Rhinopias. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

The underwater treasures of Alor

  Indonesia: Alor + Raja Ampat - July 2012

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Underwater, we do not look only in the blue. In the archipelago of Alorin Indonesia, it is by scrutinizing the bottom that we find treasures.

How about a little Muck-dive?

In diver's jargon, we call it "muck-dive": literally, "muddy dive". Muddy diving is quiet diving, at the bottom, which consists of scanning the sand, coral debris and algae clusters, in search of strange treasures: fish that pretend to be plants, slugs full of gills, transforming crabs...

It is a captivating game of patience, where one tries to find a whole lot of strange creatures, often very talented to be confused with the environment.

A flat fish, with its mouth crooked. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
A flat fish, with its mouth crooked. (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)
Fish ghost. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
Fish ghost. (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)
Fish-sheet. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
Fish-sheet. (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)
Orangutan crab. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
Orangutan crab. (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)
Nudibranch. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
Nudibranch. (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)

My first day of diving Alor is devoted to "muck" sites. No hesitation as for the choice of lens: macro, of course! To photograph small animals...

The two sites we explore that day are incredibly rich. I go back enchanted.

You will find all the curiosities you could hope for: leaf fish, ghost pipefish, orangutan crab, toad fish and of course a nice collection of nudibranchs, those little colourful underwater slugs, which fascinate sub...

Nothing new for me - still the "spoiled diver" syndrome - but it's impossible to be jaded when there's so much to see below the surface.

And above all, it's the perfect opportunity to take back my my 7D

Nudibranch. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
Nudibranch. (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)

It's flashing in Alor's waters!

Anyway, I'm just too happy to be underwater again. To be able to indulge without restraint in this strange hobby, which has become a real passion over the years: photographing fish... I even have a friend who laughs at me nicely because of it.

There must be more sexy, like hobby. But hey, I find it madly more exhilarating than jogging, shopping or pool lengths. Each his own.

Immersed in the waters of Alor, I savor my happiness ...

For a few minutes, I'm a little cuttlefish on the prowl. Not really frightened by my presence, she lets me approach her. She'll even show me her tongue, right when I flash!

Cuttlefish. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Cuttlefish. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

A horned-boxed fish stares at me with its big round eyes, as if stunned. I'm flashing.

Horned-chest fish, aka "cow-fish". Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.
Horned trunkfish, a.k.a. "cowfish". (Alor, Indonesia, July 2012)

Then I try, somehow, to fit as close as possible a tiny pink crab, stuck on a branch of soft coral. Re-flash.

Coral crab. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Ah! A toadfish... Let's go. The good thing about this one is that he wants you to think he's a sponge. So it's not moving.

He hardly knows how to swim. His fins have almost become paws, on which he remains stalled, unmoved, watching his prey.

Toadfish. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Toadfish. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.Coup de bol. This big fish-toad that I photograph from every angle deign suddenly open the mouth when I trigger, not at all impressed by my photographic devotion.

I draw him the portrait endlessly. But I'm not the only one of the team to devote myself to this funny hunt for the little monsters underwater ...

Gilles, the boss ofAlor Diversdoes underwater photography, too. Matheus, a Slovenian also equipped with a 7D and whose last day of diving is the last one, is like me absorbed by the incredible fauna which populates the place. And Carole - my diving buddy during this stay in Alor - came with her compact.

We're flashing, we're flashing!!!!

Arnaud, one of our diving companions, will not benefit with the same happiness as us. Sub photographer, too, he has the misfortune to drown his camera - a 7D, again - at the first immersion. Ouch. It's calm.

(I promised not to post here the picture of the drowned man and his owner, whom I sneaked on the boat, after the dive, but I let you imagine the head that Arnaud was doing, when the rest the team has returned to the boat, still unaware of the tragedy ...)

When we learn what happened, we all sympathize, necessarily.

The cause of the drowning: a bad manipulation with the latches of closing of its Nauticam housing. The water entered as soon as the dive started. He got back on the boat as soon as he realised this, but without being able to save anything.

This is not the first time I have witnessed this kind of incident and I hope I never experience the same disaster with my own box, a Ikelite, deemed more fragile. I have had it for a little over two years now and I take great care of it. I always prepare it the night before, without haste, inspecting the joints twice rather than one. So far, no problem. I cross my fingers to make it last.

Well, I kept the best of the treasure hunt for the end ...

A rhinopias otherwise nothing

I am very happy to have crossed all the charming creatures that I showed you above. But I'm even happier to have been able to shoot two other things ...

Rhinopias. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.First of all, a magnificent yellow rhinopias - that funny fish with a mouth vaguely reminiscent of a rhinoceros profile. Isn't it magnificent? Really, I love this fish !!!

I had already seen some in Lembeh, as well as in Pulau Weh - other places famous for the "muck-dive" - but with other colors, mauve (my favorite color) and red-orange... I give you some links below:

Lembeh 2007
Lembeh 2010
Pulau Weh 2010

The encounter with a rhinopias is rare, and therefore precious. The photographers of our small group, disciplined, succeed one another in front of the beast to draw its portrait. Cooperative, the rhinopias doesn't act shy and poses without seeming too disturbed by our flashes that follow one another... It's really a nice fish!

Rhinopias. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Rhinopias. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Rhinopias. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

The blue-ring octopus

The other "trick", which made these dives memorable, is the much sought-after, very rare and very dangerous blue ringed octopus or blue ringed octopus.

He is so small that he could fit in the palm of his hand. But better to avoid touching it. Cute as it is, this mini octopus has a neurotoxic venom able to kill a human being.

I had only had the opportunity to admire this tiny octopus once before, I think it was in 2010, in Lembeh:

The Lembeh minimonstres

During this dive in Alor, we are three photographers - Gilles, Matheus and me - to turn around him, fascinated. This is the end of the dive and we continue to follow the tiny octopus, which takes us to shallow depth, to within a meter or two of water barely.

It does not hold in place, constantly changes color and shape, turning from dull brown to bright yellow, bringing out its electric blue rings.

Sometimes, he sees his reflection in the window of my box and his reaction is then to go straight to it !!!

Not the kind to gently take the pose like a toad fish or a rhinopias ...

Octopus with blue rings. Blue ringed octopus. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Octopus with blue rings. Blue ringed octopus. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Octopus with blue rings. Blue ringed octopus. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Octopus with blue rings. Blue ringed octopus. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

Finally, the blue-ringed octopus took, for a brief moment, this strange posture in front of my lens: two tentacles resting on the bottom, with his head turned towards me. One almost has the impression that he is standing on two small legs, arms crossed, as if to challenge me... Amazing!

Octopus with blue rings. Blue ringed octopus. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.

I do not know why all these creatures fascinate me so much. Why the inventiveness of underwater nature captivates me so much ...

The main thing is that I continue to marvel!

  Indonesia: Alor + Raja Ampat - July 2012

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  1. Very nice finds once again in Indonesian waters. The boxfish is my favorite fish 🙂 Not always easy to find. The pink crab is original too, although a bit hidden on the picture. Good thing I made a little trip to your place today!
    Good condolences for the drowned 7D, maybe he has a chance to recover it by letting it dry well. Sometimes it works ...

    1. @Bruno: glad to welcome you back on my Little Bubbles of Elsewhere... 😉 Yes, Indonesian waters are really exceptional, impossible to get tired of them!!!

      As for the drowned 7D Arnaud, alas, no, impossible to resuscitate. He was really, completely drowned, not just a little wet ...

  2. Congratulations for these magical photos. We must have the eye to find some fish that look like strangely underwater flora!

    1. @nouchka nouchka: it is also the interest of this kind of diving, it is like a game. Little by little, we have the eye that sharpens, and then we learn to know where to look, in what type of "habitat" to look, to find this or that type of beast ... The mimicry of some underwater creatures is really incredible!

  3. Hello Corinne, go pink crab is a "candy crab" and the trunk fish is a "cowfish" ....... For the translation I pass my turn because anyway we do not find them in France: o))
    I sympathize with the drowning of the SLR, I myself drowned my Canon S95 after only 3 weeks of good and loyal services ... ..damage I began to make progress. Blame it on "I did not close the box well"; you do well to always be careful with your device. Nice laying of the blue ring octopus: o))

    1. @Kamille: if you click on the images to open them wide, you'll see, there's a little caption above each photo with the familiar names of the critters... 😉

      The pink crab has a nice name in English, but in French it is a crab beast of alcyonaire (soft coral). The little horned-box fish is actually nicknamed "cow-fish". As for the fish-toad, it's actually an "antennary" in good French. But I prefer to give them pictorial names, often adapted from English. I adoooooore all those weird names of fish ...

      I see that the "drowning" anecdote speaks to you... Only three weeks before drowning your camera??? Oh boy. 😯 Sure, I'll continue to be very very very careful with mine. Drama happens so quickly....

    2. ok ok ... ..me well said that you knew the name of these adorable babies ...... .de the time you attend them: o)

    3. @Kamille: yes, by force, I know the big families and the familiar names of all these critters, but will not ask me the scientific names in Latin, eh ...

    1. @Julien: the underwater photo adds to the technical challenge, with more fascinating subjects. I became addicted !!!

  4. Thank you for sharing with us all this small world that is not easy to access .... it's really beautiful ... I do not dive but thanks to you I sometimes feel that if.
    we will be on bali lombok and gili in a few weeks ... we count the days ..
    Good future bubbles to you ....

    1. @ Cécile: my sister, who is not a diver, often tells me that she is very happy that I take all these photos, which allow her to discover and see closely this amazing underwater world ...
      Bali, Lombok, Gili Islands? My my my !!! I'm the one who envy you, there ... In Gili, there are lots of great sites for snorkeling (palms-mask-snorkel) and corners where you can easily find turtles in the water. You do not even need to be a diver !!! Have a nice trip !!!

  5. The pictures go upmarket in the delirious slice, and I understand why you went mad from Indonesia. I have less hours of travel, diving than you but just as much love of these corners. I still have not solved my Euro Millions kitty problem ... ..

    On the other hand I sympathize for the drowning of the SLR, this summer I almost lost my flash (drowned battery compartment) after drying the miracle took place!
    In my case it is an error inattention ... as often!

    See you soon


    1. @Eric: ah, there, totally, Indonesia, it's crazy underwater!!! I love it... 😀

      Yes, the episode of Arnaud's drowned SLR made us all shudder (well, especially the photographers, we all imagined ourselves in his place)... Alas, no miracle this time. 😯

    2. Your expression "spoiled rotten diver" makes perfect sense in Indonesia. When you then plunge into our countries, there is not this delirium, this multitude, this profusion that we find there.
      This draws more on the side "pebbles"

    3. @Eric: I know. Besides, I don't dive at all "in our country" as you say ("my" country being Brittany). Besides, the water is way too cold... 😛

  6. Hello Corine,
    I who hate fish, I am surprised to appreciate all your photos.
    I never thought to say that (appreciate fish on photo), but it must be said that they are more fascinating than others.
    A festival of colors too.
    Aren't you afraid to approach the blue ringed octopus knowing that it has ultra-toxic venom? 😯
    Thank you for this beautiful sharing again.

    1. @Roxanne: thanks for the compliment. Coming from someone who doesn't like fish, it's all the more nice... 🙂
      As for the blue ringed octopus, just do not touch it ... Like a lot of other critters, by the way: lots of fish are equipped with venomous spines. Underwater you only touch with the eyes!

  7. Hello Corinne,
    Yes, many thanks for sharing this aquatic eden, the tiny blue spotted octopus is so beautiful, and its curtsey, a challenge in front of your wonder! It's great to have this virtual dive from my job! I wanted to go to Alor, I wanted to learn how to dive, after hours of snorkeling and just two dives to the various froggies of Bunaken (already wonderful) and to the toggians! An amazed also in this multicolored salty world, this silence, these images in slow motion, this life in ebullition... 🙄

  8. As I recognize myself in your story! Alor, a destination that I envision ... there are so many underwater wonders in Indonesia that you would have to go there every month to get enough of it!

  9. ... for once, Marc writes ... Bravo for your photos, you have made real progress. Sharpness, depth of field ... I'm jealous of your octopus blue rings, we saw only one, in Lembeh, very difficult to photograph. The funds (and the drop offs) of Alor highlight the subjects. You do not find? Your rhinopias are also superb (we saw two, a yellow and a blue / pink.) Very astonishing as animal.Continue to make us dream, this year it is ... forced rest.

    1. @Marc: chic, nice to see the other half of "IsaM" chime in... 😉 Many thanks for your compliments !!!!!

      Indeed, the octopus with blue rings is a chauchemar to photograph. Since you are stuck in France this year, I will try to continue to make you travel through my images ... See you soon !!!

  10. I'm a fan of your blue ring octopus! Will I meet him on muck dive sites between Bali and Komodo? It may be difficult to photograph, you're doing very well since he even took an amazing position with his tentacles, standing proud as a biped man!
    Next week end I go dive off Marseille for a launch before the Indo but there will not be plenty of fauna and flora underwater compared to what is waiting for me in a month! My Canon G11 was not drowned but he did not like the few drops in the box in the Philippines, he is currently under repair, I hope to get it all beautiful and brand new and not to drown Komodo!

    1. @Lise: between Marseille and Indonesia, it's for sure that it's not quite the same... 😉 You'll have a great time in Komodo, but be careful to close the chamber properly!!!