Happy Holidays on the Reef from Wakatobi Dive Resort

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As the afternoon sun sinks low, you tingle with excitement at the prospect of yet another dive at Wakatobi Resort. Then, as you log your dive plan on the dive center’s board, you’re reminded of the date. Back home, the holiday season is in full swing.

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Photo by Shawn Levin

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Any thoughts of silver bells and mistletoe are soon forgotten as you submerge. Then, just minutes into the dive, pairs of Christmas tree worms evoke a round of yuletide memories. It’s as if Mother Nature has decorated the reefs with subtle reminders of the season.

Photo by Ron Lucas

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This whimsical notion is reinforced when you come across a group of translucent tunicates, which would seem right at home if hung on an evergreen.

Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

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A tiny shrimp dressed in festive red scurries past, as if late for the office Christmas party. OK, you think, why not have a bit of fun on your next round of dives? Looking for the Twelve Days of Christmas with an underwater theme. And so, the search is on.

Photo by Wakatobi Resort

photo-by-walt-stearns

One Cuttlefish Changing
This reef regular is decked out in a rich burgundy that would wear well at a holiday party. In reality, a cuttlefish’s color changing talents are used to communicate with others of its kind, or to blend into the background.

Photo by Walt Stearns

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Two Fish in Pajamas
These pajama cardinalfish aren’t actually dressed for bed, but the polkadot patterning on their back halves is sufficiently reminiscent of pajama bottoms to earn these fish their common name. And truth be told, they do look a bit like wide-eyed youngsters awaking to see what Santa left.

Photo by Walt Stearns

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Three Mandarins Dancing
These colorful little fish certainly seem to have donned their finest garb in anticipation of an evening out. In fact, mandarinfish perform their intricate choreographies throughout the year at Magic Pier, a Pelagian liveaboard dive site. The dance begins when males vie for the attention of a female, then pair off for a fin-to-fin courtship as they spiral upward from the reef.

Photo by Walt Stearns

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Four Pipefish Piping
Thanks to their distinct candy cane-like coloring, these slender members of the Syngnathidae family certainly seem to have caught the spirit of the season. These pipefish are likely out in search of a nosh of tiny crustaceans or a bit of algae, as lacking a true stomach, they can’t go for long between meals.

Photo by Eric Cheng

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Five Squid a Glowing
Even the most ambitious holiday home decorators would be hard pressed to create a light show that rivals the glowing, pulsing displays of the squid squadrons that hunt the reefs of Wakatobi. These streamlined cephalopods grow a unique layer of skin cells known as chromatophores to generate their intricate and mesmerizing color changes.

Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

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A Six Cardinal Chorus
This group of cheerfully-colored ring-tailed cardinalfish are reminiscent of carolers assembled on the porch, but they’re unlikely to burst out in song. The males may remain completely closed mouthed, as they are mouthbrooders that carry fertilized eggs in their jaws. The nurturing dads won’t be enjoying any holiday nibbles till the youngsters hatch.

Photo by Steve Rosenberg

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Seven Bumpheads Bashing
Talk about an unusual Christmas pudding. The largest members of the parrotfish family use their proponent forehead protrusions to break coral chunks into smaller bits for easier consumption. After digesting the tasty bits, the rest is expelled as sand. A big bumphead can produce several tons of white beach sand a year.

Photo by Wakatobi Resort

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Eight Clownfish Cleaning

Like hosts frantically straightening up for the arrival of visiting relatives, clownfish are in constant cleaning mode. They keep the anemone’s tentacles clean by slurping up any stray bits their host misses, and also dine on the tiny parasites that would otherwise disrupt domestic harmony.

Photo by Steve Miller

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Nine Tubes a Blooming
Just as the tree lights are switched on at night, the brightly colored polyps of these tube corals are extended at dusk. Since these animals lack the symbiotic algae found in most corals, they must gather all their meals from the passing currents.

Photo by Wakatobi Resort

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Ten Spadefish on Parade
In the best tradition of a drill team marching in a holiday procession, a group of spadefish (aka batfish) move in unison as they patrol the wall at Turkey Beach. With luck, they’ll run across a tangy treat of jellyfish.

Photo by Walt Stearns

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Eleven Corals Swaying
Holiday bunting has nothing on the colorful soft corals that thrive on the reefs surrounding Wakatobi Resort. In addition to adding a splash of color to the undersea landscape, the branches of these colonial invertebrates provide shelter for a menagerie of small marine life.

Photo by Wakatobi Resort

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Twelve Crinoids Clinging
Like a bouquet of festive flowers, a cluster of crinoids unfold their feather-like tentacles to snare tidbits carried by passing currents. These graceful filter feeders are actually one of the oldest surviving animals on earth, dating back almost 500 million years.

Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

photo-by-didi-lotze

Back on the surface, comfortable, showered and dressed, you stop by the Jetty Bar for some pre dinner refreshment. There’s no place you’d rather spend the holiday season, and no regrets for trading a White Christmas for a white sand beach and a sunset view.

It’s always time for some merriment at Wakatobi Resort. www.wakatobi.com

Photo by Didi Lotze

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December 12, 2016 |

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