New at Salaya: Learn about the amazing ghost pipefishes, in the only Ghost Pipefish Distinctive Speciality Course in the world, held in one of the most biodiverse macro-diving spots in the coral triangle, in Dauin Philippines!
Did you ever visit the Louvre in Paris or the Belvedere in Vienna? Were you enthralled by the art exhibited? We certainly think that the amazing wildlife we encounter underwater in one of the muck diving capitals of the world, Dauin, is living art! But in contrast to the art in the Louvre or the Belvedere, these living works of art do not come with signs describing what they are, and while many of the topside artworks are wall-filling paintings, the living art underwater is often tiny and exceedingly hard to find.
This is especially true for the ghost pipefishes, a fascinating family of animals related to the seahorses. These fishes are at the same time some of the most difficult spot, and some of the most beautiful and bizarre-looking animals in the tropical oceans. Our Course Director Marc van der Poel, together with Dr. Klaus M. Stiefel, Neurolinx Institute and Marine Science Institute at The University of the Philippines, developed the PADI Ghost Pipefish Diver Distinctive Specialty course to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about these highly unusual animals.
Masters of Camouflage
The harlequin ghost pipefish live on the coral reefs around Dauin (Salaya’s location, 20 minutes by car south of the provincial capital of Negros Oriental, Dumaguete), where they hide between feather stars, invertebrates related to sea stars. They camouflage themselves by their looks, very much akin to feather star arms, but also by their head-down, passive style of swimming, which makes them appear even more like a part of a feather star.
The robust ghost pipefish are found in the sand between reefs in the Dauin area, where they camouflage as pieces of sea grass. They also move very much like the object they are mimicking, swaying back and forth in the surge like detached blades of sea grass. The images below show the same species, but highlight the fact that they can change color to adapt to their environment – they’re masters of camouflage!
Robust Ghost Pipefish, photo credit: Marc van der Poel
Six Different Species of Ghost Pipefishes
A total of six different species of ghost pipefishes are known:
Besides the ornate and robust ghost pipefish, the halimeda and roughsnout are two more species which camouflage themselves by resembling plants or dead plant material. Two more species, the delicate and the armored ghost pipefish, are both very rare, and we never see them in the Dauin area.
What you get in the PADI Course
But what about the “hairy” and “velvet” ghost pipefishes, particularly prized by underwater photographers? Learn about their status in the PADI Ghost Pipefish Diver Distinctive Specialty. And this is what else the course features:
Bring Your Camera
If you are an underwater photographer or videographer, you are encouraged to bring your camera during the course dives! We will use the course dives to take shots and footage, and use it to analyze ghost pipefish behaviour after the dive. Underwater photography and ghost hunting go together well, make sure to bring your macro lens!