• 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: Gorontalo Diving

Duncanopsammia peltata forms pagodas in Gorontalo

Duncanopsammia peltata or pagoda coral form immense colonies in Gorontalo’s healthy waters.

Stunning Pagoda Coral Colonies

One of Gorontalo’s ancient and stunning coral formations is pagoda coral. Giant plates form spirals, hence the common name denoting pagodas. The colonies featured in this video measure over four meters across. The video is courtesy of @jhonheriano of Pertamina Dive Club.

Other colonies of this distinctive coral form single plates. Additional plates may take several centuries to form. In other coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific region, this coral forms pillars. That morphology has yet to appear in Gorontalo.

Descriptions of Duncanopsammia peltata

Duncanopsammia peltata
Corallites of Duncanopsammia peltata

The scientific name for pagoda coral is Duncanopsammia peltata. When we consulted coral experts, they asked for a detailed photograph of the polyps. These are distinctive in determining the species. Usually, corallites measure between three and five millimeters in diameters. However, those of the giant colony featured here measure almost one centimeter!

As with other corals, polyps are only found on the upper surfaces of the colony. They need sunlight and easy access to plankton brought by passing ocean currents. Sometimes, the corallites are embedded flush with the coral plate. However, other times they protrude above the plate like little bumps. Typically, the polyps are extended during daylight hours, ready to sunbathe and catch plankton. Their many arms can measure up to one centimeter in length.  

pagoda coral
Photo courtesy of @jhonheriano

Tiny single-cell organisms called zooxanthellae live inside Duncanopsammia peltata. They turn sunlight into food that they share with their host coral.

Colonies of Duncanopsammia peltata live in coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. They thrive just below the surface, down to a depth of about forty meters. The color is grey to light brown.

Ask us to show you Gorontalo’s pagoda corals when you make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving. 

Dendrodoris tuberculosa inhabits Gorontalo reefs

Dendrodoris tuberculosa rarely appears on Gorontalo’s coral rich dive sites, despite its very large size. After years of absence, in late 2023 divers saw three in the same week!

The Frilly Dendrodoris tuberculosa

Dendrodoris tuberculosa
The first Dendrodoris tuberculosa

Sometimes called the Tuberculate Dendrodoris nudibranch, it can grow to twenty centimeters in length. Colors range from brown to green to pink. Most distinctive about this giant nudibranch are its numerous tubercules. These almost entirely cover its upper body. Among the masses of tubercules, two rhinophores emerge. Perhaps because of its large size, it crawls quite fast. Despite its size, divers can easily miss seeing it.

Three in One Week

The first of three we spotted recently looked like a scrap of old carpet flowing over the substrate. It easily blended in and quickly disappeared under some coral. This sighting was at a depth of two meters. Its length was twenty centimeters.

The second Tuberculate Dendrodoris

The second Dendrodoris tuberculosa sighted was at twelve meters. It was crawling on top of plate coral that projected from one of Gorontalo’s spectacular walls. Its pinkish color contrasted nicely with the coral. Much smaller than the first, it measured about twelve centimeters in length. After crawling across the coral, it turned upside down and disappeared underneath the coral.

The third Tuberculate Dendrodoris had beautiful bluish tips on its tubercules. It was still on the small side, measuring about ten centimeters.

Discovery during Around-the-World Expedition

This enormous nudibranch was first discovered during a scientific voyage around the world. Commissioned by the French king, the voyage departed the port city of Toulon on 22 April 1826. The name of the ship was Astrolabe, after an instrument used in marine navigation. Scientists on board collected samples of animals and plants from the coasts of Chile and Peru, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and various Pacific islands. They also surveyed the Molucca islands of Indonesia.

Dendrodoris tuberculosa
The third sighting

Two French naturalists Quoy and Gaimard named one discovery Doris tuberculosa. The genus name later changed to Dendrodoris.

The expedition returned to France in March 1825.

For your chance to enjoy a dive expedition in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Sargassum frogfish delights divers

Sargassum frogfish float on surface currents to dive sites in Gorontalo. Our diligent diver masters know how to find them, to the delight of guests.

Floating Refuge

As their common name implies, Sargassum frogfish hide among sargassum weeds. Although these weeds initially grow along shallow ocean bottoms, storms will rip them up. Then, these weeds will float on the surface. They have air-filled bladders that look like berries, which helps the weeds float.

Over eighty species of fish use floating mats of Sargassum weed for part of their life cycle. Juvenile fish can hide there from predators. But predators also lurk unseen among the weeds.

Camouflaged Predator

sargassum frogfish
Sargassum frogfish hides among weeds

One such predator is the Sargassum frogfish. Like other frogfish

, this one has a small lure between its eyes and mouth. When the fish is hungry, it will wiggle its lure to tempt prey to approach too closely. With a sudden, giant gulp, the frogfish will ingest the small fish, crab or shrimp. Unhappily, baby frogfish may also be devoured.

This frogfish’s scientific name is Histrio histrio. It is the only species of this genus and no other fish looks quite like it. Its appearance is unmistakable, although finding it is difficult. Its coloration mimics that of Sargassum weed. Also, it has fleshy appendages that look like its weedy host. Although it can swim, this frogfish usually remains motionless. Instead, it grabs onto weeds with its pectoral fins and tail. When necessary, it can alter its color from lighter to darker, or vice versa.

Techniques for Finding Sargassum frogfish

frogfish
Floating on surface weeds

Our dive masters are skilled in finding these shy and delightful critters. During surface intervals between dives, they will search floating weeds near the dive boat. If they find one, they will scoop it into a small bucket along with the weed on which the frogfish clings. That way guests on the dive boat can see it up close. Although this frogfish can survive quite a while above water, we always return it safely to the ocean.

For your chance to see a Sargassum frogfish Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Flower urchin trembles with danger

Flower urchin looks like a lovely ball of trembling flowers. However, those flowers contain highly toxic venom. This sea urchin’s maximum diameter is about 15 centimeters. It lives in areas of sand and rubble along coral reefs. It also inhabits areas of sea grass.

Beauty to Avoid

flower urchin
Flower urchin hiding in the reef

Although commonly known as the Flower urchin, the scientific name of this echinoderm is Toxopneustes pileolus. The genus name Toxopneustes means “poison breath.” And “skullcap” is the meaning of pileolus

, the species name. These names underscore the creature’s deadly possibilities.

Its toxins can cause a number of symptoms. These include breathing problems, muscular paralysis, and numbness. Such effects can render the victim disoriented. The combination can result in accidental drowning. Initial contact gives the victim an extremely painful shock. Then numbness and spasms start to travel through the body from the point of contact. Happily, accidental contact with this sea urchin is extremely rare.

Deceptive Flowers

Various projections cover a Flower urchin’s exposed surface. The most noticeable are the flower-like pedicellariae. These colorful appendages are actually jaws. Each jaw has three prongs. Moreover, the flower-like jaws have sensors that detect contact or proximity movement to the sea urchin. Any touch will trigger the jaws to contract. Then the jaws inject venom. To make matters worse, once the jaws are triggered, they can easily break free from the sea urchin. That means they stay embedded and will continually inject venom for several hours.

The flowers of this sea urchin can appear a pinkish or yellowish white. There will be a single lavender dot in the middle. These false flowers typically cover the short spines of the urchin.   

On the underside of the Flower urchin are double rows of tubular feet. These emerge along the ten segments of the urchin’s shell. In the center is the creature’s mouth, which contains five plates. These plates function as teeth that crunch food. Sea urchins forage along the bottom on algae, bryozoans and detritus. With the mouth facing the substrate, the anus faces the water column and any curious passing diver.

Flower Urchin Piled with Debris

To observe a Flower urchin, divers must keep a safe distance. Careful observation of the surface of this creature shows thin, translucent, and waving appendages that are longer that the trembling flowers of the urchin. These appendages are tubular feet that end in three claws. These are used to clear the urchin’s surface of debris.

Toxopneustes pileolus
Appendages of Toxopneustes pileolus

However, the urchin also uses these tubular feet to move debris from the substrate onto its top and sides. Scientists call this covering or heaping behavior. The tubular feet keep debris in place. The function or purpose of this behavior remains a mystery. Because divers think that a small heap of debris is simply rubble, most flower urchins remain unnoticed.

In the rare instances when we see a Flower urchin, our dive masters will warn guests first and then carefully show the beautiful creature. Afterwards, the dive master will use his stick to move debris on top of the urchin. This helps the urchin but also prevents accidental contact by anyone else passing by.

To dive with such caring dive masters, please make your trip reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Fin whale startles crew

Fin whale surfaced right next to one of our staff while he was fishing for yellowfin tuna. Tomini Bay where we dive is over four kilometers deep. So, large cetaceans are part of the marine environment in Gorontalo.

Surprise Encounter

Boka, one of Miguel’s Diving dive masters, headed to deep waters offshore. On his day off, he decided to fish for yellowfin tuna. Local fishermen use traditional handlines. This method is ecologically sustainable.

Identification book for whales

Suddenly, a large whale surfaced only a few meters away from his outrigger canoe. Then the whale exhaled, sending spray into the air.

Boka’s outrigger canoe measures five meters in length. He estimates the fin whale that surfaced next to him to be twelve meters. That means this particular whale was still small. Adult fin whales can reach 22 meters in length. This species is the second largest animal on planet earth, after the larger Blue whale. The cetaceans we see tend to be young. That includes whale sharks, orcas, and whales. It seems that the deep waters of Tomini Bay are a prime location for young cetaceans to grow into adults.

Fin Whale in the Southern Hemisphere

Although fin whales live in all the world’s oceans

, they are mostly sighted in the southern hemisphere. When a fin whale surfaces, its dorsal fin appears right after the whale blows. The dorsal fin is quite small and points backwards. Its flukes are rarely visible. Most notable, it is large size. Also, fin whales ignore boats. This is what happened when Boka encountered one.

Fin whale sketch (c) NOAA

The fin whale used to be hunted commercially. This is now banned. As a result of over hunting, this species is considered endangered. The population of the southern hemisphere has been particularly slow to recover. Balaenoptera physalus is the scientific name.

Fin whales are filter feeders. Those in the southern hemisphere feed almost exclusively on krill. They can also eat plankton, small schooling fish, and squids. Their only known predator is the Orca or killer whale. In Gorontalo we see orca annually, usually in January and February.

Although scuba divers are not likely to see a fin whale in Gorontalo, whale shark sightings are common. So, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

DXI2023 marks Miguel’s Diving return

DXI2023 or DEEP EXTREME 2023 marks Miguel’s Diving return to Indonesia’s prestigious diving expo. Other adventure sports are also represented there.

Joint Promotion with Tourism Department

Gorontalo Provincial Tourism Department invited Miguel’s Diving to join its booth. We are most grateful for their support. The booth location was D10. Two of Miguel’s Diving staff attended DXI2023. They were Yunis Amu and Maman Abdullah. Other dive staff remained in Gorontalo to take guests diving.

As in many previous years, DEEP EXTREME Indonesia 2023 held its exhibition at the Jakarta Convention Center. The dates were June 1 to 4. The expo combines scuba diving with extreme sports, such as rock climbing. It is now the largest expo of its kind in Southeast Asia. At DXI2023, Miguel’s Diving offered a discount dive packages exclusively to visitors to our booth.

our dive boats
Our custom-built dive boats

We also promoted our custom-built speed boats. The larger one holds a maximum of fourteen divers. It comes complete with a marine toilet. The smaller speed boat can hold eight divers, but we prefer to limit the capacity to six guests plus dive masters. Both boats provide canopies for complete coverage from the sun. We built both specifically for divers rather than renovate boats built for fishing. No one else offering diving in our area has the facilities that we have.

Friends Old & New

The Gorontalo booth for DXI2023 contained a variety of underwater photographs from Gorontalo. Gorontalo is a great place for underwater photos, whether wide angle or macro.

After taking a pause from diving since 2020, many divers wish to return to Gorontalo for our great diving. The Jakarta dive show was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with longtime friends and to make new ones.

Mr. Fadel Muhammad vists

One visitor to our booth was our representative to parliament, Mr. Fadel Muhammad. He is Wakil Ketua MPR for the current period. He will be up for re-election in 2024.

If you could not meet us in person, please book your dive trip with us.

Reticulated puffers delight divers in Gorontalo

Reticulated puffer is a clumsy, clownish swimmer that delights divers who chance to see it. This puffer lives throughout the Indo-Pacific tropics

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, including Gorontalo.

A Distinctive Network of Lines

reticulated puffer
Arothron reticularis in Gorontalo

The scientific name for this fish is Arothron reticularis, which is a fitting name. Reticulated means arranged like a net or marked like a network. Only the Reticulated puffer has the network of white lines around its face and belly. It sports white spots on its body. But so too does Arothron hispidus

, another puffer species that lacks the network of lines. The body color for Arothron reticularis range from brown to grey.  

Puffer fish have quite distinctive bodies. This includes tough skin and a dental plate in their beak-like mouth. What they lack is more notable. They lack fin spines and ribs. As a result, they can inflate their stomachs with water when afraid. Moreover, their skin, gonads, and liver contain two toxins. These are tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin. Some species are more toxic than others. Because different puffer species have similar body shapes, identification is most accurate when using color patterns.

So, the reticulated pattern makes the Reticulated puffer easy to identify.

Facing a Reticulated Puffer

Typically, puffer fishes are occasional in the marine environment. However, Miguel’s Diving staff know of one dive site in Gorontalo where Reticulated puffers are likely to be seen. Moreover, this species of puffer fish also exhibits the ability to recognize humans. Certain puffers at that dive site swim right to our dive masters.  

reticulated puffer smiles
A Reticulated puffer smiles for the camera

The face of a Reticulated puffer makes a delightful photo. Besides showing the distinctive reticulated pattern, the eyes are especially beautiful. Encircled with white rings, the eyes have brown irises and dark pupils. The eyes have great range of motion. This puffer fish smiles for the camera with its four teeth plates. These continually grow. The fish will keep them worn down by eating shrimps and crustaceans. On the snout and between the eyes are twin, forked tuffs. These are actually olfactory organs that allow the fish to smell its watery environment.

Divers will notice that the body of this fish is often sprinkled with sand. During the day, puffer fish often hide in sandy bottoms. They use their pectoral fins to throw sand onto their backs. Their maximum length is 45 centimeters.

Proper Behavior for Divers

Divers should never catch or grab puffer fish to make them inflate. This action frightens the fish

, causing stress. Like many puffer species, the Reticulated puffer is covered with defensive spines. These short prickles are only visible when the fish is puffed up in a defensive posture.

Although our Reticulated puffers know some of our dive staff, they do not like to be pursued with cameras. Instead, for guests who want a souvenir photo of this cute fish, we recommend approaching patiently. If the fish starts to swim away, leave it alone. Given time, it will return. A photographer’s random behavior that ignores direct pursuit of the fish will calm it down, allowing a closer approach for a photograph.  

For your chance to see this delightful puffer fish in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Heinz Online Magazine Showcases Salvador Dali Sponges

Heinz Online Magazine showcases Salvador Dali sponges of Gorontalo in its sixteenth edition.

Surreal Sponges

One of Gorontalo’s claim to fame is the discovery of Salvador Dali sponges. This morphology of Petrosia lignosa is unique to the northern coastline of Tomini Bay, Indonesia. The article found in Heinz Online Magazine explains the discovery. Also, it explains the origin of these bizarre looking sponges. Rantje Allen christened this sponge after the famous Spanish painter. He is the diving pioneer in Gorontalo. The surreal style of Salvador Dali describes the appearance of these giant sponges.

Divers will usually find these sponges below 25 meters .There ,they are protected from seasonal high waves and storms. Additionally, they grow off the vertical coral walls in Gorontalo. There, ocean currents bring plankton to them. The article explains how they can break off in storms. When this happens, these ancient giants fall to the ocean bottom. They can no longer feed and soon die, turning to dust in a matter of weeks.

Heinz Online Magazine

The article on Salvador Dali sponges is available for free download. It comes in PDF format. Moreover, it comes in English, German or Chinese. It is in Heinz16 edition of the magazine with a release date of August 31, 2019. Heinz Press of Nuremberg, Germany, is the official publisher.

Mr. Heinz Ritter publishes Heinz Online Magazine. He is well known among underwater photographers. Actually

, he published the original UWF, a highly regarded magazine on photography. That original publication became Germany’s Unterwasser magazine. This occurred in the early 1990s. Mr. Ritter served as publisher for that new magazine for years. Eventually, Mr. Ritter sold his interest in Unterwasser. After that, he started Heinz Online Magazine. Since its format is online, printing issues do not constrain design. Mr. Ritter is known for his unique design perspective.  

Photos by Steve Jones, Underwater Photographer

The Heinz Online Magazine article on Salvador Dali sponges comes with incredible underwater photographs by Steve Jones. Mr. Jones is an award-winning underwater photographer and journalist. His travel and work spans the globe, including Antarctica. Ironically, he received his first break as an underwater photographer from Unterwasser magazine in 1996.

During his worldwide travels

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, Mr. Jones visited Gorontalo during wave season. Ocean conditions are challenging during that time of year. However, he left with a sizeable archive of spectacular photos of Gorontalo’s marine environment.

Photos featured in the sixteenth edition of Heinz Online Magazine include several Salvador Dali sponge shots. Among the macro photos Sarasvati shrimp, Robust ghost pipefish, and cuttlefish. In additional, one photo contains a Coleman’s coral shrimp. It is a new species discovered in Flores and Gorontalo. Dramatic wide-angle shots include red sea whips, Jinn Caves cavern and a deep-water Blue sea fan.  

After enjoying the article, please make your dive reservations with us!

Acanthosphex leurynnis Discovered in Gorontalo

Acanthosphex leurynnis, a rarely seen type of waspfish, recently made an appearance in Gorontalo.

Surprising Find: Acanthosphex leurynnis

Acanthosphex leurynnis grows
A rare Wasp-spine velvetfish lies in the sand

During a great muck dive in February 2018, one of our guests discovered an unusual fish. Initially, Miguel’s Diving staff assumed it was a juvenile Cockatoo waspfish, which is often seen at the Tambo’o Fish House Dive Site. That muck site continues to thrill divers with its variety and density of marine critters.

Fortunately, Wolfgang from Germany took a photo of the fish. Then staff sent the photo to a marine identification community on Facebook. A longtime marine biologist working in Pacific Asia identified the fish for us. It turned out to be a Wasp-spine velvetfish. Its scientific name is Acanthosphex leurynnis. It is the only species in its genus. This fish is so seldom seen that it is missing from even large volume fish books. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History possesses specimens of Acanthosphex leurynnis from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and Australia.

The Wasp-spine velvetfish grows to a maximum of nine centimeters. Its coloration tends to be dark to light mottled brown. Additionally, white patches occur randomly on its body. It has two spines pointing behind its eye and four more behind its chin. Also, the chin has a pair of short tentacles. Given its small size and camouflaged coloration, divers rarely see this singular fish.

Waspfish of the World

Although Acanthosphex leurynnis is not technically a waspfish, it is generally grouped with waspfish species. Worldwide, there are forty species of waspfish. However, because they are secretive and nocturnal, divers rarely seen them. Some waspfish have venomous spines that can cause painful stings. Waspfish eat shrimps and other small invertebrates. Typically

, the tall dorsal fin on the head is the distinguishing characteristic of waspfish.

Waspfish in Gorontalo

Cockatoo waspfish Ablabys taenianotus
A Cockatoo waspfish pretends to be a dead leaf

Besides the unusual sighting of Acanthosphex leurynnis, divers in Gorontalo are most likely to see Cockatoo waspfish (Ablabys taenianotus). This fish has great camouflage and looks like a dead, brown leaf laying in the sand. They are often in pairs. So, careful divers will look for another one if one is already found. Although this waspfish tends to be dull brown, it can have white on its face.

In Gorontalo, divers will only see waspfish at a single dive site, Tambo’o Fish House. A careful diver will check each dead leaf lying on the sand. If spotted, a waspfish will pretend that a slight current is pushing it about and moving it away. The motions are quite clever!

It lives in the western Pacific Ocean, including northern Australia and Japan. Despite what some guidebooks or interet postings claim, it does not live in the Indian Ocean. The waspfish that lives there is a different species, Ablabys binotatus.

Spiny waspfish Ablabys macrancanthus
A Spiny waspfish sketch

Actually, another waspfish lives only in Indonesia and the Philippines. It is the Spiny waspfish (Ablabys macrancanthus). Distinguishing it in the ocean from the Cockatoo waspfish is extremely difficult. According to marine biologists, the spines of the Ablabys macrancanthus protrude from its dorsal fin. Hence its common name Spiny. The guaranteed way to distinguish between the two species is to count dorsal spines. The less common Spiny waspfish has 15 to 16 and the more widespread Cockatoo waspfish has 17 to 18.

Few divers will wish to count waspfish spines! However, for your chance to see a waspfish in Gorontalo

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, please book your dive trip with us.

Basket Stars on Gorontalo night dives

Basket stars can be observed on night dives in Gorontalo.

Symmetrical Beauty

The most common basket stars are white.
Basket stars have an amazing array of tendrils

Basket stars are beautiful marine invertebrates. Starfish and brittle stars are their distant relatives. They have a central disk and arms branching from it. The arms are many times the diameter of the central disk, which looks small in comparison. The number of arms is hard to count because each arm has countless tendrils. These tendrils are the main identifying feature of basket stars. They also possess radial symmetry. These features give them immense beauty and balance.

Nocturnal Feeders

Baby basket stars hide during the day
A baby basket star hides in a soft coral

Basket stars sleep during the day. They curl under corals and hide in crevices. Notice the baby basket star in the picture. It is hiding among the branches of a Dendronephthya soft coral. After the reef becomes dark, basket stars climb on top of a hard coral to search for the current. They extend their arms and tendrils into the current, waiting ensnare some small organism. They eat plankton, worms and tiny fish. Something that drifts in the current and touches a tendril will be quickly ensnared. The basket star will grip its prey tightly and then secrete mucous that helps to immobilize its dinner. A basket star feeds itself by putting the prey directly into its mouth. The mouth is like a comb that extracts the food. Then it pulls its arm and tendrils back out of its mouth. The mouth is located beneath the central disk. Miguel’s Diving provides advice on current diving.

Basket Stars in Gorontalo

Watching basket stars during a night dive is fascinating. Notice in the video how delicate are the movements of the tendrils and arms. With so many arms to use, basket stars can move rather quickly. Miguel’s Diving staff typically finds three species of basket stars on a night dive. The most common ones are white (Astroboa nuda). Occasionally, divers will spot a black one (Astroboa granulatus). In recent years, two new species of shrimps living on Astroboa basket stars have been described from the Moluccas.

Orang Heart basket stars are yet undesrbied
An Orange Heart basket star feeds at night

The second most common basket star found here is actually an undescribed species. Because of its beautiful color, we affectionately call it the Orange Heart Basket Star. For your chance to observe these beautiful creatures for yourself

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, please book your dive trip with us.

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