Siladen: A Snorkeler’s Paradise

The tiny island of Siladen, just off of the tip of Northern Sulawesi, doesn’t seem to be on many people’s radar screens. And that’s a shame, because it sits smack in the middle of the Coral Triangle — which means that it has amazing marine life right off shore. A quick boat trip gets divers to Bunaken Marine Park, but if you’re a snorkeler, all you have to do is swim right out to the reef that spans west side of the island. The first thing you’ll notice is coral — explosions of coral everywhere, hard and soft and in all colors of the rainbow.

We were most excited about the possibility of seeing nudibranchs — and while it took a lot of searching (a guide helped in a couple of instances), our efforts were rewarded. These little sea slugs are so cute!

Nudibranchs are usually found in deeper waters, but we found them happily crawling along in the shallows. We even saw one (the tiny black and white spotted blob on the left below) huddled up next to some clownfish in the sand:

Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites, and after some complicated sexual activity these itty-bitty creatures lay impressive egg webs:

Moving away from the tiny end of the spectrum, we were lucky to have daily sea turtle sightings.

Of course, the waters are crowded with fish.

Some of the most notable swimmers we saw included swarms of juvenile catfish …

… lionfish …

… pufferfish …

… hawkfish …

… scorpionfish (you’ll need to squint — this one is a camouflage master) …

… filefish …

… and what felt like (but is not) every species of clownfish imaginable:

We even found what I started calling a clownfish condo — so many clownfish in one place!

We also saw sea fans

sea squirts

Christmas tree worms

feather duster worms

feather stars

… and sea stars (including these pincushion sea stars, blue star, chocolate chip star, and coral-destroying crown of thorns):

I would be remiss if I failed to mention these giant clams

… a pair of lacy-looking cowries

… one tiny anemone shrimp

… and the many resplendent anemones:

The sea is perfect Indo-Pacific blue …

And when you’re out of the water after a long day of snorkeling, you’re treated to this amazing view:

Of course, if you want to get right back into the ocean, a night snorkel is an amazing way to see completely different ocean creatures. Among many other critters, we found more (and different) nudibranchs, a baby crocodile fish, a stonefish, a banded snake eel, a sea spider, and my very first long-arm octopus!

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