Responsible interactions when diving with Sunfish
Bali has a special allure for holiday divers, and as we approach July there is another BIG reason why divers flock by the thousands to our beautiful island: to dive with Mola molas (Ocean Sunfish)
From July through November we regularly spot Sunfish around Nusa Penida waters, so it’s an opportunity for divers to come and check out what’s known to be the largest bony fish in the world. Over the years however, we have witnessed an increase in cases whereby divers get too close to these gentle giants.
The need for a proper Code of Conduct came about to protect and ensure the Sunfish’s return year after year, so in the next few blogs I’d like to introduce you to a few important rules to stick to when you’re diving with Sunfish.
- If the fish are just entering the cleaning station, do not approach until the cleaning has begun and the fish have been stationary for at least 1 minute.
This is an absolute cardinal rule and demonstrates just how little knowledge some divers know about Sunfish. They enjoy Crystal Bay not only for the cold water, but more so because of the present of cleanerfish: Fish that feed on parasites on the Sunfish’ skin. When a Sunfish enters the bay, they would position themselves slightly face up in a stationary position, and this is a universal signal for cleaner fish to come close and start their job! If a diver approaches the Sunfish before they’ve moved in this position, chances you will scare it away!
- Maintain a minimum distance of 3m (or 2 body lengths) from the closest sunfish when animal is at a cleaning station and maintain a minimum distance of 10m (or 5 body lengths) when animal is unsettled (not in cleaning) and considering approach to the reef.
Sunfish are really shy animals. If you would come too close, they would instantly leave a cleaning station. They might look slow and large, but they’re actually very fast swimmers! When Sunfish are in a cleaning position, they tend to stay there for several minutes. Although it’s very tempting to get close and touch them, don’t do it! Remember, we are in their territory and so should be courteous and respect their space.
In my next blog I will discuss this some more points of this Sunfish Code of Conduct. Have you ever seen Sunfish while getting cleaned? Let me know how you liked that experience by leaving me a comment!