It was another unforgettable trip on Mermaid II. As usual we had countless of the Raja staples, lots of manta rays in several different sites, the wobbegongs were abundant and even had several swimming ones, the Raja walking sharks were ambling awkwardly around at night, and of course the sea fans were full of pygmy sea horses. However, there were a few visitors to the dive sites this trip that were not anticipated like the mantas, pygmies, and unusual shark duo were and became the icing on the already triple iced, cherry topped cake.
Our first un-anticipated encounter occurred at Kawe’s super fishy site, ‘Black Rock’. Sitting at around eighteen meters was a massive, coffee table sized marbled stingray. It appeared to have swallowed a football as it’s head was unusually tall and very round. It did not appear to mind our presence as people approached closer and closer for photos. Back on board we decided that it was in the process of devouring some sort of crustacean or mollusc which would explain it’s unusually round profile and it’s complete disregard to our presence.
A few days later when we dived Airborek Jetty we had another unusual surprise as the entire surface just below the jetty itself was completely full of these tiny fish called silversides, they blocked all view of the rippling surface. They pulsed and flowed in unison as the predatory jack fish corralled them around the red and purple soft coral encrusted wood pilings. It appeared that there was a magnetic forcefield surrounding each vertical wood support because the tiny silver fish circled each one with a uniform distance. It was enchanting.
Along with these two very special pelagic experiences with the marbled ray and mass of silversides we had a very special macro surprise in the from of a flamboyant cuttle fish trifecta. It’s not impossible to see flamboyant cuttle fish in Raja Ampat but to see three on one dive is quite rare to say the least. I chose to spend my time with the smaller more ‘flamboyant’ of the three. Flamboyant cuttlefish are an oddity within their own species as they rarely seem to use their built in jet propulsion system as a mode of transportation and rely on the same method as the Raja walking shark of using flippers and fins as feet and walking across the sandy bottom. They are incredible to watch amble across the substrate with their constant pulsing colors as they stealthily duck and hide behind small bits of debris as they stalk unsuspecting prey.