My personal record for the most fish seen on one dive was established last week at Traffic Circle. Even Yunis, Rantje’s seasoned dive guide, was impressed and that’s saying a lot because he dives practically every day in these waters during the dive season.
It all started when we descended into a brown cloud that was actually a school of Bennett’s tobies. Bennett’s tobies are small pufferfish that you probably wouldn’t even notice much on a typical dive. However, once or twice a year in Gorontalo their population suddenly explodes leaving the reefs covered with millions of them. They swam by in a constant stream. And when I say constant I mean it - we were underwater for nearly an hour and the stream never stopped. At one point I turned back to look at the reef behind me and it was literally covered with a living brown blanket. Every once in a while I would follow a slow moving toby to get a good look at the tiny electric blue stripes radiating from its eyes. It was pretty cool.
Going deeper, I was staring out into the blue looking at the snapper, tuna and TONS of schooling fish when all of the sudden four big forms appeared before me and I saw a flash of sharp teeth. Trevally! They were so close they were practically in my face. I thought maybe they were giant trevally because they seemed so big but Yunis thought they were big-eye trevally. Regardless, they were big and they were close. They took a quick look at me and then disappeared back into the blue almost before I had a chance to register the whole encounter.
A little while later Yunis pointed out a Napoleon wrasse. Watching it swim along the reef, I turned my head to the left and there was a bumphead parrotfish! Bumphead parrotfish are the largest of all the parrotfish and can grow to nearly a meter and a half in length. They are also distinguished by the prominent bumps on their heads. This one was only the second one I had ever seen in Gorontalo but what made the encounter even more remarkable was the fact that the parrotfish seemed to be following us! We first saw it mid-dive and then it stayed with us most of the way back to the boat. How extraordinary! It must have somehow sensed I was missing my diving buddies. Because there were so many of us diving and only a limited amount of gear available to rent, we staggered our dives on Saturday. Sarah, Jimmie, Anna, Mark and Joe did two dives with Rantje while I dived with Yunis during their surface interval. Having the bumphead parrotfish tag along made up for the fact that I couldn’t dive with my friends that day.