29 June 2007

Seahorse, where are you?

Day: Thursday, 28 June 2007 - Night Dive
Crew: Myself, Angel, Allen, Andrew, Caryn, Boon Hui, Caroline, Reuben, John, Eng (Instructor), Bala and Jessie (Captain)
Dive Site: Princess Avenue
Viz: Good
Max Depth: 10m
Dive Time: 2hr (new record)

We're on a seahorse mission! It's all set. We're all gonna descend.. spread out.. and hunt for our yellow seahorse. The minute i got to the bottom, i looked around, directed the beam of my torch to my left.. to my right.. and i begin to wonder "how can we possibly locate the yellow seahorse?!"

A few minutes into the dive, i spotted a flounder/flatfish! It's the 1st time i've seen a flounder in Brunei.

Andrew suddenly nudged me. He gestured "Where's the seahorse?????" redface I dunnnooooooooo. Then a sotong came to my rescue! He squirted sotong ink at Andrew. That was so bloody cool. Haahaa. When Andrew stared at my hero with his not-so-cool face... my hero squirmed with fear.

.Pucat at the sight of Andrew.

.Like my new hair?.
.Meet Tom who's about a 1/4 the size of my palm.

From the first time i saw them, i've always wondered whether if decorator crabs are born the way they are or like hermit crabs find home in a shell that is so distatefully decorated.

Tuon once said, "How come the crab has got anemone on its head wan???" Haahaahaa

No, they're not born this way, nor do they find home in a shell. They are the fashion victims of the underwater world. The term decorator crab is loosely applied to a variety of true crabs which use various materials from their surroundings to disguise themselves. It's like shopping for a prom dress. Tom would shop around until he finds a suitable material, it could be anything like an algae, sponge, bryozoan or reef debris, instead of heading to a counter, Tom quickly spit at it with some gooey substance from his mouth that hardens in seawater, look around to make sure no one's watching, then hastily hook it on his back and legs. Whatta devil!

What on earth possessed him to do that?! Survival Instinct.

His costumes are more than just visual camouflage and food source, some such as sponges actually provide chemical defenses against fish and other predators, which find these organisms toxic or plain yucky. Who could ever fathom that Fashion can be someone's best defence!

Unlike a prom dress that'll go out of date, their costumes are alive, these organisms will grow and grow. Similarly, Tom will grow too, however not his shell. Therefore, Tom needs to molt as he grows.. shedding his old exoskeleton and forming a new, larger one. The old shell loosens as a new one forms beneath it. When the old shell splits, Tom is NAKED! Before its new shell hardens, Tom will absorb lots of water and expands to a size larger than before the molt. That's your juicy and fleshy crab. While the new shell is hardening, Tom needs to stay low before he gets caught for flashing, or more so to keep away from predators.

I am very proud of Tom and his kind. They promote recycling. They would remove their old and tattered living accessories during the molting process and reuse them to decorate their new shell. Considering the great lengths they go to decorate themselves, i reckon it's rather sad to call them ugly mathingies. Though i wouldnt exactly call them beautiful. Exotic, maybe...

Tom's nicking and picking behaviour is widely reported as a predator avoidance strategy, however to some... it is still a mystery.

Once you get to know these creatures, or corals, you will not again see it as just another crab, or just another seafan.

Marcel Proust quoted: The true voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes".

Boon Hui and Angel bumped into the baby octopus that we saw last Sunday! and a coral cat shark that kept swimming towards Angel. There're so many things to see here. Definitely going back this Saturday..Caroline's housing suddenly flooded but thanks to Steven, our hero, her camera is working now. Mine has already reached Singapore for repair, thanks to *someone* and Fang Fang! And many thanks to my bummie Caryn for lending me her baby, also a G7!


On our way back to shore...

Reuben: "What would you do if you saw a saltwater crocodile down there?"

Caryn: "I'll freak out man!"

Lee: "I'll bend over like this and pretend to be a coral"


Olympus C-5050

Yet another BARGAIN!

This olympus C-5050 is only 2 years old and is in very good condition. Previously owned by a professional underwater videographer from Scubazoo, you can trust it was used with great care.

Read more abt the specs here.

.Camera comes with everything except the strobe.

Retail Price:

1. Olympus Camedia C-5050 Zoom RM2000
2. Underwater Housing PT-015 RM800
3. D Base RM105
4. Multi Base II RM 125
5. Z Adapter RM 125
6. Arms RM 255
7. Clamp x2 RM360
8. Optical D Cable RM230
9. Macro Lens RM500
10. Wide Angle Lens RM1200
Total RM5700

Andy is taking underwater photography to the next level - DSLR so he reluctantly parts with this set for only RM1500. He is also throwing in FREE:
- Olympus 256 MB xD memory card
- 2 set of 8 rechargable batteries - 1700 mAh
- Panasonic Quick Charger

Please contact Andy directly at 012-839 3602 for viewing or email andidream@yahoo.com for more enquiries.

25 June 2007

I saw a Hammerhead!

Day: Sunday, 24 June 2007 - Day Dive
Crew: Myself, Angel, Allen, Sharon, Victor, Reuben, Cikgu, Keith (from Alabama), Zoe (from JIS), Jason (from JIS), Eng (Instructor), Wan and Bala (Captain)
Dive Site: Princess Avenue
Viz: So-so! 8m
Max Depth: 12m
Dive Time: 60m, 60m
.Forgive me for my crappy shots today.

I literally have to dragged myself out of bed after only 4 hours of sleep. Picked up the yummy nasi katok from Alma Restaurant in Mata-Mata, some junk food and headed straight to STI.

I told Angel and Allen to be there by 8.00am but i didnt arrive until 8.20 myself. Muhuhuu. How embarrassing
redface . Met Sharon whom i've not dived with since last year. Pleasant morning, weather looks great, sea is calm... princess avenue, here we come!

It was an easy ride, roughly 18km off Empire though it took what felt like forever. Eng could see the bottom of the reef so viz should be better than last Friday! My buddies were Allen, Angel and Sharon. We descended using the anchor line and when we hit the bottom, i noticed only Allen was beside me. Sharon was still bobbing on the surface so Angel went up to check on her. I signalled to Allen that we'll just look around that area while waiting for them. I was adjusting my bouyancy then out of the corner of my eye i thought i saw something move. I swear i turned so fast i heard my neck cracked.

It's yellow.
It's big.
There's an eye.
I inched closer.
It cannot be.
I squinted.
It cannot be!
I'm staring at a YELLOW SEAHORSE staring back at me.

I muffled an "Eeeeeeeeee". A million thoughts ran through my head. I pointed it out to Allen and gave him the thumbs up. I grabbed my camera, and let out a "farkkkkkkkk" under my breath. Not the least bit graceful, i know. Because! My baby G7 is sitting at home with its lens jammed, and here i am using my Ixus that doesnt seem to focus right. cry I wanted to stab myself. I banged my tank profusely, where the hell is everyone? A couple of minutes later, Angel and Sharon finally descended... Zoe saw it too... but the rest missed out.

Though not picture perfect, we've really tried our best.

.I'm camera shy. The Hippocampus Kuda.

Actually, that is so true. What common? Seahorses are anything but common these days. The last time we saw a seahorse was one year ago in Brunei Patch. I've seen turtles and dolphins way more times than i have a seahorse. The hippocampus kuda was last classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The extraordinary thing about them is they totally defy conventional gender role expectations. They are the only animal in the world in which it's the male that gets pregnant. This is what you call Extreme Feminism, man! Muhuuhuu. And they are one of nature's true romantics. Most of them are faithful to each other for life, mating with each other repeatedly and exclusively which is really rare in the fish world. 'Cept for the big-belly or rather pot-belly seahorse who will most likely jiggy to Nelly's Promiscous.

Before impregnating the HEhorse, SHEhorse packs nutrients in her egg lining. Now, that's the woman's talking! When the magic moment comes, they piroutte together..courting with affection. Then SHEhorse deposits her eggs directly into HEhorse's protective pouch. His pouch is just like the womb of a female mammal, where he fertilises and nourishes the brood between 10 days to 6 weeks, depending on the species. After which, HEhorse is ready to give birth... complete with contractions and heavy gulping. I cannot possibly imagine. And in about 30 minutes, voilaaaa... baby seahorses!! Depending on their species, they can deliver between 15 to 1000 babies at a time. AND! they can deliver in the morning and get pregnant again in the afternoon. You got to admire such a heroic act.


CNN took an informal poll of the public and found that overall, men don't suffer from seahorse envy.

"I think I'm glad I'm not a seahorse," comments one man.

"I've always thought it was wonderful that my wife did the job," comments another.

And how do people think the world would change if men could get pregnant?

"I don't think epidurals would be optional - I think it would be required."

"They would probably have about five to 10 years of maternity leave," says one woman.



The saddest thing is that this shy and graceful creature are considered as remedies in most Asian countries, one of the main reasons for the cause of endangerment. Quacky but Traditional Chinese Medicine. (TCM)
is recognized by the World Health Organization as a viable health care option. Thankfully, there are people who fight to ensure their survival.

.Things to do during your 3 min safety stop.

1.Tap into your inner peace. 2.Live the Peter Petrelli dream.

Zoe was absolutely thrilled to see her 1st seahorse. "Seahorse, seahorse" Keith questioned whether we really saw it. "Seahorse, seahorse" Angel was busy changing tanks "Seahorse, seahorse" I was flicking through my pictures "Seahorse, seahorse". I think i've accurately described how happy Zoe was.

.Forgot to white balance. Still, you cant miss Angel's bombastic pink force fins and ooh, her best friends, the barracudas.

I really really enjoyed my dive. This reef is truly a princess. Unlike Mel's Reef/Little Dale, its formation is scattered reefs among sand patches. It's absolutely gorgeous. Marine life is aplenty. There are floors of hundreds and hundreds of anemones. I've never seen so many anemones that housed so many different types of clownfish in any one site.
Apart from the seahorse, we also saw a juvenile sweetlips, nudis, flatworms, gobies, baby octopus, different types of anemone shrimps, tons of parrotfish feeding, and big-ass brain corals.

Angel and I both think Allen is our lucky star. So he's a must when we go back this Thursday night.

And i did see a Hammerhead!! lol Not much of a shark, heh... :P

23 June 2007

Damned day

Day: Friday, 22 June 2007 - Day Dive
Crew: Myself, Caryn, Caroline, Elvin, Anny, Simon (from Limbang), Lo (from KK), Uwais, Cik Azli (Instructor), two of his students and Rudi (Captain)
Dive Site: Oil Rig Wreck, Oil Rig Reef and Pelong Rocks
Viz: Crap!
Max Depth: 15m
Dive Time: 60m, 74m, 60m

It was a damned day for me, my camera decided to go on strike. 3 shots underwater and BHAM.. it blacked out and refused to power on. No mood to report on this trip. Except Pelong Rocks is a lobster heaven!


Yesterday, the poo offered me some jellybeans;

Poops: "Pick one, and i'll tell you what flavour it is"
Poops: "i think the most disgusting one is popcorn"
Me: "No way, i hate jellybeans, they taste so artificial"

She then brought it to dinner at a friend's and guess who tried one and ended up picking in the bag the whole night?! Yea, me....

She passed it round the table and made everyone pick one, then went on to tell them what flavours they got. It's insane. Packed with 50 flavours, they have strawberry cheesecake jellybeans that actually taste like strawberry flavoured cheesecake. Peanut butter, MMmm.. Imagine the goodness of tasting stg that is free of the thousands of calories that comes with it.

Some got crappy ones and were very reluctant to taste another one. So poops made them a pact,
"I'll eat whatever you're eating, ok?"

So Deitri and Poops popped a yellow-coloured jelly.
Poops: *chewing* - her expressions turned sour "Erhbleh, i think this is popcorn..."
Poops: *more chewing* "Yea.. It's popcorn"

21 June 2007

Small is beautiful

.Dive manics.

Day: Wednesday, 20 June 2007 - Night Dive
Crew: Myself, Angel, Andrew, Caryn, Caroline, Eric, Elvin, Amsyari, Hassan, Eng (Instructor), and Jessie (Captain)
Dive Site: Brunei Patches
Viz: Good
Max Depth: 10m
Dive Time: 117m (Record!)

Weather wasnt too promising in the afternoon, but a phone call from Eng to her source, a fisherman, and the Brunei Meteorological forecast centre gave the 'good-to-go'. Someone who's coming from Gadong was supposed to bring Jollibee's chicken strips but failed to do so 'cos he didnt want to wait 5 mins! 5 mins! Hmppff

Tonight, we requested for a part reef part sand dive again at Brunei Patches. Maximum depth was only 9-10m, this means we could possibly dive up to 2 hours on one tank! Weee..I was one of the last to descend... diving into a realm of darkness with rings of light scattered around the reef is just so.damn.cool. Everyone was already busy doing their own thing; inspecting seafans, looking under crevices, peeking at burrows, some armed with big camera housings and strobes, flashes going off, i feel like we're scavenging for underwater treasures. Muhuuhuu.

My heart was set on seeing something extraordinary like a flambouyant cuttlefish or a mimic octopus by the sand patch. Wishful thinking, i know... but i know never say never too. Tonight, i saw 3 different bobtail squids, also known as stubby squid. I put my finger next to them to approximate their size, all 3 ranged from 2-3cm. There's a fascinating short story about them!

.Meet Bob - Now you see me. Now you dont.

And they can certainly make you laugh. First i see Bob jetting past me, i tried like a mad woman to adjust my shutter speed, but my fingers gave way. When i've focused in on Bob, my hand and fingers start trembling.. i have no friggin' idea why, hungry kali. Up till now, i still dont have a facefront shot. Then it settled, 8 out of 10 times, into a small opening of a coral rock where there's no possible way your camera can fit in. A few snaps later, Bob starts burrowing into the sand, lifting sand and gravel with its suckered arms and dumping it all over himself until he thinks i cant see him nomore. But i still can, Bob! Muhuuhuu. Now since he is out and about looking for food at night, so are others.. others way bigger and much more macho than he is, others with calamari nyam-nyam on their mind.

When Bob's out cruising for prey, others could see him from below, as a tasty dark blob against the brighter ocean surface. So how does he escape his otherwise doomed fate? Bob came up with a brilliant idea. He gathered a bunch of hooligans, the bioluminescent bacteria (Vibrio fischeri) and made them a deal. "You feed on my sugar and amino acid, in return you make light for me." Bob has proteins in its belly that reflect light given off by the hooligans, this way it hides his silhouette when viewed from below by matching the amount of light hitting the top of his mantle. It's a deal called "symbiosis". Cool, isnt it.. human beings can certainly learn from them.

And the real big deal about Bob and his kind is that scientists believe they may have inspired a new generation of high-tech miniature gadgets. How geeky is that!!

Enough of Bob, this ghost goby was the best poser of the night. All it did was switched position, front to back, back to front at the very same spot whilst her baby did not move a single inch. I think it's a mother's instinct to take the attention away from her baby. "Eat me, eat me but dont eat my baby"

.A mother's love.

.Weeee.. i've got capes. Baby lionfish.

.I can crawl, and i can fly. (Flatworm)

At the end of our dive, it was left with Caryn, Caroline and myself. We did a 3min safety stop at 5metres. Try this - get your bouyancy right and close your eyes. All you hear is your breathing and then thoughts of something creeping up beside you starts clouding your head. It's freaky, adrenaline-pumping freaky! Muhuhuu.

Amsyari made it through his 1st night dive - well done dude!

19 June 2007

The "Yoshi" Effect

.Photographed by Mr.Yoshi Hirata.

Day: Saturday, 16 June 2007 - Day Dive
Crew: Myself, Angel, Joseph, Steven, Simon, Albert, Nusun, "Some1", June, Uwais, Cik Azli (Instructor), Boatman
Dive Site: Arun's Wreck and Brunei Patches (Brunei)
Viz: So-so
Max Depth: 20m & 12m
Dive Time: 45m & 70m

Tempted by 3 boat dives in one trip, Angel and I got up at 7.30am on our day-off to join Cik Azli. We met at the bay off Jerudong fish market; fishermen were all preparing their boats to go out to sea, twenty over tanks stand waiting to be loaded on our boat, both my hands full with bags of food, i look up to the bleak skies hoping it wont take a turn for the worse on us.

Arun's Wreck is approximately 20-30 minutes away depending on sea condition. We descended to this sand barge that is sitting upright on a sandy bottom. Even with poor visibility and the lack of sunlight, this wreck exudes a kind of mellow beauty. It is completely floored with willowy pink and lilac soft corals that is home to carefully camouflaged cowries.

During this dive, the name "Yoshi" and the "Yoshi-Effect" kept running through my head everytime i focus for a shot. When i was in Mabul, Andy from Scubazoo told us about SWV's consultant marine biologist, who is also an underwater photographer, Mr.Yoshi Hirata. He raved about Yoshi's style of photography; focusing on a particular feature of the subject.. their face, their eyes and all else are out of focus. They call it the "Yoshi-Effect". They said his book "My Expressions of Love for the Sea with ... Yoshi" will send tears down your face. His pictures certainly justify the phrase "Every picture tells a story". I was inspired.

...So i fiddled with my camera... heh heh heh.

Conclusion: The strobes that i've been trying to avoid buying is inevitable if i wish to get closer to my subjects. I . got . to . resist . the . temptation.

There is actually a third Glossodoris at the back, but i've cropped it out. They were huddled together, usually a sign of mass-mating behaviour.
.I'll stand by you.

Risbecia tryoni has an interesting habit of tailgating - the phenomenon where one animal follows another often with the 'follower' usually resting its head on the posterior end of the foot of the 'leader'. More often than not, i see this trailing behaviour in tryonis. It is thought of as a prelude to mating behaviour in this genus.


Our second dive was at Brunei Patches. We dropped off to part reef and part sand. I was quite excited because we learned in Mabul, sand dives can be very rewarding. A good part of my dive was spent peering over burrows in the sand, looking under featherstars, and scanning seafans. It has to be me if i havent found anything interesting YET! Then a featherstar sitting on the peak of a pyramid-shaped coral caught my attention. I thought it would make a good picture. I thought i could have a look at the featherstar before i take a shot. Suddenly, something red poked its head up from the other side. *@#$. Gawd. It looked at me straight in the eye. I backed off in a split second and it slithered off. My eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets! It wasnt anything extraordinary but the fact that it crept up like that scared me shitless.

Since this is probably the best encounter so far, i looked around for Angel, Steven and Joseph. No sight of them + bad viz = hysterical banging on tank while keeping an eye on Mr.octo-who-is-slithering-away.

.You got me!.

.You cant exactly get sick of them. It's Nemo!.

Our 3rd dive was cancelled due to bad weather and a few sea-sick divers. No resistance from Angel and I as we were dead-beat tired and sleepy.

The night was spent with people who were much younger than I am! Thank god for these two i didnt feel so out of place. Muuhuuhuu.

14 June 2007

Up is Down

Day: Wednesday, 13 June 2007 - Sunset-Night Dive
Crew: Myself, Angel, Caryn, Andrew (Instructor), Eric, Ed, Katherine, Eng (Instructor), Hassan and Jessie (Captain)
Dive Site: Little Dale @ Mel's Reef (Brunei)
Viz: V.Good
Max Depth: 12m
Dive Time: 105m (Good gracious!)

Missing diving in Mabul and Sipadan is one thing. Coming back to Brunei's reef is another thing. Our waters are blessed with exquisite coral reefs that are full of vigour and are flourishing healthily. 'Cept we probably dont have thousands of fish swarming around us, or up close encounters with numerous turtles and sharks at any one time like you would in Sipadan.

However, we believe there are plenty of undiscovered treasures beneath our sea.

Brunei - a macro paradise? You never know!

Reports on this dive:

  • Eng and 2 JIS teachers spotted a turtle and we DID NOT >:/
  • Eng and 2 JIS teachers spotted a baby leopard shark and we DID NOT >:/
  • Set your eyes on macro mode, you'll end up seeing tiny things and miss out on the big things >:/
  • Saw 4 bobtail squids and yet not a single decent face shot >:/
  • Featherstars can be sO friggin' annoying >:/
  • Crabs can take on a look that's beyond your wildest imagination :>
  • Pictures look so much better at night without all the backscatter :>
  • Got to dive for 1 hr and 45 minutes on one tank :>
  • Laughing underwater will exhaust your air faster
  • Andrew called Caryn, Eric and I cowboy divers for reasons i cannot reveal. Muhuuhuu.

.Bobtail squid. Baby cuttlefish.

.Crabbie. This crab seriously reminds me of E.T.

.More Crabbies.

.Crown-of-thorns starfish.

If you happen to see this starfish, stab it! Takako, a Japanese instructor once said to me "This one dangerous, eat coral, must K.I.L.L". Fact: It is a coral reef predator that can wipe out large areas of coral. An individual is said to be able to consume up to 6 square meters of living reef per year.
After reading this post, Andrew asked me "Are you sure you want divers to kill the crown-of-thorns?....it is one of the food source for triton shells". He said it's the yin and yang, the balance of life. It got me thinking. In all my dives here, i've only seen them a couple of times. So i suppose if there isnt exactly a big outbreak or pose any immediate threat to coral reefs, it's fair to leave them alone.

Good night!

.Next week - muck diving.
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