Mike Boom: Diving in Indonesia

  • Photo by Mike Boom.

By: Alan Throop

At our March 3 General Meeting, Mike Boom presented a wonderful video program on the beauty and critter encounters in Indonesia.

Photo by Linda Phillips.

Mike Boom presenting at the March general meeting (photo by Linda Phillips).

Mike, with his diver buddy and travel agent Lynn, spent seven weeks diving throughout Indonesia. They dove in Komodo, Ambon, Raja Ampat, Lembeh Strait, and Bali – both land-based trips and on the live-aboard boat Blue Manta.

These areas included a lot of “muck diving” in the often-black volcanic sand bottoms where creatures have evolved to adapt with both camouflage and behaviors that aid their survival in this barren landscape and that often contains the trash of nearly towns. These include Ambon and Lembeh. On the other hand, some areas – particularly in Raja Ampat – are full of plant and animal marine life that provides vistas of green and colorful landscapes, with huge schools of fish and almost pristine conditions. All of these places are within the center of planet biodiversity, where there are more marine species than anywhere else in the world.

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“Fisheye Edge Fuzz” (Photo by Mike Boom).

Besides his excellent videography skills, Mike has a humorous and engaging narration style that always makes his videos a standout for their entertainment and educational value. Mike is careful to credit Lynn for her marine life knowledge and critter-spotting skills when they dive as a team. A portion of the trip was also spent diving with Howard and Michelle Hall, so he has some great influences in his videography. His website, with videos of some of his “Laughing Eel” productions, can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/LaughingEelVideo/videos.

Mike organized his video program by the type of critters he captured.  The first up were the “foot-heads” – the cephalopods. This area – and particularly the sandy “muck” areas, has a lot of weird animals.  Mike shows the Mimic and Wonderpus octopus, which are considered highly intelligent and appear to mimic the shapes of other animals for protection by distraction. The Mimic is said to take the shape of a snake, a flatfish, and other animals.  The Coconut octopus searches for coconut or mollusk shells to hide inside; it can hold the two halves together and hide from predators; Mike caught one tip-toeing on the sand with all but a few appendages sticking out of the bottom of the shell. Not all are weird or beautiful … some may be “flamboyant”. The tiny Flamboyant Cuttlefish that tends to walk the sand puts on a beautiful colorful display that seems to dazzle its prey; Mike caught a sequence of it snatching it’s display so quickly that you could hardly see its capture-tentacle move.

Photo by Mike Boom.

“Big Eyes” (Photo by Mike Boom).

Next, Mike showed the finned fish. The scorpionfish, lionfish, spiny-devilfish, and others have toxic spines and can often be difficult to see – especially the benthic species, those that live on the bottom. Mike captured a immense ball of marine catfish densely-packed and rolling along the bottom, along with an anemone fish cleaning his eggs in a nice Marlin/Nemo-like fashion. He also showed an unusual clip of a swimming ribbon eel, which are usually seen with only their beautifully-colored heads protruding from a hole. This being the center of biodiversity, Mike had to select the most interesting and beautiful fish to show clips of: frogfish, pipefish, dragonettes, dartfish.

Mike then moved to the “pinchers” – crustaceans … again, so many species. Mike likes the mantis shrimp, which has alien-like compound eyes and a powerful punch that can either “slash” with pointed-arms or “punch” with knob- arms that can break a housing lens if you get too close. The decorator crab carries such a variety of growth on its back that it’s essentially invisible.

Photo by Mike Boom.

“Popeye Squat Lobster” (Photo by Mike Boom).

I enjoyed  the pom-pom crab that carries stinging anemone in its large pinchers to defend itself against potential predators. Some, like the box crab, have huge front pinchers for crushing their prey.

There are lots of “shrimp” species as well, with a variety of sizes, shapes, and coloring. He showed many tiny but colorful shrimp that lived on other creatures. The video macro clips were impressive … more on that later. The appear so delicate and beautiful that it seems difficult to understand why they are have such intense and ornate coloring.

The next subject matter were “views”, that showed some of the scenic vistas that were particularly good in the Komodo and Raja Ampat areas. Mike showed some huge barrel sponges that he said divers could fit in. There was often noticeable currents, but that’s what keeps the fish and marinelife so prolific and in the water column to feed. One divesite in the Banda Sea was on a live volcano site, with bubbles rising through the water column from the reef … the water wasn’t particularly warmer, but it was like diving in a champagne glass. Many sites had beautiful and healthy collections of hard and soft coral that looked like Fiji. Other places had large patches of eel-grass and gorgonians.

Photo by Mike Boom.

“Sinularia Coralscape” (Photo by Mike Boom).

Docks were often really good divesites, attracting a variety of fish. Mike also showed the “small vistas” of tiny ecosystems, where a single anemone could host a whole ecosystem of fish, shrimp, crabs, and plants. Logs or small islands of rocks in the “muck” bottoms could similarly host a whole ecosystem. The variety and beauty of the marine life in these small areas that Mike was able to capture was fascinating.

Finally, Mike took us on a beautiful “flight” over one of the scenic reefs, with its many schools of fish, the color of the reef gorgorians, grass, bryozoans, large marine life such as turtles, and manta and eagle rays. Mike then showed a “best of” his trip that captured some of the best moments form his presentation. This video can be seen at Mike’s website at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJvDaBhofyc.

We thank Mike and Lynn for this great program. As mentioned above, Lynn is a dive-travel agent and can be contacted at lynn@lynnmorton.com.