Image 5 (Whitetip reef sharks surrounded by fish)
Marine Life Beneath the Surface Of Komodo National Park
We are sure you’ve heard the rumours of the infamous Komodo National Park. Well, we can assure you they are all indeed true. From strong currents ripping through the islands to huge reef manta rays swimming overhead. Let’s start by talking about when the park was formed and then move on to the beautiful marine life you are able to see.
Komodo National Park was established in 1980. The park was formed to protect the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon. We all know actual dragons are tales of fiction. Ecotourism to see the Komodo Dragon is one of the largest draws to the park.
To divers, the Komodo Dragon is not what draws us here – it is what is beneath the surface of the waters in Komodo. Beneath the surface lies one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet. Strong daily tidal flows combine with nutrient-rich water upwelling from the depths of the Indian Ocean to create ideal conditions for thousands of species of corals and tropical fish to flourish.
- Komodo is home to 1,000 species of tropical fish and covers a total of 1,733km2.
- 1,000 different species of tropical fish, what can you expect to see?
Here are some of the most common ones you will see as well as some key identifiers.
Image 2 (Titan triggerfish close to the ocean floor surrounded by broken coral bits)
There are 40 species of triggerfish found throughout the oceans of the world. These fish are brightly coloured and marked with lines and spots. Most are found in shallow, coastal habitats, especially at coral reefs.
Most commonly seen are the titan triggerfish or giant triggerfish. They are notoriously ill-tempered and can grow to a length of 30 centimetres. You can spot this fish upside down usually chomping away at bits of coral. If they feel threatened they will charge you. They have been known to take chunks out of your fins. Better your fins than you!
Image 3 (closeup of a cuttlefish that is resting on a rock)
Masters of disguise, cuttlefish are some of the most fascinating fish in the ocean. These alien-like creatures change colour while moving through the oceanscape. Not only are they able to change colour, but also texture. They will even choose plants or corals that are best to hide with by arranging their arms to best mimic the plants!
The lionfish can be identified by brown or maroon bands along with white stripes around its head and body. They have fan-like pectoral fins and long separated spines. Believed to be nocturnal hunters, you can spot these fish retreated under ledges or in crevices during the day. The spines on the lionfish aren’t just for looks – they do indeed pack a bit of a punch. The sting from the lionfish is known to be painful and can last for a couple of days so we wouldn’t recommend getting too close!
Image 1 (Clownfish in the tentacles of a sea anemone)
Clownfish, also known as anemonefish, are one of the most beloved fish of the reef. The clownfish can be found in the embrace of the sea anemone. The sea anemone protects the anemonefish from predators, as well as providing food through the scraps left from the anemone’s meals and occasional dead anemone tentacles. It also functions as a safe nest site. In return, the anemonefish defends the anemone from its predators and parasites. Knowing this, these clownfish and anemonefish will charge you if you approach, which is quite funny considering their size.
Frogfish are members of the angelfish family. These creatures are short, stocky and small. They can usually be seen covered in spinules and other appendages to assist in camouflage, blending into their surroundings making them hard to spot on the ocean floor. They move slowly and clumsily, lying in wait for their prey. They strike fast, within 6 milliseconds!
This is a group of colourful tropical fish that includes 129 species. Butterflyfish range from 12 – 22 centimetres in length. The common name refers to the brightly coloured and patterned bodies of many species, bearing shades of black, white, blue, red, orange, and yellow. Many have eyespots on their flanks and dark bands across their eyes, not unlike the patterns seen on butterfly wings.
Image 4 (marble ray close to the ocean floor covered in sand)
They grow up to 3 meters in length and are about 1.5m wide. They are rounder and more disc-shaped compared to other stingrays. You can find them offshore on sandy bottoms usually buried under the sand. These rays are bottom feeders and feed by settling themselves down on top of their prey, flexing their body forcing the prey into their mouth. Be careful when you see these in the wild for they do have a poisonous tail they will use if they feel threatened.
One of the most beautiful creatures that call the Komodo National Park home. Indonesia is home to both reef mantas and oceanic mantas. Most seen is the reef manta. These gentle giants range in size from 3 – 5.5 meters but are mostly seen between 3 – 3.5 meters in width. Being among the largest animals found in the ocean they are in fact filter feeders. They feed on the microscopic prey of plankton.
Now with an idea of what Komodo National park has to offer, you will be ready to dive into the beautiful warm waters with an idea of what you’re looking at. As a new diver or seasoned a good thing to keep in mind is your manners below the surface, whether it be approaching wildlife or interacting with other divers. With the vast amount of corals that are also here you may want some help figuring out what is what. We have information for you on that as well with our Common Corals of Komodo blog.