. Their most prominent feature is their beaked “bottle” nose. Also, they stay in social groupings called pods. They are friendly and active. This identifying behavior makes the Bottlenose Dophin video so entertaining.

For your chance to see Bottlenose Dolphins, please make your dive reservations with us.

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