• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Tag Archives: Diving Gorontalo

Mappa Puffer Video

Mappa puffer are usually solitary and wary of divers. One day, however, guests of Miguel’s Diving found one that was too busy eating to care that divers approached for a rare, up-close encounter.

One Pufferfish, Many Names

photo of Mappa puffer
Mappa puffer in Gorontalo

Miguel’s Diving staff call this fish Mappa puffer because its scientific name is Arothron mappa. Other English names include Map puffer, Arothron puffer, Scribbled Arothron puffer and Scribbled puffer. Additionally, this fish can be called pufferfish or simply puffer. Sometimes, pufferfish are called toadfish. As a result, this introduces additional name variations.

Mappa puffer live in tropical and subtropical oceans. Their distribution ranges from the Indian to western Pacific oceans. The key to distinguishing this species from other pufferfishes are the lines that radiate from its eyes. It can grow up to 65 cm in length. Also, pufferfishes like this species lack scales. Divers will see them during the day.

Mappa Puffer Video

This type of pufferfish eats about anything that does not move. It cannot swim fast because of its small fins. Hence, its diet mainly consists of sponges, algae, clams and even coral. However, the Mappa puffer recently encountered in Gorontalo repeated selected something surprising to crunch. Watch the video to see!

This feeding behavior raises questions. Why is it eating dead coral? How can such a soft fish crunch hard coral to bits? The answer perhaps lies inside the mouth of Mappa puffer. It has four strong teeth that keep growing. As a result, this type of pufferfish must crunch on hard things to wear down its teeth.

Eaten at Your Own Risk

As with other pufferfishes, the Mappa puffer can ingest large amounts of water when threatened. In this way, it can swell to twice its usual size. This is how it avoids being eaten. However, pufferfishes like this species are poisonous. Their livers, ovaries and skin contain tetrodotoxin. That poison is an extremely toxic sodium channel blocker. That blocker affects both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Most importantly, it causes paralysis.

The Japanese consider pufferfish meat a delicacy. They call it fugu. Only specially licensed chiefs have permission to prepare the meat. The chief must carefully remove Internal organs and skin prior to consumption. A low dose of tetrodotoxin causes tingling and numbness in the mouth, fingers and toes. Symptoms of a higher dose include nausea, vomiting, difficulty in walking, and paralysis. Most importantly, that paralysis can negatively affect the lungs, leading to respiratory failure. Only one to four milligrams is needed to kill an adult!

Tetrodotoxin has no antidote. The treatment required for recovery is artificial breathing. Mild poisoning can resolve itself within a few hours. More severe cases can require several days. This treatment is considered successful since many people make a full recovery. Heart failure is rare. Most importantly, treatment must begin before paralysis reaches the lungs.

Like many poisons, this one has medical benefits in controlled doses. New studies indicate that it can relieve pain in cancer patients. As such, it could become an alternative for opiates.

Actually, pufferfishes like Arothron mappa are not poisonous themselves. Symbiotic bacteria living inside their tissues produce the poison.

To see but not eat a Mappa puffer in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Marine Protected Areas in Tomini Bay

Viable marine protected areas are a crucial need worldwide. At Miguel’s Diving, our business model is based on ecological sustainability and community development.

Gorontalo Marine Protected Areas

During our early years of operation, Miguel’s Diving staff conducted a series of coral awareness campaigns. These took place in local schools, village halls and government buildings. We even used the front porch of a house! Gorontalo Province Fisheries Department, the Nature Lovers club at the local university and law enforcement took part. The basic message was “no coral, no fish, your choice.” The culmination of these educational efforts was the establishment of the Olele Village Marine Park in 2007. Miguel’s Diving pays a fee directly to the village for our guests to dive in designated sites. In this marine protected area, fishing is not allowed.

Daily Patrols

A dive guide removes two Crown-of-Thorns from a pristine coral reef in Gorontalo
A dive guide removes two Crown-of-Thorns from a pristine coral reef in Gorontalo
During regular diving season, Miguel’s Diving staff are in the water almost daily. Diving season is November to April. We take time during each dive to clean up a bit of trash or fishing line. Any Crown-of-Thorns starfish are taken immediately from the dive sites. In other marine protected areas in the world, Crown-of-Thorn outbreaks severely threaten the coral reef. Divers will immediately notice the dense and healthy hard corals of Gorontalo.

Vast Tomini Bay

Miguel’s Diving offers diving along the northern shore of Tomini Bay. Other operators provide diving in the Togian Islands. They are located in southern part of Tomini Bay. Tomini Bay is one of the largest in the world. It plunges over four kilometers in depth near Gorontalo dive sites. It takes eight hours by metal ferry boat to cross from Gorontalo to the Togian Islands.

Togian Islands Marine Protected Areas

There is no dynamite fishing in the areas where Miguel’s Diving operates. This is because of environmentally-friendly local fishing practices and community education efforts. Gorontalo Fisheries Department also patrols the coastline. No so fortunate are our neighbors to the south. Although the Togian Islands is one of Indonesia’s official marine protected areas, enforcement is lacking. In fact, there is a petition on Change.Org to urge the Indonesian government to tackle dynamite fishing and over fishing in the Togian Islands. Would you add your name to this petition? We have!

Malaysia International Dive Expo with Miguel’s Diving

Miguel’s Diving Booth A83

The 9th Malaysia International Dive Expo will take place June 6 – 8, 2014. It is also called MIDE 2014. The location is Putra World Trade Centre or PWTC. The Exhibition has opens to the pubic daily at 10 a.m. It closes nightly at 7 p.m. The admission fee for adults is only RM3.00. Children below 17 years of age are free. For more information, please visit the official Malaysia International Dive Expo web site.

Malaysia International Dive Expo 2014

Gorontalo: Hidden Paradise at MIDE 2014
Gorontalo: Hidden Paradise at MIDE 2014
This will mark the third time Miguel’s Diving has participated in the annual Malaysia International Dive Expo. Our booth will be located at A83. This is a strategic corner booth. The fasica board name is Miguel’s Diving @ Grand Q. We want to thank Mr. Rocky Liyanto of Grand Q Hotel in Gorontalo for its generous help in this year’s exhibit. Look for the dramatic “Gorontalo: Hidden Paradise” layout. Our professional backdrops were designed by Ms. Galuh Riyadi of Jakarta. They feature underwater photo art by some guests of Miguel’s Diving. These photographers come from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Perhaps you will recognize a name – and perhaps a face! We have some special discounts for MIDE visitors. Please come by to chat and pick up a flyer. We would love to catch up with old friends and make many new ones.

Gorontalo for Malaysian Divers

Gorontalo is an excellent destination for Malaysian divers. Pristine dive destinations are often difficult to reach. Not so Gorontalo! Air Asia offers flights from KUL to Makassar (UPG) four times weekly. The connecting flight to Gorontalo lasts about one hour twenty minutes. Gorontalo diving season is the opposite of most peninsular Malaysian destinations. Our season runs mid October to mid May. Officially it is November to April. Now there is no reason to cry during monsoon-lah. Come dive in Gorontalo! For many Malaysians food can be an issue. Food in Gorontalo is halal.
Contact us here about our participation in the 2014 Malaysia International Dive Expo or to make a booking for your next dive in Sulawesi with Miguel’s Diving!

Black Manta Ray Sighting in Gorontalo

Not a fictional cartoon super villain, but a real Black Manta Ray caused quite a stir in Gorontalo.

A Curious Black Manta Ray Visits Divers

Divers were enjoying a day of brilliant visibility when the dive master turned around and pointed. Behind us came the distinct flying motion of a manta ray. But this was no ordinary one. It was a rare Black Manta Ray. Usually, mantas are dark on the top and white on the bottom. The underside also has various marking that are unique to the individual manta. However, a genetic morph known as the Black Manta Ray is black both on the top and the bottom. The one we saw was gliding off the wall at Traffic Circle dive site in the Olele Village Marine Park. It was quite curious about the divers. It came within a couple of meters of the enthralled humans. This Black Manta Ray circled and swayed for about fifteen minutes. The video does not last that long.

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Ridwan Monoarfa’s borrowed GoPro ran out of batteries! Diving in Gorontalo is notoriously draining on batteries. There is too much to shoot!

A Division of Species

Humans have known about mantas for millennia. However, the actual species name has undergone much revision. In fact, only in the current millennium has genetic science confirmed two separate species. The official studies were done by Kashiwagi et al (2008), Marshal et al (2009) along with Ito and Kashiwagi (2010). Researchers analyzed difference among numerous mantas. This included color, spines, the mantas’ tooth-like scales and teeth. As a result, there are now two recognized species. One is Manta birostris. This manta is the largest and grows to up to seven meters wide. It lives in many oceans worldwide and migrates. The other is Manta alfredi.

Black Manta Ray seen gliding
A Black Manta Ray glides along a wall in Gorontalo
It is named after Prince Alfred of England. This manta is smaller and grows to only 5.5 meters wide. It lives in Indo-Pacific waters and tropical areas of the eastern Atlantic Ocean. The Black Manta seen in Gorontalo is most probably M. alfredi. The separation of species has been confirmed by consistent morphological and genetic differences. Ironically, authorities have long debated about the rare Black Manta Ray. However, genetic research confirms that it is a morph. Both manta species can occasionally produce the Black Manta.

Pelagic Rays of Gorontalo

To see a Black Manta Ray is quite rare. The most common large ray seen is Gorontalo is the White-spotted eagle ray. Occasionally, numerous Mobula rays glide by divers. For your chance to see a pelagic ray, please make a dive booking with us at info@miguelsdiving.com

Jumping Sailfish in Gorontalo

Jumping Sailfish seen in Gorontalo
Jumping Sailfish seen in Gorontalo
Imagine seeing a jumping sailfish on the trip to a dive site. That’s what happened to a group of dive buddies from Singapore and Taiwan. While traveling to Buffalo Head Point dive site, Miguel’s Diving boat crew spotted a jumping sailfish. It jumped a total of three times. The crew carefully moved the boat closer and discovered three sailfish swimming together just under the surface. Their dark forms were clearly visible in the calm blue water.
 

A Jumping Sailfish Video

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After they passed within a few meters of the boat, dive staff encouraged the guests to make a video. The results of the combined effort are available to watch in a brief video. In the first segment, notice the dark shape in front of the dive boat. That is one of the jumping sailfish. Next a dive master jumps in the water with a camera and swims after the fish. In the original video, two distinct sailfish are visible, stripes and all. Then the camera emerges to the surface in time to catch the jumping sailfish. The final sequence was shot with a smart phone from the dive boat. Hear everyone scream and cheer for the jumping sailfish.

Marine Life in Gorontalo’s Deep Waters

Gorontalo dive sites are scattered along the continental wall of Sulawesi. Ocean depths near Buffalo Head Point dive site plunge to over four kilometers. That is where the jumping sailfish were. This same group of divers had close encounters with a spotted eagle ray, blacktip shark and schooling jacks. Just after everyone descended for a third dive, the boat crew watched a whale jump from the water and blow a spray of water into the air. Divers below heard the noise and wondered what was going on.

Indo-Pacific Sailfish

The trio of jumping sailfish are actually Indo-Pacific sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus), a type of marlin. They are native to the deep Indian and Pacific Oceans. The color is dark blue on the top, brownish to blue on the sides and with sliver belly. They also have a series of dark bars on their sides. These bars were clearly visible to the watching divers and the dive master in the water. The distinctive sail-like dorsal fin was not raised the day divers saw the jumping sailfish. However, the large pointed bill was clearly visible. These sailfish grow up to three and a half meters long. The world tackle record is over 100 kilos. Indo-Pacific sailfish are perhaps the fastest swimmers in the ocean. They have been clocked at speeds of over 100 kilometers an hour. A sailfish feeds by blasting through a school of fish and thrashing its head back and forth. In this way, it uses it bill as a weapon to kill or wound other fish. The sailfish then eats the fish as they sink in the water column.

For your chance for a rare pelagic encounter, please make a dive booking with us at info@miguelsdiving.com

Tips for Drift Diving in Gorontalo

Purple Anthias Digant Desai
Purple Anthias Digant Desai
Drift diving can be a delightful experience for scuba divers. Sometimes this type of diving is called current diving. Here are some tips from Miguel’s Diving.

General Drift Diving Tips

When diving in a current, the most important thing is to maintain neutral buoyancy and depth. You want to avoid contact with the coral reef while drift diving. Relax and ride the current. In other words, go with the flow!
To detect a change in current up ahead, look at the fish. Fish will always face into a current. Do you notice the school of Purple Anthias in Digant Desai’s photo? They are all facing into the current. In fact, the stronger the current the more fish will gather along the reef. They are waiting for passing food, such as plankton.
One of the keys for safe drift diving is good surface support. An experienced boat crew is essential. Miguel’s Diving has been operating safely since 2003. At certain sites where currents are expected, the dive boat will wait in blue water off the reef edge, so that spotting the divers is easy.

Accessories for Safe Drift Diving

Sometimes divers bring a dive sausage in areas of strong currents. The tube is inflated by using an alternate air source, like an octopus. The tube is attached to a line that the diver holds while drifting with the current. Since the tube is inflated with air, it bobs along the surface of the water and marks the position of the diver. This helps the surface crew keep track of divers. This is particularly useful in Komodo where currents are strong.
In certain areas in Indonesia, like Raja Ampat, divers bring dive hooks. This is basically a metal hook on a line and attached to your BCD. Divers descend into a strong current, hook into the coral and watch the fish go by.
Miguel’s Diving encourages divers not to use dive sausages or reef hooks here. They are not needed here. Instead, your dive guide will use a dive whistle attached to his inflator hose to signal the boat crew for picking up divers.

Currents in Gorontalo

Gorontalo has long shore currents that run to the right or to the left along the shore. It is not possible to be towed out to sea by a current in Gorontalo. Currents here are also quite gentle. That is why Gorontalo is suitable for newer divers, as well as serious underwater photographers. Currents here also tend to reverse every 20 to 30 minutes. We have named one dive site “Traffic Circle” because divers often can ride the lower current to several underwater points and then ride the upper current back to the mooring buoy where the dive boat waits.
When diving submerged points in Gorontalo, like at White Point or Buffalo Head Point, the current pushes divers around the point. This is the time to look into the deep water for the schools of fish that pass by. Once around the point, there is no longer a current. Now is a good time to enjoy the coral wall. Sometimes divers encounter reverse currents that are too strong to fin against. In that case, the dive guide will signal everyone to turn around and drift with the new current.
For more tips on diving in Gorontalo, check out our Advice page on our web site. To arrange your dive trip to Gorontalo, please make a booking with us at info@miguelsdiving.com

Diving Sulawesi – Dive in Gorontalo

Diving Sulawesi is quite an adventure. There are so many choices!
Indonesia is the world’s longest archipelago. It runs almost 5,000 kilometers along the equator. This makes Indonesia the world’s largest reef nation. It contains over 50,000 square kilometers of coral reef. In the middle of Indonesia is the orchid-shaped Sulawesi Island. Northern Sulawesi Island boasts the highest marine biodiversity on the planet. This area includes Gorontalo and the Togian (Togean) Islands. Sulawesi’s northern and eastern arms form the huge Tomini Bay. Miguel’s Diving operates here. We are ready to show you the unusual marine life found in our part of Sulawesi.

Diving Sulawesi with aColeman's coral shrimp
A Coleman’s coral shrimp poses with an Orangutan crab

Gorontalo is an official home for the new Coleman’s coral shrimp (Vir colemani). Miguel’s Diving sent a few samples to the researcher. It was named in December 2003. This beautiful purple-jointed creature is common here. It is usually not found while diving Sulawesi’s other destinations.

Wall Diving

Diving Sulawesi includes its world-class coral walls. Those of Bunaken Marine Park in North Sulawesi are famous. Diving the walls of Bunaken is a thrill ride. Strong currents flow along the straight contour of its walls. In contrast, diving the walls found in Gorontalo is an entirely different experience. The forces of nature have left the limestone walls full of turns, buttresses, cracks, crevasses and caverns.  We provide diving along the northern shores of Tomini Bay. Currents here are typically gentle. This gives divers a chance to explore the highly complex coral wall structures. The variety of marine life living in and around our coral walls is amazing.

Pinnacle Diving

diving Sulawesi over a pinnacle
Viewing the top of a Gorontalo pinnacle

Sulawesi is not known for its pinnacles. However, for those diving Sulawesi, one of the best dive sites in the Wakatobi area.  A large pinnacle is found off Hoga Island. Gorontalo has many pinnacles. They rise from various depths. Their shape tends to be like a narrow giant pillar. They often stand in rows. Typically, they are found within several dozen meters of the main wall or slope. Divers can easily miss them without an experienced guide. There is also one pinnacle so large that Miguel’s Diving has named the site Sunken Island.

Diving Sulawesi’s Muck

No Sulawesi diving trip is complete without muck diving. This fascinating type of diving premiered in Sulawesi’s Lembeh Strait. The black volcanic sands there host wonderful and strange marine life. The sand in Gorontalo is mostly brown. A few dive sites have white sand.

Wreck Diving

Sulawesi is not known for wreck diving. However, the bomber wreck in the Togian islands is quite popular. Miguel’s Diving has discovered numerous wrecks in Gorontalo. We offer two historical wrecks to certified divers. The fifty-meter long Japanese Cargo Wreck sunk in 1942. It lies up-side-down in 26 to 50 meters of water. The smaller Tjenderawashi Barge Wreck sunk in a storm in 1993. It lies in four to 26 meters of water.

Cavern Diving

Diving Sulawesi in Gorontalo caverns
Diving Sulawesi includes Gorontalo caverns

Sulawesi is not known as a location for either cave or cavern diving. However, one of Gorontalo’s signature dive sites is Jinn Caves. It is a gigantic cavern split at the top with two pinnacles inside. Many other dive sites have round open caverns at about 25 to 35 meters. These make great frames for underwater photographers. Diving all caverns in Gorontalo is non-technical. This means that divers always can see the exit. You do not need special training to enjoy the overhead environment.

Atoll Diving

Diving Sulawesi atolls is available in several destinations. There are smaller ones in the Togian Islands and the massive ones in the Wakatobi area. Miguel’s Diving offers one atoll. It is located along the shore. The dive site is variously called Coastal Atoll or Biluhu Ring. The atoll’s interior is full of jellyfish whose stings are fully functional. Just ask Miguel’s Diving staff! That is why we do not dive inside the atoll. The outer walls face into the heavy waves. Its upper ring is very rocky and has coral rubble in places.

Submerged Point Diving

One of the features of Gorontalo not found elsewhere while diving Sulawesi is submerged points. In Gorontalo, coral points jut from the wall at usually 35 to 40 meters in depth. They protrude into the long shore current. Schooling fishes gather at these points when the current is running. When the plankton count is up, whales sharks love these locations. Fish life is abundant. One endemic species is the Orange-back wrasse (Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis). This beautiful fish was named in 1999. The Togean dottyback (Pseudochromis sp.) is a new discovery. It is endemic to Tomini Bay. Many other fishes are common here but less abundant elsewhere. They are often missing from fish guidebooks.

Drift Diving

Diving Sulawesi with aJuvenile rockmover wrasse
A juvenile rockmover wrasse imitates a decaying leaf

Diving Sulawesi destinations often means drift diving. Bunaken Marine Park are known for its drift dives. In Gorontalo, Miguel’s Diving assesses each site at the time of the dive. Staff decide if swimming back to the boat or being picked up would provide the best experience for our guests. We carry air whistles to call the boat if needed. All currents in Gorontalo are long shore This means that divers cannot be pulled out to sea, so dive sausages are not needed. Many of our guests love shooting underwater videos.

Boat Diving

Most diving locations in Sulawesi use boats. Miguel’s Diving has two speed boats. They are custom-built for Gorontalo’s unique conditions. They provide divers with the easy entries and exits.

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