Under glorious sunshine, we headed out to explore the reef fringing tiny Dondola Island. The white sand flats between the reef and the island glowed a most inviting and brilliant blue color, and the outside of the reef dropped off as a steep wall encrusted with massive brown pipe sponges. Some of us observed the reef from the glass-bottom boat, others with a mask and snorkel, and some with SCUBA tanks. But whatever the method, the goal was the same: to conduct the first ever Zegrahm Expeditions' Rapid Assessment Fish Count.
The details were simple. Since this part of Indonesia is at the heart of the Coral Triangle and has some of highest fish biodiversity anywhere in the world, we decided to see how many species WE could count on this one reef in one hour. Snorkelers called out unfamiliar fish to the expedition staff who were in the water, who then called out the species name to another staff member in a Zodiac, who was writing everything down. Meanwhile, the scuba divers were photographing away on their dive, and glass-bottom boaters were busily flipping pages in fish identification books.
This all culminated in a gathering back onboard after lunch where we all compared notes and came up with a grand total. Among all of us, each contributing in his or her own way, we amassed an incredible total of 226 species of fish during that one hour period, a feat that few others have ever accomplished. Although much of the credit for this goes to the combined hard work and observation skills of all of us on this trip, it is crystal-clear that we are traveling through one of the richest and most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet!