Sea Life Of Raja Ampat

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There is no shortage of marine life in Raja Ampat!  Below are some of the amazing creatures you can spot in these waters and information on the habitats in which you can find them (we will be continually adding to this list…).  If you want more information on planning your trip, visit the Underwater Guide To Raja Ampat.

Have an amazing photo of a Raja Ampat ocean critter and we don’t already have that species on the list???  Send us an email and we’d be happy to include it with a photo credit (feel free to attach your own watermark in a bottom corner of the image or we can add one for you if you like).

 


SEA LIFE


 

 


Marine Mammals


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelDugong
  • Dugong dugon
  • Adult Size: 2.4-4m long
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Protected Bays, Sea Grass Beds

The dugong is a member of the order Sirenia (think manatees), and the only entirely ‘marine’ mammal that feed exclusively on vegetation (sea grass).  They can be very long lived, reaching known ages of more than 70 years!  While the overall species status is vulnerable, local populations have become increasingly threatened. It is now quite rare to see a dugong in the wild.

*The animal in the above photo was a rescued calf in another area of Indonesia.


spinner dolphin marine mammal papua indonesia raja Ampat wildlife marine life animals creatures critters ocean marine sea jump dive salt water wet environment natural nature wild wilderness pacific indopacific adventure travel nomads expeditions katy laveck foster Jeff photography video information blog expeditions cenderawashi bay islands tropical reef coral habitat Stenella longirostrisLong-Beaked Spinner Dolphin
  • Stenella longirostris
  • Adult Size: 129 – 235 cm long & 23 – 78 kg
  • IUCN Status: Data Deficient
  • Where To Find Them: Along Coastline

Found throughout the tropical waters of the world, spinner dolphins are the acrobats of the marine mammal world.  Often seen leaping out of the water, these dolphins are known for their twisting jumps, which the exercise of can cause the dolphins normal light gray belly to turn pink. In Papua these dolphins are typically shy of boat, but if you are lucky you may have a group approach your boat to bow ride (particularly if you are in a larger less-traditional boat).

spinner dolphin marine mammal papua indonesia raja Ampat wildlife marine life animals creatures critters ocean marine sea jump dive salt water wet environment natural nature wild wilderness pacific indopacific adventure travel nomads expeditions katy laveck foster Jeff photography video information blog expeditions cenderawashi bay islands tropical reef coral habitat Stenella longirostris


 


Sharks


wobbegong shark tasseled raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef fish wildlife wild natureTasselled Wobbegong Shark
  • Eucrossorhinus dasypogon
  • Adult Size: 115-125cm long
  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Drop-Offs, Reef Channels

The cryptic and strange Wobbegong shark can be found in the eastern Indian Ocean, Indo-Pacific, and central western Pacific Ocean.  An ambush predator, this shark feeds on a variety of critters that venture too close as it calms waits on the bottom.  Prey species include fish, crustaceans, squid & cuttlefish.  The nocturnal Wobbegong can be sometimes found resting under table corals and reef ledges during the day.


 

raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef walking shark fish epaulette hemiscyllium hallstromiEpaulette Shark
  • Hemiscyllium sp.
  • Adult Size: 45-80cm (depending on species)
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern – Near Threatened (depending on the species)
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Tidal Pools (particularly at night)

Named after it’s epaulette spots, the epaulette shark is a small shark which spends the majority of it’s time on the sea bottom. There are a few species of epaulette sharks in Indonesian waters, with a couple of new species discovered in recent years – such as the Hemiscyllium freycineti discovered in Raja Ampat.  Sharks in this genus are know for their ability to ‘walk’ on land, using their pectoral fins to crawl between pools of water.  If you are lucky, this can be observed during a nighttime low tide in areas with shallow and partially exposed reef.  Little is known about most epaulette sharks, and it is believed that they feed largely on invertebrates and are oviparous (though that has not been scientifically confirmed).

Hemiscyllium freycineti pup shark baby young raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef walking shark fish epaulette hemiscyllium hallstromiEpaulette Shark Pup


 


Rays


manta giant reef oceanic stingray ray skate blue spot sting wildlife animal raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelReef Manta Ray
  • Manta alfredi
  • Adult Size: 150-550cm
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • Where To Find Them: Nearshore Reefs (within a few km of shore)

Found In the Indian, Pacific, and Indo-Pacific, reef manta rays are believe to live for at least 40 years in the wild (though the exact life span is unknown). They are slow to reproduce, with gestation lasting approximately one year and females of reproductive age resting for 1-2 years between pregnancies.  The species has a high fidelity to particular sites, something researchers discover through photo-identification of the species.  Each manta ray has a unique pattern on it’s underside, making identification of an individual possible.


 

bluespot stingray ray skate blue spot sting wildlife animal raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelBlue-Spotted Stingray
  • Taeniura lymma
  • Adult Size: Up To 95cm (average 25cm diameter)
  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened
  • Where To Find Them: Sandy Bottoms (on reef edge)

Found primarily in the Indo-Pacific and western Pacific, the blue-spotted stingray frequently buries itself under the sand or bottom sediment, with only it’s eyes and tail tip visible.  These colorful rays are ovoviviparous and each female produces around 6-7 live young per litter – making this species vulnerable to overfishing, habitat loss, and other threats.  Blue-spotted stingrays feed primarily during high tide, when they swim into shallow water to feed on invertebrates, crustaceans, and small fish.


 


Marine Reptiles


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef weather rain grass shack hut snake banded sea krait bit venomousBanded Sea Krait
  • Laticauda colubrina
  • Adult Size: 80-130cm long (females longer than males)
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Drop-Offs, Sea Grass Beds

Found throughout the eastern Indian Ocean, Indo-Pacific, and western Pacific, the banded sea krait is an amphibious species.  They have the ability to move readily on land like other snakes, but have unique adaptations to life in the sea, such as glands found under their tongues which help to get rid of excess salt.  These snakes are oviparous and take nearly 2 years to mature. While reproduction for the kraits takes place on land, the majority of it’s life is spent at sea, feeding on small fish and eels.  Banded sea kraits have the ability to inject a powerful neurotoxin when they bite, which has induced fatal hypertension & cyanosis in people.  However, these snakes are very docile around divers and have very small jaws & teeth, so while care should be taken not to harass the snakes, the likely hood of getting bit is extremely low.


 


Eels


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel yellow edged margin moray eel fish wildlife sealifeYellow-Margin Moray Eel
  • Gymnothorax flavimarginatus
  • Adult Size: Up To 240cm long
  • Where To Find Them: Reef Walls, Barrier Reefs, Drop-Offs

The yellow-margin moray ell is a widespread species throughout the Indian, Pacific, and Indo-Pacific regions. The  solitary hunter can be found in reef crevices or openly hunting for small to medium sized fish on the reef.  Often seen opening and closing it’s mouth to pass water over it’s gills when not swimming, the eel is often mistakenly thought to be aggressive when simply breathing.


 


Fish


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef bumped parrotfish wrasse fish wildlife creature critter living sleeping resting nightBumphead Parrotfish (Humphead Parrotfish)
  • Bolbometopon muricatum
  • Adult Size: Up To 130cm long & 46kg
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Drop-Offs

The bumphead parrotfish is the largest parrotfish, and named for it’s prominent forehead, which can be seen in full grown adults.  Parrotfish have fused teeth which form a bird like beak, a perfect adaptation for crushing the coral on which they feed. Often divers (and particularly quieter snorkelers) can hear a crunching and grinding on the reef when parrotfish are passing by.  Inedible parts of the coral are passed by the fish, and parrotfish such as bump heads produce significant amounts of sediment on a reef.  Active during the day, bumpheads will wrap themselves in a fine mucus layer and ‘sleep’ hidden along the reef at night.


 

raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelCommon Lionfish
  • Pterois volitans
  • Adult Size: Up To 38cm long
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Drop-Offs

The common lionfish is one of many types of lionfish that can be found in Indonesian waters.  Lionfish have 13 poisonous dorsal spines which they will extend and display prominently when threatened.  A top level predator in most reef habitats, the lion fish feeds primarily at night but can be active on the reef throughout the day.


 

lion fish spines poisonous dangerous fish scorpionfish sting wildlife wild nature raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelScorpionfish Species
  • Scorpaenopsis sp.
  • Adult Size: Up To 14-28cm long (depending on species)
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Drop-Offs, Sandy Bottoms

There are a wide variety of scorpionfish species that live in the waters of Raja Ampat.  Scorpionfish have 11-17 poisonous dorsal spines which they will extend and display prominently when threatened.  Most species are benthic (living on the bottom) and feed on small fish and crustaceans.


 

shrimpgobi gobi goby shrimp fish benthic sand bottom wildlife animals marine life raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelBanded Shrimpgoby
  • Cryptocentrus cinctus
  • Adult Size: Up To 7cm
  • Where To Find Them: Sandy Bottoms

Banded shrimpgobies are typically found in sandy bottomed, sheltered lagoons & estuaries. These fish have a symbiotic relationship with alpheid shrimp, which whom they share their burrows.  The gobies act as the ‘guards’ while the shrimp work to maintain the burrow which they both rely on for protection.


 

cowfish longhorn shoehorn puffer raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelThronback Cowfish
  • Lactoria fomasini
  • Adult Size: Up To 23cm long
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Sandy & Rubble Bottoms

The thornback cowfish can be most often found solitarily swimming closed to the reef. Males are highly territorial.  The cowfish have a toxic mucus on their bodies which they can release if stressed.


 

raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel fish clownfish anemone clown False Clown Anemonefish (Juvenile)
  • Amphiprion ocellaris
  • Adult Size: Up To 9cm long
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Sheltered Lagoons

The false clown anemonefish can be found in the Indo-Pacific and throughout the southwest Pacific. It lives it’s life in symbiosis with an anemone, primarily: Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla gigantean, and Stichodactyla mertensii.  Depending on the anemone for shelter, these fish are poor swimmers and susceptible to predators when out in the open.  Anemonefish are protected from the stinging cells of their host due to a thin mucus layer which covers their bodies.


 

raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel blenny fish sabertooth fangBluestriped Fangblenny (Sabortooth Blenny)
  • Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos
  • Adult Size: Up To 12cm long
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Drop-Offs

The bluestriped fangblenny feeds using aggressive mimicry.  By mimicking the behavior of the similar looking bluestreak cleaner wrasse, the blend is able to attract other animals to what appears to be a ‘cleaning station’ on the reef.  Instead of cleaning parasites and detritus off the creatures visiting the ‘cleaning station’, the fangblenny takes a bite out of it’s ‘clients’.  The fangblenny has a unique adaptation that enables them to get away unnoticed after biting their victim – they have a venom which contains morphine-like opioids so the bite is nearly pain-free.


 


Seahorses & Pipefish


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel network pipefish Corythoichthys flavofasciatus

Network Pipefish
  • Corythoichthys flavofasciatus
  • Adult Size: Up To 18cm long
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Drop-Offs

Found throughout the western Pacific, Into-Pacific, and Indian Oceans, the network pipefish may be divided into two separate species in the future.  Often seen soliary or in pairs, males of this ovoviviparous species carry the eggs of the young in a brood pouch located underneath their tails.  They are known to feed on small invertebrates, with a large part of their diets made up of copepods.


 

 


Cephalopods


octopus raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reefDay Octopus (Young)
  • Octopus cyanea
  • Adult Size: Up To 7kg
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs

Able to changes it’s color and the patterns and texture of it’s skin, the day octopus is a master of disguise.  A diurnal species, this octopus is most active on the reef during the dawn and dusk hours, when it’s prey buffet includes both diurnal and nocturnal species.  It feeds on small fish, crabs, shrimp, and mollusks.


 

raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelBroadclub Cuttlefish
  • Sepia latimanus
  • Adult Size: Up To 10kg
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Reef Slopes

The intelligent broadclub cuttlefish are able to display and communication by changing their skin into a wide range of colors and textures.  They are diurnal hunters who are believed to mesmerize their prey by changing their skin to display pulsating rhythmic bands.  Mating occurs in shallow water during the months of January-May.


 


Crustaceans


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef mantis shrimpMantis Shrimp
  • Stomatopoda
  • Adult Size: 10-40cm long (depending on species)
  • Where To Find Them: Coral Reefs, Rocky Reefs

There are at least 57 species of mantis shrimp within the Bird’s Head Seascape (western tip of Papua which includes much of Raja Ampat)!  There are two main groups of mantis shrimp – smashers & spearers. Smashers have a well developed ‘club’ as their second pair of thoracic appendages, which are used to smash their prey apart.  Spearers have pointed appendages with barbed tips in the pace of clubs, which they use to stab their prey.  Mantis shrimps have some of the most intricate eyes in the animal kingdom, with 16 types of color receptor cones!


 


Echinoderms


raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef sea star starfish crown-of-thorns eater killerCrown-Of-Thorns
  • Acanthaster planci
  • Adult Size: Up To 1m (typically smaller)
  • Where To Find Them: Coral Reefs

A ravenous predator on the coral reef, the Crown-Of-Throns seastar feeds on coral.  In years of ‘population boom’, these seastars can inflict significant damage on a reef.  Generally nocturnal, the Crown-Of-Throns can be found cruising the reef during the mornings and evenings as well.


 

raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel islands archipelago stag horn coral reef basket sea star starfish deep nightGiant Basket Star
  • Astroboa nuda
  • Adult Size: Up To 38cm
  • Where To Find Them: Reef Walls, Drop-Offs (areas with potential for strong current)

The nocturnal basket star stays hidden among the reef during the day, and can be found with arms outstreatched filter feeding on plankton which perched high on the corals at night.


 

Seastar star fish starfish blue raja ampat echinoderm raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkelBlue Seastar
  • Linckia laevigata
  • Adult Size: Up To 30cm
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs

Known to live up to 10 years in the wild, the blue seastar is found throughout the Indian, Pacific, and Indo-Pacific.  An opportunistic predator, the blue seastar will feed on small invertebrates, detritus, and dead animals. It feeds by inverting it’s stomach and digesting it’s food externally.


 

papua indonesia raja Ampat wildlife marine life animals creatures critters ocean marine sea jump dive salt water wet environment natural nature wild wilderness pacific indopacific adventure travel nomads expeditions katy laveck foster Jeff photography video information blog expeditions cenderawashi bay islands tropical reef coral habitat feather star Seastar echinoderm Bennett's feather filter feeder
Bennett’s Feather Star
  • Oxycomanthus Bennett
  • Adult Size: Up To 26cm
  • Where To Find Them: Open Coral Reefs

These large feather stars (crinoids) can most readily be found in areas exposed to moderate current. Their extended arms work to catch food drifting by, making them effective filter feeders.  Feather stars of many species are common throughout the Indo-Pacific.


 


Nudibranchs & Sea Slugs


 lovely head shield slug chelidonura amoena nudibranch wildlife creature invertebrate raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel
Lovely Headshield Slug
  • Chelidonura amoena
  • Adult Size: Up To 5.5cm
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs

Large color and patterning variation is possible in the delicately layered lovely headshield slug.  These creatures can be found throughout the tropical western Pacific, and are unusual to spot.


 

 

goniobranch coi nudibranch wildlife creature invertebrate raja ampat house reef coral ecosystem bommie sun rays papua hotel travel adventure nomads expeditions katy jeff Laveck foster explore tides tropical ocean grass homestay islands diving snorkel

Co’s Chromodoris
  • Goniobranch coi
  • Adult Size: Up To 5cm
  • Where To Find Them: Shallow Reefs, Barrier Reefs

These nudibranchs are commonly found throughout the western tropical Pacific and Into-Pacific.  Co’s Chromodoris are often seen raising and lowering their mental skirts when moving along the reef.


 

More Critters To Come Soon!

For more images from Raja Ampat and the rest of the Indo-Pacific, check out our Indo-Pacific Gallery

Looking for a guide to Indonesias marine life in Chinese?  Check out this great guide put together by a dive instructor & underwater photographer we meet on the road…SaveSave

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