Guess What I Saw? 10 Bragworthy Underwater Finds

top-10-underwater-creaturesIt’s 6 pm, as with the end of most days diving, you are sitting around a table chatting with some of the staff and new friends you’ve made on the boat whilst sipping beers and exchanging highlights from the day. One of your new friends begins to describe her Discover Scuba Diving experience. She beams,  “I’m totally hooked! You know, I was scared before, but it was really easy and we saw so many cool things.”You smile at her gently, knowingly, slightly condescendingly – letting her explain how much she enjoyed seeing clownfish in their anemones, colours of the reef and possibly a turtle sighting. “Yeah! We saw mantas, a Flamboyant cuttlefish, sharks and some cool octopus!”

“Not just any cool octopus,” her instructor interjects, “A MIMIC OCTOPUS!”

You sputter, coughing and choking on your beer. Are you freaking serious? Three things you’ve spent over 2,000 dives and countless amounts of money hoping to see? THIS N00B DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HOW LUCKY SHE IS! Now that she has ruined your sunset, evening and possibly your life, you switch between dreaming about how glorious it would be to see those creatures and concocting elaborate methods of drowning this beginner in a rage of envy.

Here are 10 creatures you can dive with at Blue Marlin, many of them rare finds, that every diver hopes to see one day.

Manta Ray:


Despite their horn-shaped cephalic lobes earning these fish the moniker of ‘devilfish’, manta ray interactions are some of the most sought after experiences by divers. Growing up to 7m (23 ft) in wingspan, mantas glide through the water with the elegance of Princess Diana combined with the power of a stealth bomber.

Cited as “one of one of the most charismatic creatures in the ocean“,

these charmers, similar to your grade school crush, will lure you into a questionably meaningful, prolonged game of eye contact. Let’s be real, though, they are probably wondering why you are struggling so much in such a light current!

With the highest brain mass to body mass ratio of all elasmobranchs (even comparable to some birds and mammals!), they are the first fish to pass the mirror test. In this test, which leopards and gorillas have failed, manta rays proved they were self-aware by recognising it was their own reflection in a mirror and not another individual. So, when you convinced yourself that you were having a moment with that manta (His name is Ninja…BTW), it is very possible that he was thinking the same thing about you!

Fun Fact: Just like Orcas with their saddle patch, each Manta ray is individually identifiable thanks to the spots on their belly. Projects such as MantaMatcher: A Wildbook for Manta Rays rely on citizen science to identify individual mantas and log encounters. Over 6,443 encounters have been logged in Indonesia with a very large portion of those coming from the manta population of Komodo National Park. What are you waiting for?

Mimic Octopus:

And the underwater Oscar goes to….. Mimic Octopus! 

Much like Christian Bale, this guy is the king of changing his appearance for an upcoming role.

The Mimic octopus imitates other animals’ shapes, movement, and colours in an uncanny way. 

While it is most famous for its imitations of lionfish and sea snakes, it can also take on the part of eels, starfishes, stingrays and more! Even more amazingly, this species is incredibly aware of the food chain and may choose to mimic a specific animal based on which predator is attacking. It has been observed that a Mimic octopus attacked by a damselfish chose to mimic a banded sea snake, a damselfish predator.

Ok, enough talk. More .gifs. 

animals animal color change octopus


Oh, and the best part? Although incredibly rare, this species is native to western and central Indo-Pacific. Oh yeah. That’s where we dive. Booyakasha. 

Whale Shark:

A whale shark. Photo credit: Wikimedia

Who wouldn’t want to swim with the biggest fish?

These ocean giants grow to an average of 10 metres (32 ft) long, but there have been multiple confirmed reports of individuals maxing out at over 12.8 metres (41.5 ft)! Some claim that even bigger ones exist, but as divers, we also know that everything appears bigger underwater… Although these sharks have about 3,000 very tiny teeth packed into a 1.5 (4.9ft) metre wide mouth, it is completely safe to swim with these harmless creatures.

More fun facts: Females can retain sperm for a long time and are able to give birth several times during a prolonged period. (The absolute terror of Whale shark baby daddies everywhere.) However, with whale sharks not reaching sexual maturity until age 30, it is easy to see why this is a necessary function as the species is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

With average life spans of 70 years, this animal commands respect.

Perhaps the Vietnamese are right in referring to them as “Lord Fish”. Whale sharks have been spotted in the Gilis and Komodo National Park. 

Pygmy Seahorse:

Seahorse pygmee

Size doesn’t matter! And that’s gonna be a good thing for this animal because this seahorse is just crazy ridiculous tiny. With many measuring less than 2 cm, you still may miss the Pygmies even if you are staring right at them. It’s not just that these creatures are minuscule – they also go incognito by living within sea fans of the same colour and bulbous texture. Or maybe they adapt their colour to fit their host? Scientists aren’t sure yet. 

Their camouflage is so on point, though, that scientists didn’t even know they existed until accidentally finding one on a sea fan examined in a laboratory in 1969. 

In a total win for dive professionals, most pygmy seahorses make their home in one sea fan for extended periods of time. So if you see your dive guide seemingly staring past a sea fan, squinting and blinking, we promise – they’re not having an Elliot Smith moment -they’re just attempting to make their eyes focus so they can show you this cool little dude. Pygmies are all over the Gilis and Komodo so you’ll be sure to tick this one off of your list.

Instructor Confession: We think it’s hilarious when we try to show you a Pygmy seahorse and you signal ‘ok, saw it’ when A. we never saw your eyes focus and B. they’re like 10 centimetres to your left. It’s ok, we missed them our first time too.

Excelled at every ‘Where’s Waldo’ you’ve ever seen? Then your next mission, if you choose to accept, is to photograph them properly. And make sure you ask first… I hear they can have a bit of a Napoleon complex….

Image result for pygmy seahorse
Who you calling tiny??????

Mola Mola:

Mola mola

Let’s be honest for a moment. This fish looks like a giant mistake or some weird Pokemon. Oh, wait. It looks exactly like a Pokemon. It seems that Ash is just as intent on ticking off his ocean bucket list as we are.

I digress.

The Mola Mola, also known as the Ocean Sunfish, is the world’s largest bony fish, weighing more than a pickup truck. Despite averaging 3 metres long and weighing 2,200 lbs., Mola Mola are another one of the sea’s gentle giants and pose no threat to divers. However, Wikipedia states, “a slight danger exists from large sunfish leaping out of the water onto boats; in one instance, a sunfish landed on a 4-year-old boy when the fish leapt onto the boy’s family’s boat.” [Editor’s Note: The boy was fine and got away with just a couple of scrapes.] {Editor’s Sidenote: HOW CRAZY WOULD THAT BE? How jealous of that kid’s story are you right now? “Oh yeah, I was just sitting there when a massive mistake-looking creature hurled itself onto our boat and LANDED ON ME.” I’m at Tonya Harding levels of jealousy.}

Mola Mola get their English name (Sunfish) from their affinity for basking in the sun near the surface of the water, helping to warm their bodies after spending a large portion of their lives submerged at depths greater than 200 m and diving up to 600 metres. However, many languages refer to the Mola Mola as a “Moonfish” in reference to its rounded shape.

Germans really take the cake for best name, refusing to mince words, and calling the fish Schwimmender Kopf, or “swimming head”.

While Mola Mola prefer deep and cold waters, it is not unheard of to get rare sightings of these creatures in Komodo or the Gilis.

Flamboyant Cuttlefish :


The Flamboyant cuttlefish is an absolute diva: beautiful, mesmerising and deadly. Just like your girlfriend saying, “I’m fine” is code for “Nothing is fine and I hate you”, the Flamboyant cuttlefish’s colourful, pulsating patterns are ocean code for “DO NOT EAT ME”. Research has shown that the toxin found in her muscle tissue is equally lethal when ingested as that of fellow cephalopod, the Blue Ringed octopus (who narrowly missed this list). But really, this little diva needs the extra protection as she only grows up to 8 centimetres (3 inches)! 

However, her toxicity isn’t its only difference she has with other cuttlefish. Instead of swimming like the others, the Flamboyant cuttlefish crawls like an octopus! Ok, we’re hitting a sore spot for this little lady. Many biologists describe her body as “robust”, which is an incredibly nice way to say chubby in all dimensions. The short cuttlebone that gives her this appearance negatively affects the cuttlefish’s buoyancy, making it impossible for her to swim for long periods of time without sinking.

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Whatever this diva lacks in buoyancy, she makes up in flam-buoyancy!!! See what we did there…??

As she moves across the ocean floor, her colours pulsate in a hypnotic pattern, daring anyone to touch her… or call her “robust”. Catch a full-length performance in the Gilis or Komodo. (If you’re in Komodo, we’ve heard Siaba Besar is your best chance to find one!)

Dolphins :


You’d have to be pure evil to not like dolphins. Playful, friendly, smart, caring…The list of complementary adjectives rolls on. Often regarded as one of Earth’s most intelligent animals, dolphins display fascinating human-like behaviour that captivates divers and non-divers alike. In terms of the brain to body ratio, the dolphin has the largest, just after humans.

This resulting intelligence has even led scientists to believe that dolphins have developed their own culture, something that was long believed to be unique to humans. 

Dolphins: They’re just like US!

Dolphins display a lot of behaviours similar to many of your closest friends. They engage in strong social bonds; staying with individuals who are ill or feeble, even helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface if needed. Dolphins even display this altruistic behaviour towards other species; one was observed guiding a Pygmy Sperm whale and her calf out of shallow water to avoid being stranded as well as many being seen protecting human swimmers from sharks. Flipper is killing the guard dog game. 

However, they also engage in more complex activities. They develop hunting techniques that they teach each other from generation to generation, dependent on local conditions. Another learned behaviour was discovered when some male dolphins used weeds and sticks as part of a sexual display. Dolphins even know how to get down with their bad selves. Male dolphins have been known to masturbate by wrapping a live eel around their penis and pods have been observed passing around a pufferfish to ‘getting high’ on its toxins. “Pass the puffy on the left-hand side..” by Dolphin Youth is actually a total banger.

Our human fascination with these animals has reached such heights that many operations now offer “dolphin encounters” where guests can swim, feed and interact with dolphins. Now, of course, we KNOW that these operations, where they keep the dolphins in captivity, are terrible. Forcing an incredibly social wild animal into a sequestered, artificial space is torture. WE’VE ALL SEEN BLACKFISH. (If you haven’t, stop what you’re doing right this instant and watch it. Tell your boss that Blue Marlin made you.) Many of these operations involve swimming with dolphins that are free-roaming in the wild. As these dolphins are not kept in captivity, people argue that impacts are marginal. However, there is a growing body of research that states that many of these dolphins become dependent on human sources of food and the never-ending flow of tourists can be stressful.

We say they best way to see them is a chance encounter while diving. Nobody forgets the time they saw dolphins underwater. Especially when they were toking pufferfish, listening to the Grateful Fishhead and eating like 30 pizzas in one sitting.

Mandarinfish :

Mandarin fish

The mandarin fish was first described as Callionymus splendidus and it’s not hard to see why the Latin word for splendid was attached to its name. The common name also comes from its extremely vivid colouration, evoking the robes of an Imperial Chinese officer (mandarin). It has quite a few other names, but we at Blue Marlin prefer ‘psychedelic mandarin fish’, although ‘child let loose with a box of crayons fish’ also seems appropriate. The mandarin fish and its closely related cousin, the Picturesque dragonet, are the only two animals in the animal kingdom to have blue cellular pigment. All other animals that appear blue actually have light reflecting pigments that give the impression of blue colouring.

As they are highly reclusive during the day, it is best to catch these small fish on sunrise or sunset dives.

Much like your morning after a night out-out (No, that is not a typo. Out-out is a specific reference), they actively avoid the light. They swim with a rapid pulsating of their fins which tends to make them look like they are hovering much like a hummingbird. Lucky for us, they are slow swimmers, making it just a little bit easier to admire those splendid colours.

Top tip? Look for muck diving near Lombok or the dive site Wainilu in Komodo to catch these beauties.

Blue Whale:



The Blue Whale is the largest animal on Earth….EVER! Oh yeah, even the biggest dinosaurs couldn’t compete! The largest dinosaur was thought to weigh 90 tonnes, but the average Blue whale weighs anywhere from 73-136 tonnes. That #@!& cray. With a tongue weighing as much as an elephant and a heart weighing as much as a car, this is definitely a sea creature we’d like to see!

Blue whale size.svg
We know the above picture has a diver in it, but perspective makes the diver look bigger. This is the actual size comparison of a diver to a whale.

Blue whales can zoom through the ocean, reaching speeds of 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph) over short bursts. It is more likely, though, to see one cruising at about 20 kilometres per hour (12 mph). When feeding, they slow down to 5 kilometres per hour (3.1 mph), so this is clearly the time you’d want to see them underwater. Just don’t get accidentally swept up into its giant mouth! The Blue whale eats the tiniest sea creatures, mostly feeding on krill. It is estimated that a Blue whale eats up to 40 million krill (about 3,600 kilogrammes or 7,900 lbs.) in a single day.

Due to the whales’ size, it only has one predator: the incredibly smart and gang bangin’ Orca or Killer whale (we don’t say that lightly – Orcas go HARD). 

Studies report that as many as 25% of mature blue whales have scars resulting from orca attacks.

Check out below for a Blue whale replying to an Orca attack with a resounding “HELL NO.”

Killer Whales and Blue Whales!

While we haven’t heard of divers seeing Blue whales underwater in Indonesia, this very blog writer saw a Blue whale slap its tail on the surface from Blue Marlin Komodo’s day boat. So it is possible….

Rhinopias :


The members of the genus Rhinopias, have long been considered the “Holy Grail” of divers who appreciate rare and unusual fishes. So put on your best Indiana Jones hat and start looking! They are considered rare, but this may be due in part to their cryptic behaviour, excellent camouflage and the fact some species live in habitats that are not readily explored.

While there are multiple species, the images pictured are Weedy scorpionfish.

Their colouring ranges from dark red and purple to yellow and lavender.

Living at depths between 13-90 metres, these fish, when found, are sure to induce screams of delight from divers who get to witness them. And as they rarely swim, it often seems that they are posing just for you. But be careful, they are notorious for being hard to work with.

“Ugh, I look so pale in that picture..”

” No, take another… I’m making a ridiculous face.”

“Does this coral make me look fat?”

Rhinopias can be found in the Gilis and Komodo.

Which creatures would you add to the list?


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