In the last 13 hours, I have haggled over 65,000 rupiah (what amounts to about $7US) for a west Papuan penis gourd, dipped my toes in the Indian Ocean, and because the Indian Ocean might be polluted, I had my toes cleaned by fish in what was probably the weirdest tourism ritual I have ever played along with.  And as I sit here and wait for my airport transfer out of Bali, I can’t help but reflect that none of this has anything to do with why I am here.


Coconut Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus)

Three weeks ago, I grabbed my favorite dive/travel buddy and caught a series of meandering flights eventually bound for Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The resulting trip has led us on 48 dives through the heart of marine biodiversity.
  Our first stop was an extended five-day layover in northern Sulawesi at an area known as Lembeh Straight.


Pygmy Squid (Idiosepius sp.) with shrimp dinner

The area is famous for rich muck dives packed with unusual macro critters.  Muck divers search the silt and sand for whatever tiny life happens to pop up.  The point isn’t sweeping reefscapes or big animals, muck divers want the little stuff and cover small search patterns in their search.  Our hosts were the gracious folks at Two Fish Divers as led by our world-class guide, Heskiel.  Heskiel could spot a polar bear blinking in a snowstorm, or more useful to our expedition, a pygmy squid from 10 feet away.


Stargazer (Uranoscopus sp.)-Never miss a night dive.

Sarah and I went to Lembeh with a lofty hitlist of animals that we wanted to see, and we ended up seeing most of them.  We saw the infamous Lembeh sea dragon (that is actually a species of pipehorse, but who’s counting?), wonderpus, coconut octopus, Indian Walkman, stargazer, and even a gaggle of bobbit worms.  And if this sounds fun, stay tuned for the second installment on the highlight of the trip: Raja Ampat!


Marionia sp.


The Lembeh Sea Dragon, or more accurately, the Lembeh Pipehorse (Kyonemichthys rumengani) was discovered in 2006.  Distinguishing these from the other muck is nearly impossible for all but the most experienced guides.  Fortunately, Heskiel was top notch!


Bobbit worm (Eunice sp.)-NEVER miss a night dive, unless bobbit worms are around, then you might want to think twice.  Bobbit worms were named in 1996 after Lorena Bobbit chopped her way into infamy.