Scuba dive the Indo-Pacific from your couch


Jen in her scuba gear in her bathtub

While we’re all doing our part and staying home to flatten the curve (thank you!), I’ve been missing vitamin sea and daydreaming of diving, my favorite outdoor hobby. I had to postpone a big trip, but since I always take photos on all my dives, I thought to dive the Indo-Pacific through past photos I’ve taken and bring you all with me!

What are we bringing?

First, you’ll need a nifty dive buddy for safety and to enjoy the dives with. Here’s my dive buddy (right)and I (left)!

Scuba divingJen's scuba diving buddy scuba diving.

 

Great, now what about equipment? Fellow gear junkies...I have arrived.

Jen's gear laid outPhotography gear laid out on the floor

It takes a strategic game of Tetris, some trial and error, and many choice words out of frustration that mom would never approve of, all that gear comes together, packed nicely. (I knew all that time playing Tetris on the original Game Boy would pay off!) Everything will need to fit in no more than 1 checked bag under 50 pounds and 1 carry on plus 1 personal item, because space on boats is difficult to come by. That doesn’t leave much space for stuff like toiletries, clothing, or underwear*.

Other essentials include:

Where are we going?

Indonesia is the heart of the Coral Triangle, a triangular-shaped region that is recognized as the world’s center of marine biodiversity. While this area only covers 1.6% of the ocean, it has 76% of the world’s coral species and 37% of the world’s reef fish. It has such an incredible amount of color, diversity, and density - as you’ll soon see! It’s also 80F or more, so as a warm water wimp, it’s perfect for me (even though I’m wearing a 5mm wetsuit, but let’s not worry ourselves oversilly details).

My favorite regions that we're visiting together (Komodo, Raja Ampat, Ambon, Lembeh) can be reached by tedious boat day trips from resorts. Others are beyond that range or extremely remote which require overnight crossings as we sleep. Live-aboards make this much more efficient and convenient which allows us to maximize the number of dives and dive time; throughout the trip, it’s possible to cover hundreds of nautical miles this way. In Indonesia, these are usually boats that accommodate up to 16 divers. I hope you brought your sea legs and bid the internet the farewell it deserves because this boat will be our home and hotel, restaurant, and dive operation at sea for the next 7-15 days before we see or step back on land again. 

What is a typical dive day like?

Eat, dive, sleep, repeat..multiply by 7-15 days.

  • 6AM - Question life decisions that require me being up earlier on vacation than for work
  • 6:30 AM - 1st breakfast (light) What do you mean by….1st? 
  • 7:30 AM - Dive #1
  • 9:00 AM - 2nd breakfast (hot) Yup. 2nd. In diving, redundancy is for safety - 2 is 1 and 1 is none.
  • 10:00 AM - Nap
  • 11:00 AM - Dive #2
  • 12:30 PM - Lunch
  • 1:30 PM - Nap...again
  • 3:00 PM - Dive #3
  • 4:30 PM - Snack Yes, more food! It’s a good thing wetsuits are stretchy.
  • 4:45 PM - Have I mentioned naps yet? It happens again here. 
  • 6:00 PM - Admire the most incredible sunsets
  • 6:30 PM - Dive #4 (night dive)
  • 8:00 PM - Dinner 
  • 10 PM - Bedtime

Each dive is approximately 60-70 minutes long but they can be shorter or longer; it depends on how deep we’re going and how much air we have left. All recreational dives are less than 130 feet deep. 

If you need to pee, fart, burp, and/or barf...In the famous words of Elsa from Frozen, just let it go. The fish particularly love barf and it makes for great photos.

Are you and your dive buddy ready? Let’s go!

Dive #1: Where's the Reef? 

Photo of a colorful reefSchool of fish swimming on top of a reefPhoto of reef with Jen diving in the backgroundCoral reef

It’s pretty noisy down here, isn’t it? The snaps, crackles, and pops you hear are fish and critters eating, pooping, and playing. Sound travels 5 times faster in water than air and can also travel much further. There is a significant loss of red light the deeper we go and we may not know the true color of something until we shine a light on it or take a picture of it with flash. Speaking of creatures, let's take a closer look at a few of 'em.

 

Clownfish

Clownfish in a Sea Anemone Size: 4 inches Clownfish eat undigested food from the anemone and their poop provides nutrition to the sea anemone. To thank clownfish for such a nice gesture, the anemone provides them with protection.

 

BarracudaSpadefish

Top left: Barracuda (up to 5 ft), Top Right: Lined Sweetlips (20 inches), Directly above: Spadefish (20 inches).

 

Sea turtle

Sea Turtle Size: Up to 9 feet! 6 out of 7 marine turtle species calls this region home. Males and females are the same size and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds!


Dive #2: Gentle Giants

Whale Shark

Whale Shark Size: About 40 ft. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and can live up to 100 years. They weigh up to 20.6 tons (41,200 pounds!) and filter feed on plankton, krill, and fish eggs. The largest ever measured was 60 feet long!

 

Whitetip Shark

Whitetip Reef Shark Size: 5.2 ft. Unlike most sharks, the whitetip reef shark does not need to continuously swim. They can pump water over its gills and lie still at the bottom like this one. They hunt mostly at night when most fish are sleeping. 

 

A large Napoleon Negrasse

Napoleon Wrasse Did you say...it’s almost the...weekend!? These bad boys can get 6 feet long and can weigh up to 400 pounds. Females are usually 3 feet. Fun fact: some females become male at around 8 years old but males do not turn into females.

 

Manta Ray Size: 11-23 ft depending on species (reef or oceanic). Manta rays are harmless and are very curious by nature. The markings on the underside act as a fingerprint; no 2 mantas have the same markings so it allows us to identify individuals. Like whale sharks, they filter feed but on zooplankton. Manta rays can have a baby manta ray every 2-5 years. The gestation period is about 12 months.

 

Video - Manta Alley with Jen

How many can you count in this video? Count with me! (While there, I counted at least 13 that I could see with the poor visibility!)
Video credit to Lodelle Marcelino!


Dive #3: The Weird and the Wonderful

Hairy Frogfish

Hairy Frogfish Size: 9 inches. With a face only a mother could love, this one is appropriately named “hairy frogfish”. They are a type of anglerfish and use what looks like bait on the tip of a fishing pole-like part on their snout to lure their prey in. They don’t spend much time swimming but use their fins to scoot along. There are about 60 species of frogfish and they range from ⅛ inch to 12 inches in size. 

 

Scorpionfish

Weedy Scorpionfish Size: 10 inches These fish rarely swim. They scoot along the bottom with their pectoral and pelvic fins. When hunting, they remain motionless and wait until their prey comes within striking distance and then sucks them in. 

 

Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish Size: 20 inches, 22 pounds. They can change their color and texture to camouflage to their surroundings and to also confuse their prey by mesmerizing them with rhythmic color changes. 

 Ribbon Eel

Ribbon Eel Size: 3.3 ft. The color of ribbon eels depends on what life stage it is at. They all start as male black with a yellow fin. As it matures, the eel turns mostly bright blue with yellow and will begin to turn all yellow as it develops female parts in preparation to lay eggs.  They can live up to 20 years. 

 

Dive #4: It’s The Little Things (Macro) 

Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse Size: .80 inches from tip to tail. Pygmy seahorses live on sea fans that match their color and appearance; they have excellent camouflage skills. Just like with other seahorses, the male carries the young until birth. 

 

Nudibranch

Nudibranch Size: ¼ inch to 12 inches. The sea slugs of the ocean, they come in many body shapes, textures, and sizes. Many of them are very bright and colorful which acts as a defense mechanism to tell predators that they are poisonous.

 

Anemone Fish Eggs

Anemone Fish/Clownfish Eggs Size: Each egg is .16 inches.  Does it ever feel like there are many eyes looking at you? Once laid, these eggs will hatch in 6-8 days but before then, dad will fan the eggs using his fins to provide water movement that flushes out waste surrounding the eggs and will also remove unhealthy eggs.

 Boxer Crab

Boxer Crab Size: 1 inch. The pom-poms you see are actually little anemones being held by the crab for protection and it provides him leftover food that is trapped in them. He gets his name because he sways protectively just like Muhammad Ali with his “boxing gloves”. 

You can see all of these photos in full resolution here!

*I can sense the look of worry and intrigue when you saw the asterisk next to underwear. I don’t bring many but I bring some and do a lot of laundry with Dr. Bronner’s soap. YMMV if you’re flipping and/or reversing in this certified judgement-free zone. 

Recent Articles

14 comments

  • Michael Miller says...

    Really nice photos! I’ve been taking U/W photos since 1989 in the days of film. The whale shark is particularly unusual. Nice turtle image too! Thanks for sharing them.

    On July 01, 2020
  • Paul says...

    Hey Jennifer – thanks for sharing. These are great. The Northern California Underwater Photography Society (NCUPS) now meets in the community room in the Redwood City Sports Basement once a month (well, at least we were meeting, before the currently sheltering). If you have a chance, stop by for one of our meetings (2nd Friday of the month, in the evening). There’s always a great photographer showing underwater shots you might like.

    On April 16, 2020
  • CAROLE FRENCH says...

    Beautiful photos, well done!!! My husband and I use to SCUBA, but never in water like this!!! Catalina is about the best I’ve ever done with SCUBA gear, I have snorkeled all over the world. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.

    On April 14, 2020
  • Barbara Donovan says...

    I had a lovely small snorkel excursion in Feb on St. Barts; your beautiful scuba pics brought me back on vacation. Thank-you!

    On April 14, 2020
  • tosh says...

    Great pictures-fun to look at

    On April 14, 2020

Leave a comment