On just about all of our snorkeling safari’s we will always try to offer night or sunset snorkeling so you can see that amazing transition in specie’s behavior as day turns to night. If you are at all curious about what night snorkeling is like you can find out more here. For this particular blog though, we’re going to highlight one particular night snorkeling subject which can be found in both Triton Bay and throughout Raja Ampat once the sun sets, and that subject is a walking shark.

At this point you are probably wondering what I mean by “walking shark.” Well, as it turns out, there is a species of shark which actually prefer to use their pectoral fins to walk across the reef, rather than to swim. They are a type of epaulette shark, but are commonly known to us snorkelers as walking sharks. They are found in the shallow reef of northern Australia as well as New Guinea, with one particular species endemic to Raja Ampat and another to the Triton Bay area.

Epaulette walking shark on the sand

As both the Raja epaulette walking shark and the Triton epaulette walking shark are nocturnal species we don’t often find them in the afternoon snorkeling sessions because the burry themselves in the reef, but just after sunset is when they come out to hunt for small benthic creatures and small fish. As snorkelers we have the best vantage point for finding these unusual sharks since they usually are found right up in the shallow reefs, and even in tide pools at times. As you can see from the photos these are not your typical shark with their elongated body—which is mostly tail and decorated with a spattering of ornamental spots, not to mention the general sense of cuteness these sharks exude.

So there you have it folks, sharks can not only be comically cute, but also walk, and the best places to snorkel with them just happen to be Raja Ampat and Triton Bay in Indonesia!

Check out this short video to see just how these sharks walk, even on land! This particular species, which is nearly identical in appearance to the ones found in Raja Ampat and Triton bay is from Australia. The behavior is the same however. 

While everyone loves snorkeling over pristine reefs with all the colorful fish that explode out of it, there’s still nothing quite like schools of big fish. Despite what movies and wildlife documentaries might covey with their their careful selection of images, big fish can be tricker to find than you might imagine. For example, on a five kilometer stretch of reef full of what look like the perfect habitat for big fish there may be one point or ridge where the big fish collect, or you may see a lot of big fish but they are deep and well out of snorkeling range. If you’ve spent any amount of time snorkeling in the tropics you will surely understand what I’m talking about. So, with all of this in mind, here are a few tips for finding the big fish!


Depth does play a small role in being able to find big fish in that you need to be snorkeling in an area that has access to deeper water. What I mean by this is that if you are snorkeling right up in the shallow reef flats you are not likely to encounter many big fish. However, if you swim to the point in the reef where it turns into a wall or starts to slope off, then you’ll increase your odds of finding big fish as they like to have unlimited access to the open blue water.

Diagram of where to find big fish on a reef


Current plays a big part in where big fish congregate and when. Generally speaking, when the tide is slack—that time between rising tide and falling tide where there is no current—most big fish will sort of just scatter into the blue water away from the reef. When the current starts to run again the fish will come back into their schooling formations on the up current side of the reef



Topography and current sort of work together in that schools of big fish will generally congregate around ridges and channels, or basically any topographic feature that helps accelerate or funnel the current and bring in food. The fish will almost always be on the up current side of that particular feature, which is why your Snorkel Venture guides are always paying attention to which way the current is running.

Specific Destinations 

School of Mobula rays in cablo san lucas

One of the biggest tips for finding big fish is to figure out which destinations are well known for having big fish. By destination I don’t mean countries, I mean specific snorkeling destinations within a country like Komodo or Raja Ampat in Indonesia and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. While a country like Indonesia may be famous for having lots of big fish, it will be these specific snorkeling destinations that have made it so. Before booking a snorkeling adventure it’s really important to know which places offer the best chances of big fish.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

school of batfish in coral reef

Destinations like Raja Ampat and Komodo who have had their waters protected as an MPA for years will offer the absolute best big fish encounters for a couple reasons. First reason being that there will just be more big fish as fishing is restricted or prohibited within the MPA boundaries. Second reason being that fish know when they are being fished and will descend to deeper waters. If you’ve ever snorkeled in places where they are still actively fished you’ll no doubt find that all the big fish will be deep, and in much smaller numbers. In successful MPAs like Raja Ampat you’ll find that almost all the schooling fish will be in the first fifteen or so feet of water and in very large numbers, perfect for snorkelers.

Wondering what we mean by critters? Basically, we and everyone else in the snorkel and dive community are applying the broad generalization of “critters” to all the weird and wonderful creatures like frog fish, nudibranchs, octopus, scorpion fish, and moray eels. There’s no real qualification for something to be labeled as a critter, they are basically anything that is small, spends most of it’s time hiding in the reef, and just doesn’t look your traditional fish.

squid in black water

What’s fascinating about these critters is that there are so many different species within just a single genus. Take octopus for example, in North Sulawesi (critter capital of the world) there are at least ten different species of octopus. Some of these octopus species are hairy, some are as small as your finger nail, some have fluorescent blue spots all over them, and some have the ability to mimic the shape and behavior of other marine creatures like the jellyfish or even sea snakes. Within the frogfish family there are at least  another ten unique species, and three-thousand different species of nudibranchs. Basically every type of critter will have many many different variations and it becomes like a scavenger hunt to find them all.

As you first begin your critter crusade it may seem a bit frustrating in just being able to find them as most of them are very well camouflaged. Your local guides will always assist though as their eyes are well tuned at deciphering what is reef and what is actually a living animal. As you begin to noticing the shapes, patterns, and the habitats of the different species you’ll quickly catch on and start to rely less and less on the guides to find critters for you. For a lot of people this ‘hunt’ soon becomes an obsession and it actually becomes difficult to pry your eyes from the reef. That excitement you experienced as a kid on easter as you scoured your house and garden for those brightly colored eggs will no doubt be brought back every time you hit the water.

glassy sweeper fish swimming over orange crinoid and leaf scorpion fish


Now, critters are found all over the world, even in the temperate and frozen seas. However, there is one place in particular which offers the most critter dense coast lines of anywhere in the world, and that’s Lembeh Strait. This small tropical island off North Sulawesi seems to offer the perfect habitat for just about all of these wonderful benthic creatures. If you look through any tropical fish book you would have a hard time finding an Indo-Pacific ‘critter’ that does not have the “Location Found” as “Lembeh Straight” or “North Sulawesi”. To get a better idea of just how many critters can be found here in Lembeh, check out the Critter Log from one of our host resorts for our North Sulawesi tour, Lembeh Reosrt.

Purple and yellow nudibranch

Snorkeling next to ocean giants like turtles, mantas, whale sharks, and even whales is one of those dreams every snorkeler shares. Whether you’re snorkeling in Belize, Komodo, Raja Ampat, Tonga, or any of our awesome snorkeling destinations, there’s a pretty good chance at least one of these beauties will come say hello. The important thing to remember now though is how to behave when this much anticipated moment happens. Here’s a few tips on what to do and what not to do when we are snorkeling with large marine life. 

Stay Calm 

close up of whale shark and snorkeler

The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. If we start flapping about on the surface, either trying to swim faster or get our buddies attention, then there is a good chance our frantic movements will put off whatever creature has decided to grace us with it’s presence. 

Do Not Swim at the Animal 

No matter how friendly and inquisitive the animal may seem, it’s always a good idea to not swim directly at the animal. Instead, let the animal come to you if it is clear it is going to stay in the area for a bit. If you start swimming an a manta on the surface for example, it’s going to spook and disappear. Even your pet dog or cat—an animal who is familiar with you—would do the same if you ran straight at it. 

Swim Parallel- Slow and Steady 

For creatures that that clearly have no intention of stopping, like a passing whale shark or mola mola, I suggest giving the animal a bit of space, five meters or so, and swim parallel with it in a steady pace. I’ve always found that if I let the the animal see me by swimming next to it the encounters are longer than if I’m swimming behind it.  Try to use long slow fin kicks rather than many short fast ones, this gives off the impression that you are relaxed no threat to the animal. If you are frantically swimming behind the animal it’s going to think you are chasing it and once again it will be gone before you know it. 

Snorkeler Surrounded by Manta Rays