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 of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

Underwater, we don't just look in the blue. In the Alor archipelagoIn Indonesia, it is by looking at the bottom that we find treasures.

How about a little Muck-dive?

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

It's an exciting game of patience, where you try to find a lot of weird bugs, often very good at blending in 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 dedicated to "muck" sites. No hesitation as for the choice of the lens: macro, necessarily! To photograph the little beasts...

The two sites we explored that day were incredibly rich. I came 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-rotten" diver syndrome - but impossible to be blasé when there is so much to see under the surface.

And most importantly, it's the perfect opportunity to take control of my my 7D

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

It's flashing in the waters of Alor!

Anyway, I am so 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 fishes... I even have a friend who laughs at me nicely, because of that.

There's probably a sexier hobby. But I find it a lot more exciting than jogging, shopping or swimming. To each his own.

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

During a few minutes, I follow a small cuttlefish in hunting. Not really frightened by my presence, she lets me approach her. She will even show me her tongue, just 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 boxfish, aka "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 nice thing about this one is that it wants you to think it's a sponge. So it doesn't move.

It is hardly if it can still swim. Its fins have almost become legs, on which it remains well wedged, impassive, watching its 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 pull his portrait endlessly. But I'm not the only one in the group to be involved in this strange hunt for little underwater monsters...

Gilles, the boss ofAlor DiversHe is also an underwater photographer. Matheus, a Slovenian also equipped with a 7D and whose last day of diving is today, is like me absorbed by the incredible fauna that populates the place. And Carole - my diving buddy during this stay in Alor - came with her compact camera.

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

Arnaud, one of our diving companions, will not enjoy it as much as we do. Sub photographer, too, he has the bad luck to drown his camera - a 7D, again - at the first immersion. Ouch. That's quiet.

(I promised not to post here the picture of the drowned man and his owner, which I took on the boat, on the way back from the dive, but I let you imagine the face Arnaud was making, when the rest of the group came back to the boat, still unaware of the drama...)

When we hear about what happened, we all sympathize, of course.

The cause of the drowning: a bad manipulation with the closing latches of his Nauticam chamber. The water entered as soon as the dive started. As soon as he realized it, he got back on the boat, but he couldn't save anything.

This is not the first time that I have witnessed this kind of incident and I hope never to experience the same catastrophe with my own chamber, a IkeliteI have had it for a little over two years now and I take great care of it. I've had it for a little over two years now and I take great care of it. I always prepare it the night before, without rushing, inspecting the joints twice instead of once. So far, no problems. Fingers crossed that it will last.

Well, I saved the best part of the treasure hunt for last...

A rhinopias otherwise nothing

I'm very happy to have met all the charming creatures I showed you above. But I'm even happier to have been able to photograph two other things...

Rhinopias. Alor, Indonesia. July 2012.First a magnificent yellow rhinopias - this strange fish whose mouth vaguely reminds the profile of a rhinoceros. Isn't it beautiful? Really, I love this fish!!!

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

Lembeh 2007
Lembeh 2010
Pulau Weh 2010

The meeting with a rhinopias is rare, and thus precious. The photographers of our small group, disciplined, follow one another in front of the beast to take its portrait. Cooperative, the rhinopias is not shy and takes the pose without seeming too disturbed by our flashes... It is 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 very sought-after, very rare and very dangerous blue-ringed octopus or blue ringed octopus.

It is so small that it could fit in the palm of your hand. But you don't want to touch it. As cute as he 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 I - to turn around it, fascinated. It is the end of the dive and we continue to follow the tiny octopus, which drags us at shallow depth, down to one or two meters of water.

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 placed on the bottom, the head turned towards me. One has almost 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 don't know why all these creatures fascinate me so much. Why the inventiveness of nature under water captivates me so much...

The main thing is that I continue to be amazed!

  Indonesia: Alor + Raja Ampat - July 2012

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  1. Great finds once again in Indonesian waters. The boxfish is my favorite 🙂 Not always easy to find. The pink crab is original too, although a little hidden in the photo. I'm glad I stopped by your place today!
    Well my condolences for the drowned 7D, maybe he has a chance to recover it by letting it dry well. Sometimes it works...

    1. @Bruno: delighted to welcome you back to my Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs... 😉 Yes, Indonesian waters are truly exceptional, impossible to get tired of them!!!!

      As for Arnaud's drowned 7D, alas, no, impossible to resuscitate. It was truly, completely drowned, not just a little damp...

  2. Bravo for these magical photos. It takes a good eye to spot some fish that look strangely like underwater flora!

    1. @nouchka nouchka: that's the whole point of this kind of diving, it's like a game. Little by little, your eye sharpens, and you learn to know where to look, in what type of "habitat" to look, to find this or that type of critter... The mimicry of certain underwater creatures is truly incredible!

  3. Hello Corinne, the pink crab is a "candy crab" and the horned trunkfish is a "cowfish".......for the translation I'll pass since you can't find them in France anyway :o))
    I sympathize with the drowning of the SLR, I myself drowned my Canon S95 after only 3 weeks of good and loyal service.....dommage je commençais à faire des progrès. Blame it on "I didn't close the housing properly"; you're right to always be careful with your camera. Nice installation of the blue ring octopus :o))

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

      The pink crab has a pretty name in English, but in French it's a silly alcyonaire crab (soft coral). The small horned boxfish is actually nicknamed "cowfish". As for the toadfish, it's actually an "antennaire" in good French. But I prefer to give them colourful names, often adapted from English. I love all these weird fish names...

      I see the "drowning" anecdote speaks to you... Only three weeks before you drowned your camera??? Oh, dear. 😯 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 little world which is not easy to access....it's really beautiful...I don't dive but thanks to you I sometimes have the impression that I do.
    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's very happy that I take all these photos, which allow her to discover and see this amazing little underwater world up close...
      Bali, Lombok, the Gili Islands? Ah, là, là !!! I'm the one who envies you... In the Gili, there are lots of great snorkeling sites and places where you can easily meet turtles in the water. You don't even have to be a diver! Enjoy your trip!

  5. The photos go up a notch in the delirious bracket, and I understand why you've gone crazy about Indonesia. I have fewer hours of travel and diving than you, but I love these places just as much. I still haven't solved my Euro Millions jackpot problem.....

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

    See you soon


    1. @Eric: ah, là là, carrément, Indonesia, c'est de la folie sous l'eau !!! I love it... 😀

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

    2. Your expression "spoiled rotten diver" takes on its full meaning in Indonesia. When you then dive in our country, there's none of the delirium, the multitude, the profusion that you find there.
      It's more on the "pebbles" side

    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 far too cold... 😛

  6. Hello Corine,
    I who hate fish, I am surprised to appreciate all your photos.
    I never thought I'd say this (appreciating fish in photos), but I have to say they're each more fascinating than the last.
    A festival of colors too.
    Aren't you afraid of approaching the blue ringed octopus knowing that it has an ultra-toxic venom? 😯
    Thank you for this beautiful sharing again.

    1. @Roxanne: thanks for the compliment. Coming from someone who doesn't like poiscaille, it's all the more nice... 🙂
      As for the blue ringed octopus, just don't touch it... Like a whole host of other creatures, in fact: many fish are equipped with venomous stings. Underwater, you can only touch with your eyes!

  7. Hello Corinne,
    Yes, thank you so much for sharing this aquatic eden, the tiny blue-spotted octopus is so beautiful, and its reverence a challenge in the face of your wonder! Desire for Alor, desire to learn to dive, after hours of snorkeling and just two dives to Bunaken's various froggies (already wonderful) and to the toggians! I was also amazed by this multicolored salty world, this silence, these slow-motion images, this boiling life... 🙄

  8. How I recognize myself in your story! Alor, a destination I'm considering... there are so many underwater wonders in Indonesia, you'd have to go there every month to get your fill!

  9. ... for once it's Marc who writes ... Bravo for your photos, you've made real progress. Sharpness, depth of field ... I'm jealous of your blue-ringed octopus, we've only seen one, at Lembeh, which is very difficult to photograph. The backgrounds (and drop-offs) in Alor really bring out the subjects. Don't you think so? Your rhinopias is superb too (we saw two, one yellow and one blue/pink. A very surprising animal. Keep on making us dream, this year it's ... forced rest.

    1. @Marc: chic, it's good 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 big fan of your blue ring octopus! Will I come across it on any of the muck dive sites between Bali and Komodo? It may be difficult to photograph, but you've done a marvellous job of it, as it's even taken an amazing position with its tentacles, standing proud like a bipedal man!
    Next weekend I'll be diving off the coast of Marseille to get back in the water before Indo, but there won't be an abundance of underwater flora and fauna compared with what awaits me in a month's time! My Canon G11 wasn't drowned but it didn't like the few drops in the tank in the Philippines, it's currently being repaired, I hope to get it back all nice and new and not drown it in Komodo !!!

    1. @Lise: between Marseille and Indonesia, it's sure not quite the same... 😉 You're in for a treat in Komodo, but make sure you close the chamber properly!!!!