Diving The Wonderful Macro World of the Lembeh Straits

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April 12th 2011
Published: May 6th 2011
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 Video Playlist:

1: Flamboyant Cuttlefish 83 secs

How many people can say they discovered a new species?

At a guess - something along the lines of number identified species - which depending on definition is between 2 and a 100 million (wikipedia). Lets say for simplicity that there are 10 million species on this planet, and that half were catalogued by a handful of early biologists pre-twentieth century - and another 4 million during the twentieth century. Using this inadequate estimate - there are a million species to be found, identified and described by science this century. I want to be that one in a million.

I didn't discover a new species

But I saw one - only discovered in 2007 - I must be one of only a few hundred or possibly thousand people to have ever seen it. The astounding amazing beautiful "Lembeh Seadragon".

What does a new species look like?

It looks like a piece of floating thread. At about 2mm long and completely camouflaged, in a cave 25m down, I had to look twice, three times to realize what I was seeing.

It's a species of pygmy seahorse that has taken both pygmy and camouflage to new
The Lembeh Sea DragonThe Lembeh Sea DragonThe Lembeh Sea Dragon

New species - and very bad photo.

Photographic Proof

My photo of the Lembeh Seadragon sucks - I've included it as proof - despite the highlights being completely blown out by the guide Sem's torch. Take a look at Jenny Huang's Flickr page for a much better shot. I only took two shots - basically because my flash would have hurt the poor little guy - and my camera doesn't have enough good enough macro capabilities to even focus properly on it.

Diving the Lembeh Straits

This was my second time in the Lembeh Straits, four years after my first visit (2007 - Muck Diving in the Lembeh Straits, Sulawesi). Most divers visit once in a lifetime, already I'm hoping to go back, with a better camera and strobes!

The narrative from my previous blog stands - a deja vu moment arriving at the port, the same gnarled faces on different bodies eyeing the new arrivals with a mixture of apprehensiveness and hostility, the contrasting smiles of the boat boys from the dive centre. The journey across the water approaching the improved and increased dive center. Apparently the number of operators has doubled in 5 years.

Muck Diving

I love muck diving - for 75mins, three times a day, I'm lost in a world of macro weirdness - my eyes 3 inches (10cm) away from something usually about 1/3rd inch (1cm) big - usually something incomprehensible, something weird. I crossed off a few creatures from my "geeky diver bucket list" - the Mimic Octopus and the Flamboyant Cuttlefish being my new favourites.

The amazing beautiful wonderful Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Another of the underwater world's wonders - a cuttlefish that flashes from yellow to purple to deep red - that walks around the black sandy sea bed as if it owns the place. Occasionally a long white tube shoots out from it's front striking and sucking up some unseen shrimp, a shrimp that vanishes from existence quicker than our eyes can register.

My gut reaction on seeing this creature was - "I want to take it home!" - I (to the revulsion of other divers) looked up captive bred flamboyant cuttlefish on the net later, they live for three years and are very difficult to keep. I don't know how you'd tell the difference between a captured and captive bred cuttlefish so I've since given up on this idea - and the ecologist in me is
Flamboyant CuttlefishFlamboyant CuttlefishFlamboyant Cuttlefish

The white thing is a feeding tube - shoots out and sucks in shrimp.
angry at the idea.

The amazing beautiful wonderful Mimic Octopus

Another new favourite, an octopus that mimics other poisonous sea creatures in rapid succession in order to avoid predators. The major predator in the Lembeh Straits is the evil Flounder, while watching a Mimic Octopus a Flounder got interested and started to stalk. One of the dive guides obviously angry chased it off - later at the surface - Henry still upset explained "I hate them, they eat everything, even the mimic."

The guides

Sem our guide from Two Fish divers was fantastic - he'd grown up in Bunaken worked as a guide there for 10 years, and then moved over to Lembeh, I asked why he moved, his family is on Bunaken, and beyond the diving there is nothing in Lembeh (apart from a nasty commercial port) - "Lembeh is more interesting" - just like western divemasters, doing a low paid job for the love of the underwater world, these guides also do this job because they love it. I guess the tips are sometimes good as well 😊

Great trip, great dive buddy, amazing dives - but Two Fish - why no mosquito nets?

Additional photos below
Photos: 65, Displayed: 25


Robust Ghost PipefishRobust Ghost Pipefish
Robust Ghost Pipefish

Working as a team....
The Evil FlounderThe Evil Flounder
The Evil Flounder

Numbers on the increase, eats the mimic-octopus!
Weird CrabsWeird Crabs
Weird Crabs

The larger one is carrying around the smaller... both look like transformers, transforming from pebbles...

6th May 2011

Your talents are endless!
Oh Ali, these pictures are incredible. How you don't hold your breath and explode while taking them I will never understand. Stunning. Well done. X
6th May 2011

We really enjoyed your blog.
You are an excellent underwater photographer. Not easy. We used to do underwater video a lot but this is much harder. Excellent!
6th May 2011

When Ali was a very small boy, aged about 4, we lived in the middle of England, about 100 miles from the sea. One morning Ali said to his Dad, "Daddy, if you happen to see an octopus on the way to work......" We fell about laughing before he could finish. Obviously we missed something! Fantastic photos as always, we're so glad you see more than just octopus (octopii?)
17th May 2011
Spinning round...

FFS! Is that disgusting thing real?! It looks like a toy I wouldnt let Lydia have, because I didnt want it scaring me every time I accidently came accross it in her room.
19th October 2011
Spinning round...

Real and nasty!
Yes this was a real spider and was malting it's old skin, stretching out it's new legs - really fascinating - new feature - you should spot this response ;)
21st December 2011

''...you should spot this response ;) ''
I never payed much attention to my news feed until very recently. It was actully this new feature(which I accidentally noticed) that made me interested in it. Now, I look at the news feed everyday, to see who responded to my comments. I hope, I haven't missed too many from before I started checking them. :)

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