So… where did December go?
It’s like we blinked… and during that blink did a few thousand things… and then the entire month was gone! There was a visit from our friends and partners at SMILO, a visit from friends from across the globe.. and an exploration trip to northern Raja Ampat.

Over the coming days we will share some of our experiences of this time… some amazing (the exploration diving), some disturbing (thankyou overcrowding).. and then there was this;

A bloom* of jelly fish swarming past the boat on Christmas Eve.
The likes of which we’ve NEVER seen over here –  and were both intrigued, curious and a little disturbed all at the same time.  Over the years we’ve seen these jellyfish appear from time to time… seemingly just for a period of a week or 2, around sunrise and sunset… before disappearing again not to be seen again for many many months, particularly in large numbers like this. This time round, it’s been 1.5-2months and still they are present! Nothing like the bloom you see in this video, but regularly appearing around sunrise and sunset. Yet on Christmas Eve, as the sun went down, we noticed an unusually large number drifting past on the tide.. we were intrigued. Having ‘things to do’ we stopped watching after about 10minutes.. but a short time later – well you can see what occurred!

What causes jellyfish blooms?
Temperature variations are considered a major inducing factor which can result in jellyfish blooms, where jellyfish benefit from warmer than usual temperatures that increases the food availability in particular during larval stages, and promotes reproduction (esp for warm temperate jellyfish species).  Additionally, Eutrophication, climate change, overfishing, alien invasions** and habitat modification are all possible important contributory factors of jellyfish blooms.

So what does this say about Raja Ampat? Is it the combination of the current El Nino phase, combined with climate change warming the waters? Or was it the other influences…?

In any case, it was cause for us to pause and think… if a fluctuation of a degree towards warmer water caused this, how does that place us for the future, where at this point, oceanic temperature rise is a certainty? Jellyfish blooms like this would certainly have a significant impact on a marine tourism (bye by diving and snorkelling) and fishing industries, leading to economic losses. And ecologically speaking, jellyfish blooms reduce available prey for higher predators, and altering natural cycles. 

Do we know and understand the cause of this particular bloom in Raja Ampat, and this particularly jellyfishy phase we seem to be in? No. Not really.

So for now, we can muse over this, and simply be intrigued by this sighting. And while we enjoyed the show on Christmas Eve… at least for us, it was an important moment to consider this could be Mother Nature giving us a gentle sign of things to come.

The Underwater View: We dropped the GoPro in tied to a short rope… the ‘shaky cam’ view is from the GoPro tumbling in the current and being bumped by jellyfish 5 times it’s size!