There is much more to the spot-fin porcupine fish (Diodon hystrix) than those cute big eyes: with many defense mechanisms, porcupine fish are not so defenseless in Bunaken. Being related to the puffer fish they have similar techniques for fending off would be predators.
First, they can swallow water to inflate themselves and increase their volume. Their size almost doubles vertically. Hence, only the predator with a much bigger mouth can eat them. Second, they can raise their spines. Indeed spines have replaced their scales. Third, their organs contain tetrodotoxin, the same poison used by the blue ring octopus. This neurotoxin is at least 10,000 times more efficient than cyanide. As a result of these three defense mechanisms, the porcupine fish has few predators. According to naturalist Charles Darwin, they can even eat their way out of the stomach of a shark, thus killing the shark. As they live between 5 and 50m, they can be observed either while diving or while snorkeling, but don’t get too close!
If you are on a surface interval, have no fly time or just love the ocean and snorkeling you can do as some of Two Fish Divers guests did last week. Jenny and her family enjoyed a Dolphin Tour on Monday and were lucky to see between 50 and 100 dolphins swimming with the boat and doing somersaults out of the water. Later in the week Lesley and David did a tour with us too. They had to wake up early as their boat was leaving at 6:30 am but, with breakfast on board, this is the best time to catch pods of dolphins socializing after a night hunting and diving deep. Included in the trip is the chance to do some snorkeling at one or two sites around Bunaken or Siladen with the chance to see turtles, corals and many beautiful reef fish.
Lesley and David especially enjoyed the experience as their job in Australia are to provide customers with dolphin swims, so they are familiar with the behavior and habits of dolphins. They estimated that they saw more than 200 spinner dolphins in the Bunaken marine park and managed to get some nice video footage of the action. After their tour with the dolphins, they went on two of our snorkeling sites in the marine park. The best way to spend the last 24 hours before a flight when leaving Manado by plane!
Another option is to dive in the morning and transfer in the afternoon to Manado or to Two Fish Divers Lembeh, which is what Julie and Graham did. They made the most of our North Sulawesi combo which gives divers the chance to explore the endless walls of Bunaken National Park as well as the muck diving capital of the world, Lembeh Straits. So when you are sick of the innumerable turtles and countless corals you can get your crazy critter fix in the muck, or vice-versa.
Even if the porcupine fish are not so defenseless in Bunaken they still like to hide, so keep your eyes peeled and as wide as the fish itself and you might be lucky to spot one of these when you are diving in the area.
Image: Wilfried Kirschenmann
Video: Lesley Seach