Now that we are in Bali, yesterday we decided to go the diving some of the close by, classic eastern cost dive site. We headed to Pandang Bai… This place is quite famous for white sand macro, and we knew the holy mighty Rhinopias frondosa was spotted there many times. But without using any guiding, and not knowing exactly where it was, and even if it was there, we were not specifically looking for it, and just busy with our usual coral spotting thing…
Padang Bai is famous for its Blue Lagoon dive just east behind the rock of Padang Bai harbor. But if you pass the next rock north of it, there is a series a 3-4 dive sites at the beginning of Manggis Bay just following blue lagoon. The place is called Tanjung Jepung.
We were going down about the middle of this section, the current was strong, at about 15-16 m (45-50 ft) we found a ridge of the unique coral Palauastrea ramosa that was also covered with some nice green polyps of Caulastrea and other interesting corals.
I decided to go on the side of this ridge to look for a more sheltered area, when I spotted a nice school of one my favorite UW photography subject; a school of multi-speciesof Fairy wrasse, including the common Cirrhlabrus solorensis, red head Fairy wrasse, and the less common Cirrhilabrus filamentosus, filament Fairy wrasse, and the even more elusive Cirrhilabrus cf exquisitus, exquisite Fairy wrasse which is a very endemic color form to east Bali.
Trying to spot a flashing large male, and making sure that I wasn’t too close to damage any coral, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one interested by this school of Fairy wrasses. Leaning on a small piece of attached Calcareous like branching Red Algae, probably of the genus Galaxaura, I right away spotted the camouflaged UW photographer Holy Grail, the mighty Rhinopias frondosa, of the most sought-after red-purple coloration.
I was pretty excited with spotting it myself, as a couple of time with a guide showing it to me, when I couldn’t see it myself, but I guess the eye slowly get used to it….
But as often the case with critters, knowing their habitat is half the search, I knew that this fish was always next to a school of Fairy and Flasher wrasses that they prey upon. So any reef slope location colonized by small branching corals such as Anacropora, Acropora (Small brittle species such as Acropora carduus) Cyphastrea, Palauastrea, Porites… and some sort of algae covering part of it to blend in is the right location.
Getting nice shots was almost impossible due to the strong current and swell today at PadangBai. But we got a few shots! Please enjoy, and wish you to find your own Rhinopias some days!