Komodo National Park dive 17: “Secret Garden” (2019-1-23) This was meant to be more of a macro/critter hunting dive, but we ended up seeing schools of rays, as well as some nice soft coral carpets.

Here are my dive notes: A highly regarded site for hunting for unusual critters. 5-7 m viz, 25C, mild-medium current. PV (Pocillopora verrucosa), PE (Pocillopora eydouxi), Pachyseris, Porites, and Acropora all present, though in general coral cover was low, and the site was predominantly a sandy slope covered by soft corals. School of 7-10 mobular rays (mini-mantas) encircled us nearly the entire time (got some good pictures). Benthos at 22 m looked like Wainilu (sand+soft coral, hard coral virtually absent). Some fungids. Various sorts of ghost pipefish disguised as Halimeda. Some tiny Pachyseris colonies. Few big fish except for aforementioned mobular rays. Halimeda (algae) common. Sexy shrimp. Monster Tubastrea (green) colony covered in lionfish. More of a reef structure above 14 m, though still generally low ALCC (average live coral cover). Peacock mantis (hidden). At 10 m, mostly soft coral with some brain corals and poritids. Much more structure at 5-7 m. Appears to be rocks covered in coral rather than structures of coral origin. At least 8-10 species of soft coral at 5 m, where surge was intense (at base of small island). Carpets of soft corals in 6-7 m (most beautiful part of reef). Unknown species of massive coral seen at end of dive (need to check pictures, very interesting).