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Love Frogfish? Then you will love Atmosphere!

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Love Frogfish? Yes? Then you are going to love Atmosphere Resort & Spa! Located in Dauin, on the island of Negros Oriental near Dumaguete, in The Philippines, this is frogfish heaven. Whether you are diving the famous Apo Island, with its wonderful coral reef (more on this another time) or exploring the local reefs and muck dives, there are frogfish wherever you look. This is the capital of the world for Frogfish.

We love frogfish so much, we named our company after them. So, it was with some excitement that we headed to Atmosphere, as not only did we know that we would be spending lots of time with our favourite weird fish, but Atmosphere has another treat for all frogfish fans – a resident expert – Daniel Geary (or Dr Frogfish)!

Daniel wrote the PADI Frogfish Specialist Course and teaches it exclusively at the resort. The course starts with a two hour classroom session. Daniel goes into detail about the history of frogfish, such as the first ever drawings/encounters written in history, working our way up to the present and highlighting some of the important scientists that furthered our knowledge of frogfish.

He talks about general frogfish biology on subjects such as body morphology, predation, reproduction, movement, and distribution. The final topic is the identification segment, and, according to Daniel, that is the most important part of the course. He goes through a few main species in heavy detail, then talks about some of the rare species in moderate detail, touching on the super rare species just to show they exist and to see cool photos.

The course is centred around Indo-Pacific frogfish, but he can add frogfish from anywhere to tailor it to the diver taking the course. Participants then go for two dives, with the dive site chosen depending on the abundance of frogfish at that time of the year.

Daniel says: ” Normally we see between 2 and 5 species. We can expect anywhere from 1 to 30 frogfish during a course. My record is 36. During the dives themselves, our main objective is to locate the frogfish. We then measure them, take notes of habitat and any behaviour observed, and if brave, the students can guess identification underwater using hand signals. I bring my camera, and students are encouraged to bring theirs, so that we can properly identify the frogfish after the dive.”

After the second dive, the students have a debriefing session where they go through the photos. As a team, with the students leading, we identify each frogfish we spotted and look at their behaviour as well. The objective is for the students to identify the frogfish with minimal help. After the course, they get a free t-shirt, PADI certification, and a pdf file of Daniel’s custom Frogfish of the Visayas ID Guide.

Alas, there was not enough time on our trip for us to complete the Frogfish Specialist Course, but we did attend one of Daniel’s talks on his favourite subject of Frogfish, which are a popular evening event. We got to hear first-hand about his passion for frogfish, see some of his impressive images and learn plenty more about them, whilst sipping on a cool beer, after a great day of diving.

The diving was a real treat, and whilst we took in far more than just frogfish on this trip (more about this soon) it was amazing just how many different species and individual frogfish we encountered, from the miniscule ones, barely bigger than a grain of sand, to the very large ones camouflaged against sponges. Frogfish are incredible fish, with the ability to blend in to match their surroundings and then strike at their prey with ferocious speed. They use a special appendage to “fish” for their prey, dangling a lure out in front of their mouths. They tend to walk along the seabed and look clumsy when trying to move from one place to another. Be careful – they can become an obsession!

For more information please follow the links below:

Atmosphere Resorts & Spa

The Official UK Travel Guide for The Philippines


Underwater Photography Equipment Used:

  • Olympus OMD EM-1 MKII with 60mm lens
  • Nauticam housing
  • INON Z-240 strobes

and

  • Nikon D800 with 105mm lens
  • Nauticam housing
  • INON Z-240 strobes

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Critter Diving in Dumaguete

Atlantis Philippines

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Words and Images by Marty Snyderman

While the term “muck diving” is one that would probably not pass a smell test with the marketing gurus on Madison Avenue, experienced muck divers know exploring the muck to be a featured attraction of diving in the water surrounding our resorts at both Atlantis Puerto Galera and Atlantis Dumaguete.

If you are new to diving or simply have not yet enjoyed the opportunity to muck dive, you might not be familiar with the term muck diving. Don’t let your lack of familiarity or the name turn you away. The term muck diving was first used to describe exploring areas where the bottom consists of black sand, mud and silt in sites that are often influenced by some current flow and a source of freshwater. Over the years the definition has expanded, and today the term muck diving is often used to describe dives over almost any area that has a soft bottom as well as dives around structures such as a pier or dock where the pilings along with discarded tires, bottles and other man-made objects combine to provide habitat and hiding places for all kinds of creatures.

Shrimp goby and shrimp on the sand

But it is not just the nature of the sea floor or number of species that one might see that has made muck diving so popular. It is the fact that many of the encountered creatures are so bizarre, amazing, different, and well adapted for their life style and their chosen habitat that they routinely leave divers in awe of what Mother Nature has to share. Creatures such as ornate, robust, and halimeda ghostpipefishes, shrimpgobies and their partner shrimps, strange-looking scorpionfishes, sea moths, skeleton shrimp, decorator crabs, stargazers, gurnards, frogfishes, cuttlefishes, seahorses, octopuses, and snake eels are daily fare in muck sites.

Paddleflap Rhinopias on the sand

In many muck diving areas, the bottom is not completely barren. Small patch reefs and anemones in the sand provide refuge for additional species of fishes, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and squids etc. In short, muck diving can be crazy good!

The Muck Diving Experience

Napoleon Snake Eel in the Sand

For many divers the first time they look around after entering the water at some highly acclaimed muck diving site, their heart sinks as the surroundings do not bring the term beauty to mind. Drab is usually more like it, and upon first consideration most muck diving sites look boring. But you’ll be selling muck diving short if you judge this book by its cover. Just trust those that brought you to the site and go see what there is to see. Odds are you’ll be absolutely amazed.

Muck Diving Technique

A Hairy Frogfish uses its lure to attract prey on the muck substrate in Dumaguete

In many muck sites it is extremely easy to stir up the bottom and reduce the visibility with a single kick of a fin or the loss of buoyancy that causes a diver to crash into the sea floor. It is best to keep kicking and all other movements to an absolute minimum, and to achieve and maintain neutral buoyancy.

After that, it is “get low, go slow, be curious, and look closely” as you scour the bottom and any structure whether a soft coral, sponge, or debris such as a dead leaf or piece of driftwood on the sea floor. Take two looks at the slightest aberration. See something that looks just slightly different than its surroundings, and the odds are that you will be looking at some mind-blowing animal.

A Box Crab scurries before burying itself in the sand again

Be patient with yourself as you learn “how to look”. Divers that are new to muck diving almost always swim past subject after subject without spotting them during their first several muck dives. And they are almost universally amazed by the animals their dive guides spot. It is like the guides and new divers are diving in different oceans.

The key to the guides’ success is that they know where, how to look, and who they are looking for. Of course, gaining that expertise takes time. No doubt, their experience is a huge help. When you ask them how they do what they do, they are usually quick to tell you they “get low, go slow, remain curious, and look closely”.  And I’ll throw in a “have fun and allow yourself to be amazed by Mother Nature”.


Visit www.atlantishotel.com to find out more!

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Introducing Thresher Shark Indonesia

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Thresher Shark Indonesia was founded in 2018. Their work aims to protect endangered pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) in Alor Island, Indonesia through investigating the critical habitat, socio-economic importance of the species for the community and conservation outreach to local schools. They combine research and community engagement to inform policy decision for local protection of the species.

Thresher Shark Indonesia first documented thresher shark sighting around Alor diving sites, they began collecting movement information through satellite tagging studies, and also gained the perceptions about the fisheries dependency of thresher shark fishing. Thresher shark fishing in Alor was previously unknown to local government institutions. Their outreach activities have successfully been delivered to more than 500 Alor communities through radio, community events, and other engagements. This has shifted the perception of the local communities to the importance of conserving thresher sharks and valuing them as a local tourism asset in Alor.

Over the coming weeks we will look into the current projects of Thresher Shark Indonesia in more detail.

To learn more right now, visit their website by clicking here

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