THE GREAT MANDARIN HUNT
The Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus (Herre, 1927)) belongs to the Callionymidae, or Dragonet Family and can be identified by its' small mouth and psychedelic green color pattern. They are dimorphic, that is having separate male and female individuals. The male attains a larger size and when courting displays a large and colorful dorsal (top) fin. Their coloration is fantastic, but allows them to blend with their habitat. They reach a size of about 4 cm and live in shallow protected areas to a depth of about 18 meters.
Their territory ranges from the Philippines and Java to the Great Barrier Reef and Palau to the E. Carolines in Micronesia. These are among the most difficult fish I have ever tried to photograph. They live among an intricate latticework of rubble or living coral and although curious, they will duck for cover as soon as a camera comes on the scene. I am convinced that they are either able to read the remaining shots on your film counter or count the number of shots you take until you reach 36, but in either case, they will only pose for a picture when they know you are out of film!
Diving from Kungkungan Bay Resort on the Lembeh Straits, there is a unique opportunity to photograph these crafty little critters as they come out daily at sunset on a site called Batu Angus to feed and aggravate photographers. The guys at the resort call the dive "The Mandarin Hunt" and it is not to be missed.
I have written a short piece called "The Great Mandarin Hunt" and you are invited to jump there to read more about this exciting event. The shots below were taken on those dives in 1996 and 1997.
The "Great Mandarin Hunt" Story
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