Giants and Pygmies

There are only a few places in the world where the diversity of marine life is so rich, so stunning, that it takes your breath away.  Triton Bay is one of those places.  It’s like exploring Creation’s design studio, packed to the rafters with colourful corals and the most magnificent marine animals – from humongous whale sharks to the most exquisite, tiniest pygmy seahorses.  Be warned – there are a LOT of photos in this post! But, like us, I hope they make you marvel at the beauty of our marine world and give you a glimpse of the wonders of Triton Bay…

Approaching Triton Bay

Triton Bay is tucked away on the SW coast of West Papua and is like the land that time forgot.  Ancient mountain ranges soar above the bay, and apart from the local township of Kaimana, the only signs of habitation are some isolated villages and fishing camps, and Triton Bay Divers resort.

The view from our anchorage in Triton Bay

Our travelling companions “Jams” had been here before, so they got in touch with the resort to check if we could visit. Even though the resort was closed due to Covid, Jimmy, one of the co-owners, was on site and happy for us to anchor off their beach and do some dives with them.  What a gorgeous spot!  

Triton Bay Divers resort
We enjoyed a beer or two and dinner at this beautiful spot

We did three days of diving with Jimmy and his dive guides, and what fabulous days they were. 

The stunning soft corals at ‘Dramai’ dive site
The underwater gardens at ‘Dramai’
Blackspotted Moray Eeel
And another one..this time being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse (in foreground)
So much colour!
A stack of schooling fusiliers
Crinoid on soft coral
They don’t call them Sweetlips for nothing..
Looking for all the world like a hessian bag, this is a partially closed up anemone
friendly batfish are everywhere
The weird and wonderful porcupine fish
these tassled scorpionfish are so well-camouflaged it’s easy to swim right past them
And these tiny flasher wrasse are only found in Triton Bay. They emerge late in the afternoon for their mating displays, darting around so fast it’s hard to catch them on camera.

But without doubt, diving with the whale sharks topped the list.  We’d had a previous experience of snorkelling with whale sharks in WA but this was completely different.  Firstly, we were able to be on scuba, and secondly, you didn’t have to try and keep up while they swam (and they can move fast!).  Here, they congregate around the “bagans” – the stationary fishing platforms designed to catch bait fish with their bright, bright lights at night.  In the mornings, when the nets are pulled up, the whale sharks come for a feed of the leftovers.  If you’re there early enough, before the fish are boxed and packed away, the fishermen will feed the whale sharks a box or two of fish for a fee of about AU$20 a box, to keep them hanging around while you dive with them.  There’s no guarantee of course, that the sharks will be there on any given day, and sometimes you have to visit several bagans before finding any sharks. We left the dive resort before the sun rose in order to make the 1 1/2 hour trip, and when we arrived at dawn we were lucky enough to find three sharks under the first bagan we came to. These animals are huge! They weren’t in the least concerned about our presence, and in fact seemed to be quite interested in interacting with us – swimming directly towards us and then veering off at the last moment. Wow! Many times we had to duck to get out of their way, and avoid those huge tails that I’m sure could give you a nasty whack if they felt so inclined.  But they were more interested in the food, at times hanging vertically in the water and gulping down great mouthfuls of fish. A truly magical experience.  Here are some stills, and a link to the video clip that Bruce put together:

One of the many bagans operating near Namatote in Triton Bay
That’s me and the giant!
Feeding at the surface
Blowing bubbles

And here’s the link to our video:

But we’re not done yet….

Triton Bay is also home to a vast array of tiny, tiny critters, most of which we’d have no chance of seeing without the expert (young) eyes of our dive guides. Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug known for their brilliant colours and ornate external gills. They’re found throughout the world but they abound in Indonesia.

Nembrotha Chamberlaini nudibranch (hey, family, how about that name?)
Chromodoris nudibranch
Dorid nudibranch
A juvenile spotted parrotfish
miniature starfish

And then, of course, there’s the ‘piece de resistance’, the elusive pygmy seahorse. These gorgeous creatures are about half the size of your smallest fingernail. To the naked eye they look like specks of algae on the fan corals, but up close they’re exquisite and oh so cute. Photographing them is another kettle of fish entirely – first, spot your seahorse. Try and get in position, as close as your macro lens allows, and stay still (not easy in the current). As soon as you put a light on them, they turn away (naturally!) so it’s easy to end up with countless shots of the back of a seahorse, let alone all the blurry, out-of-focus ones (believe me, I know!). Out of dozens of shots, I finally got a couple that were (mostly) in focus. The macro photography is definitely a skill in progress – we have a long way to go, but I can see how easy it is to get obsessed with the small stuff. Now, I just need to get me some better eyes…

Peekaboo! This is a Bargibanti seahorse.
The rarer Pontohi seahorse
And another gorgeous Bargibanti seahorse – how cute, and what amazing camouflage

8 Replies to “Giants and Pygmies”

  1. You surely did get up close abd personal with those beautiful creatures. Almost run over you were right up so close. Beautiful photos,. The colours are absolutely amazing as are your blogs and photos and great video Bruce just awesome footage. You two are becoming quite the Attenboroughs or should I say the Fitzgerald’s and Jamieson’s :0) of the World. Rob and I aways love to see you enjoying your adventures. Love your work. Just beautiful xxx Pen and Rob sending big hugs 🤗

    1. Thanks Pen! Loving seeing all your photos too and seeing you guys having fun on Pittwater. Big hugs to you both xx

  2. The photos are amazing – what an extraordinary experience and truly remarkable. You really are living the life of dreams. Wonderful blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.