5 Reasons Why We Need to Protect Coral Reefs

Known as the ‘Rainforest of the Ocean’, Coral Reefs can be found all over the globe. Not only are they beautiful to look at, with their diversity in vibrant colors and textures, but they are also extremely important to keep the ocean’s ecosystem in check. 

Unfortunately, in a recent development, coral reefs are deteriorating and dying at an alarming rate due to human and natural pressures that range from overfishing and human destruction to ocean acidification and climate change. 

Here are 5 reasons why we need Coral Reefs and should therefore protect them:

1. Biodiversity

Coral Reefs are home to more than a  ¼ of all marine animals on the planet. Thousands of species can be found living on one reef only and a greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.

2. Coastal Protection

With their massive formations between the surface and the first few dozen meters of depth, coral reefs form a protective barrier that absorbs the elements coming from the open sea. They absorb wave energy and contribute to the reduction of coastal erosion and therefore reduce damage in the event of storms, hurricanes and other natural disasters. This way, they protect both the ecosystems between the reefs and the coasts, as well as civilization along the coast. Humans have even started to recreate this effective strategy by immersing concrete structures along some of our more fragile coastlines, as some islands would no longer exist without this safety measure.

3. Economy

Millions of people around the world depend on reefs for food, protection, and employment. Especially the tourism sector and local economies benefit from intact Coral Reefs, as visitors from all over the world come to admire their reefs by snorkeling or scuba diving to explore them. If managed sustainably, respectfully meaning handling reefs by limiting the destruction and pollution-induced by this same tourism, especially when it comes to mass tourism, can provide a sustainable income source for coastal communities in developing countries.

4. MEDICinal Research

Coral organisms and their defense adaptabilities are of great interest in the search for treatments for certain cancers or the aging of cells. Since, so far, only a small fraction of organisms have been sampled, analyzed, and tested, the potential for new pharmaceutical discoveries is enormous.

5. Food resource

Worldwide, coral reefs play a vital role in providing food for more than 500 million people living on or near the coast. Coral reefs provide about 10% of the fish caught worldwide. But this figure rises to 20-25% in developing countries, and 70-90% in Southeast Asian countries.


WHAT CAN WE DO TO PROTECT CORALS ?

Now that we know plenty of reasons why we should protect coral reefs, let’s take a quick look at what we can do to help to preserve them.

There are plenty of lifestyle choices in our everyday life that would, in the long run, help the overall environment, coral reefs included.

Most important of all:  Reducing our waste, especially reducing our use of single-use plastic. Proper disposal of trash, choosing more environmentally friendly means of transportation, saving energy and water in ours home, help to limit our impact on the environment. 

As a diver or watersports fan remember to practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling. Avoid touching reefs or anchoring a boat on a reef. This is very likely to damage or even kill the delicate coral. 

Also, check if your sunscreen is coral-safe. Some ingredients in regular sunscreen can be harmful or even toxic to corals. Or just avoid using a lot of sunscreen by protecting your skin with a rashguard or long-sleeved shirt.

If you share our fascination for the ocean and want to know more about marine life, scuba diving, underwater photography, and much more, check out other articles on our website.

Top 5 Micro Marine Animals in Amed

Whether you’re into Macro Photography or just want to take a closer look at the variety of small underwater creatures: this article might help you to find and identify some of the most fascinating little critters Amed area has to offer.

Nr. 1- Nudibranch and other sea slugs

Starting off with one of the most diverse marine animals in matters of shape, size and colour: the Nudibranch. Their scientific name, Nudibranchia, means ‘naked gills’ and describes the feathery gills and horns that most wear on their backs.

With over 3,000 different species, you will not get bored searching for these beautiful little creatures. Their size can range from 0.25 inches (around half a centimeter) to as big as 12 inches (around 30 centimeters), but their bright, colourful appearance usually makes them quite easy to spot. When muck diving the chances are high to find “nudis” (as most Nudibranch connoisseurs refer to them), but they can also be found on a variety of different corals, rocks or sandy slopes. Amed Wall, Ghost Bay or Tulamben Drop Off are generally great choices for a successful Nudi-Hunt.

Hypselodoris Bullocki at Pyramids

Nr. 2 – Frogfish

It is quite more difficult to spot this micro marine creature: the frogfish. They have the ability to “mimic” their surroundings in both form and color which makes them masters of camouflage. These grumpy looking anglerfish are usually found camouflaged in sea fans, sponges, rocks or among the sand. Their colours can vary from yellow, pinkish red, white to full-on red. The best dive spots in Amed for finding frogfish are Ghost Bay (especially at night), Jemeluk Bay, Tulamben Wall or Drop-Off.

Red Painted Frogfish at Ghost Bay

Nr. 3 – Squid, Octopus, Cuttlefish

Cephalopods are the most intelligent, most mobile and the largest suborder of molluscs. Squids, Octopuses, Cuttlefish and their relatives display remarkable diversity in size and lifestyle with adaptations for predation, locomotion, disguise, and communication. These “brainy” invertebrates have evolved suckered tentacles, camera-like eyes, color-changing skin, and complex learning behavior. A great variety of them can be found along the coasts of Bali and if you look hard enough and explore each and every crevice you’ll be sure to spot some common reef squids, bobtail squids, pygmy and broadclub cuttlefish, coconut and mimic octopuses or even a blue ringed octopus (makes sure to stay away from this one, as they are extremely venomous and one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean). 

Specifically in the Amed area you should check out Jemeluk Bay or Pyramids by night or day to spot these fascinating creatures.

Juvenile Cuttlefish in Jemeluk Bay

Nr. 4 – Crabs and Shrimps

Continuing the trend of incredible diversity in this list, let’s take a quick look at some of the crustaceans you will be able to find in Bali. 

You can find them in between various corals, underneath rocks or even hitchhiking on a Nudibranch. Most notoriously found are harlequin shrimp, mantis shrimp, colmani shrimp, anemone shrimp and imperial shrimp (just to name a few favourites). 

As far as crabs are concerned they will most likely hide in sandy slopes or underneath a coral/rock-formation. The possibilities seem endless, as you can find almost anything from orang-utan crabs, reef crabs, porcelain crabs to hermit crabs and many more.

Be sure to visit Jemeluk Bay and Wall, Pyramids or Ghost Bay. A nightdive would be ideal, as crustaceans usually come out of hiding when it’s nice and dark and you’ll have an easier time spotting them.

Anemone Crab can be found on almost all sites

Nr. 5 – Ghost Pipefish and Seahorses

Closing off with probably the hardest to spot category: Seahorses and Pipefish.

They are not only rare but also quite difficult to spot. Seahorses in Amed are mostly very small and well camouflaged. Especially seahorses like the yellow (thorny) seahorse or pygmy seahorse won’t be easy to find, but who doesn’t like a challenge? While seahorses prefer shallow waters and to hide in between algae or different species of gorgonian coral (soft coral), pipefish on the other hand are usually found hanging out inside wrecks or close to mooring buoys. 

Try your luck at one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks, the USAT Liberty Shipwreck in Tulamben or the Japanese Shipwreck in Bunutan (Amed area).

Pygmy SeaHorse at the Japanese Shipwreck

Why Whales Make Sounds

Generally speaking, whales are believed to make noise to either navigate, communicate, locate food or find other whales. 

All whales are very social creatures that travel in groups called “pods.” They use a variety of different noises to communicate and socialize with each other. The three main types of sounds made by whales can be specified as clicks, whistles, and pulsed calls.

In the animal kingdom these clicking sounds are believed to be used for navigation and identifying their physical surroundings. You may have already heard of bats using this exact same technique, known as echolocation or biological sonar, to fly in the dark and locate potential prey and predators. But they are not the only ones. Dolphins, toothed whales and some types of birds are also well known for using this extraordinary technique, as it allows them to move around in pitch darkness, while still being able to navigate, hunt, identify friends and enemies, and avoid obstacles.

 This is how it works: When the soundwaves produced by one of these animals bounce off of an object, the echoes returning from all directions help the animal to form a 3-dimensional picture of its environment, helping them to identify the shape and distance of the object and thus allowing the animal to ‘see’ further than their eyes are able. Specifically for Dolphins and toothed Whales these sounds are produced by squeezing air through their nasal passages near the blowhole. These soundwaves then pass through the forehead, where a big blob of fat called the melon focuses them into a beam. If the echolocating call hits something, either an object or another animal,  the reflected sound is picked up through the animal’s lower jaw and passed to its ears. Echolocating sounds can be really loud, hence the ears of dolphins and whales are shielded to protect them.

 Experts also believe these special clicking sounds to play a role during social interactions, suggesting they may also have a communicative function.

Similar to the variety of languages and dialects of the human language, differing vocal “dialects” have been found to exist between different pods within the same whale population. This is most likely so that whales can differentiate between whales within their pods and strangers. 

Did you know that some humans are also able to use echolocation? Some blind individuals have learned to use echolocation to sense details of the environment by making clicking sounds with their mouths. Studies have shown that this is possible with lots of training, even for people who are not sight impaired.

In addition to clicks, most toothed whales also produce whistle-type sounds. Humpback whales for example are famous for their singing abilities, as you probably remember Dory demonstrating in the iconic Finding Nemo scene. Interestingly only males sing, and their singing is heard most often but not exclusively during mating season. The singer is usually alone in a head-down, tail-up position, but occasionally another Humpback will join in. Humpback whales do not have vocal cords, so the way they produce sounds is by pushing air through tubes and chambers in their respiratory system. Using underwater microphones, whale researchers have recorded the sound of different species communicating underwater as a method of detecting, tracking, and identifying whales. One way to analyze these recorded signals is to digitize them using a computer and to display them as a spectrogram, which are visual representations of the spectrum of frequencies of a signal, in simpler terms a way to visualize sound like a picture. Hypotheses to why whales sing exist, but researchers do not know the absolute reason. The most common theory is not much different from the clicking explanation, as it is believed to serve as a way to communicate their location to other males, attract females, navigate, find food, and communicate with each other.


Who is a Scorpion?

The order of scorpaeniformes includes many different families which come in variable forms, textures and colors. All of them are very poisonous, some less than others but nevertheless you need to be extremely careful when working with them. Usually they would never charge you if you behave respectfully and responsibly.

Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Actinopterygii, Order: Scorpaeniformes, Suborder: Scorpaenoidei, Family: Scorpaenidae


Lionfish (Pterois)
Most commonly known member of the Scorpaenidae family is the Lionfish genus. Lionfish vary from species to species. All of them have similar features: featherlike fins, distinct facial features and poisonous spikes on their back.

During the day, Lionfish tend to rest on corals or rock. If you approach them slowly you get a good chance to take pictures of them. At night they start to hunt. Some divers experience that Lionfish follow them at night. This is due to the divers’ torches. Lionfish use the light to locate their prey.
Unlike in other parts of the world, Bali’s Lionfish are a natural part of the ecosystem and not invasive.

Common species in Amed:
Spotfin lionfish (Pterois antennata) – red stripes, white body with a dark spot
Devil firefish (Pterois miles) – reddish to tan or grey
Clearfin Lionfish (Pterois radiata) – reddish-brown with about six vertical dark/white bands
Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) – red, maroon, brown stripes & white body
Dwarf Lionfish (Dendrochirus brachypterus) – very small in size, red coloration and banded antennas. 

Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis)
This camouflaged ambush predator can be found all over Amed’s dive sites. Scorpionfish rarely move and stay in one place. They blend into their environment by letting algae and other microorganisms grow over their bodies. Sometimes it can be very difficult to see them. That’s one of the reasons you should never touch or hold on to anything underwater as you might be placing your hands right onto one of these guys.
The appearance of scorpionfish depends on the environment they live in. Even though there are different species of scorpionfish it can be difficult to distinguish them. They all have 12 to 7 poisonous spines on their back. Some have very long snouts giving them their distinct scorpionfish-like look.
Common Species in Amed:
Tassled scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)
Flasher scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis macrochir)



Sea Goblin (
Inimicus didactylus)
Also known as Indian Walkman, demon stinger or devil stinger. This nocturnal predator often lies partly-buried under sand or rocks. They have highly venomous spines which can cause serious injuries. The lower pectoral-fin rays are used as ‘walking legs’.

It can be very difficult to get a good picture of this creature as it blends into its environment perfectly. This makes it difficult to separate it from the background. When the Sea Goblin feels threatened it exposes extremely colorful fins. Looks really cool in pictures from above.

Stonefish (Synanceiidae verrucosa)
This creature is often wrongly identified as a member of the Scorpaenopsis family due to their similar appearance. Once you take a closer look, you will see the significant features which distinguish this fish from the Scorpaenopsis family.

Stonefish are usually brown or grey, and may have areas of yellow, orange, or red.
They can be found in very shallow areas of the reef, which poses a danger to snorkelers who come to close.
These ambush predators carry one of the most toxic venoms found in the animal kingdom. 13 spines on their dorsal area contain the fatal toxin from which it only takes 6 spines to possibly kill a human.

Despite their toxicity they are a great subject for portrait pictures. Make sure to never get too close and especially avoid contact. As they usually won’t move it can be easy to photograph them.
Do not attempt any photoshooting if you feel out of buoyancy control or if there is a surge or current.

Leaf scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus)
The Leaf Scorpionfish (sometimes called paperfish) is one of the least poisonous members of the Scorpaedie family. The venom of the leaf scorpionfish is considerably weaker than that of the lionfish and stonefish. Their color varies from green, red, pink, brown, ocher and yellowish to a ghostly white. As they are really thin they can often be mistaken for a leaf. 

Leaf scorpionfish can be portrayed in many different ways and styles. As they seem slightly transparent you could try to position your strobe behind them to get this translucent appearance.

Nudibranch Anatomy

Every diver loves nudibranchs. But do you know your nudibranch?

Kingdom: Animal, Phylum: Mollusca, Class: Gastropoda. Subclass: Heterobranchia,
Clade: Nudipleura.

Nudibranchs meaning “naked gills” are invertebrates. These mostly shell-less mollusks appear in dozens of different shapes, sizes and colours. Up to this day there have been at least 2.000 species of nudibranchs (short: nudis) discovered.

Nudis are amongst macro photographers’ most favourite subjects because of their extraordinary appearance. Generally, nudis can be divided into two classes: AEOLID & DORID NUDIBRANCH

AEOLID NUDIBRANCHIA

Aeolid nudibranchs are characterised by having long, narrow bodies with numerous finger-like projections, called cerata.  They have a pair of oral tentacles, parapodial tentacles, and rhinophores on their head (McDonald 1999).

A) Oral Tentacles are sensory feelers used to help the slug feel its way over the terrain

B) Rhinophores are chemical sensors on the head that are used to detect chemicals in the water (Ellis 2001)

C,D) Cerata are thin, finger-like projections of the digestive gland of the slug. Some nudibranchs have photosynthetic zooxanthellae from the coral in its cerata (Tackett and Tackett 2003).  The Cerata are also used in defense.  The tips of some cerata can contain poisonous substances (D) (Picton and Morrow 1994).  Cerata can also be cast off when the nudibranch is alarmed. 

E) Acid Glands produce defensive acid secretions against predators. 


DORID NUDIBRANCHIA

A) The Branchial Plume allows Dorid Nudis to filter oxygen from the water and breathe

B) Rhinophores are chemical sensors on the head that are used to detect chemicals in the water (Ellis 2001)

C) Oral Tentacles are sensory feelers used to help the slug feel its way over the terrain

D) Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic, meaning they are both male and female at the same time, but they cannot fertilize themselves. For reproduction, nudibranchs stick together in a dance-like act. Eggs are being deposited in each individual. Some nudibranchs have their anus on the same area as where the reproductive opening is located, others have their anus located in between the branchial plume.

E) Acid Glands produce defensive acid secretions against predators.

Sequential Hermaphroditism

Did you know that some aquatic species can change from male to female and vice versa?

Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic, too. On the picture above you can see two “nembrotha lineolatas” exchanging eggs and semen. During the mating process most nudibranch connect to each other sideways.

This phenomenon is called sequential hermaphroditism and describes a type of hermaphroditism that occurs in many fish, snails, slugs (yes, nudibranchs are hermaphroditic as well), and even some plants. We speak of sequential hermaphroditism when the individual changes its sex at some point in its life. Species that can undergo these changes from one sex to another do so as a normal event within their reproductive cycle that is usually cued by either social structure or the achievement of a certain age or size. Oftentimes this happens to ensure successful reproduction.

Clownfish are one of the most famous sequential hermaphrodites. Clownfish are all born male, but can change their sex to female if the necessity occurs. They for example change their sex from male to female when there is no other female to mate with or when they attain a certain size. (By the way, this would’ve changed the entire plot of Nemo.)

This phenomenon goes the other way as well.

Unlike clownfish that start life as males and transform into females, there are other species, such as the California sheephead, that start as female and transform into male.

Diving into Balinese Culture

Squeezed in between five locals on three tiny seats I am looking out of the bus windows, where Javas breathtaking landscape is passing by in front of my eyes. Volcanos shape the appearance of the one thousand kilometer long island and many of them are still active. Black smoke breaks the path out of the deep craters and remind me about my adventures of the past days.

The wheels of the airplane touched the ground with a loud zing. Two weeks ago i started my travels to Indonesia targeting mainly Balis underwater world. Chris, my 34 year old friend and dive buddy from Patagonia welcomed me with his huge smile on Denpasar’s airport. Together we set of to the sleepy village of Tulamben in the north east of Bali, where we planned to discover new underwater treasures. 


Read about my underwater experience of Tulamben in my Blog “Diving Tulamben, Bali”.

Chris left Tulamben after days of intense diving to make his way back to Thailand, I stayed and moved into the home of a balinese family.

On Bali, hospitality is capitalized.

Ketut, a local from Bali with a heart of gold would have wanted to adopt me as his son right away. Every morning I woke up to the delicious smell of a special balinese coffee called Luwak. His wife loved to cook the finest mouth-watering Indonesian dishes for me and his brother in law introduced me to Bali’s religion and the world of the many Gods.

An island with some hills

With over 3000 Meters of height juts the active volcano Agung over the north east of Bali. The mountain was already seen as a holy place for thousands of years. “Gunung Agung” as the locals call it or “giant mountain” stimulated the phantasy of the islands native inhabitants. They tried to explain the eruptions of the volcano by the power of the animistic gods living in it.
For a long time there were no modern religions on the island of Bali. Today, the island is dominated by Hinuds, Buddhists, Muslims and some few Christians. A remarkable feature of Balis Hinduism is the merge of Hinduism with the animistic believes of a distant past.

Wayan, Ketut’s brother in law is a an active Hindu, traveling to regularly to ceremonies in Tempels all over Bali. I had the great honor to join him and his family on one of his journeys. Dressed in a white sarong, a thin cloth which is wrapped around the waist and a kind of turban on my head we made our way to a new build Tempel at the foot of the infamous volcano Agung. Within a festive ceremony I got washed with holy water and got rice attached to my forehead, a symbol for wisdom.
The intimidating scenery of the Tempel, with an active volcano in the background had a strong impact on me and made me experience this moment with an unknown passion. I will never forget the feeling I had after the ceremony, because even if I am not belonging to any kind of religion I could strongly feel the spirituality which is so important to Balis people.

To be continued in “A celebration of Fire”