Five Unusual Sea Creatures You Will Find in Indonesia

Five Unusual Sea Creatures You Will Find in Indonesia

Avid travelers know there’s more to Indonesia than Bali. Indonesia is a set of islands that makes up just one nook of Asia-Pacific’s Coral Triangle: the waters that surround Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and The Solomon Islands. Millions are retreating to Indonesia, however, to experience a culture that has perfected relaxation and personalized treatment unlike any other.

This area is not just resting on its corals. At the very heart of the ocean, the islands have world-renowned nurseries, muck diving, and rice paddies that evoke the true majesty of the seas. However, the real attraction is what lies underneath. Indonesia is generally accepted as the world’s marine life “Garden of Eden,” offering some of the rarest, most flamboyant fish oddities and premier resorts. This pairing has made Indonesia a luxurious hotspot for serious scuba divers looking to cross the world’s most unique experiences off their bucket list.

New species are also constantly being discovered, with nearly 1,200 reef fish and 600 coral species to date. Depending on where in Indonesia you decide to dive, you may come across some of these scarcely studied yet highly sought-after species.


Frogfish are some of the most coveted diving finds in Indonesia. As their name suggests, they do share some of the same qualities as their amphibious namesake, but are completely different all at once. Frogfish are common off the coasts of Bali and Lembeh (an island off the northeastern shores of Sulawesi), where Indonesian scuba travel is at its peak. They come in all varieties: hairy, warty, giant, painted, freckled, and more.

Frogfish spend most of their days immobile on the ocean floor, disguising themselves among colorful coral and stalking prey. When a desirable catch approaches, a frogfish lures fish in with antennae on its head with bait on the end, similar to an anglerfish. They spring into action just like their amphibious counterparts and use their elbow-like pectoral fins and back pelvic fins to lunge forward and “hop” across the ocean floor.

Psychedelic Frogfish

Psychedelic frogfish are a newer species that have only been discovered in the last seven years. These frogfish are distinctly colored in a tan and peach zebra pattern, with flat faces, forward-aligned eyes, and gaping mouth. They also have slightly different behavioral patterns than “regular” frogfish. Each time this fish pushes off a surface, it expels water from tiny gills to maneuver forward. You can see this spectacular fish on the coast of Ambon Island, where Ultimate Dive Travel can connect you with the Maluku Divers resort. This is the only resort on the island built specifically for divers and home to not only this kind frogfish, but the largest and most diverse collection of frogfish in Indonesia.

Yellow Boxfish

Yellow boxfish literally look like yellow boxes. They grow between 15-18” and have a three-dimensional shape that makes them one of the most uniquely structured fish in the sea. If you see a bright yellow boxfish with blue spots, it’s likely in its adolescence; their neon color and spots fade over time. They are very docile in nature, but when under stress or threatened, they release a deadly toxin so powerful that the yellow boxfish itself has been known to succumb to its own poison. Fish merely swimming by hardly stand a chance.  

Blue-Ringed Octopus

The Blue-Ringed Octopus is one of the most photogenic creatures of the deep. Photographers from all over the world flock to Indonesia to get even a glimpse at its beige skin illuminated by vivid blue spots. They are hard to spot, known to be shifty in shape and color. If you do see one, it’s likely that it’s one that has not mated yet. Both male and female Blue-Ringed Octopi die after reproduction: the male immediately after fertilization, and the female following a hunger strike to protect her eggs during maturation.

This is one of the most exciting finds in Indonesia, but it’s important to be wary. An expert diver is needed on this mission because although they are beautiful to look at, their bite is definitely worse than their bark. The Blue-Ringed Octopus is the only venomous species of octopus, and its venom is known to cause temporary (with treatment) asphyxiation, numbness, and paralysis in humans. Seeing one in its natural habitat is marvelous, but as with all sea animals, it’s important to remember that while diving, the sea is their domain; we are guests. Respecting their home is key to a full experience and staying safe.

Bali Sunfish (Mola Mola)

A sunfish doesn’t sound all that unusual, but this one is unusual in size. The Bali Sunfish (known also by its scientific name Mola Mola) is a behemoth version of the common saltwater fish found in the waters surrounding Bali. It grows to a whopping 14 feet vertically, 10 feet horizontally, and nearly 5,000 pounds, making it the world’s largest bony fish. Their massive size is in part enabled by the fact their back fins never fully grow. The fin folds into itself, allowing a gigantic creature to mature. Mola Mola’s colossus weight is balanced by two dorsal fins on its top and bottom directing its movement.

These fish are probably some of the most fun to see in the wild because of their temperament. Similar to manatees, the Bali Sunfish has a “dopey” nature and is friendly around humans, often just staring with its large eyes and, at the most, bopping them with its huge beak to say hello.

Harlequin Shrimp

The Harlequin Shrimp is as colorful as can be, but its appetite is no joke. These white-and-bright-blue-spotted shrimp are usually found in coral reefs, where their prey, starfish, usually linger. The crustacean’s diet solely depends on starfish legs. It expertly uses its claws to flip the starfish over so it cannot move, then eats the tubed feet and tissues until it reaches the center. Sometimes the starfish grows back another appendage, but only to have the Harlequin Shrimp resume its feast. Observing this exchange while diving is truly “wild,” and exhibits natural instinct in its purest form.