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Wakatobi Marine Life News

Wakatobi Trip Reports - August 2008 to January 2009

Keep the Wakatobi experience alive after you return home or build excitement for your upcoming adventure. Visit this page for regular reports from Wakatobi dive staff on recent marine life sightings.

Report from Coralie (January 2009, Trip1)
On the 12th of January, the security guard came to the restaurant during dinner time to inform us that a turtle was about to lay eggs on the beach!!! Guests, dive staff and local staff immediately went there to check it out with their own eyes. Under the full moon light, we first saw the turtle's flippers print from the sea to the upper beach. We followed the track and managed to see her digging in the sand below small trees. It was clearly a green turtle, Chelonian mydas, and we guess that she was 70 years old according to her big size.

Green turtles sexual maturity is reached around 50 years old and the mating occurs in front of their natal beach. The males and females may have travelled more than 3000 km 1,900 miles from their feeding ground to reach it. The gestation period lasts a few weeks and then the female comes out of the water to lay an average 100 eggs.

Approximately one hour later and a lot of sand splashing to cover back her eggs, the turtle made her way back to the sea. As she was more under the moon light we could see her better and noticed "tears" in her eyes ... no she wasn't crying. It's a secretion of salt and fluids to help her keep her eyes hydrated and free from the sand. Within seconds she was already gone in the water, leaving us all astonished. It was a magical experience that cannot be forgotten, it was Wakatobi!

winged pipefish
© Wakatobi Dive Resort 2009
Report from Coralie (January 2009, Trip 40)
Did somebody say that January was the rainy season? Well for 7 days all we had was blue sky and flat sea! The water temperature was 29 Degrees Celsius - 82 Fahrenheit and the visibility never dropped below 20 meters - 60 feet! We have had our first rare critter sighting of the year, a winged pipefish, Halicampus macrorhynchus, The fish was spotted twice, on two different dive sites: The Zoo and Turkey Beach. Amazingly well camouflaged, he tends to lye on sandy bottom, sea grass or coral rubble. Only when he moves can you smile thinking "I got you" and realize again how lucky we are to see such things just beneath the surface.

Report from Coralie (January 2009, Trip39)
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The last trip of 2008 is already finished but it isn't without excellent souvenirs. Everything started on the 24th of December, the first day of diving... an orca yes an orca passed by the jetty. The proof is seen in the photo and we had two reliable witnesses: the operation manager Markus and a 4th time Wakatobi visitor Uta Meyer who was skipping the first dive to enjoy the island! The orca stayed around 15-20 minutes and nobody knows from where it was coming but one thing is sure: nature is full of surprises and gave us a wonderful Christmas present!

The next day it was in the divesite Spiral Corner that some deep action and emotion took place. Alex, who had already been to the resort a few times, proposed underwater to his girlfriend Sabrina ... and the mermaid said yes!!! Congratulations to this lovely couple and we wish you a fantastic wedding!

Juvenile Painted Frogfish
© Wakatobi Dive Resort 2009
Clown Frogfish
© Wakatobi Dive Resort 2009
Now critter wise, the price must go to the two gorgeous frogfish found in The Zoo (divesite). One is a clown, Antennarius maculatus, and the other one a juvenile painted, Antennarius pictus. If you look closer on the picture you will notice that the juvenile has a "French manicure" on his nails!

On New Year's Eve everybody was ready for the party and it was a fabulous night!
Happy New Year

Whale Shark Encounter!

Report from Lorenz Maeder (December 2008, Trip36)

Diving Conchita (divesite) always presents a promising opportunity to see big marine life. I spent half an hour among a dozen white and blacktip sharks who were cruising around and above me. There were schooling barracudas, giant trevallies and eagle rays in 42 m. Not a bad day at all, but then even more thrills! For the second dive I visited the Waitii Bay to do a reef check (300 m south of Kollo Soha) and found a cleaning station where I was able to swim in the queue with two Mobula Manta Rays for about 25 min before moving on.

Just this past week a group of guests had the ultimate surprise, an encounter with a whale shark! This is not an everyday occurrence, but averages about three times a year. The baby whale shark approached the boat and interacted with curiosity for about 10 minutes as the guests snorkeled. We were fortunate to have a guest in the group who had a video camera and was able to get a little footage and some still photos. All photos and video by Glyn Davies.


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Report from Coralie (November 2008, Trip35)
Lima Scabra - click for larger image
© Photo by Steffen Maier - Wakatobi Dive Resort 2008
A Berthella martensi has been seen in dive site Starship with her gills fully exposed!!! Part of the side-gilled species, we normally don't see them as they are underneath the right side of the mantle. However the Berthella has three mantles which can be autotomized if a predator would attack her. And it's clear on the picture that this one has a section of the skirt cut off so the defense mechanism worked and she's still breathing!

Report from Coralie (November 2008, Trip34)
Lima Scabra - click for larger image
© Wakatobi Dive Resort 2008
Dolphins and pilot whales have been seen on the way to Blade (dive site) in a big school together!

And a long time missing resident of Teluk Maya' sandy bay (dive site) finally reappeared...Eurypegaus draconis (dragon sea moth)! Welcome back to this weird looking critter but definitely a five star for photographers. Mainly found on sand, rubble and sea grass bottom, this dragon fish "walks" instead of swims with his pelvic fins. Living solitary or in pairs, we will now X-Ray the entire area to see if there is more.

Report from Coralie (October 2008, Trip33)
Lima Scabra - click for larger image
© Wakatobi Dive Resort 2008
This past week our dive guides found another Fire Clam - Lima Scabra . This one was seen at the dive site Cornucopia. Our local name for this striking species is the "disco clam". It is definitely one of our favorites.

This clam is a member of the pteriomorph clade, she is non swimmer and usually found in dark places where she naturally attaches herself. Her mantle extends in long tentacles which catch the plankton and detritus she feeds on. Crabs and shrimp are her main predators and she will escape from them by retracting in her shell in a big valves push. The "electric pulse" that has prompted us to call her the "Disco Clam" is a display of phosphorescence and the divers who see it might feel the beat of the discofever!

Report from Coralie (October 2008, Trip32)
A pair of two twinspot lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus) got together to mate on a night dive in front of our eyes! The chance to actually witness that must be one out of a zillion! It was unbelievable. We watched them courting for half a minute and then releasing two pockets of fertilized eggs. On the picture, given by Dirk Overkleeft, you can easily recognized the female who has a swollen belly and a third spot starting to form on her soft dorsal fin as she gets bigger. Later during the trip we had more sex on the reef with two broadclub cuttlefish (Sepia latinamus) mating in Teluk Maya divesite, picture from Mark Snyder. And the last morning it was in the divesite Conchita that two groups of divers were again entertained by a large (4 meter span) Manta Ray (Manta birostris) . . . the only difference with last time was that there were also a dozen blacktip reef sharks ( Carcharhinus melanopterus)! What a nice way to end a trip!

Twin Spot Mating
© photo by Dirk Overkleeft
Broadclub Mating
© photo by Mark Snyder

Report from Coralie (October 2008, Trip31)
Velvety Ghostpipefish
Photo by Kurt Johnson
WOUA! What a trip! Big stuff, small stuff . . . . . we had it all!!! For the macro lovers we had 4 different species of ghostpipefish: Robust, thin and Halimeda (Solenostomus cyanopterus). One of out dive guides Guya, also spotted for the first time, a Velvety ghospipefish (Solenostomus sp3).

Robust/thin Ghostpipefish
Halimeda Ghostpipefish

On the big side, well it was actually enormous, 2 WHALES were observed from Wakatobi 3 and 4 (diveboats) during their morning surface interval. We think they were sperm whales. We estimated their size to be 15 meters long!!!. On one of the final dives of the week a group of divers were entertained by a large (3 meter span) Manta Ray (Manta birostris) who appeared to be waving "goodbye" to divers on the dive site Magnifica.

Report from Coralie ( October 2008, Trip30)
Table Coral City dive site has some new residents over the last few weeks. A school of over a hundred Sphyraena qenie (blackfin barracuda) are now being seen. See the picture below. At Pastel dive site we recently enjoyed watching over 50 Aetobatus narinari (Spotted Eagle Rays)! They were so elegant, dancing around us! On the last morning of the recent trip, a hawksbill turtle was feeding on whatever she could find. She was happily following a group of divers when she unexpectedly begin to beat on something that started to shake. As the divers moved in for a close look to see what she was doing, they almost lost their regulators from laughing. She was trying to pick food from the back of a stonefish!!! He didn't seem pleased at all, but she continued to make a least three attempts before moving on! You just never know what you will see on a dive at Wakatobi.

schooling barracuda

Report from Coralie ( October 2008, Trip 29 )
The visibility still improves with an average of 30meters (90 feet) and the rented out hooded vest are becoming history as the water keeps warming up. We have encountered the magnificent Mobula tarapacana (devil ray) a few times at different locations. The tides were finally right again to go back to The Zoo (divesite) at night after a few months of waiting. Many of our usual suspects were still there including Camposcia retrusa (decorator crabs), Sepia (pygmy cuttlefish) and dozens of Panulirus versicolor (painted spiny lobsters). During our dive we were lucky to see the most famous free-swimming nudibranch! The unique thing about this nudibranch is that it can grow to a size of 20" (52 cm) ! The picture below shows how big and gorgeous this Hexabranchus Sanguineus (Spanish Dancer) can be!!!

spanish dancer

Report from Coralie (September 2008, Trip 28)
A buddy team diving deeper than their group got face to face with a Manta Ray! She was at around 40 meters (120 feet) which was exciting as we don't see these beautiful animals very often here . . . or... could be that we generally just dive too shallow!

In the more usual Wakatobi size range we got to see two Epitonium billeeanum (wentletraps shell) feeding on Tubastrae coccinea. The picture below right, shows the male (smaller) and the female feeding on the coral polyp with their proboscal tube. Once done they will have a new home ready for nesting their eggs. And because of their yellow colour, they will trick predators into thinking they are stinging polyps.

Report from Coralie (September 2008, Trip 27)

Two more Kyonemichthys rumengani have been discovered this trip by Richard(our pygmy specialist) and Alex(diveguide) in Teluk Waitii and Kollo Soha divesites. Described earlier this year, this new species has been only seen by a very restricted number of divers and like most of our critters here ....it is TINY!

At Kollo Soha, we found a green female Halimeda ghostpipefish (see picture below). To the delight of everybody it seems that the ghostpipefish season officially started now as we saw on several occasions also robust and thin ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus and Solenostomus sp.)

Report from Coralie ( September 2008, Trip 26 )
Brown pygmy makes Kollo Soha dive site THE hottest one at the moment with 4 different pygmy seahorse species: Bargibanti, Denise, Colemani and Pontoi!!!

He was last time seen on Pocket's (dive site) in October 2007 and was "WANTED" ever since. Our congratulations are going to Deni (dive guide) who found this extremely rare and not yet described pygmy last time AND this time.

Deni was actually diving from The Pelagian (our liveboard) when he spotted it. He immediately contacted us all in the resort as Kollo Soha Beach is part of Wakatobi dive sites and described us the spot. The same afternoon we went there and found it too but it took us a while! He had already moved a few meters and, as you can see on the picture, he blends in really well with its surrounding. Now everybody knows where he is, let's just hope he will stay around and we can share it with more guests !

Report from Coralie ( August 2008, Trip 25 )
A school of 20+ dolphins were seen on diving day one from the boat heading to the first divesite Dunia Baru. We changed direction to get a better look at them and they brought us back to the jetty for a 5 minutes delightful show!

Later in the week we were very lucky to see a female cuttlefish was laying eggs in staghorn coral heads. The male was also there hovering around her with a protective eye as she kept inserting her ping-pong ball looking like eggs. Family of the Cephalopods, the Sepiids have the best color and shape changes in the world. They are just amazing to observe for the first or the 100th time.

Report from Coralie (August 2008, Trip 24)
A pregnant Xenocarcinus tuberculatus was found recently on the dive site Starship, the picture below was kindly supplied by Goos van der Heide. It was a female of the species. What was immediately noticeable was her snout which was unusually red for the species. It was not until we had a closer look at the picture that we could recognize her brood pouch and the fact that she was pregnant.

Xenocarcinus tuberculatus belongs to the Majidae family, this crab is often found living in pairs on whip corals and is most commonly found below a depth of 30 meters or 100feet. Reproduction occurs by internal fecundation and is only possible when the female moults. The male, still in his hard shell, will identify a female moulting by her smell and protect her with his claws to be first when the timing is right. The eggs are then fertilized as they pass through the chamber holding the sperm and shortly released after mating. They will then hatch as free swimming larvae with spines, abdomen and antennas. Good luck to them they will still have three distinctive larval stages to go through before becoming tiny crabs which will then look for their own whip coral home on which to hide.

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