Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tonga - Day 5!

Hello everyone. My worse nightmare came true! A small storm came in and internet cut out. Now I am a day or so behind posting!

Today started out as a beautiful day. I decided to try out trolling on the way out to the collecting grounds.
The ocean was like a lake, really calm and nice.

We slowed down around this sand bar to get to the reefs.

The water was crystal clear, seemed like much more clear than in Bali or Makassar.

Teau can do just about everything, he is a good captain and is even trained to go work on commercial container ships.

We anchored in this spot and off went the divers!

Soon, the guys came up with nice pink with yellow tip Seriotopora hystrix!

This unusual coral looked like a cynarina lacrymalis. Each coral is wrapped in plastic and placed in the container bins with water for the trip home.

So this is what it looks like after the bins are full.

Care is taken so the corals won't get damaged. Note the large elephant ear type of mushrooms. These were found around at 60 feet. Kind of new in Tonga as the the divers had never seen it before.

After going in the water, I got really tired and fell asleep for a little bit. In that short period of time, the weather had totally changed. The guys had used up all of their scuba tanks and it was time to head back. The bright sun was gone and the clouds had moved in.

On the way back, I spotted this local collecting sea cucumbers. These guys can sell a 5 gallon bucket of common sea cucumbers for about $10 US. There are many Asian companies here that buy the cucumbers and process and then export.

Also on the way in, we spotted this huge nice yacht.

It carried a British flag and I hear the owner hires people to drive this big boat here. The owner then flies in from where ever and takes it for a cruise around the islands. Must be fun and whoever owns this boat, is definitely not in the fish or coral business - because we are all poor!

The guys were in awe as the little boats had huge engines of their own. The bigger of the two had three 275 HP outboards!

One of the cool finds for the day was this clam. Clams are protected but we picked up this guy for broodstock for spawning for the fisheries government.

I placed this sky blue with gold rim maxima on a man made liverock!

A nice echino chalice. The color is yellow green with pink eyes. Note the sky blue markings!

This favia in the wild appears blue like, wish had some good halides!

Acan subechinata. This coral is blue in the ocean!

Nice thick plating purple montipora!

Tonga has the best Montipora daneas and verrucosas. These two corals look very similar with same colors, blue based with purple polyps. This one appears to be a danea.

This light purple based montipora has large white polyps.

A cool looking Montipora peltiformis, looks incredible under halides!

Another nice Montipora danea.

Orange green encrusting montipora.

I can picture many frags from this piece!

Back five years ago when I first came to Tonga, we discovered the green morph of the famous
Pavona maldivensis. This one is super dark green - nice!

Orange Pavona maldivensis are always high on the menu!

A light green maldivensis. Check out the shape, this is typical of this pavona family. Other common morph are the plating ones. Interestingly I have not seen any of these corals in Indonesia, although I'm sure that they have them there somewhere.

A nice red lobophyllia. This one has greenish like little streaks that can't be seen in the photo, but I'm sure it will come out under halides.

Orange green lobo. I know this is a super nice piece, but the flash is drowning out the colors.

Ultra dark green lobo. This color is relatively rare in the lobophyllias.

Guess what this is? Yes, this is "eddie lobo", the Acanthastrea maxima. The color is not all that great but very rare in Tonga.

Ultra green scolymia. These normally come in orange and green.

A small but very cool little montipora. Check out the colors, it is green with red polyps!

This is that cynarina looking thing. Cynarina has only one species that is recognized, the lacrymalis. This one appears to be either a new species or a different morph of the lacrymalis. For sure it is not a scolymia or a lobophyllia.

Nice pink green based echino chalice with bright green eyes. This coral could develop a green rim and color up under artificial lighting - if it does, sweet as "watermelon"!

Beautiful orange plating Pavona maldivensis!

Gorgeous large pink bird's nest with yellow tip anyone? These, along with stylophoras and pocilloporas are not popular in the US. But they are highly desired in Europe!

Even if we wanted to export this coral from Indonesia, we couldn't because there are virtually no cites quota. Good thing from Tonga, we can get permits to export this beautiful coral.

My divers have not collected much acroporas yet, waiting for another day for those. But this "bycatch" is pretty nice!

Green with bluish centered leptastrea!

Pink leptastrea with whitish centers.

Nice Acan subechinata.

Do this acan can potentially turn blue under halides!

Another one of those pink and yellow favias.

A very nice plating turbinaria. Another beautiful coral that is shunned in the US.

So here is that huge elephant ear type of mushroom. My divers diving here for over five years has never seen this before. Of course I have seen this in Indo, but never in Tonga - until now!
So this is where we keep the corals. We have four ponds as we call them in Indo, to quarantine the corals for export.

Many of these ponds are empty, so the fisheries government were glad to lease some of them to us.

Wish had some good lights!

Another coral that appears blue in the ocean. This one is a favia.

Nice purple monti with purple polyps!

And here is that maxima we donated to the government fisheries!

Shade cloth protects the corals from bleaching under the intense sun.

We used to hold lots of corals for aquaculture and export back five years ago in these huge fiberglass troughs.

After a long day of playing with corals, we went to visit my old Filipino divers from the fish days five years ago. They knew I was coming and prepared a nice dinner. Barbecue chicken, felt like I was in Indo. Most of the time in Indo, I eat chicken!

Here is Joey, one of the first Filipino fish divers I brought in making adobo, a Filipino signature dish that I really like!

A big pot of rice and we are ready to eat!

There used to be many of these guys here catching fish for various companies. Virtually all the exporters are out of business and these guys have no money to buy tickets to go back home. So these castaways are scrounging around for work everyday. Walk around town looking to see if someone needs them to dive for something. So when they heard I was in town again, they were excited that I might start up something and give them work. I told them perhaps next year, the timing has to be perfect for me to seriously consider running a Tonga station again. But for now at least they have an older Filipino friend who works for a large company to help them. The company rents a house and the older guy lets his younger fellow Filipinos stay. If this older friend was not around, these guys would literally be homeless.

Can you tell the Tongan from the Filipinos?


Ok guys that is it for today. It took me two days to post this as internet has really slowed down since the rains. But today the sky is clear and blue.


Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007