When my friend, and frequenter guest photographer Pinneng for Art of Scuba showed me his latest shots from Indonesia, from a mating mandarin fish dive he just did, I obviously had to share them with the AOS family.
I did a similar mandarin fish dive in Malapascua, where I got to watch these tiny beauties spawn at sunset. It was my first time seeing them, and a truly memorable dive. Basically we just descended down to a pile of dead coral and rocks, and sat there watching them dart around. I probably counted 20.
Then when it started to get dark, more and more divers showed up to watch. We were all laying in the sand, circled around the rubble, waiting. We had nominated, with hand signals of course, one of the divemasters of a group to be the one to shine the light. Video lights and strobes weren’t allowed so as not to scare the mandarines, so just one guy would shine the light on a pair at the right time so we could see.
When they spawn, two come together, sniffing (kinda) and circling each other, then tummy to tummy they slowly start to rise toward the surface. Thats when the small light comes on. Then light a flash the too go from a slow ascent, to a synchronized dart back to the bottom, simultaneously releasing sperm and eggs into the water. The furry of the dash back down swirls the water and mixes the stuff. It’s pretty cool to watch. And Rare.
For Pinneng it was a similar experience, except for him it was in Banda and Buton in Indonesia. He tells me that in Buton he could watch them all day because they were at a pier that offered no protection or places to hide, but the spawning only happens at sunset.
In Banda, he watched as the males wandered around “looking for a lady”. Once they chose one they are really loyal and protective, and spend the day chasing away other males. Such a great experience.
The last time I saw Pinneng I was scuba diving Bali, and he was on his way to yet another far off remote location in Indonesia that most of us have never heard of. While I was discovering things to do in Bali, he was off on some rickety boat in Maumere or Alor or some places I can’t pronounce, diving places just to make me jealous. It works every time.