Bill and Mari Conaway: Lembeh Strait and Raja Ampat

  • oceanic manta ray
  • tube-dwelling anemone
  • solar-powered phyllodesium
  • Raja Ampat over under
  • pigmy seahorse
  • nudibranch
  • mandarinfish
  • ghost pipefish
  • egg shell shrimp
  • diver in scenic window
  • Coleman shrimp pair
  • bumphead parrotfish school
  • boxing crab
  • blue ring octopus
  • blue blenny in coral head

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.

The Conaways spent four days diving in Lembeh Strait and 12 days on a liveaboard in Raja Ampat, an archipelago near the Indonesian province of West Papau. Bill asked for a raise of hands and nearly half of the ATDC members indicated they’ve been to Indonesia. The region is famous for a richness of marine bio-diversity and divers visiting this area are very likely to see a large number of species and a high density of animals. Bill said Wakatobi, Komodo, Cenderawasih Bay, Raja Ampat, and Lembeh Strait are all wonderful opportunities for underwater photography and videography.

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.

blue ring octopus

blue ring octopus

 

boxing crab

boxing crab

 

pigmy seahorse

pigmy seahorse

 

mandarinfish

mandarinfish

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