Juvenile frogfish yawning

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

About Author

Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture guide as well as one of the video and photo pros for the company. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world as an underwater cameraman, including five years on a boat in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards and can be seen on NatGeo, Disvocery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.