• 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 Sulawesi

Green turtle pays a visit to Gorontalo reefs

Green turtle is a species only occasionally seen along Gorontalo’s dense coral reefs. Adult green turtles are strictly vegetarian and so live near sea grass flats. Those seen at Gorontalo dive sites are migrating between sea grass areas in western Gorontalo to those in North Sulawesi Province. Divers will usually see Hawksbill turtles here.

Green Turtle Identification

green turtle on reef
The beautiful shell pattern of Green turtle

Both Green and Hawksbill turtles have similar appearances. However, certain features help identify both species. Green turtles have a single pair of large scales between their eyes. These are called prefrontal scales. Hawksbills have two pairs of small scales. Also, a hawksbill turtle has a distinctive hook on its beak, whereas a green turtle will have a rounded beak. Green turtles have smooth shells with smooth edges, whereas a hawksbill’s shell edges will be clearly serrated

, especially towards the tail. Lastly, an adult Green turtle has a single claw on each front flipper, whereas a Hawksbill turtle will have two. Oftentimes, the shell of a green turtle will be highly polished with visible patterning.

Worldwide

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, Green turtles can grow up to a meter and a half in length. Also , they can weigh up to 400 kilograms. Those found in Indonesia are usually no longer than one meter.

Although baby green turtles eat a variety of things, adults shift to a plant diet. That means they eat mainly sea grass and marine algae. The common name green turtle comes from the fact that the fat found under this turtle’s shell is distinctively green in color. Scientists suspect the color is a result of the vegetarian diet. Also, this turtle’s scientific name is Chelonia mydas.

Moreover, should a diver notice the tail of a Green turtle, that turtle will be male. Only a male’s tail is long enough to protrude from under its shell.  

Breathing in Sea Turtles

Divers know that sea turtles spend most of their lives underwater. However, they must breathe oxygen from the air. While traveling to dive sites in Gorontalo

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, guests might notice when a turtle’s head breaks the surface. One breath is enough to exhale stale air and replace it with fresh air. A green turtle will dive for about four to five minutes. Then it will surface for a couple of seconds to catch a breath. Divers should never interfere with sea turtles while trying to breathe. Sea turtles will sleep in a safe place. During sleep, respiration slows considerably.

Nesting Sea Turtles

turtle on the reef
Pausing on a Gorontalo reef

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. Research on green turtles find that higher temperatures produce males

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, whereas lower temperatures produce females. Scientists worry that rising ocean temperatures from climate change will result in too few female green turtles.

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.

Although land turtles can pull head and flippers inside the shell

, sea turtles cannot.

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

Side Gilled Sea Slugs of the Night

Side gilled sea slugs are a delight to find during night diving in Gorontalo.

Nocturnal Sea Slugs

Grand side gilled sea slugs
A Grand side gilled sea slug crawls the sea floor looking for prey

Nudibranchs usually have their gills exposed on the top of their bodies. But side gilled sea slugs have large plume-like gills tucked between the mantle and the foot. The gills are usually on the right side. They mostly live in shallow waters on sand and rubble bottoms. That makes the perfect location for lucky divers to find them. These slugs crawl the sea floor at night looking for tunicates

, anemones and invertibrates. They have a pair of rolled rhinophores that sense chemicals and water current. They have strong jaws and wide mouths and can even eat a sleeping fish! This type of sea slug secretes sulfuric acid when disturbed.

Grand Side Gilled Sea Slugs

The most commonly seen side gilled slug is Pleurobranchus grandis. It can grow up to 21 cm, the size of a dinner plate! Its color pattern varies. However, this slug has three red bands that contrast with its other colors. See Alain Guillard’s photo taken at Sand Bowl dive site in Gorontalo.

Forskal’s Side Gilled Sea Slugs

Forskal's side gilled sea slugs
A young Forskal’s sea slug points its rhinophores forward

The beautiful Pleurobrachus forskali is named after a Finnish naturalist. Pehr Forskal was a student of Linnaeus, who recommended that King Frederick V of Denmark appoint the young Forskal to join an expedition to Arabia. While he was busy writing his book on the Flora of Egypt & Arabia, he contracted malaria. He died in 1763 in present-day Yemen. This sea slug is one of three life forms named after him.
Its color varies widely from dark plum red to peach to brown. The only consistent element of its pattern is the white semicircles that outline bumps on its mantle. Both P. grandis and P. forskali arch their mantles when moving. This forms a spout towards the rear of the slug, clearly visible in Albert Hartono’s photo of a young Forskal sea slug taken at Old Port dive site. This spout channels water and feces away from the slug as it travels.

Moon-headed Side Gilled Sea Slugs

Moon-headed side gilled sea slugs
A Moon-headed sea slug vacuums the sand at night

The most unusual Euselenops luniceps is rarely seen because it buries itself in the sand during the day. Its long mantle forms a siphon that brings sea water to the slug’s gills while it is buried. Notice the siphon towards the rear of the slug in Wisnu Purwanto’s photo from Sand Bowl dive site. Mr. Purwanto shares other Gorontalo underwater photos on his Flickr page. Its most notable feature is its large, wide oral veil that covers its mouth. The veil is fringed with many sensory hairs called papillae. The slug basically feels for prey along the sand with its mouth. Moon-headed ones are the only side gilled sea slugs that can swim for some distance. To swim, it flaps the sides of its body. It only grows to 7 cm.
Although night dives are not included in dive packages that Miguel’s Diving offers, oftentimes night diving is available. Please ask when you make a booking with us.

Sea Hare Mating in Gorontalo

That tumbling mass is really sea hare mating! Imagine the surprise of divers looking for critters at Sand Castle, one of Gorontalo’s muck diving sites. On the sand in shallow water were masses that looked like sea weeds, rocking back and forth in the gentle surge. In fact, there were patches of algae on the sea floor. That added to the confusion. But a closer inspection revealed a rarely witnessed event, sea hare mating.

Slugs Looking Like Rabbits

Sea hares are members an opisthobranch order of sea slugs. More colorful opisthobranchs are famously called nudibranchs. Their sensing organs are called rhinophores. In sea hares, these and their oral tentacles are rolled. Many sea hare species have an internal shell, giving them a pudgy appearance. These characteristics make the slug look like a rabbit, hence the name. Sea hares can grow to enormous sizes and weigh five kilograms or more.

Lined Sea Hares

The sea slugs discovered by guests of Miguel’s Diving in the midst of sea hare mating were not of the large variety. Instead, they were Lined Sea Hares (Stylocheilus striatus).

mating sea hares in Gorontalo
Lined sea hares during mating

Notice the fine dark lines in the photo by Senior Aldo Galante of Buenos Aires. Some light spots are also visible. This color pattern makes for great camouflage. Lined Sea Hares are usually quite small, such as the ones found in Gorontalo that day. But they can grow to up to 65 mm in length. Like other sea hares, Lined ones eat blue-green algae. When disturbed, most sea hares will secret purple ink. This purple secretion actually comes from toxins found in the blue-green algae eaten by sea hares.

Sea Hare Mating Video

To witness sea hare mating is a rare event. Watch the video shot in Gorontalo that day.

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At the beginning of the video

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, there are several still photos. Can you make out the individual sea hares? Notice how the mass of sea hares resembles the clump of algae growing on a nearby rock. Do you see individual sea hares crawling from the upper left screen towards the sea hare mating frenzy? Notice the dark portion inside the body of a sea hare. This is the internal shell.
For your chance to witness a rare marine event, please make a dive booking with us at info@miguelsdiving.com

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

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, 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

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, 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

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, 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

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