Despite the fact that I do a lot of diving, there are a number of diving moments that stay with me and amung them my first encounter with the blue ringed octopus. We are at a fantastic dive site appropriately named Mayhem in Raja Ampat Indonesia. Fitting because every time the current picks up the dive site becomes a madhouse, the quantities as well as the different species are absolutely astonishing, even after 100 dives. The current sours around us as soon as we roll into the water from the zodiac and from the first moment I try to hang as aerodynamically as possible. Nose down and into the current while holding my ass up, a trick I copied from sharks. And even though the current tries to blow me off the reef, I manage to stay in one place and I take the time to look around me quietly.
I can clearly see others in our group having trouble with the current and eventually our guide decides to take the drift to keep it fun for all the divers, after all the last thing we want is wrestling match underwater. I float quietly behind the group to stay away from our guests with my camera, because not everyone can appreciate it if you take the time to take a picture even though I am not even guiding. It can be difficult to dive behind the group, because even though I have a buddy, with the camera in front of me I easily lose my sense of time and with it the view of the group. Fortunately Chris is a nice diver and a top buddy who taps me on the shoulder as soon as the group dives on.
Since working in Raja Ampat, I have developed an interest in special things, such as sea squirts and reef slugs, which can be found in abundance here in the extremely bio diverse Indonesia. And every time I get the chance I take plenty of photos to learn more about the species or their behavior later on board.
When we head towards the shallower parts of the reef where we are sheltered due to the strong current, I am utterly delighted. The reef is full of small stuff! Sea squirts, shrimps, nudis and also the reef slugs. As soon as I see one that I can reasonably reach with my camera, I look for a spot to position myself properly. It is difficult because the reef blocks block the access slightly, but I don’t give up easily and eventually find a position so that I don’t touch, lie comfortably in relation to the current and also have access to a reef slug.
The funny thing about these animals is that we usually overlook them because they hide in a tube while the top of their head is flat and closes the tube like a lid. But as soon as the current picks up they come out slightly and you can see two feelers plus a slimy thread or threads hanging from the tube in the current. This one has a green with white head and has indeed thrown out some slime threads. These threads are used by this slug species to fish for food because the threads are sticky, which means that all kinds of things stick to it that reef slug apparently likes. Fascinated I look through my macro lens, play with the depth of field, exposure and composition and completely immerse myself in taking a photo. I see the tentacles and how the animal turns its head to get a good grip on the slime threads that he or she starts to slowly retract the slime lines as it is lunchtime apparently.
After a few shots I am satisfied and look around. I’m hanging between the coral blocks, I can’t see the group and try to step back carefully while with my head just below a small overhang I see a beautiful sea squirt. Yellows and purples catch my eye and even though I can’t put my finger on it yet I see something special and so I keep staring. What is that? It’s silly how you can stare blindly at something, when there’s something special right in front of you. And then all of a sudden I got it, an ini-mini little octopus, looks like a baby! Small blue rings adorn the body while the animal hangs around on his throne like a prince haha. My plan to park myself out of those coral blocks got canceled and of course I couldn’t help but take a close look at the little creature. WOW my first blue ringed octopus! And while the little cutie poses for me I shoot as many photos as I can and I definitely lose all sense of time. Finally I find myself after I don’t know after how long to detach from the fascinating animal and look around me once I’m out between the blocks. Well… group is of course goneand my buddy is no different, I should have paid more attention! Fortunately I am in not even 3 meters of water and can therefore easily call for the zodiac. But before I ascend to the surface I see another group approaching and I still want to share this beautiful animal with others. So I gesture to the guide of that group and he comes over to me while I point out where the little animal is still sitting comfortably on his sea squirt throne. With a beautiful smile in his mask, the guide thanks me for the find, after which I ascend to the surface.
Love life… Blow bubbles…