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One day and an Evening in Subic Bay – Philippines Underwater Photos


Several days spent teaching an ‘Intro to Doubles’ course in Subic Bay.  Then some fun diving..and my opportunity to get the camera wet (Sony Cybershot T-20).

The wreck sites were closed by the Harbour Authority, so it was a great chance to explore some of the less frequented reefs in the bay.   These photos were taken at Lighthouse Reef, over the space of 2 day dives and a night dive.  Just a small fraction of the critters we spotted….


Subic Bay Sea Urchin
Subic Bay, Lighthouse Reef – Fire Urchin (Asthenosoma varium) at 27m

This large Fire Urchin was in the silt/sand at the bottom of the coral reef wall.  The size of a mini-football, the colours were spectacular.  Gold, purple and blue – I’ve never seen one like it before!

Officially named Asthenosoma varium,  it is known for venomous spines (causing significant and prolonged pain), it is often home to commensural shrimps and crabs.

Subic Bay Underwater Photo Pipefish
Double End Pipefish (Trachyrhamphus bicoarctatus)

We saw a lot of pipefish during the dives.  It wasn’t until examining the photos that I realized I had captured two different species.  Trachyrhamphus bicoarctatus (above) and the more colourful Corythoichthys haematopterus (below).

Messmate Pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus)
Dragon Face Pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus)

(above) The beautifully coloured ‘Dragon Face’ Pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus).  Also known as the ‘Messmate’ Pipefish.

Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)
Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)

This critter is hard to spot!  We found two Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi) during a single night dive.  One was about 1cm..the other was smaller!

Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)
Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)

Bobtail Squid are actually a large family of squid, from the order Sepiolida. There are about 80 sub-species, which can be recognized by their small round body and lack of cuttle-bone (they are actually closer related to cuttlefish than squid).

Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)
Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)

In addition to their timidity (they hide under sand all day, only venturing out at night), Bobtail Squid are famous for their splendid colours!   This is due to their relationship with a symbiotic luminescent bacteria, that lives within a ventral pouch on the squid.

Decorator Crab (Cyclocoeloma tuberculata)
Decorator Crab (Cyclocoeloma tuberculata)

There was a bunch of Decorator Crabs on the night dive; 6 or 7 in all.  These are very photogenic and easy to spot in the dark, as they climb up onto the higher spots of the coral.  There was also an Orangutan Crab.. but 274 photos into the diving day had drained my battery – typical!

Decorator Crab Cyclocoeloma tuberculata
Decorator Crab (Cyclocoeloma tuberculata)

Lionfish are pretty common around the Philippines, but the Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra) is less common. It’s smaller in size than the common lionfish (Pterois volitans) and  the pectoral and dorsal spines are joined by a nicely coloured membrane.

Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)
Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)

Pufferfish of various species are common in Subic Bay.

Seal Face Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus)
Seal Face Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus)

The Seal Face Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus) is also known as the ‘Blackspotted’ or ‘Dog Faced’ Pufferfish.  Like most pufferfish species, it is highly poisonous – often fatal if eaten.

White Spotted Puffer (Arothron hispidus)
White Spotted Puffer (Arothron hispidus)

This juvenile White Spotted Puffer  (Arothron hispidus) was in its normal environment of rubble/sand, busily foraging for worms, tunicates, small shrimp and molluscs.  Normally shy of divers, this creature seemed almost curious to observe me – and seemed to use my torch beam to help with its hunt for food.

Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)
Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)

This juvenile Tasseled Scorpionfish  (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala) was sheltering inside a large sea sponge.  Only a couple of inches long, he was obviously playing it safe.  There’s a lot of Scorpionfish in Subic Bay.  Some of the deeper wreck sites have enormous mature specimens.  Juveniles stick around the shallow reefs.

Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)
Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)

Subic Bay has its fair share of nudibranch. Whilst not a famous destination for marine life (compared to other Philippines destinations), the coral reefs inside the bay are less frequently visited by divers.  However, they are a nice alternative to the more popular wreck sites and a keen eye will spot the huge diversity of marine life available.

Here’s some of the nudibranch species spotted in a single day in Subic;

Nudibranch - Chromodoris kuniei
Nudibranch – Chromodoris kuniei
Nudibranch - Phyllidia ocellata
Nudibranch – Phyllidia ocellata
Nudibranch - Glossodoris atromarginata
Nudibranch – Glossodoris atromarginata
Nudibranch - Glossodoris atromarginata
Nudibranch – Glossodoris atromarginata
Nudibranch - Elysia ornata
Nudibranch – Elysia ornata
Nudibranch - Risbecia tryoni
Nudibranch – Risbecia tryoni
Nudibranch - Thuridilla gracilis
Nudibranch – Thuridilla gracilis
Nudibranch - Chromodoris preciosa
Nudibranch – Chromodoris preciosa
Nudibranch - Hypselodoris infucata
Nudibranch – Hypselodoris infucata
Nudibranch - Phyllidiella pustulosa
Nudibranch – Phyllidiella pustulosa
Nudibranch - Chromodoris coi
Nudibranch – Chromodoris coi

This one is really hard to spot.  You have to look carefully.. even to see it on the photo.  It’s only the second time that I’ve seen one – both were in Subic Bay..

Nudibranch - Ceratosoma miamirana
Nudibranch – Ceratosoma miamirana
Nudibranch - Plakobranchus ocellatus
Nudibranch – Plakobranchus ocellatus


For more Philippines Underwater Photos, please see our Gallery


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