VIEWPOINT : Babies and Bombs at Banta
We’ve been diving Komodo National Park each year since 1994, so we count ourselves very lucky. For some years, we’ve taken our daughters with us underwater and this year, we had their friends come along—all freshly certified scuba divers.
We left the park area for a few dives at Banta Island, and had a great and safe night dive with almost 100% chance for star gazers.
In the early morning, we could not do our planned dive as the current was too strong for the beginners and as the morning water was a bit dark and cold, I almost turned around myself and went back to the boat. But hey, we were here already, there was nothing else I needed to do, so decided to jump in at a site I had never been before.
The start of the dive was rather uneventful, some of the hard corals had bleached and I thought how inappropriate it was to think that the porites almost looked yummy as if powdered sugar was dusted on them; any parrotfish should enjoy scraping a bite out of them.
There were only a couple of gorgonian seafans. My daughter Eva and I gave each other an underwater high five when she got some great shots of the tiniest pink little pygmee seahorse, with its tail wrapped around the fan. With not much time left, we moved into the shallows and saw the cutest baby frog fishes, one yellow and the other grey, shifting about the rubble at around 30 feet.
As all divers got their chance to see the frog fishes, our guide showed me a xenia-like soft coral. Or that was what I thought it was. I started to get agitated wondering why he would touch and pick up a piece of the reef, even if it was just a soft coral that grows in areas that have turned into mere rubble fields. What excitement I felt when he gestured that I needed to take a real close look. I then saw that it was a Rudman's Phyllodesmium, a nudibranch mimicking a soft coral!
During our safety stop, I looked down and saw a double barred rabbit fish—dead after a bomb blast that must have just happened as we were waking up this morning on the other side of the bay.
We left the bay of Banta with many mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was glad that my daughter got to take pictures of the special little critters, but on the other, I realized that it was easy to spot those weird animals as nearly the entire reef had been destroyed in past years.
I couldn’t help thinking, how much longer till other reefs that are not part of marine protected areas are destroyed and barred, leaving only some weird, tiny creatures that don’t provide any food or livelihood benefits to people?