Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nudibranch 5, 6 & 7

Ready for more of the Dr. Suess-like nudibranch???  Here's the next batch.  Here's one where the rhinofores (which look like antennae) are clear to see (in the close-up), as well as the rear gills.
 

And check out this really cool one with black and white spirals!  It literally looks like a cartoon drawing come to life!


Here are a couple of another variety:

 

If you aren't convinced yet that nudibranch are super cool - there's nothing I can do for you!  These are small, but often so unusual that after awhile, you can start to notice them without having a guide point them out!  There are many more types I got photos of, so more to come!

Scorpionfish

Scorpionfish are venomous - and have FANTASTIC camouflage.  We saw many of them in Raja Ampat, and quite honestly, I don't think I would have seen any of them without our guides!  We typically saw them on the edge of some coral or on the sea floor - once they were pointed out!  Do you see it?


Here's a bit closer:


Closer still:


And closest!  Isn't it cool?!  Check out those eyeballs!


Obviously, the above is an example of a scorpionfish on the sea floor.  Here's another that was on the edge of a coral:

 
Still hard to spot, even close up!  Here's another view of the same scorpionfish:


Clownfish - kind of

I have seen clownfish in anemones in many places.  In Raja Ampat, however, there were so many variations of clownfish and anemones, I was surprised - I certainly haven't seen such a wide variety anywhere else.  Basically there were all kinds of sizes and shapes of anemones and each one had its own kind of clownfish, which varied in color and size to match the anemone.  Our guide said that there are "false clownfish" - supposedly there are also 30 species of clownfish.  Hopefully I have many good photos of clownfish - I haven't been through all my photos yet.  Here are a few variations of anemone and clownfish.

 
 

Octopus

I absolutely LOVE octopuses.  The first ones I saw in the wild were in Panama, and later, Hawaii.  They are such brilliant, fascinating creatures.  I have never been able to eat them, and frankly, I've never understood why anyone else can either.  I remember being physically ill in Madagascar watching people eat a chunk of an octopus arm.  Although I really want to see sharks and other tough to see marine creatures as well, the octopus is probably the most thrilling thing I've seen yet and I am always hoping for one.

Luckily, in Raja Ampat, one of our guides found an octopus.  They have such great camo they can be tough to spot.  He actually spotted a couple others on the trip but they went into hiding or were too deep for me to see, so this ended up being the only one I saw. 

  

I can't free dive, but my husband does - so he got a closer shot:

 

At one point, my husband dove down, and the octopus flashed a super cool burgundy color as he got closer to it - but it didn't hide (and he wasn't that close)


We stayed as long as we could with this octopus - and I would have liked to stay longer - but everyone else, including both guides, was already pretty far ahead and it isn't a good idea to get too spaced out....so we had to go.  What a great sighting!!!! 

Sea Slugs

We saw sea slugs, probably just over an inch or so, on many snorkels.  They are not as colorful as nudibranch and they don't have the gills or the "antennae" looking rhinofores like nudibranch.  They are still cool!!!

 
 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lionfish

I saw Lionfish in Panama, and unfortunately, they are invasive there and not endemic, so when found, people kill them.  I understand that this has to happen - they don't have natural predators and they are harmful to endemic species.  But it is still a tragedy to see them killed and I won't forget the sick feeling of seeing our guide stab one with a spear when it was found.  UG.

In Raja Ampat, lionfish are where they are supposed to be!  I saw both black and white and gorgeous bright red lionfish.  Here is the black and white one - it was a bit deep so photos aren't the best.

 
 

The red lionfish was a bit easier to see and a tad larger I think.

 

Lionfish have venom in their "spines" which are really dorsal fins, and supposedly it is exceedingly painful to humans and can cause severe nausea.  Both of these fish were comfortably a few feet beneath me.  They are very beautiful when they are flared out.  I saw them several times at various sites in Raja Ampat but these were the first two.

Here's a professional shot of a red lionfish from National Geographic.  My photos aren't as good but I prefer to see wildlife in the wild vs. in a documentary any day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wall Snorkel

Here are some photos from one of the cool "wall" snorkels we did, where there is basically an island wall of rock that falls off into the ocean and then slopes out in a few places to a bit of reef.  Although I didn't get a photo, as soon as I dropped in the water here I saw a black tip shark going by in the deeper area at the bottom of the wall.  It was neat how fish "hug" the wall in so many places.

 

Here is an above surface look at the wall area.  Basically it's like a limstone block that seems made up of a million old shells and barnacles and has mangroves growing on top. 


My attempt at an over/under shot here:


There were colorful fish all along the wall at every depth it seemed.


An example of a lovely fan coral we saw on this snorkel.


 Cool wall hugging orange fish that flowed in little streams around every corner of the rock.

Cardinal Pajama Fish

Notice the fish in this photo?


Here's a closer look:


These were interesting fish and we saw them on several snorkel sites in Raja Ampat.  Some closer views:

 
 

In the middle photo, I think the flash went off and that accounts for the color difference.  I love that I could get this close up with a point and shoot cheapie used camera!

Super Neat Jellyfish

We encountered many types of jellyfish in Raja Ampat, ranging from very, very small, to quite large.  I got a few stings, but nothing major.  I didn't know what to expect - but we ended up having great gear for this trip that provided good sting protection (I will have a gear specific post later with suggestions on the stuff to take for this type of trip).

I always love the jellyfish section at aquariums.  If I was rich, I'd have a wall sized aquarium filled with jellyfish.  They are so relaxing to watch - they're mesmerizing.

One of the first jellyfish I saw on this trip I described as "the condom jellyfish" because it is the size and shape of a condom.  It has bright red tentacles and it transparent so you can see the red "guts" as well.  (Nope, I'm NOT a marine biologist!  I don't know what an accurate description is).  I thought these were SO NEAT.  I spent some time trying to get a photo (not knowing if it would turn out since it is so transparent and also trying to stay far enough away that I did not get stung (my hands and of course upper lip were exposed).  After I thought I got a photo one of the guides came by and I pointed it out to ask about it.  He said "BE CAREFUL - those are VERY itchy."  Luckily I didn't get stung because our other guide then told me (back on the boat) a lot of horror stories about how bad this one is to get stung by.  Apparently it takes literally WEEKS to recover, with big red welts in the meantime and "lots of pain and itching."  Fun!  Glad I did not know that initially or I would not have gotten this photo of the beautiful condom jellyfish.


An even cooler jellyfish (coolest of the trip) was what I call the electric light up jelly.  MAN WAS THIS COOL.  It has flashing colored lights that run around it.  It is so entrancing.  I could watch these all day!  I tried getting a photo and I was able to do so. Man, these are just awesome to see!  I wanted to watch them for MUCH longer but creepily, you really can't without getting them swept onto you and I didn't want to find out how stingy these were.  I can't even remember if I asked how much these hurt to get stung by.  Every time we saw them I was thrilled - they are so NEAT.  Nature, it's amazing to see - just amazing.  Wow!  As you can tell, I have no adequate words for how cool these are!

 

I should have tried for video, but I don't think I could switch to video in the underwater camera case.  Here's one on YouTube though, taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (I saw these there last fall - they had a great jellyfish exhibit).  See how COOL???!!!



Monday, June 23, 2014

Over-Under Shot

I tried several times for an over/under shot - but it was very hard to do - often there would be water on the camera case that would distort shots, and I couldn't really see through the mask and into the tiny screen to see how much of the shot was above vs. below water.  This shot, however, came out and I was very happy with it!!


Banded Sea Snake

I was a bit afraid of running into banded sea snakes in Indonesia, as they are highly venomous.  Supposedly there is enough venom to kill a person in one bite - it's 10x more toxic than rattlesnake venom.  However, they have small mouths and therefore it is supposed to be hard to bite humans.  I didn't find this encouraging, however.  Then, I saw one.

I was on an afternoon snorkel and I saw the snake popping in and out of the coral.  They have to go to the surface to breathe, and it was probably about 2-3 feet under the surface.  I was THRILLED.  The snake was about 2 feet from me, and I had to try hard not to let the current move me too close.  I was able to get a few photos and watched as the snake swam under, then past me.  I wish I had stayed with this snake even longer - it was one of my favorite finds of the trip.  (There was just always so much to see, and one didn't want to get too far from the guide/small group, so you can't stay too, too long at any one find).  I fell madly in love, then and there, with sea snakes.  They are gorgeous, graceful, beautiful creatures.  There is a bright yellow portion near the mouth.  I watched this snake swim and it was just mesmerizing. What an awesome creature. 

 
 
 
 

I ended up seeing three of these snakes during the trip, but this was my first and favorite sighting.  I no longer fear them and I was always very grateful, and lucky, to find one.  I hope I see these again.

Pipefish

Pipefish are very small and thin, thinner than a pencil.  They have a flat fin-like tail and a delicate face and nose that looks very similar to a seahorse.  In fact, overall they look like stretched out seahorses.  At first they were hard to notice, as they are so small, and blend in well with the sea sand or coral.  Again, if not for our guides, I would have missed these little pipefish.  I loved watching them swim and I quickly learned that they are usually found in pairs, so if you find one, look for the other one.  These little guys were one of the first things I learned to spot on my own, and we came across at least a few on nearly every snorkel.  Obviously, they are easiest to see when the coral is more shallow.  There is a delicate red coloration on the nose/face of most of the pipefish I saw.

 

Nudibranch 2, 3 & 4

As I said last post, there were lots of kinds of nudibranch in Raja Ampat.  These three were all seen on the same snorkel, and ranged in size from about an inch and a half to about 4 inches.