The first dive of the day was the type of dive that left me grinning from ear to ear as I surfaced. Rantje had taken me to Cliffs for the first time where we had 30 meters visibility and a lot of fish action. In addition to the usual schools of fusilier and purple anthias, there were a surprising amount of large parrotfish, a couple rare Burgess butterflyfish and many cute blue belly blennies that are endemic to Gorontalo. Oh, and there were scrawled filefish, banded trevally, batfish, unicornfish, scissortail dart gobies, and callosus starfish too. And the backdrop to all of this spectacular marine beauty was a series of beautiful sunlit columns cut into the coral wall. Rantje would guide me to each column and then signal that I could go in and look around. Surrounded on three sides by coral walls only several meters apart, I would lean back and follow the columns of corals, fans, sponges and resident fish up to the surface with my eyes. Then I would swim out and follow Rantje to the next one. Simply stunning.
The second dive of the day was at Mystic Point – a favorite muck destination in Gorontalo. No sooner had we descended than Rantje called my attention to something black and white that was slithering over the rubble. It was an extremely long banded sea krait – a type of venomous sea snake. This particular snake might have been around two meters long; it was pretty massive. We followed it for a bit as it poked its head into the holes and crevices in the substrate, hunting for food. Rantje later told me that divers in Gorontalo only see these sea kraits maybe once or twice a year. Continuing the dive, we soon stumbled upon an Emperor Akihito fantail goby, a new species named after the Japanese emperor in 2005. Then we found crab eye gobies, which are some of my new favorite fish. These cute little guys have two twin dots on their dorsal fins. As they move themselves forward on their pectoral fins, they give the illusion of a crab scurrying sideways. They are adorable to watch.
The dive continued to delight with tiny treasures: we saw an exquisite juvenile emperor angelfish, a teeny tiny striped coral hermit crab, amponian shrimp, translucent cleaner shrimp, a small white juvenile lionfish, a ball of juvenile striped catfish, bulb anemone with a baby clownfish and even several baby barracuda! And then there were pink anthias (common only in Indonesia), banded pipefish, ringed pipefish, a giant moray eel, a colossal school of convict blennies, weedy gobies and, to top it all off, we saw over 13 reef squid hovering above a boat rope when we ascended.
It was a day of Gorontalo diving at its best.