My 400th dive

I dedicate this post to Nemo…

When I took up diving a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine reaching 100 dives, let alone anything beyond that.  I remember my 50th dive, at a site called Raz Gazlani in the Ras Mohammed Marine Park, Sharm Al Sheik.  Nick Brown from Oona’s Dive Club captured this nice image.

Since then I have steadily clocked up my dive log, more recently guided to the best places by Dirk at Diversion Travel.  During during a recent dive holiday onboard the Indonesian liveaboard Amira, I logged my 400th dive.  It was a muck dive, which essentially is looking for weird and wonderful creatures in the sand and rubble. 

Rhino City, Ambon

The dive site for number 400 was called Rhino City in Ambon, Indonesia, which is famous for  its world class muck diving and delighting divers with less common species such as flamboyant cuttle fish, ornate ghost pipe fish, frog fish and scorpion fish.  The site name, Rhino City, is named after Rhinopias, the scientific name for some rarer species of scorpion fish, in particular the lacy scorpion fish. Anyway, I’ll let the pictures from the dive speak for themselves…

Here we go….

Not much sign of life ….. rubble and sand.
A bit of past life….
And a dead teddy bear punch bag (!)
And more rubble and sand… Un-clearly, no sign of all the frog and rare scorpion fish…
Then finally – a sign of some life.  A charming little family of panda clown fish – Amphiprion polymnus.
Overall, this dive was by far one of the least interesting ever. Apart from the teddy bear punch bag!
The panda clown fish did made me think though.  Clown fish have of course inspired movie makers through the main character in “Finding Nemo.”You can also almost guarantee clown fish sightings on pretty much every reef/muck dive.  As they are so common however, they do get little attention from the majority of divers.  Yet they are like your good, old dependable friend – always there. And always partying as they dance and scurry in and out of the stinging anemone tentacles, which they are immune to.
So, in recognition of this I dedicate this blog entry to clown fish/anemone fish – and the most famous one of all – Nemo.
Defining Nemo
I am sure serious marine biologists will read this and mumble details about habitat, varieties and behaviour, but here is my brief explanation of the fish that inspired the creation of the Nemo character.
There are over 28 different species of clown/anemone fish, all living a symbiotic existence in anemones found tropical or sub tropical waters.  They get protection from predators whilst acting as bait for the anemone.
Some rarer species are native to small regional areas, usually within or close to the coral triangle.  All clown fish are born male with a large female dominating each anemone.  Once she dies, the senior male of the family changes to female and become the new leader of the pack.
My personal clown fish encounters
Here is the best selection of some of my clown fish encouters, although I have also seen several other species in addition to those here.  Many of my encounters were in the Solomon Islands, which is known to be home to the greatest number of anemone species – six I think. The Solomon Islands are best explored on the liveaboard the Bilikiki.
There is only one real true clown fish – Amphiprion percula. They are not that common – I saw this family in the Solomon Islands.
Far more common is the false clown fish – Amphiprion ocellaris.  Nemo is a false clown fish.  I saw this family in the Andaman islands.
This is the most common clown fish – Clark’s Anemone fish – Amphiprion clarkii.  Black or orange bodies. I took this in Musandam, Oman.

This image of the orange variety was taken in Lembeh Straights. A bonus in this picture are the Banggai cardinal fish, which are only found in this small area of Indonesia.

This is one of the rarer species – native to the Andaman Islands- a deep tomato red with yellow stripes. I cant find the scientific name – sorry! Boffins reading can chip in and let me know!

Saddle back anemone fish – Amphiprion polymnus. Solomon islands:

Orange-finned anenomefish – Amphiprion chrysopterus.  Solomon Islands:

Tomato anenomefish – Amphiprion frenatus.  Solomon Islands.

Spinecheek anenomefish – Amphiprion biaculeatus.  Solomon Islands.

A temporarily homeless pink anenomefish – Amphiprion perideraion.  This species moves the fastest and is extremely difficult to photograph!  Solomon Islands.

I could spend a whole dive interacting with clown fish. They really are facinating to watch as they dance in and out, with the brave few coming right up to your mask.  Of course, however, there are far more fish in the sea to look at too but I do feel clown fish are special – simply because they are always there.  For non-divers, you can still enjoy watching clown fish as they are very common in the shallows of reefs, which are accessible to all that can snorkle so anyone can look for Nemo.

It is quite ironic that for my 400th dive, I was hoping to see some of the rarer fish that lurk beneath the waves, yet have been inspired to tell you more about the most common.  Hope you have enjoyed reading this as much I have being inspired to write it.

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