• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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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, 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.  

Bornella anguilla Spotted in Gorontalo

Bornella anguilla is an unusual nudibranch that sports a mosaic pattern on it skin. Numerous branches grow from its body. Its colors include brown, orange, and tan.

A Rare Find

Bornella anguilla eating
Bornella anguilla ready to eat hydroids

At the end of a dive at Gorontalo’s Otje Garden dive site, a dive master showed guests a most unusual nudibranch. It was busy munching on hydroids, its mouth parts clearly open. Eager underwater photographers took their chance to take shots. Miguel’s Diving staff confess they see this nudibranch less than once a year.

Bornella anguilla, the Eel Bornella nudibranch  

In 1984, this unusual nudibranch received its official name when Johnson submitted his research. Its scientific name reflects its distinct ability to swim like an eel. Anguilla means eel in Latin. Other Bornella species of nudibranch can swim as well. However, they flex their bodies from side to side to generate motion. In this way, they swim sideways. Bornella anguilla creates a muscular wave that moves down its body. In this way, it swims head first in an eel-like manner. While swimming, its rhinophores and cerata lay down for better streamlining.

Bornella anguilla is found throughout the Indo-West Pacific region. However, divers have also seen it in the Indian Ocean. It can grow up to eight centimeters in length. That means it can be rather large for a nudibranch.

Unusual Body Structure

This species of nudibranch has an unusual body structure.

Below the twin rhinophores on its head are its eyes. Although the eyes of most nudibranchs are hard to see, those of this nudibranch are distinct. They look blue or black, depending on the angle. Can you spot the eye in the close-up photo? Rhinophores are sensory organs that detect chemical scents in the water. The eyes measure light and darkness.

Most remarkable are the numerous branches growing from the body. These are called cerata. A pair of them grow around the brown rhinophores. This helps protect the sense organs from predators that can nibble a replaceable cerata instead.

Bornella anguilla close up
Close-Up of Bornella anguilla

Another unusual feature of this nudibranch are its gills. Most nudibranchs sport a cluster of gills near its dorsal rear and look like a small tree. On this nudibranch, the gills are distributed along the dorsal side of the body and protrude from the various branches that grow there. They look like mostly transparent feathers that poke from a cerata. These are visible in the close-up photo.

To dive in Gorontalo with dive masters skilled at spotting unusual marine life, please make your dive reservations with Miguel’s Diving.

Hawksbill Turtle Swims in Gorontalo Waters

Hawksbill turtle is the most common sea turtle that divers see in Gorontalo. Green sea turtles also live in local waters. Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, and Leatherback turtles are the other species found in Indo-Pacific oceans.

Identifying a Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill turtle sunburst
A Hawksbill turtle swims by

Both Green and Hawksbill turtles appear similar. However, certain features help identify both species. Hawksbills have two pairs of small scales between their eyes. These are called prefrontal scales. Green turtles have a single pair of large scales. Also, Hawksbill turtles have the distinctive hook on their beaks. Hence their common name. In addition, the large back plates on their shells overlap. As a result, the rear edges of the shell looks jagged. Those plates are called scutes. Overlapping scutes are called imbricated. Hence the scientific name Eretmochelys imbricata. Lastly, the Hawksbill turtle has two visible claws on each front flipper.

A larger turtle is more likely to be a Green sea turtle. Hawksbills found in the Indo-Pacific are smaller than those found in other tropical seas. Their size at maturity is only one meter in length. They also mature much more slowly, taking over thirty years.

The Hawksbill turtle prefers certain sponge species. It also eats jellyfish, tunicates, soft corals, crabs, squid, and fish. Surprisingly, this sea turtle is biofluorescent. Perhaps its diet of certain coral species makes it so. Also, this sea turtle will close its eyes when eating a jellyfish.

Threats to Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Eretmochelys imbricata is considered critically endangered. It is illegal internationally and in Indonesia to import or export turtle products. Also, it is illegal to harass, capture, or kill Hawksbill turtles.

All sea turtle species are threatened or endangered, according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Some sea turtles think floating plastic bags are jellyfish and eat them. Eating plastic will eventually kill the sea turtle by blocking breathing and digestion.

Nesting Sea Turtles

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. Higher temperatures produce females, whereas lower temperatures produce males.

Eretmochelys imbricata
Eretmochelys imbricata rests on a Gorontalo reef

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.

Land turtle can pull head and flippers inside the shell. However, a sea turtle cannot. Also, sea turtles secret excess salt swallowed when eating via tears.  

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

Thelenota rubralineata Graces Gorontalo Reefs

Thelenota rubralineata, the Ruby-striped sea cucumber, lives in selected dive sites in Gorontalo. This beautiful sea cucumber does not occur in abundance anywhere in Indo-Pacific waters.

Distribution of a Beautiful Sea Cucumber

Thelenota rubralineata in Gorontalo
A Ruby-lined sea cucumber in Gorontalo

The Ruby-lined sea cucumber lives at a few Gorontalo dive sites. It prefers sandy areas between dense coral ridges. Only occasionally will one crawl over Gorontalo’s hard coral colonies. Also, this sea cucumber rarely ventures above 15 meters. Miguel’s Diving staff have not seen it below 30 meters. So, its environment in limited.

Throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Thelenota rubralineata is uncommon. However, it enjoys wide distribution. Researchers have found it in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Guam, New Caledonia, the Philippines, Indonesia, the  South China Sea, Fiji, and Palau.

Thelenota rubralineata, a Recent Species

Surprisingly, Thelenota rubralineata is a recently described species. Two researchers, Massin and Lane, found it in Micronesia and described it officially in 1991. Sea cucumbers of the Thelenota genus have an internal ring of plates. This ring is called a calcareous ring. It is located between the mouth and stomach.

Thelenota rubralineata has a distinct external appearance. Various spiked protrusions occur over its back. Their tips are yellowish. Multiple small spikes occur randomly on its sides. The mazes of red lines cover its whitish back and sides. Underneath, the Ruby-lined sea cucumber has tiny feet called pedicels. These are semi-sticky. Thelenota rubralineata moves by contracting and extending its body. This beautiful cucumber has a soft body and is not venomous. Its usual size is 30 to 40 centimeters long. Its maximum size is 50 cm.

close up of Ruby-lined sea cucumber
Close-up of Thelenota rubralineata

Some people use Red-striped sea cucumber as a common name, although it clearly has no stripes. Reflecting its Latin name, Miguel’s Diving staff call it Ruby-lined.

For your chance to see this beautiful sea cucumber for yourself, please make your dive reservations and join us for some great diving.

Mooring Buoys for Olele Marine Park

Mooring buoys are a welcome development in Olele Village Marine Park. Miguel’s Diving staff determined the locations and set the buoys in 2020.

Environmentally Friendly Mooring Buoys

Since opening diving in 2003, Miguel’s Diving staff have always anchored our speed boats with care. At each dive site, we have scouted locations suitable for anchoring. Such locations include sandy places and rocky terrain. At many sites, a dive master will jump into the water to place the anchor in a hole that we have found. We re-use the same hole during each visit.

About ten years ago, the Bone Bolango Regency Marine Fisheries Department erected floating fences. Although these were not suitable for securing speed boats, local fishermen used them on weekends. This actually opened the marine reserve areas to regular fishing. During the followinge wave season, storms destroyed all the fences. One anchor block still sits at Silvertip Grounds dive site. That hard coral growth now covers that cement block. This rapid growth confirms the healthy marine environment here.

mooring buoys anchor
Steel mooring anchor

Learning from the past, the new series of mooring buoys use a different set up. A stainless steel anchor post is drilled into the ocean bedrock. A short and flexible chain connects the embedded anchor to a strong rope. Floating on the surface is an orange buoy. Boat crews then can tie to this floating mooring buoy. Sadly, one was stolen, so Miguel’s Diving crew dive down and tie to the anchor post at that dive site. At the approach of wave season, marine park monitors will remove all the rope and mooring buoys for seasonal storage. These will be re-attached when dive season returns.   

Locations Determined by Miguel’s Diving

The Tourism Department of Gorontalo Province provided funding for the mooring buoys. Miguel’s Diving staff determined the best locations. They also performed the work of implanting the anchors. There are buoys for twelve dive sites. Plus, an additional three buoys serve the snorkeling catamarans that operate out of Olele Village.

Miguels Diving at buoy
Our speed boat at a mooring buoy

Olele villagers do the monitoring of the marine reserve. They are alert for illegal activities. Thankfully, no bombing or cyanide fishing has occurred at the village or other areas where Miguel’s Diving takes guests. Since the dive sites are in proximity to villages, monitoring is a simple task. However, remote sites cannot be managed 24 hours daily. Miguel’s Diving is the only dive operator in Gorontalo that owns speed boats. To join us, please make your dive reservations directly.

Travelers Choice 2020 Award for Miguel’s Diving

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

Travelers Choice 2020

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

Travelers Choice 2020
Recent TripAdvisor Awards

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

Passion for Excellence

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

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

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

About TripAdvisor

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

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

Pilot Whale Video

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

Short-Finned Pilot Whales

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

Short-finned pilot whales breaching

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

Human and Pilot Whale Encounters

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

pilot whale video
Outrigger canoes in Gorontalo

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

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

Pilot Whale Video

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

COVID 19 Measures at Miguel’s Diving

covid 19 measures
Temperature check before boarding

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

New Normal Protocol

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

COVID 19 Measures for Divers

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

Additional services from the dive center

COVID 19 protocol poster in Indonesian

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

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

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

Reef Safe Sunscreen for Gorontalo

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

Strategy One: Physical Barriers

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

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

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

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

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

Strategy Two: Reef Safe Sunscreen

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

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

reef safe sunscreen
Read the active ingredients of sunscreen

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

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

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

Salvador Dali sponge spawns

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

Salvador Dali Sponge Spawning

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

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

Spawning of a Salvador Dali sponge

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

Gorontalo’s Surreal Sponge

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

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

A Local Morphology of Petrosia lignosa

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

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

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

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

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

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