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Scuba Knights | Singapore and Tioman's top Scuba Diving School

Spotting your own Macro Critters in Tioman

Ever heard a diver brag about how many rare, tiny, well-camouflaged underwater creatures they have managed to spot? For me, the most exciting aspect of scuba diving if finding the incredible animals that live below the oceans surface, and as a macro freak, the smaller and more unusual the critter, the more excited I am!

Many divers are critically reliant on their experience guides to find them their desired nudi or shrimp when going for the dive, Circumstance would only disappoint to those who wait, to see their talented spotters be caught with taking care of your nervous buddy who has issues descending, or your guide having to frantically control and  show 7 divers under his care a creature the size of your blackhead, only to have it disappear in the midst sediments kicked up by the first few divers who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse.

We were divers, we all encountered situations like this which is out of anybody’s control but the disappointment is guaranteed.
So today, we want to share with you tips on how to find your own critters in Tioman without relying on your dive guide and also stay safe. 
In this article we’ll about a couple of different corals and the creatures you’ll be able to spot on them.

Whip Corals. Photo Credits to Chris Rouziou

Firstly, the Sea Whip Coral, commonly found around the dives sites in Tioman like Soyak, Chebeh, Pirate Reef. They are commonly spotted at the outer parameter of the reef away for the dense coral habitats. characterized by a long, whip-like growth and a variety of bright colours. The “whip” consists of a colony of tiny polyps (cylindrical, stalk-like forms with a mouth and eight tentacles at the upper, or free, end) that grow upon one another in a continuous single stem. The polyps are very sensitive to water movement and touch by both divers and creatures, the polyps will close up in defense when it sense harassment or danger.

Looking closely at these corals, there are a number of critters that can be spotted! Just like this Whip Coral Shrimp our very own instructor Christopher spotted at Chebeh during one our trips in 2019 and George spotting his award winning photo of a Whip Coral Goby yawning just in front of its eggs.

Whilst they can be found in shallow depths, they can be found up to 45m down so make sure to keep an eye on your no-deco limits.
Being extremely shy and scared away easily, the Whip Coral Goby and shrimp is a great little macro critter that will have you smiling when you see them and swearing into your regulator when you move a bit too close and they vanish! 

Clownfish Peeking out of its anemone

Anemones, most of us divers immediately associate it with clown fishes. Not a fish but not a coral either, anemones are an animal in itself, a close relative to the jellyfish which spends most of their time attached to rocks on the sea bottom or on coral reefs waiting for fish to pass close enough to get ensnared in their venom-filled tentacles however, they form a symbiotic relationship with clown fishes who are naturally resistant to its sting.
But if we look closer, focus in on the mouth of the anemones and its tentacles. We will be able to start to spot smaller critters that are

Sea anemones can be found at tidal areas all the way down to 10,000 metres which makes it possible to look for these little critters during your dives at almost any depths. Just by hovering over the anemone and allowing for the currents and tides to wave their tentacles around, looking closely at the mouth and disc of the anemone you’re able to spot these interesting little critters living inside the safety of its anemones just like the clownfish.

Nudibranchs! Another one where you’d hear divers around you rave about their spot of the rare and elusive Shawn the sheep or pikachu in Bali or Anilao. In Tioman there is also a whole heap of nudibranchs of different kinds. There are more than 3000 different types of nudibranchs, from those that feed on soft corals and sponges to those that specifically feed in acropora hard corals.
In most dive sites in Tioman, we can spot nudibranches near soft corals and sponges where they tend to be feeding. Keep a close eye out on a bright color or difference in texture to the corals and surround live rock area to spot these tiny little creatures.

So to wrap things up, swim as slowly as possible and then go slower! Diving slowly also allows your to increase your dive time by reducing the amount of energy and air you consume. Start looking closely at these few corals when diving during your next trip to Tioman and try to spot these little fascinating creatures for yourself and then show them to your dive buddy!
If you know your subject is in that spot your looking at but can’t seem to find it, LOOK HARDER! There has been many a times where I’ve not been able to find something only to spot it a few moments after even though i was staring right at it. Some of these critters are masters of disguise .

Hopefully this little guide spices up your next dive trip to Tioman and puts you in the right track for spotting those little creatures to knock of your “to-see” list and that you’d be less reliant on your dive guides for spotting these critters!

Happy diving and dive safe, Always.