Indonesia is hands down my favourite dive destination. It is impossible to be bored of the diving there; the number of species, types of diving and coral diversity are unrivalled. The country makes up a large part of the Coral Triangle (an area also including Malaysia, Philippines and New Guinea), which is renowned for having the highest species diversity of corals and their associated organisms in the world. This alone is enough to keep you endlessly entertained.
We spent several weeks in Indonesia over Christmas and New Year 2010/2011 diving some it’s most iconic locations. Lembeh Strait offers some of the best muck diving in the world and Raja Ampat is one of the last remaining tropical marine wildernesses in the mega-diverse Coral Traingle.
Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi – Kasawari Resort
We began our trip in Lembeh, North Sulawesi, where we spent Christmas with the awesome folk at Kasawari Resort. As usual Lembeh lived up to expectations. Actually, I have come to expect the unexpected there. This trip stood out for seeing several new species that I had never seen before. Even after more than 2000 dives it is this constant discovery that keeps me hooked, especially to Indonesian diving. For the first time I saw a Pitted Stonefish (Erosa erosa) (see blog post), Long finned waspfish (Apistus carinatus), a juvenile Pacific Triplefin (Lobotes pacificus) and a juvenile Radial Filefish (Acreichthys radiatus).
Lembeh is also a great place for observing natural behaviours, provided you don’t disturb the critters. My highlight in terms of behaviour for this trip was a mating pair of Moon-headed side-gill slugs (Euselenops luniceps). Most nudibranchs top and tail when mating allowing genetic material to be exchanged between the two animals which share identical body plans (since nudibranchs are hermaphrodites there are no separate sexes). Euselenops, aren’t true nudibranchs (a term restricted to those species with naked gills) so their body shape is slightly different and a unique positioning is sought by the randy slugs! The mating pair of Euselenops that I observed looked somewhat contorted with one animal crawling normally whilst the other hung upside down. Check out my image of this in the Lembeh 2010 album.
Our excellent guide, Indra, also found for me a Severn’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus severnsi), which I had been hoping to see again for some time. These small dark brown seahorses are very difficult to spot so kudos to Indra! Other species high on my wish list for this trip were Wunderpus (Wunderpus photogenicus), Starry Night Octopus (Octopus luteus) and Ambon Scorpionfish (Pteroidichthys amboinensis). Indra found all of these for us, so I was very pleased! He was also very careful with the creatures, which is rare in the Strait and very important for the sustainability of diving in the area (whether other operators realise it or not!).