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