Alor’s field of anemones and anemonefish
written by Janice Nigro
A diver doesn’t usually choose the next dive destination by making a random pick out of a hat. The idea percolates. The planning might start subconsciously long before a diver decides to go, through casual conversation over dinner and in between dives on the current dive trip.
Divers want to know what kind of animals they are going to see. Will there be macro critters or pelagic animals? Is it the right time of the year to see whale sharks, grouper spawning or cuttlefish laying eggs? It’s a fantastical, endless list of natural phenomena, intersecting with the right weather and phase of the moon, that compel a diver to travel around the world.
What was I looking for in my last dive vacation? Anemones. Plain and simple, although difficult to pronounce, it was anemones.
Anemones are fascinating, but why?
I don’t care what kind they are-I love looking at anemones. Tentacles are intricately colored all the way to their tips. Their columns sport beautiful colors, spots, and texture. There they sit, the definition of flow, begging to be photographed, like an underwater version of a giant Georgia O’Keefe painted flower.
I am instantly charmed by their most famous symbiotic residents, the anemonefish. Their “I’m so happy to see you puppy dog” dance works like a drug. You can’t look away until you gaze onto another.
Each anemone is also its own little microhabitat fostering development of the next generations of many other critters as well. There are crabs and shrimp, and a diver soon begins to recognize which species of anemones are homes to their favorite versions of each of these critters.
They do not disappoint. I’m not too proud to say out loud, or write in my dive log, “I saw a beautiful anemone on my dive today.”
An attentive team and great inhabitants
Dive guides are in on my obsession. When one of them mentioned a dive site in the Alor Archipelago packed with anemones, that’s all I needed to know to get me through four days of travel through six airports half way around the world to see it.
Alor is an island in the archipelago east of Bali and just north of Timor. It’s not a huge mecca for tourists, not yet anyway, as the plan is to be landing several jets there a day in the future. Life appears rather simple compared to our western ways; dive guides paddle to work in their dugout canoes.
Before we arrived, our trip leader Claudine gushed about the island. “Alor is in my heart,” she said repeatedly. I got it after visiting Alor and some of the other islands in the archipelago. The Alorese are very friendly people. I did not speak their language. But they speak to you through their dances, music, textiles, and selfies, which I believe have become the universal sign for “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Discussions over meals at the resort were a lot about big animals that migrate through the area. Blue whale had been sighted just the week before our arrival. But they talked a lot about the anemones too. I had no idea what to expect on this dive site. I hadn’t seen many images from the area before I arrived. Word of mouth brought me here.
The morning arrived. Anemone Fields was slated as the first dive of the day. That meant maximum at depth dive time and a fully charged camera and strobes. I ate a light breakfast, fresh fruit with roasted coconut flakes on top. And toast from homemade bread. I eagerly danced, jumped, and squeezed myself into my 5mm wetsuit, rubbing my knuckles raw in anticipation of what might be underwater.
To be continued ….
To experience the same trip as Janice, check out our page about our next trip in August and October.