Psychedelic Frogfish
Histiophryne psychedelica
2016

Everyone who comes to Ambon to dive, not surprisingly, wants to see the Psychedelic Frogfish, Histiophryne psychedelica. And it’s a critter we would love to show everyone too. The last sighting was at the end of 2014, when we found it in Ambon Bay and before that it had been about 4 years since one was found. And they have only been found in Ambon Bay.

We are used to getting requests for this rarest of underwater creatures. Ambon gets a lot of amazing critters, but the Psychedelic Frogfish is the top of everyone’s wish list, without exception. We usually joke about it and say, of course there is a chance to see it, but don’t hold your breath (something we never do while diving anyway…)

So I was giving the briefing for a group of ten divers from Singapore. They had arrived in the morning, checked-in, got a little sleep, had lunch and were preparing to go out for a check-out dive in Baguala Bay, the beautiful bay in front of our resort. Of course they said they wanted to see the Psychedelic Frogfish while they were here. I said, of course, that there is always a chance, but we wouldn’t be going over to Ambon Bay for a couple of days. We kept on joking a little about it and I ended up saying if they did find it during their stay, drinks would be on me….

So off they went for their dive and I didn’t think any more about it….

When the boat got back, something looked strange. There were very big smiles and lots of comments about beer. I still had no idea what was going on, when they said they found ‘it’ on their dive. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Disbelief is closer to what I felt. How could the Frogfish, only ever found before in deep Ambon Bay now be found in shallow Baguala Bay? One of our theories about why they are so rare is that they spend most of their lives very deep in the centre of Ambon Bay (over 300m deep in places). Baguala Bay is only 50m or so max depth, and mainly white sand, hardly any deep coral or rubble.

But they had proof, photos and a small video clip. The video clip did it for me…I thought maybe they had taken a photo of a photo from an ID book. I thought this because I really could not believe the location.

And it was, of course, my Dive Guide Fadly who found it (again). Fadly found the last one to be seen, back at the end of 2014. And he was the one who found this one. As usual, looking for something else (he spotted, at the end of the dive, a blue Sea Star and thought he’d have a quick look for Harlequin Shrimp) he found the Psychedelic. This one was a little bigger than the one we found before, maybe max 5cm, and the patterns were more defined.

It is always incredibly exciting to see something extremely rare. To have now seen it twice, in different locations and habitats, is very special. We have now found it 3 days running and Barb and I managed to go and get these photos and video. You have to almost keep pinching yourself when you see it, you can’t believe it’s real and there in front of you.

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