Anglerfish – AKA “Frogfish” – Incredible Similans!

From One of our staff…

Two hundred plus dives in the Similan National Park had brought me my first whale shark and a subsequent two more. Mantas! Again after never seeing one I have since become an expert observer of the beautiful water gliders as they cut through the ‘air’ swimming effortlessly through currents and circling divers, sightings of which, like the whale shark, produces a new genre of ‘adrenalin junkie’ divers who dive simply for the ‘hit’ of seeing the big stuff. Working on our Similan Liveaboard blessed me with these opportunities. That is of course until time and multiple dives pulls you over to what has become to be termed the ‘dark side’…

Several weeks ago at Koh Tachai Plateau a fellow guide gave me an insight into a new addiction; an addiction of finding what spends its life, and the lives of its species before it, trying not to be found. The guide swam over to me excitedly pointing at his compact camera and waving his arms frantically. Meanwhile, a manta soared over our heads. I replied with a confused look and a raised arm towards the performer. If he had a great shot of the manta I would rather appreciate it later back on the boat, but at the moment I was enjoying the live show. My friend spared it a glance but clearly felt his camera deserved all of our undivided attention. I felt reluctant to draw my eyes away from the giant pelagic dancer, but humored him. He rapidly pressed the giant buttons on his digital camera until he found his prize. Through the excitement, the sea water and the thick plastic housing I saw a red blob. ‘Great. I’ll return to my manta thanks.’ That was his first frog fish. I’d yet to see one, but all was to change on my last liveaboard…

East of Eden, 17 meters, just before a renowned sandy patch which I must have swam over countless times. A patch of rubbley indistinct coral. A tiny piece of rubbley indistinct coral. A miniature rubbly piece of fish, commonly known as a ‘clown frog fish’, white adorned with orange spots and extremely cute. It was reminiscent of a garden gnome, well hidden but clearly the rightful proprietor of its little coral patch. The clown frog fish was fixed onto the side of a piece of coral, utterly at one with its surroundings. So still that it was looked glued to its perch. I was mesmerized. I wanted to move closer. Meanwhile, my customers took a quick snap and moved on. After the dive they professed that they didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Why become so excited over a tiny indistinct fish when the reef is swarming with the most beautiful and exotic fish just screaming out to be noticed and admired?

Strangely enough, although I had been a virgin frog fish viewer, the experience was repeated the very next day. Perhaps this was because my eyes had received its first lesson in obscure marine life identification. Or perhaps it was just luck. However, my second ever encounter was equally as intriguing.

At Koh Tachai Plateau at 27 meters there stands a barrel sponge. Sitting directly on the top, wedged in between the circular rim is a large, red, about the same size as a football, an utterly ugly, utterly delightful frog fish. Instantly I was mesmerized. Tiny little eyes glazed over in what looked to be a deep state of meditation, mouth slightly agape in a way that actually made it look to be taking slow and controlled inhalations. The creature really did belong to another world – the underwater one – and upon closer examination it was possible to see its inbuilt fishing line extending from its first dorsal spine and hanging above the gaping mouth. Invisibly observing. Invisible. It was eerily still. It was incredible.

Ultimately what these two encounters have taught me is that there are alternatives to the adrenaline hits of having a whale shark charge through your dive group or a manta circle you. In fact part of the beauty of the ugly frog fish is the dedication it takes to spot, which can result in such a sense of satisfaction, causing dive instructors to dance around at 20 meters in front of a digital image.

Similan Diving


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