Story Behind the Shot – Coconut Octopus

The Coconut Octopus

Coconut octopus Bali

For me, the ultimate photo when it comes to close focus wide angle photography is capturing an octopus behaving in the unique ways that octopus do. In Bali, there is a black sand dive site called Puri Jati which is well known for its octopus population including long arm white V, mimic, and the ever curious coconut octopus. This particular photo was taken of a coconut octopus that I found in a few metres of water which was living inside its namesake: a coconut! The best thing about this encounter was the fact this octopus was a player, each time I edged closer, the octopus would pick up its home and scuttle across the sand away from me before settling down once again. The key to this image was shooting it from far enough away to show some of the background as well as the main subject. I also used a slower shutter speed in order to utilize the natural light to “burn in” the background to show the environment where the octopus lives.


Nikon D7000, 60mm lens at f11, 1/80, ISO 160


Mike Veitch

High Season Approaches

Bali Manta

It’s that time of year once again, high season in Bali!  August to November is the time of year where we start running all around the island showing our guests the beauty of Bali both above and below the waves.  Although diving and traveling are great in Bali all year round, August is the traditional start of the boom season which lasts until mid to late September.  However, October is our personal favourite month for diving in Bali, the waters are usually calm and clear (in the north!) and there are still plenty of chances to see the Mola-Mola in the south.  Of course, what is a trip to Bali without a visit to the Manta Rays of Nusa Penida!

If you haven’t booked your trip to Bali yet there is no time like the present.

Catfish Parade

When diving in Bali or Lembeh or a myriad of other sites with sandy bottoms, do you ever see a cloud of dust rising up in the distance?  When you get close the disturbance it often turns out to be a big school of striped catfish churning up the sand in search of food.  These social fish with their distinctive barbed mouth are a common resident in the Indo Pacific area and always make an interesting photo subject in both macro or wide angle formats.  This shot was taken in Bali at Seraya Secrets with a Nikon D7000 and Aquatica housing, 105mm, f22, 1/250 and Sea and Sea strobes



Shrimp Cleaning a Moray Eel

One of the more interesting behaviours that divers can encounter underwater is the always entertaining relationship between a cleaner shrimp and the creature that is being cleaned.  It might look like the shrimp is an easy meal for a moray eel as it prances along the morays head but in fact the moray more than tolerates the shrimps presence as it picks parasites from its skin and gums.  I always enjoy watching the “fearsome” moray flinch when the shrimp grabs a particularly sensitive piece of skin from the eel.  The observant diver can witness all kinds of cleaning behaviour on the reef at all times of day.  Shrimp are one of the more active cleaners but many species of small fish such as wrasse and butterfly fish are also commonly found cleaning other denizens of the reef.  Although it is common to see most fish visit a cleaning station from time to time, perhaps the most common visitors to these “clinics” seem to be moray eels.  In this photo, a yellow margined moray eel is being cleaned by a scarlet lady cleaner shrimp beneath a small coral head at the Seraya Secrets dive site in NE Bali, Indonesia.  Interested in seeing more of this activity?  We frequently run trips to NE Bali where the diving and photography are easy and very rewarding!  Have a look at our Bali Safari page for more details.

cleaning shrimp

Abstract Photos

One of the more unique looking photos you can take are of fairly common subjects but shot in an abstract way.  A simple way to do this is with a macro lens and using your “artsy” eye to see outside of the box.  In this photo of a wrasse in Bali I go right up close and personal and only focused on its pectoral fin rather than shooting the entire fish.  This style of photograph works extremely well with varied colored tropical fish which have interesting and unique designs.  Try out shooting abstract photos the next time you are shooting macro.

Abstract patterns of fish

Photo of the Day – Batfish in Menjangan

Menjangan Island is an often overlooked destination in Bali as many folks love heading out to the famous Liberty Wreck or looking for mantas and molas in Nusa Penida.  However, the Menjangan area is one of our favourite destinations in Bali due to the beautiful coral gardens and plentiful schooling fish.

Here is a shot of 3 batfish cruising the coral garden of Menjangan.

Three spadefish in formation on coral reef, Platax orbicularis, Acropora sp., Menjangan Island National Park, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean

Three spadefish in formation on coral reef, Platax orbicularis, Acropora sp., Menjangan Island National Park, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean

Frogfish Portrait – Photo of the Day

This photo is a from a great site that I haven’t visited for a while, Secret Bay in the far north west of Bali in the town of Gilimanuk.  Secret Bay is a great muck diving location with lots of critter action including many resident frogfish such as this bright orange clown frogfish, Antennarius pictus, which was sitting perfectly in a sponge.  Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 in an Aquatica Housing with Sea and Sea strobes, f36, 1/250 and 60mm lens.

Frogfish Portrait

Bali Top 5 Macro Sites to look out in 2015

Diving Bali Macro Heaven

In the past 10 years macro diving has been booming. It is seemed to have become a favourite among most of underwater photographers of Level.
Diving magazines, websites, blogs, social media have been greatly contributing spreading the interest among divers.

2014 has been a great year in Bali for Macro Diving. Several critters of all kinds were spotted and from our side we started to dive new sites in order to avoid the crowd, resulting in some fantastic discoveries.
The East Coast of Bali seemed to be the best ground for critters diving, thanks to its volcanic and general bottom composition making it a perfect feeding ground for a vast variety of macro subjects.

In all honesty it might be superficial to focus in featuring only 5 sites in the whole of Bali, as there are several spots all around the island of the Gods that are great for spotting the most wanted critters.
However, we will try to narrow it down to our favourite 5 spots based on: critter diversity, photographic opportunities, sea conditions and how crowded the sites can be.

Last but not least in order to have a great macro dive, you need a very skilled dive guide as spotter. We cannot stress enough how important is to have a dive guide who is very knowledgeable of the area and of the critter behaviours.

Ok enough talking, let’s jump right in.

At number #5 we placed Purijati Point ( PJ’S Point )

A Coconut Octopus in a coconut shell at PJ's Point

A Coconut Octopus in a coconut shell at PJ’s Point

PJ’s Point is located in the North of Bali, between the city of Singaraja and the resort area of Lovina.
Purijati’s black sand beach is right at the bottom of a beautiful vineyard and rice fields hill.
The dive is generally quite easy and not really exposed to weather. The bottom is made of fine black sand and the most interesting area to spot critters is between 3 and 10 mts.
The dive site is very good to see the coconut octopus, probably the only place at this point in bali where there are high chances to see the very interesting octopus playing with coconut shells.
It is also good to spot other kind of critters like the ambon scoprionfish, ghost pipefish, seahorses, nudis, and other interesting critters.
During peak season the site can be quite busy and at times it seems to go quiet in terms of critter sighting. However, thanks to its shallow depth, we generally can make very long dives which gives us the opportunity to always find some interesting macro life.
We personally had some of the most amazing macro dives but also some average dive. Hard to predict how it will be in 2015, even though we would not miss the chance to visit the area.
Because of its inconsistency but great potential we decided to place Purijati Point in position number 5.

At number #4 we have Seraya Point, East Bali

Harlequin Shrimp pair from Seraya Point in Bali

Harlequin Shrimp pair from Seraya Point in Bali

Located just south of Tulamben, this site has been known for years for its incredible critter diversity and consistent encounters.
The bottom composition is mostly made of black sand and it is also home of some artificial reefs.
There are few cleaning stations with hundreds of shrimps. It is often possible to find ghost pipefish, frogfish, seahorses, nudibranch, harlequin shrimps, boxer crabs and more. However, the site can be exposed to some current and waves. The visibility is generally very good.
Thank to its very good critter diversity and consistency , Seraya Point has become very famous, therefore it can heavily frequented by divers of all level,especially during Bali’s peak seasons.
Having said that, it seems that the marine life in the area is not really bother by the big amount of scuba divers frequenting the site.
Because of the many visitor of the site we decided to place this famous dive site at number 4 in our top 5 list.

At number #3 we have Tukad Abuh, East Bali

A pair of doughnut nudibranch on the hydroids were they lays their eggs. Tukad Abuh, Bali

A pair of doughnut nudibranch on the hydroids were they lays their eggs. Tukad Abuh, Bali

Located in the south of Tulamben, this site is generally not crowded. There are showers and rinsing tanks available for camera gears. It is a shore dive and the bottom composition is made up of black sand and small size volcanic rocks. At depth there is a small soft coral garden growing right on the bottom. This dive site can be exposed to current and it requires proper planning in order to admire and photograph its unique marine life. Visibility is generally good and often is about 15 to 20m (50-70ft) blue water

This site has been great to spot the rare Doughnut nudibranch ( featured in the picture ) and other small nudis of the Doto species. It is also possible to see several ghost pipefish of different kinds including beautiful white-red ornate ghost pipefish, Giant Seahorses, Wonderpus octopus, Harlequin Shrimps, Skeleton Shrimps, Yellow face shrimp-gobies and more.
Even though, conditions could be an issue, if properly planned a dive to Tuka Abuh can be really awesome and uncrowded.
Because of the reason mentioned above we placed Tukad Abuh as number 3 on the list.

At number #2 we have placed Batu Niti, East Bali

A boxer crab carrying eggs in Batu Niti East Bali

A boxer crab carrying eggs in Batu Niti East Bali

Also located in the south of Tumaben and further down from Tukad Abuh, we have Batu Niti Dive site. Also a shore dive but with a slightly more complicated entry as the rocks on the beach are about the size of a fist, however a friendly and helpful dive guide can make the entry and exit easy, assisting with dive gear and camera equipment.

The steep slope  bottom composition is made of hard limestone with a good layer of black sand on top. Currents are generally not an issue here and visibility is as good as Tukad Abuh or even better sometimes. There are not really facilities yet there, but we expect as its popularity will increase that the local community will build something up soon.

Batu Niti has been a frogfish heaven, with many tiny tiny juveniles seeking shelter beside small rocks. It is a very good site to see boxer crabs and harlequin shrimps and during the months between July and November it is occasionally possible to see Mola Mola coming up from the depth to the cleaning station.  Being a macro site. Most of the time all photographers are with the macro lens and cannot actually take any picture of the giant sunfish 😀 .

In Batu Niti there is not the need of swimming far away as the critter hot spot is relatively quite a small area, however, given the amount of critters it is possible to make very long dives up to 80-90 min. if air lasts.
The easy conditions, the many frogfish and the fact that it is possible to spot Boxer crabs quite easily are all factors that make us choosing Batu Niti as the number 2 site to look out for macro in 2015.

And to finish strong at number #1 we have chosen Padang Bai Jetty

A deep red Paddle Flap Rhinopias from Padang Bai, Bali

A deep red Paddle Flap Rhinopias from Padang Bai, Bali

Padang Bai Jetty has been a revelation in 2013 and since than it has been consistently delivering fantastic macro opportunities.
The gigantic pier was built to accommodate huge cruise ships visiting Bali. The whole project was a Failure as it was build in a too shallow area that can have some adverse weather conditions and waves. The big structure quickly became home of a fantastic eco system with a very diverse marine life. Not only tiny little subjects came in, but also pelagic, attracted by the big amount of sardines that often seek shelter by the huge concrete structure.

The deepest end of the Jetty is at about 12m where a gentle slopes continues down to a maximum depth of 18-20m (60 – 70 ft). Just in front of the jetty, in the deeper end there are few small coral blocks where frogfish are often seen. On the bottom it might be possible to see big peacock mantishrimps and, if lucky, they might carry eggs. Robust ghost pipefish are also frequently sighted in the area.

Close by the jetty there have been few encounters with Rhinopias. These amazing colourful fish from the Scorpionfish family are some of the most wanted critters.
Keen Underwater Macro Photographers fly all the way to Ambon, Maluku to see them as they are almost guaranteed there.
Well, at Padang Bai, few Paddle flap and Lacey Rhinopias have been often sighted in 2014 and there are still many chances to see them.
An other fantastic encounter to be found in the area is the Blue Ring Octopus. When the tiny octopus flashes its vivid blue rings on its body, it quickly become one of the most delightful subject to take pictures of.
Other critters possible to be found are: warty, giant and painted frogfish, common octopus, nudibranch of many different colors and kind. In addition to all of this, the huge jetty offers a very dramatic scenery with beautiful light penetrating through the structure. the sight is very good for wide angle photography as well.

Padang Bai is just at 45 min-1 hour drive from Sanur (south Bali) and a visit to this site can be easily combined during one of your safari trip in Bali. Given the short distance from the more touristic south of Bali, Padang Bai is also a very good option for a day trip. Currents can be an issue and proper planning is required .

Even though the currents can be an issue, the quality and the amount of the subjects that can be seen on the site makes Padang Bai  the number 1 site to look out in 2015.

Blue Ring Octopus from Padang Bai, Bali.

Blue Ring Octopus from Padang Bai, Bali.

About the Underwater Tribe in Bali.

The Underwater Tribe provide a very personalised dive service focus on underwater photographers or any keen diver looking for a great experience diving the best spots of Bali with a great, safe, friendly and good spotting diveguide. Weather you are looking for a great dive safari or to improve your photography skills with one of our instructor, we can provide you with a top notch service that won’t disappoint you.

For more information contact us at