Sea Slugs and Stormy Seas

Date March 19, 2014

It didn’t look THAT great as we were approaching, but Pulau Satumu (Raffles Lighthouse) and the surrounding seas were placid enough for a decent dive. We could’ve done with some sunshine, but an overcast sky was OK, especially considering that it had been scorching for the past two months or so. We were coming back to these islands in the southernmost reaches of Singapore, with marine scientists from NParks and the Tropical Marine Sciences Institute, to see what more we could discover after a series of very fruitful dives from the previous weekend. The mission this time was to find the Clark’s anemonefish. I have never seen one in Singapore. Like the Saddlebacks at Pulau Hantu, they live in a carpet anemone. We were also hopeful that we’d be able to get more photographs of the Blacktip reef sharks we saw hanging around the islands. All that, and to take lots of nice pictures!

The waters beneath the overcast sky were a little dark, but we still managed to see a good deal of fish. There are two kinds of butterflyfish in this photograph, Copper-banded (or Long-beaked) butterflyfish, and Sixspined (or Ocellate) butterflyfish. While the juveniles of the latter are sometimes encountered in the intertidal areas and are quite easily approached for a photograph, the adults are much more shy and skittish, unlike the Copperbanded butterflyfish. What happened here was interesting, I was trying to approach the pair of Sixspined butterfly fish for a photo, and of course they decided to make a run for it, but while doing so, they crossed paths with the pair of Copperbandeds and one of the Sixspineds actually made a u-turn to approach the Copperbanded pair. The four of them swam together on the reef for awhile, and they (the Sixspineds) seemed distracted, forgetting that they were trying to run away from a black, ominous, bubbling, behemoth with a flash gun. So I sneaked this shot (without firing the flash gun). Thinking that this was finally my moment to get a nice close up shot of a pair of Sixspined (with a pair of Copperbandeds, why not!?) I eased in real close, even turned my camera to macro mode (that’s how confident I was), and when I raised the camera for the shot, the pair of Sixspineds darted off into the murky waters. The Copperbandeds continued pecking at polyps. Totally unperturbed.

Returning to my purpose to take “lots of nice photos”, here are a bunch of brittlestars tangled onto a gorgonian seafan.

Pretty cave coral polyps, with tentacles extended (right) and retracted.

A tiny phyllid. There were much less sea slugs out and about on the reef this weekend compared to the week before.

A piece of dirt that looks like a sea slug. That’s what I thought. Until Chay Hoon pointed out that it is actually a sea slug, Goniodoridella savignyi.

Pretty gobies on whip coral

I found out today, that baby fingered dragonets already know how to “give the finger”. The adults are very colourful, but still very well camouflaged. We don’t actually know if this little one is the same species as the adults we see. It could very well be a new record! We’ll wait and see!

An anemone clings on to a colony of gorgonian coral

Mushroom coral

Crab in Acopora

Crab in barrel sponge

A Pen shell that’s mostly buried

Back in the shallow area toward the end of the dive, I got a sense the weather wasn’t great up there…

And indeed it was not great.

This was how it looked like last week. Unfortunately for me, I caught a chill from this first dive, and had to take a rain check on the second dive at Lazarus-Seringat, where the others visited artificial reefs and saw cool critters like razorfish, Tomatoclown anemonefish, Paradise whiptails (one of my favourites!), and possibly the star find of the second dive, a bizarre nudibranch, Melibe viridis! Despite the chills, it’s always good to be out at sea, even if the weather is tough. It’s all part of being in the outdoors, and all part of the fun!

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