Bill and Mari Conaway: Lembeh Strait and Raja Ampat
Click through the images above to see more of Bill and Mari’s amazing photography.
By Gayle Hudson
At the April meeting, members were treated to a presentation by long-time Vaqueros Del Mar Dive Club members Bill and Mari Conaway. They have enjoyed diving and photographing the underwater environment for 18 years and this was their third time presenting to Aqua Tutus.
Mari explained Raja Ampat is composed of four larger islands – Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo – plus hundreds of smaller islands in the area known as the Bird’s Head functional seascape. This area contains Cenderawasih Bay, the largest marine national park in Indonesia. In recent years, eco-resorts have had success in reducing shark finning and the killing of sea turtles. Without the help of the government, citizens set up their own patrols and, six years later, bio-diversity increased so much villagers noticed the change and started coming to the eco-resorts for employment. The area now enjoys a huge no-take zone and no shark finning.
The first part of the presentation was from the Conaways stay at the Kungkungan Bay Resort, which is north of Sulawesi.
The marine life the Conways photographed included exotic nudibranchs, hermit crabs, the colorful Mantis Shrimp, eels, the odd and beautiful Flamboyant Cuttlefish, octopus (including the Coconut octopus), rays, Cowfish, a comical Hairy Frogfish that resembled a mop, Lionfish, Mandarin gobies, puffers, pipefish, seahorses, tubeworms and anemones.
Next up was diving in the Realm of the Four Kings aboard the Dewi Nusantara, in Raja Ampat. The liveaboard is 180 feet in length, with a 40’ beam, 21 crew and 18 divers.
The southern islands are more isolated and home to large, pelagic animals and an abundance of soft corals; the Nudibranch were spectacular in color and patterns. We were shown stunning photos of Orangutan crab, sea turtles, Manta Ray, the small and highly poisonous Blue-ringed octopus, numerous eels, Mantis shrimp, Clownfish, Lizardfish, sharks, gorgeous cuttlefish changing colors, adorable Pygmy seahorses, Parrotfish, and Bumperhead Wrasse.
Especially comical was a video showing two Harlequin shrimp feverishly working to drag a much larger red starfish to their lair. They eventually succeeded by flipping the starfish on its back so it couldn’t attach itself to the reef.
We hope to see the Conaways again and view more beautiful photos and video of their exotic travels.