Memorable Macro

Can a Macro dive really be my most memorable dive to date??

From an early age I’ve always been fascinated with the big wonderful creatures of the ocean. In particular sharks have really captured my imagination. In 2011 I finally decided to learn how to dive and done my PADI Open Water Course. My main aim for the next few years of diving was to find sharks, mantas and any other large size animal that inhabits the worlds oceans. Now don’t get me wrong this is still a main aim and I am slowly ticking off different shark species and big animals BUT….

In 2014 I added a macro lens to my kit and had a quick practice on a few dives in the Maldives in the October of that year. Then came a trip to South East Asia in 2015 including Philippines and Sabah, Borneo. Suddenly I was hooked on finding all the weird and wonderful little critters that used to be easily missed on a dive as I quickly bypassed so much. Before my trip I had a hit-list of critters to photograph and sitting at the top of that list was the stunning Blue Ringed Octopus.

Philippines didn’t deliver on the Blue-Ringed front but did provide some amazing critter moments like the Hairy Frogfish above. I’ll add more about my Philippines trip in another blog. My next chance for a Blue Ring would be in Mabul Island, Sabah, Borneo where I was spending 4 nights and 3 and a half days of diving in Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai. I joined a small group from the airport which included a Scottish guy making a pit stop on his way to Australia for work and a English couple who lived in Oman and were on holiday. The husband dived and his wife snorkelled, which was ideal as I was travelling with my none diving girlfriend. The 2 women of the group really enjoyed their time snorkelling in Sipadan with the abundance of Turtles that would greet them at the surface. As we got talking between the group I kept saying how I really wanted to see a Blue Ringed Octopus. I was probably going on a little too much about it. 😉. Most of the diving however was spent in the wide angle paradise of Sipadan. My hopes rested on the fact I’d at least get a chance doing a few dives around Mabul Island, renowned for it’s muck diving and small critters.

Diving day 2 was spent doing 4 more wonderful dives around Sipadan Island concentrating on wide angle opportunities. Now I love night dives and on the way back to our resort on Mabul Island me and my new Scottish dive buddy were contemplating doing a night dive as it was our last chance that day. We were both pretty tired after a full days diving but never being one to miss an opportunity while away in a far away place we both decided to take the plunge. The diving would have to be done on the house reef due to all dive boats having to be back at their resorts by 4.30pm (A pirate problem the year before being the reason).

Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides) keeping close to the reef on our night dive at Mabul Island.

This wasn’t a problem as it made it nice and simple to kit up at the end of the jetty and fall in for a fun dive at night. It was only the 2 of us diving without the help of a guide, so I wasn’t really thinking about seeing a Blue Ringed too much. I was a novice in the macro spotting game and was just hoping to take it slow and see what I could find. While my dive buddy had a slight free flow problem and was dealing with that I got to stay close to the jetty entrance watching the dance of a Juvenile Sweetlips. Truly mesmerising to watch as it wiggled its way around the reef but also difficult to photograph in all it’s glory as it was a little skittish. Hopefully I’ll get another chance one day. My dive buddy sorted his free flow problem and carried on slightly ahead as we cruised along the reef wall around 5 metres deep. I was taking it a little slower to make sure not to miss a tiny beauty…

Greater Blue-Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) in all it’s glory on our night dive in Mabul Island.

JACKPOT!!!! Imagine my surprise while slowly cruising the reef and out the corner of my eye spotting what I was so desperate to see. A truly stunning Greater Blue-Ringed Octopus working it’s way along the rocks and coral on the hunt. The moment made even more special by the fact I found it by myself without the need of a more experienced macro guide.

My buddy was a little further along the reef but I could still see his light mooching around looking at what he could find. I was mesmerised though and couldn’t look away to try grab his attention for fear of losing the little beauty in the reef. Unfortunately I didn’t have a tank banger to annoy him with. I had to get some shots off as this was everything to me when it comes to macro photography. Luckily it paid off big time that it was night time and easier to produce a black background to allow the stunning colours to pop in the photo. I followed it along the reef trying different angles and was so happy with the results I got as it mesmerised me with it’s different patterns and colours.

I finally lost it within the reef as I tried frantically to get the attention of my dive buddy waving my light towards his direction. A shame as I could have spent the rest of the dive watching it go about it’s business. Me and my dive buddy had a little laugh about it after the dive. He said he knew I’d found something special as I was going crazy with my lights trying to get his attention. Unfortunately as I looked back at the reef it had gone and all I could show him was a photo on the back of my camera. Luckily he was more of a big animal fan and was happy for me as he knew how much I wanted to photograph one. The rest of the dive was still an amazing adventure of smaller proportions with other cool critters found by our own eyes including the unusual Cockatoo Waspfish and other amazing little critters. It is to this day the dive that sticks so much in my memory when I’m asked the question what’s your favourite dive. Everything just came together perfectly and being a photographer a dive is always made even more special when you get shots you’re really happy with. Looking forward to photographing one again in the future.

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