Travelfish contributions by NickHope
The first number represents the total number of published reviews by NickHope. The bracketed figure is submitted reviews -- reviews may not be published for editorial reasons or may be removed because the property concerned has been delisted from Travelfish or has closed.
Travel map for NickHope
Life according to NickHope
An English filmmaker based in Bangkok. Mostly underwater.
Scuba diving trips to the Similan Islands, Gulf of Thailand, Burma, North Sulawesi, Bali and Malaysia.
Boonsung wreck off Khao Lak, then Anilao in the Philippines.
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Part 13 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine...
Published 4:44 pm, 18 Jul 2014
Part 13 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine life of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.
After a quick look at the panther grouper, Cromileptes altivelis, also known as the humpback grouper or barramundi cod, I explore demersal fishes, those that live on or near the seabed. Of these, benthic fishes actually rest on the sea floor.
The whitemargin stargazer, Uranoscopus sulphureus, spends most of its time buried in the substrate, with only its upper, or dorsal, surface exposed, where its eyes and mouth are located. Like frogfishes, stargazers are ambush predators. They have a worm-like lure that extends from the upturned mouth to attract fish that pass overhead. Stargazers are also equipped with poisonous spines at the rear of the operculum, the gill cover. The papillae fringing the mouth help stop sand from falling in when the fish is buried.
The leopard flounder, Bothus pantherinus, has adapted to life on the bottom with a superb camouflage. Such lefteye flounders are symmetrical and swim upright like other fishes when young. As they develop, the eye on the right side migrates to the left, thus enabling them to lie flat on the bottom. Their eye stalks can be retracted for protection, but enhance their view when extended.
Flatheads also have excellent camouflage and a stealthy, low profile, but unlike flounders, they are dorsally compressed and remain symmetrical. They are also ambush predators, and often hide by burying much of their body in the substrate. Flatheads are related to scorpionfishes and have short, venomous spines on top of their head.
We meet a Japanese flathead (Inegocia japonica), a black-banded flathead (Rogadius patriciae), and finally a pair of spiny flatheads (Onigocia spinosa) at Retak Larry, a classic, dark sand muck diving site named after the late Lembeh pioneer, Larry Smith.
Part 12 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine...
Published 1:37 pm, 10 Jul 2014
Part 12 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine life of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.
In this video I look at fishes in the order Tetraodontiformes. First of all we encounter a very young boxfish, possibly a longhorn cowfish, Lactoria cornuta. Along with toxic skin, the boxfish’s main defence is a very hard carapace of bony plates. The juvenile’s coloration helps it remain unnoticed while the body hardens.
Next is a juvenile thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, sheltering in Halimeda algae. Juvenile boxfishes and pufferfishes often tuck their tail to one side when it is not needed for swimming.
Next we meet a juvenile starry puffer, Arothron stellatus, and its dramatically different adult counterpart.
Although puffers are slow movers, the tail can give them a great turn of speed when threatened. As a further defence, puffers can inflate their bodies with water, vastly increasing their size and revealing short, sharp spines on their skin.
They are believed to be the second most poisonous vertebrate on earth, after the golden poison frog. However some predators can tolerate the toxin, and some parts of them are carefully prepared as a delicacy in Japan, Korea and China.
The juvenile guineafowl puffer, Arothron meleagris, has a black and yellow coloration that advertises its toxicity to potential predators. This is a common combination of warning colors in the animal kingdom.
More elongate puffers are found in the Lembeh Strait too. We encounter a narrow-lined puffer, Arothron manilensis, at Hairball and a shortfin puffer, Torquigener brevipinnis, at TK.
Sharpnose puffers, also known as tobies, have elongated snouts and slimmer bodies. We meet at a Valentini puffer, Canthigaster valentini, a Bennett’s sharpnose puffer, Canthigaster bennetti, and a compressed toby, Canthigaster compressa.
The birdbeak burrfish, Cyclichthys orbicularis, is a type of porcupinefish. It is covered in spines which are permanently erect, and it can inflate its body like puffers. It’s eyes contain iridescent green specks.
Conversely, the spines of the long-spine porcupinefish, Diodon holocanthus, lie flat against its body when not it is not inflated.
Finally we encounter a long-spine porcupinefish sharing its home with a small birdbeak burrfish.
Part 11 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine...
Published 9:38 am, 19 Jun 2014
Part 11 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine life of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.
The sheltered conditions make the Lembeh Strait a successful nursery, and juvenile fishes can be seen everywhere. First we encounted the bright orange and white coloration of a young spotted parrotfish, Cetoscarus ocellatus. Previously, all specimens bearing this pattern were thought to be of a species commonly known as the bicolor parrotfish (Cetoscarus bicolor), but those are now deemed to be local to the Red Sea. In later life it undergoes a dramatic change in coloration.
Sweetlips are another family that change dramatically during their life cycle. We meet a juvenile painted sweetlips, Diagramma pictum, which bears bold stripes, and an adult which exhibits spots.
The juvenile harlequin sweetlips, Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides, mimics toxic flatworms and sea slugs, and the movement is confusing for predators. As it matures, the movement slows down and the pattern starts to change. It’s coloration as an adult is entirely different from that of the young.
Juvenile yellowblotch razorfish, Iniistius aneitensis, a type of wrasse, are here too. This fish will dive head-first into the sand to sleep or if it is alarmed. The slim, bony head is optimized for this purpose. It prepares an area of sand in advance by loosening it to make it easier to dive into, and it is able to move significant distances under the sand before re-emerging. We see a white variation with two false eyespots on its dorsal fin.
Juvenile filesfishes are a common sight in the Lembeh Strait too. Their retractable dorsal spine deters predators. The name filefish comes from the rough skin. It is said that dried filefish skin was once used like sandpaper to finish wooden boats. In Australia they are known as leatherjackets. We encounter both juvenile and adult strapweed filefishes, Pseudomonacanthus macrurus.
Part 10 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine...
Published 2:01 am, 13 Jun 2014
Part 10 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine life of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.
Frogfishes of the family Antennariidae, are a type of anglerfish in the order Lophiiformes. They are rare at most dive destinations but common in the Lembeh Strait.
Frogfishes such as the painted frogfish, Antennarius pictus, are highly camouflaged to resemble sponges or rocks covered in algae. They have an amazing ability to adapt their skin color and texture to blend in with their surroundings, and numerous color variations of the same species can be found.
Rather than blending into the surroundings, the warty frogfish, Antennarius maculatus, mimics toxic sea slugs to deter predators.
Although frogfishes can swim, they usually walk around on their pectoral fins which have evolved into arm-like limbs complete with an elbow-like joint.
Frogfishes are generally ambush predators, and have a very clever hunting technique. Their first dorsal spine, the illicium, ends in a fleshy lure known as an esca, which resembles a variety of marine creatures depending on the species. The frogfish waves the illicium like a fishing rod to attract prey. The appearance of the esca is useful in distinguishing between species. If the illicium and esca are removed, the frogfish can grow a replacement.
The illicium is not always deployed, and opportunistic frogfishes will snatch what food they can. They will often just lie in wait, their upturned mouths ready to devour unsuspecting bypassers.
We meet a giant frogfish, Antennarius commerson, taking up a more elevated position on a tube sponge, from which to ambush prey.
A warty frogfish appears nervous as it finds itself in the path of a highly venomous flower urchin, Toxopneustes pileolus, before the urchin finally changed course.
The striated frogfish, Antennarius striatus, is a real star amongst Lembeh critters, and high on most divers’ list of favorites. Many examples in the area bear long skin filaments and are known amongst the dive community as “hairy frogfish”. They are usually found on the open sand amongst algae. The esca resembles a polychaete worm. A black phase of the striated frogfish, without significant skin appendages, is encountered. Its possible that the filaments may be seasonally shed.
Finally we encounter a tiny juvenile painted frogfish, just a few millimeters in length.
Part 9 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine life...
Published 10:55 pm, 5 Jun 2014
Part 9 of my documentary, “Mucky Secrets”, about the marine life of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.
In this video I study dragonets including the amazing mandarinfish. Dragonets are benthic animals, meaning that they live on the seabed. They thrive in the muck of Lembeh. Dragonets are well-adapted to benthic life. They are well camouflaged and at night they bury their bodies. The eyes and gills are placed high so only they remain above the sand.
The fingered dragonet, Dactylopus dactylopus, is found in the Lembeh Strait. The first ray of each pelvic fin is effectively a limb or “finger” that the dragonet uses to walk along the seabed and dig for food. The male has warpaint-like facial markings and has long filamented rays on its dorsal fin that it holds forward when walking. The female has a bright orange upper lip.
The orange-black dragonet, Dactylopus kuiteri, is very similar. We encounter an adult and juvenile in close proximity, feeding on the seabed.
The Morrison’s dragonet, Synchiropus morrisoni, shuffles around the seabed without the aid of the separated fin rays.
A similar species of dragonet, the mandarinfish, Synchiropus splendidus, stays well hidden amongst shallow hard corals during the day. At dusk the males eagerly seek out female mates. During the hunt they hold their first dorsal fin aloft as an advertisement to the females and a warning to competing males.
When a mate has been found, the female rests on the larger male’s pectoral fin and the couple rise up together from the reef. At the peak of their ascent they simultaneously release sperm and eggs and then make a dash for cover as the spawn drifts away in the current.
This frenzy of sexual activity typically lasts some thirty minutes until nightfall. If fertilized, the eggs will hatch about a day later and the tiny larvae will drift for a further week or two before settling onto the bottom to begin their benthic life.