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There be dragons! 15 Jan 2010

Posted by cat64fish in Tales from the N2 bar.
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The Lembeh Seadragon, Kyonemichthys rumengani – tiny, elusive, and the lastest in a long list of unique critters to be found in the small strip of water between Sulawesi and the Island of Lembeh. Discovered by William Tan in 2007, this critter has been seen by very few divers, much less photographed, so we were elated to be able to encounter these rare creatures.

Where could we find these creatures, we asked the guides.

“Oh, there were some at the house reef two months ago, but we haven’t seen them since.”

“Runu. Three months ago, but never see again, but we can try.”

“Maybe Nudi Falls, eh? Other guides found some there.”

So the hunt was on!

First to Runu, just 15 mins away from NAD. One hour later, me almost out of air, Eunice’s camera battery drained of power, the guides finally found one! Our elation was bittersweet – I had enough air to snap a few photos before I had to start absorbing oxygen from the water, and Eunice had no pictures of the critter. But what a critter is was! Looking nothing like a “normal” fish, its physical appearance and behaviour mimicked a sediment-covered strand of mucous perfectly! So much so that we lost sight of the critters each time we swapped positions or moved off slightly.

Lembeh Seadragon at Runu

Not very satisfied with the situation, we decided to try for the house reef.

“… they were seen around two oil drums on the left hand side of the bay, in about 10m of water. If you head out from here and turn left at the start of the reef slope, you will see the drums. Can’t miss (the drums)!”

Armed with this information, we eagerly donned our gear (more groggy from lack of sleep, truth be told) at 6.30am the next day to enter the super-still waters of NAD Lembeh’s house reef. Finding the drums was harder than expected – there was no distinct reef crest; all we had was the depth of the drums. Eventually we found 7 of them – the drums, that is. We scoured every surface of 3 drums before Eunice, who had much better eyesight than me, found one!

We almost fried the little bugger with the amount of photos we took. Even so, we only ended up with a handful of good, sharp photos. Cold, hungry, late for breakfast, but happy, we rushed back to shore for a bite to eat and to prepare for the scheduled morning boat dive.

Lembeh Seadragon at NAD house reef.

And for the grand finale, Nudi Falls – uncertainty turned to elation when the guides found three seadragons here! By this time, I was running on empty, and so was my camera, but I stayed as long as I could just to watch them float around amongst the mucous strands, thinking how great a trip it was .. and that we will be back again!!