As a dive guide you are expected to show your guests the most beautiful and the best things and I can tell you that it is not always easy. Now we are quite trained In seeing special things, but that does not mean that we can see everything. In fact, sometimes I really have no idea and then I feel like a huge jerk. And that jerky feeling came over me on a dive in Indonesia, in beautiful Raja Ampat.
Raja Ampat is an area in the east of 17,000 island Indonesia and is known for its enormous biodiversity. From pipe fish to Oceanic mantas to 70% of all types of coral, really amazing. So I didn’t have to think twice about taking on a job in Indonesia. And so I ended up at SY Indo Siren, where I would work as a manager and guide for a few months.
In one of my first weeks, one of our local guides was ill, with a severe flu and cold. And so he asked me to take over his diving. I could barely get to the dive sites and had only done a few dives there, as I focused on ship management first. But I’m very good at navigation and dealing with strong currents, so why not. In Indonesia, currents reach up to 8 knots, which is quite substantial. When you consider that a normal diver can swim against the sun 0.3 knots, you realize that this current can easily get you into trouble. That is why everyone dives there in small groups with a guide.
The first dive I would guide was at a site called Andiamo, in the south of Raja. My fellow guide Inyo did the briefing and he explained that we were just going to jump off one small island onto an underwater mountain, the top is about 6-8 meters. The currents around it go in all directions, but as long as you follow the reef next to the mountain you will automatically reach the island. Because I hardly knew the spot, I arranged that I would jump as 2nd of the 3 groups. I asked the other guides to keep an eye on me. And if they see a pygmy seahorse, point it out to me. Stupidly, I hadn’t seen one before and our guests love it. No sooner said than done. We kit everything up and in no time we rolled backwards from the zodiac into the water, right above the top of Andiamo. The current was lovely, not too strong yet interesting. I descended and checked that everyone was ok before taking the reef on the right. I envisioned our first dive group with Stefanos as guide and kept an eye on where they lingered at length. Better stolen well than badly seen I thought and so I followed their route with my group. At one point Stefanos showed a purple fan of coral hanging vertically in a kind of crack. Hmmm I thought there could be seahorses there.
Slowly we came closer, leaving enough room for group 1 to do their thing. As soon as they were done Stefanos signaled for me to come closer and gave me the signal for pygmy seahorse and I cheered inside. Whooohoooo that’s great, 1-2 cm large seahorses, who wouldn’t want to see them. He gave me an area of about 30 by 30 cm and said that there were 6 seahorses. I took my nudi pointer, a steel rod about 12 inches long, and put the tip against the rock so I wouldn’t damage the reef. One of my guests came closer and I explained that there were pygmy seahorses sitting there, he smiled. Together we looked intently at the Sea fan, was something moving there? Were they on the other side? Hmmm I really didn’t see anything and started mumbling something to myself. Other divers in my group also came to watch, but none of the 5 of us saw a seahorse. I explained with my hands that there should be 6, but I didn’t know and was blind. My guests snickered, in fact I just heard them laughing underwater hahahaha. Oh well, you can’t have everything, so we continued the dive. Apart from the missed seahorses we had a really great dive with sea snakes, stone fish, barracuda and much more. And after the dive we had a great laugh about missing the sea horses. Don’t even think about the fact that even your guide doesn’t have a clue.
The next trip we went to Andiamo again and of course I was eager to find the seahorses. With my camera ready and not guiding I went straight to that same purple Sea fan. By now I had learned that these little creatures go flat by disguising themselves by taking on the same color and structure as the Sea fan. And if you want to lure them out of the tent, you have to shine a lamp on the other side of the fan. And so I did, light on and search, ohhhhhh hahahaha found, my God, they are small, but I got you!
Since then I have become a lot more agile in finding these little horses. It’s still not always easy, but practice makes perfect. So you see, you may be a guide, but for me there are still many treasures to be found under water.
Love life… Blow bubbles… Anke