New Zealand's birds. Switzerland's hiking trails. Denmark's bikes. There's a lot of information from my travels that I'm trying to store up in the ol' noggin. Hopefully this knowledge will stay fresh for many years to come. And yet the list continues to grow. This time, it's the unexpected trivia of Indonesia's sea life.
If you were to take any tropical, underwater reference resource and dump every single one of those fish, creatures, anemones, and coral into beautifully clear, shallow water, you'd have a perfect idea of what snorkeling in the Indonesian islands is like. Two to three times daily while bobbing along the seas on Al Iikai, my mates and I would get the 10-minute countdown to hop into the skiff and motor to the next random reef. Fins? Check. Mask and snorkel? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Water? Check. And we were off to explore in an endless, boundless aquarium.
The sights under the often serene surface were astonishing. Luckily I had my mask to keep my eyes from popping out of the sockets. The fish... Every vivid, nuanced color of the rainbow. Blue polka dots. Black polka dots. Pinstripes. Ombre. Big lips. Big teeth. Horned. And speaking of horned, cylindrical, top-dwelling trumpetfish that would inevitably startle with a face-to-face greeting. Plus anemones! All sizes, shapes, and colors. Some sporting prickly needles. Some swaying gracefully with the tide. Some (my favorite) whose tips looked like tiny, little bursting fireworks. All the while trying to store an image in my brain in order to positively identify each one on the reference guide back at the boat.
And don't even get me started on the coral. Brain coral that resembled huge brains. Maze coral that looked like labyrinths. Table coral that were, well, bigger than coffee tables. All in stunning hues like dusty rose, sunshine yellow, and periwinkle. The sprawling coral gardens formed lively cities down there and we watched the goings-on from a stealth, aerial view. Fish darted in and out of coral crevices like people darting in and out of the subway. Schools of fish would cruise by at arms' distance making it impossible to take a turn into the traffic. And periodically streams of sunlight would make it to the ocean floor like beams that fight their way through a skyline. Then occasionally a floppy, royal blue, baseball glove-sized sea star would appear and bring whimsy back to the scene.
This was all punctuated with sea turtle, dolphin, and shark sightings by day and cornetfish and water snake sightings by night. Scrambling with anticipation to one side of the boat after a loud yell by someone who caught a glimpse of something is a funny memory that's left an impression on me. Hopefully an impression with a long shelf life.
Note: I was not prepared for the stunning underwater images I found on this trip hence, I did not bring an underwater camera. I'll be adding more photos from the boat's common underwater camera once I have access to them!
Snorkeling back to the Al Iikai
Exploring the reefs that lie below the turquoise waters around Gili Air island
The weird looking cuttlefish
One of many lionfish (the water was much clearer than this pic shows)