• 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: Miguel’s Diving

Minke Whale breaching in Gorontalo

A Minke Whale Breaches in Gorontalo

On March 27, a Minke Whale breached the perfectly flat sea off Traffic Jam dive site in Gorontalo. Our boat captain watched the 10-meter long whale jump into the air. It hit the water with the belly-flop style characteristic of this whale. The Minke jumped four times and also blew water into the air. Divers that day had already descended. We heard several loud bangs but did not realize a whale was breaching less than 400 meters away. Miguel’s Diving has reported this exciting encounter to the APEX Environmental’s Coral Triangle Oceanic Cetacean Program. We have reported whale sightings to APEX for about ten years.

A breaching Minke Whale
A Minke Whale breaches

The Life of a Minke Whale

Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) are the smallest type of rorqual whale. Rorquals have numerous, distinct pleats of skin under their chin. These can expand to hold tons of water when the whale opens its mouth to feed. They eat krill, fish and squid. A Minke Whale uses the baleen of its upper mouth to filter food out of the water held in its mouth. They can be found in all oceans and live up to 60 years. A Minke Whale can weigh up to 10 tons. With populations numbering over 500,000 the Minke Whale is not considered to be endangered.

Good News from the International Court of Justice

Four days after Miguel’s Diving staff sighted the breaching Minke Whale, whales living in the southern oceans received good news. The International Court of Justice in the Hague sided with Australia in a suite against the Japanese whaling industry. The Court determined that the annual hunt was not for scientific purposes as claimed. The Court ordered a halt to any more whaling in the southern oceans. Japanese demand for eating whale meat has declined drastically over the last decade. According to news.com.au, the meat of more than 2,300 Minke Whales is sitting unsold in freezers in Japan. Whalers had planned to take 1,300 whales annually, despite plunging sales. Minke whales are also hunted in Iceland and Norway.

Everyone here is happy that the Minke Whale we saw will not end up in a freezer! For your chance to dive the blue waters of Gorontalo, please take a look at our dive packages and send an email to 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, 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

Muck Diving in Gorontalo

Indonesia is famous for muck diving locations. This type of diving originated in Lembeh Strait, not far from Gorontalo. Diving is done over areas of sand, rubble and silt. Hard corals found on reefs are rarely present at muck diving sites. However, the marine life found in muck is unique and spectacular. Miguel’s Diving offers several muck diving sites in Gorontalo.

Mystic Point Dive Site

A tall limestone cliff protects this bay from heavy waves. Generations of fishermen have used this site to anchor their boats. Hence the shallow coral here is not in great shape.

muck diving for gobies
A Crab-Eye goby says hello

But the white sand slope that descends from the upper coral bank is dotted with fascinating coral bommies. Many species of marine life gather there. Pairs of Crab-eye gobies (Signigobius biocellatus) love this site as well as numerous shrimp species and crabs. What Miguel’s Diving staff call Sea dandelions can be found near patches of coral rubble. Their color is a brilliant maroon. Nudibranchs also favor this site, maybe because there is not so much coral in which to hide!

This site is about 250 meters long.
Depth: 2 – 25 meters
Muck Diving Highlights: cardinalfish, sand anemones, shrimps, crabs and nudibranchs

Conditions: Typical visibility runs 10 meters, but it can reach 18 meters given the right conditions. Any wave action will stir up the sand, as will cold up-wellings and careless fin kicks.

Special Note: Ask Miguel’s Diving staff to find one of the new species available in Gorontalo, the Emperor Akihito fantail goby (Exyrias akihito, 2005). Usually, it lives below 60 meters. Because Gorontalo dive sites directly face the deep ocean, this large and beautiful goby can be seen and photographed at diveable depths. This goby has a spectacular “Mohawk” dorsal fin.

Virtual Muck Diving at Mystic Point

Descend one of the buoy lines used by fishermen to tie their boats. Weedy blennies play hide and seek on these ropes amid tuffs of algae. A large coral bommie comes into view. Schools of cardinalfishes hover around it and mid-size groupers dart in and out. A Tasseled scorpionfish lays camouflaged nearby. The holes and crevasses near the bommie’s base swarm with various shrimps. This includes the red and white spotted Anton Bruuni shrimp. Watch out for the patch of Goniopora coral that looks like a field of flowers. Its polyps give a nasty sting if touched.

muck diving over mooring line
Soft coral hangs from mooring lines above a muck site

Swimming along the white sand slope, divers spot a large hermit crab and several Blue-lined headshield slugs. At a patch of coral rubble, the dive guide finds another nudibranch. Lionfish guard another large coral bommie. Divers startle a Giant moray eel curled up inside. This one dines on fish parts tossed overboard by village fishermen.

Turning back at a field of colorful daisy coral, search the sand slope at a shallow depth. During the safety stop, the dive guide points out the first of many shy pipefish. Sand anemones of various colors dot the sand-scape. Now that it is time to return to the boat, swim around mooring ropes decorated with soft corals and ascend above the first coral bommie to the waiting dive boat.

Old Port Dive Site

No doubt this is the messiest dive site in Gorontalo! This location served as a port in the days before Indonesian independence. The steep sand and muck slope is strewn with trash from the village above. That creates many places for marine life to hide. A steep sand dune rises above the valley of trash.  It seems void of any life unless divers are accompanied by one of Miguel’s Diving’s skilled dive guides. Columns of rock rise from the sand, attracting colorful marine life.

  • The site is about 250 meters long.
  • Depth: 2 – 25 meters
  • Muck Diving Highlights: Harlequin ghost pipefish, ribbon eels, shrimps, crabs and lionfish

Conditions: Typical visibility runs 10 meters. The incoming tide, cold up-wellings and careless fin kicks can reduce visibility during muck diving.

Special Note: The sand slope here is quite steep. Divers unfamiliar with muck diving dive this site with feet towards the slope and head facing below. They stir up lots of sand. Try to keep your fins pointed away from the slope and towards deep water.

Virtual Muck Diving at Old Port

You are told to descend in water so murky that you cannot see your own feet. But below two meters, cooler and clear waters show the tangles of ropes from surface mooring buoys. Picking carefully among the litter, your dive guide points out a colorful wrasse with dense scrawling and a spectacular angular tail. Don’t expect to find Cheilinus bimaculata in your fish book. It is rarely seen in other locations. A pair of Harlequin ghost pipefish try to hover unnoticed nearby. Resting on a banana peel is a rare yellow-colored Dwarf lionfish.

muck diving with crabs
A Gorgonian Crab warns divers

Crossing over the great sand bank, your dive guide beckons to a solitary whip coral where two shrimps cling. Near a rocky pinnacle large lionfish rest in the sand. Clouds of Pink anthias swim near its top. A Banded pipefish stays near its protective crevasse. Your dive guide signals. he has found a juvenile Ribbon eel. It is lender and black with a thin yellow dorsal fin. On the return trip to the trash pit, a dainty baby lionfish waves its translucent fins dotted with pink spots. At the rest stop, a pair of Robust ghost pipefish float like dead leaves as does a large Seahorse.

As you ascend to the surface, you are surrounded by village children clinging to floats. They have been watching you from above.

Sand Castle Dive Site

muck diving for anenomes
A Tube anenome living at Sand Castle

This location is Gorontalo’s first official muck diving site. A shallow shelf at about two meters in depth gives way to a moderate slope that ends in a silt basin at about 20 meters. The sand here is mostly brown in color. Trash is minimal. There are no landscape features.

This site is about 400 meters long.

Depth: 2 – 20 meters

Muck Diving Highlights: Anemonefish eggs, Porcelain crabs, Banded shrimps and unexpected finds

Conditions: Typical visibility runs three to 12 meters. Wave action and careless fin kicks can reduce visibility during the course of a dive.

Special Note: This site contains Gorontalo’s most aggressive fish: the Saddleback anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus). These fish typically charge divers who pass or approach, chomping their jaws audibly. Usually, they are protecting a patch of eggs located next to their anemone. The eggs will be on a rock or hard surface. New eggs are pinkish and darker eggs are ready to hatch. In fact, the eyes of baby Nemos are visible peering out of the eggs.

Virtual Muck Diving at Sand Castle

Descend onto a level bed of sand rippled by last night’s tide. In front of the boat’s anchor, a colony of White patch garden eels (Heteroconger perissodon) retreat into the sand. These eels are found only in Indonesia and the neighboring Philippines. On the slope below a lone rock, sprouting hydroids and a single whip coral shelters shrimps and a baby lionfish. A single Harlequin ghost pipefish waits for a mate.

muck diving with moray eels
Snowflake moray eels peer out of their hole

At the level bottom, large shrimpgobies stand guard while their companion shrimps shovel out silt that inevitably spills back into their hole. Anemonefish from a neighboring anemone charge as you pass. They are protecting the eggs developing on a discarded tin can. Your dive guide signals. He has found a Bonaparte eel sticking its freckled nose out of the sand. Ahead a pair of Cockatoo waspfish rock like dead leaves. What looks like tuffs of green algae is really an Ambonian scorpionfish.

On the trip back to the boat, notice the many pink sea pens protruding from the sand. Among the shallow rocks your dive guide has located a tiny Flabellina nudibranch. As you approach the ladder, those garden eel rise to bob and weave in the slight current.

Tambo’o Fish House Dive Site

Gorontalo’s most popular muck site is located just outside the mouth of Bone River where Miguel’s Diving has its dock. Visibility is affected by river water pulled or pushed by long shore currents. Sand here is mostly brown. A shallow sand flat starts at about three meters before a slope of sand begins. Miguel’s Diving typically dives above 18 meters at this site. There is one big coral rock at a relatively shallow depth.

The site is about 200 meters long

Depth: 3 – 18 meters

Muck Diving Highlights: Octopi, moray eels, sea biscuits and unexpected finds

Conditions: Typical varies from runs two to ten meters. River water and careless fin kicks can reduce visibility during the course of a dive.

Special Note: The sand slope here is quite steep. Divers unfamiliar with muck diving dive this site with feet towards the slope and head facing below. They stir up lots of sand. Try to keep your fins pointed away from the slope and towards deep water.

Virtual Muck Diving at Tambo’o FIsh House

muck diving for coconut shell octopus
A Coconut shell octopus trades up for a Nautitis

You pass a flounder lying unseen on the sand as you follow the dive guide down the slope. Under an old tire, a pair of White-eyed morays and a Viper-mouth moray jockey for the best view of the visitors who pass. Having no coconuts available, a Coconut shell octopus hauls a beautiful Nautilis shell. Nearby a poorer octopus uses the bottom of a broken bottle as a base for its home.  Its sucker hold pieces of glass together to make sides for a home. On a nearby rock your dive guide spots a Tree crab. It is perfectly camouflaged among tufts of algae. Its nose pointed high. Looking like brownish citrus peelings, moon shell eggs lay among the skeletons of Sea biscuits. Usually seen moving about at night, these relatives of sea urchins have a fragile white skeleton. They use hair-like spines to move about the sand.

Dozens of Pink anthias hover about a large coral rock. Many lionfish swim nearby, hoping to swallow an anthias that ventures within reach. Inside the crevasse, a large moray eel is getting its teeth cleaned by a shrimp. Other shrimps hide in small holes in the rock.

On the way back to the boat, your dive guide gives a frantic signal. He has spotted a Mimic octopus. Gathering no too close to its hole, watch as the guide uses his stick to flick up sand. This imitates the actions of some critter burrowing nearby. Its curiosity aroused, the octopus leaves its hole entirely to investigate. When it detects the presence of outsiders, it quickly changes shape to imitate a flounder and glides away.

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

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