Sure, you have your Wunderpus ( In latin AKA - Wunderpus Photogenicus) What an AWESOME name! Your Mimic Octopus, Bobtail squids and so on. But time and time again there always seem to be 2 at the top of most peoples wish lists. The blue Ring Octopus and the Flamboyant Cuttlefish. Which one is king, which one is for you the next time you look to book a dive trip. Let's have a look.
WARNING* If you want all the specs and details on these 2, read no more. I am not going to copy and paste shit you can just look up on Wikipedia.
All right lets dive straight in. The number one factor when on the hunt to find these critters is the same factor when looking for any underwater animal, IT’S NOT A ZOO! I know that might seem pretty obvious but we must always be mindful that there is a chance we don’t get to see what we want, that's the way she goes and that's what makes it so special when we do find them. Number 2, know where they live.... don't go looking for these guys in the Caribbean you won't find them!
I will say that in terms of finding them, the Flamboyant cuttlefish is much easier to find. Why? Because flamboyant cuttlefish have tendencies to stay around certain dive sites for extended periods of time. Also, they don’t hide as well as blue rings. Often times they can be found in the open sandy bits of a dive site. Keen dive guides remember these areas and usually have a high success rate of re-finding them the next day. This does not work at all for finding blue ring octopus.
The blue ring octopus is always a surprise. Except that one time a dive guide in Lembeh 100% guaranteed to find one and it only took him 90 seconds into the dive to find me one....... Anyways, even though they may live in a specific area of the reef, they are super agile and always on the move, slippin' in and out of cracks and just being in general being super sly. It's possible to see one on a dive site one day, and not see another one on that same dives site for 5 years. So in this round I give the decision to the Flambo in terms of witch one is easier to find.
* Note, if certain species are around, dive guides talk. They gossip about what they have found and exchange info. So if someone finds a Flambo, Frogfish, Pygmy seahorse etc. most times that knowledge is shared within the local dive community. I will write a full article soon on the length some dive guides are willing to in order to guard their secrets!
Now most of us who search for these critters are happy just to get a chance see them, but some are even happier if we can get 1 or 367 photos them ( I know I can get trigger happy when I get excited, hey…. it happens). So which one of them is the biggest camera slut? Well that really depends on the individual animal. Members of both species have personalities, yep that's right, it's not just humans that can be moody or pleasant sometimes. The Flamboyant cuttlefish tends to be a bit more relaxed but not all of them are cool with you getting close or taking a few photos. Some will try and swim away, some will approach you curiously and some seem to be oblivious to the fact that you are even there. When it comes down to photographing them you definitely want those colors to be flashing. Their bodies have the most mesmerizing display of colors and their skin is fluctuating moving colors like a TV screen. Unfortunately I wasn’t into video until very recently but you can check that out on YouTube . At the end of the day though, most photos of Flambo's are pretty similar because they don't shape shift like blue rings octopus and their color schemes are amazing yet pretty consistent with just slight variations in saturation and vibrance. The Blue ring octopus however is on whole other level.
The Blue ring certainly has something going on upstairs when it comes to their character. In my experience they more often tend to be a tad shy but the times when they are keen to interact with you, you are in for a photo shoot so slutty even Instagram won’t promote it. I'm serious. These little dudes put on one hell of a show when they start lighting it up. Usually when you come across them they just look like little sandy colored baby octopus, then all of a sudden..... BAM! In your face! Color changing Houdini magicianery. They bend, twist and contort. They blast flare in the shape of vibrant blue ring warning signs, sometime swim, play hide n seek, crawl on their tippy tentacles and more. In terms of being photogenic, these guys give the Wunderpus a run for its latin name.
These 4 Photos are of the same animal within a 2 minute period!
So in terms of what experience is the most exciting…. A good Blue ring experience can be way better than a Flambo experience depending on the personality of the individual you encounter. So for this one, I give the point to the Blue ring.
In terms of the behaviors that I have witnessed first hand. This is a toughie. I have seen both species on the same dive only twice. Once in Lembeh, Indonesia and once in Mabul, Malaysia. I have seen a parade, yes a parade of Flambo’s maybe 6 or 7 of them crawling in a single file row twice in two different countries. The only thing missing was Santa Clause at the end. Did you know that Flamboyant cuttlefish eat similarly than chameleons. I didn't until I witnessed it first hand thinking to myself ........"WTF is going on here".
I’ve had the pleasure of having a Blue ring octopus crawl over my hand ( I don't recommend it, I used to be a younger, dumber diver). I’ve seen a blue ring octopus ride a banana peel in strong currents like a surf board. I've even had the pleasure of being shown by my wife and her divemaster trainee, a Hairy Octopus and then all of a sudden a Blue ring popped out of the rock beside it, than spread its tentacles and another blue ring it was having sex with emerged from inside the grasp of its tentacles……. I know that's a mouth full….( that's what the second blue ring said). But most of all the craziest behavior I’ve ever witnessed is the birth of a Flamboyant Cuttlefish.
Blue ring ridin' the current on banana
As we descended, Faustine our good friend Eric and myself soon found ourselves surrounding a coconut shell our dive guide Puri had found. We all kneeled like a NFL player during the national anthem around it and waited…….and waited…...and waited. A good half hour has passed and you can see inside the egg something was going on but not too much. We really wanted to see this event take place so none of us moved, another 10 minutes or so, and all of a sudden, the little white embryo starts to flash those iconic flamboyant colors, a little bit of wiggling, then poof! Out comes the Flambo. I'll never forget how we could hear each other squealing into our regulators while we watched this happen a handful of times. This hands down was one of the most special behaviors I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. Just next time I'll be smart like Eric and video tape it instead.
From Egg to Swimming Away... Hey, at least I got photos!
So in terms of behavior, based on personal experience, the Flambo takes this one and wins 2-1.
Do we sound just a little bit excited?
In short, at the end of the day, you are more likely to have success on the hunt for Flamboyant cuttlefish. Nevertheless they are all very similar and an experience with a Blue ring can be far superior given the right conditions. Be that as it may the thing that can make any of these experiences stand out is behavior. The number one trick is to get in and stay in the water as long and as often as possible. What is the craziest behavior I have ever witnessed diving? That article is coming soon. Stay tuned.