The Raja Ampat is known for its diverse range of coral and marine species, with many of them being endemic to the area. This is because we are situated in the Coral Triangle which boasts 75% off all marine species in the world. Biodiversity Nature Resort happens to be within this Coral Triangle and also situated right beside the Dampier Straight giving us the perfect advantage to explore the wonders of the best diving and snorkeling sites Raja Ampat has to offer.
As a diving resort, which focuses on ecotourism, we are privileged to have our very own House Reef, right in front of our resort. It is perfect for first time divers who wish to see if diving really is for them. Or for that refresher dive after many years out the water. And of course it is the perfect reef for those who wish to grab their snorkeling gear, walk a few steps from their cottages onto our pristine white sandy beach and into the crystal clear blue waters where the wonders of the ocean will take your breath away.
What common marine life can you spot on the House Reef
One of the first marine creatures to see does not even involve getting into the water. All you have to do while relaxing in your hammock with a book, or unwinding on one of our bean bags with an evening cocktail in your hand, is to look out to the ocean and soon enough a pod of dolphins will show their faces and slowly move along the house reef, playfully entertaining you until the sun disappears and the stars come out.
Black Tip reef shark
The next one is just a giant stride off our jetty, the Black Tip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus). They can be found swimming up and down the coral reef while you observe them snorkeling or diving. The larger ones are found swimming on the drop off, while the smaller pups of the Black Tip Reef Sharks are found swimming in the shallows chasing smaller fish close to the beach shore. Watch out for those toes!
Another shark which can be spotted is the Walking Shark – Raja Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium freycineti). If lucky you can see them in the day resting under the coral. However they mainly come out at night for hunting. On our House Reef they can easily be spotted right under the jetty. What makes them unique is to see them walk around the coral, hence their name. Something special to observe while taking that evening stroll along our pristine white sandy beach is the walking shark right in the shallows hunting for small fish and invertebrates. But do not worry! They pose no threat to humans as they are less than a meter long on average.
For those that love turtles, the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) can mostly be spotted while snorkeling just off the House Reef feeding on the sponge coral. They are relaxed and friendly and you can sometimes spend an hour or more in their company. They can hold their breath up 45min to an hour, however surface every 5min on average. While sleeping they can be found under the coral remaining motionless for up to 5-7 hours. The normal lifespan of hawksbill turtles is thought to be about 30 to 50 years. Hawksbill sea turtles have been listed as an endangered species since 1970.
And many more
And of course we get schools of different fish species in and among the diverse corals. Some common fish to see would be the Longfin Batfish (Platax Teira), Bigeye Kingfish (Caranx Sexfasciatus), Silver Mono (Monodactylus Argenteus), Violetined Parrotfish (Scarus Globiceps), Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron Nigropunctatus), Porcuppine fish (Diodon Hystrix). These are only a few of the many different species we have on the House Reef.
What uncommon marine life can you spot on the House Reef
Tasselled Wobbegong Shark
As mentioned there are many common sites to be seen on our House Reef which make it rich in Marine & Coral life, a diver and snorkelers perfect reef to explore! However, we also get some other marine creatures that visit us from time to time and you can be very luck to spot them. One very famous shark is the Tasselled Wobbegong Shark (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon), mostly spotted while diving as they are bottom feeders and spends most of their time close to the ocean floor. We have a location on the house reef where the Wobbegong Shark can be photographed or filmed, where you can view the entire body of the Shark, not just the tail or head, as in common siting’s. You are able to really get a great view of the patterns that the Wobbegong Shark has on its body.
Another Marine creature you have to keep an eye out for is the Giant Moray (Gymnothrax javanicus), which is one of the largest moray eels to be found, and we have a really large girl here on our house reef! They are not the easiest to spot as moray eels love to hide amongst the reel hunting fish. If found, they are an impressive size, and can grow up to 3 meters long. They are not aggressive, however as the rule goes – do not touch or antagonize anything under the water.
Coral Reef Snake
One of the most spectacular sights to be found on our house reef is the Coral Reef Snake (Hydrophiinae). They inhabit marine environments for most or all of their lives. Most are extensively adapted to a fully aquatic life. All sea snakes have paddle-like tails and many have laterally compressed bodies that give them an eel-like appearance. Unlike fish, they do not have gills and must surface regularly to breathe. A real treat to see if you are lucky to spot it!
Lastly you can occasionally spot the Mobular Ray (Genus). They have a similar appearance to the Manta Ray as they are part of the same family. They can be spotted breaching the water in the early mornings and later afternoons. It is still unclear why they do this, one of the popular ideas is that they are jumping for a social aspect. You might be lucky to have a large school swimming past you while snorkeling at the edge of the drop off, as they feed on the zooplankton.
Nature is amazing, even more at Raja Ampat Biodiversity!
Big fin Reef squid
And then once in a while something happens that makes you realize the unique beauty of the Raja Ampat! Currently a spectacular natural occurrence is happening on our House Reef at Biodiversity Nature Resort. It has not been witnessed for about three years on the house reef and it is something we would like to share with you. We have a shoal of Big fin Reef squid (Sepioteuthis Lessoniana) currently reproducing and the intriguing part is how they do this and what predators are drawn to this.
Reproductive cycle of the squid
Some background information about the reproductive cycle of the squid is important to understand before observing the squids on scuba. Male squids store packets of sperm called spermatophores in specialized long arms, which penetrate the female’s mantel during a mating session that lasts just 15 seconds. After a male and female mate, the female squid lays her eggs. The eggs are laid inside an egg case and since squid are usually part of a shoal, the eggs are laid with many other egg cases, from many other squids, and then anchored to the sea floor. In this case our shoal of squid has found the stag horn corral as an anchor for their eggs. The clump of eggs gives the illusion of a flower.
How they behave
The squid are hovering about 2m above the eggs in formation with the individual squids separated by one body length. The movement of the group seems to be coordinated moving backward and forwards. A small female squid will break away from the group and move towards the eggs. She will immediately be escorted by a larger male squid who will keep a few mm behind and above her while she lays her eggs. He will always be between her and the group in a protective manner. If another squid approaches her, the male escort will make blocking movements and flushes of darker colour appear on his body.
You can also observe a colour change in the female from translucent to golden brown when she lays her eggs. Once complete she will move away from the cluster of eggs and back to the group where the process will be repeated by another female and male pair. A few females will do this then the group will all move about 2m away from the cluster and wait for about 5 minutes before repeating the process.
Predators come around
While this is happening, you can witness many Black Tip Reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) circling the area. As the squids are vulnerable and tied, the sharks use this to their advantage to eat them, easy prey! You can also find turtles that come crashing into the coral and munch away at the eggs, completely oblivious to the fact that the squid are still there laying eggs. Quite sad to see but this is nature.