Fish and Fishes in Raja Ampat
In a place as “fishy” as Raja Ampat, you expect to see anything and you do. And as Dr. Seuss had a hand in the landscape, Disney went to work on the fish. If I were in charge to create a perfect seascape exhibit for Disney, I would come to Raja Ampat for inspiration and guidance.
Like most dive areas, Raja Ampat has species that fill each niche in the ecosystem, the leading role if you will, but then everyone else fills in as extras and I do mean everyone. Take Chaetadon for example, those pretty yellow butterfly fish. In the area where I have been the past few days, the “eye patch” butterfly is probably the most seen. Yet, my friends from other destinations are here too! The Double Saddle butterfly fish of French Polynesia and the Pyramid butterflies of Palau are present. And then there is Bennetts and Lined and Chevron and Ornate and Klein and Meyers and Oval Spot and and and…. What are they all doing here????
The Anthias and every species of Fusiller are in residence. The number of blenney species defy logic and the Wrasse, well, what DOES one say about the Wrasse? To begin with they are the most numerous family of fish on the planet and now here in Raja Ampat, I can’t even begin to count the species or even find them all in the book. It seems to me that fish were created HERE, and then, in order to populate the rest of the ocean, various fish were picked out of the fish soup and given homes across the world. I won’t even attempt to talk about the anemone fish. I think the only ones I haven’t seen here are the endemic Fijian red and black anemone fish, because, well, of course, they are endemic! And…given time, they will probably come here for vacation one day. It seems that EVERY species in the fish world knows about Raja Ampat.
So, I want to describe for you one of my dives today. Suffice it to say that they have all been wonderful but this one was different. This time of year, the visibility is not at its all time high, plankton fills the water which is fine as it is the life giving sustenance of the ocean. Without plankton, we wouldn’t have the incredible life we do here. So we are diving at a site called, Love Potion #9 (don’t ask, I have no idea!). We marvel at the soft coral life on three submerged pinnacles and snap macro images of the anemone fish and wide angle shots of the sea fans. Then we come around the west side of the small island in about 20 feet of water about 70 minutes into the dive. There is a small cut about 100 feet wide and as we kick through the mild current running through here we notice the fuzzy water. Fuzzy water or blurry water, occurs where two different temperatures mix. Sure enough as we come up into the shallower water the temperature on my gauge inched up to 87. But besides the fact that this is extremely warm (alarmingly warm) water, something magical happens. The visibility opens up like a parting cloud. Gin clear water lies before us. And the fish apparently like it too. HUGE schools of fish plaster the reef and I can barely see through them.
Disney came immediately to mind. I couldn’t have stocked an aquarium with more fish and clearer water. I felt certain I was diving in an artificial environment. I waited for the loud speaker to announce that the E ticket ride was over. The late afternoon sun streaming down completed the perfect picture. We sat mesmerized in the cut so long our dive guide came back to see what had happened to us. We were frozen in the moment in awe.
Eventually, somewhere around 90 minutes into the dive, we surfaced. The planned night dive was scratched from my day’s itinerary as I wanted the image of this dive to stay etched in my mind for the rest of the day because I know that tomorrow, more magic awaits.
To your Adventures!