Diving With My Husband At The Water Treatment Plant

Due to the fact that I recently dropped a scuba tank on my toe, I’ve been taking it easy as much as possible.  However, a chipped bone in my big toe isn’t enough to keep me from diving!  With some extra help from my husband, we went diving at The Water Treatment Plant.  It was a new dive site for both of us and we had a great time together!


After two weeks of letting my chipped bone heal, I felt like I could hobble around just enough to make the rocky entry at The Water Treatment Plant.  Thankfully James helped me find the easiest way into the water so I wouldn’t stub my toe….I’ve done that a few times and it really hurts…James is such a good dive buddy!  We found a spot that was about 8 feet deep to slip on our fins (I only wore 1 fin..very comical to watch me, I’m sure) and then we kicked out over the reef to where it dropped off.


Philinopsis Pilsbryi Nudibranch


Once it dropped off we made note of the reefs contours so we would know where to make our exit when we returned at the end of our dive.  After doing so, we started to slowly let out the air from our BCDs to make our descent.  The visibility was around 30 feet (not super) but there was some really nice, vibrant coral…I felt like this would be a great dive!  We descended to some rock outcroppings around 55 feet and I noticed a nudibranch crawling along the bottom.  I had never seen it before but I didn’t find it very impressive – no ornate colors or cool features.  It was simply black and white.  Nevertheless, I was excited to see something new so I snapped some photos.  After I got home I posted a picture of the unknown nudibranch on the facebook group “Okinawa Nudibranch Round-up.”  The folks in this group are a lot more skilled at making identifications than I am!  Randy Birt responded to my post shortly thereafter and let me know I had spotted the very rare Philinopsis pilsbryi.  Mr. Robert F. Bolland, a well-respected nudibranch expert, wrote on his website that he’s “been looking for this beautifully patterned animal here for quite a few years without success.”  Oh man!   If I had known it was so rare, I might have photographed it more than I did.


Philinopsis Pilsbryi Nudibranch – A Very Rare Nudibranch In Okinawa


While photographing the Philinopsis pilsbryi nudibranch, James came up to me and pointed out another nudibranch nearby – Chromodoris magnifica.  I moved over to get a few photos of it as well.  As it turns out this is a rare type of nudibranch on Okinawa.  In twenty years of diving in Okinawa, Robert F. Bolland says that he has “seen and collected a total of nine individuals.”  Wow….another great sighting!


Chromodoris Magnifica Nudibranch


As we kicked along the wall, James trailed behind me and I was able to get a few nice photos of him.  I was wearing a 5mm wetsuit but he was in the water with just his swim trunks and a rash guard top.  It’s official: I am the biggest wuss when it comes to being cold!


James At The Water Treatment Plant


We spent the majority of our dive at a cruising depth of 35 feet and had a great time enjoying all the fish.  On our return to the exit point we had lots of surprises.  First, we saw a Cadlinella ornatissima nudibranch.  These tend to be fairly small and I think the one spotted was roughly 1 inches long.  It’s fun to spot the big guys because the photos tend to come out better but seeing a really tiny one is also a great joy.  To notice something so small in such a vast ocean is pretty cool!


Cadlinella Ornatissima Nudibranch


The second neat event while swimming back to where we would make our ascent was a star puffer resting on some rocks.  I slowly approached the star puffer, fully expecting it to see me and take off; however, it did no such thing.  I was able to get within a 2 feet of it and managed to get some nice photos.  I didn’t have my flash go off though because I figured that it would “wake” him up and then my photo-shoot would be over.  The Star Puffer is the biggest of all pufferfish and it can reach 3 feet in length.  Obviously I didn’t have a ruler with me to measure the one we saw, but I would estimate that it was 3 feet in length.


Star Puffer


Star Puffer Playing Peek-A-Boo


Star Puffer


Tambja Morosa Nudibranch


We also spotted several types of nudibranchs.  A yellow Aegires citrinus was perched on a rock and I managed to get a fairly decent photograph of it.  The flash was still a bit too strong so I’ll need to remember to turn its strength down next time.  However, when compared to my past photos of this nudibranch this picture turned out much better.


Aegires Citrinus Nudibranch


While making our safety stop, I spotted a Hyselodoris bullocki nudibranch and managed to get several nice photos as well.


Hypselodoris Bullocki Nudibranch


Hypselodoris Bullocki Nudibranch


As we kicked back to shore, I kept looking in the rocks for blenny.  Right before making my exit I spotted a green and blue  blenny watching me from within the rocks.  It was hard to steady my camera while snorkeling on the surface but I managed to get a few nice photos.  The blenny even had its mouth open for my pictures…pretty cool!


Blenny Smiling For The Camera


To make our exit from the water, James found a nice area where the rocks were shaped like steps so getting out was a breeze.  We made a nice, long surface interval by making a trip to Family Mart for some snacks – their tuna/mayo onigiri are amazing,  the pastries are delicious, and you can’t go wrong with spicy chicken!  Whatever calories I had managed to burn during the dive, I managed to consume the same amount or more with our snacking.  Diving gives me an excuse to gorge myself!


James Enjoying The Dive


Because we had enjoyed our first dive so much, we decided to check out The Water Treatment Plant some more.  For this dive we started at the wide steps along the southern part of the Sunabe Seawall and headed to the north.  I was pleasantly surprised on this dive to spot another type of nudibranch I had never seen before – Ceratosoma gracillimum.  The cool thing was that I didn’t just spot it one time…I actually saw 3 different ones throughout the dive.


Tambja Morosa Nudibranch


Ceratosoma Gracillimum Nudibranch


Because it was a new nudibranch sighting for me, I immediately went into “obsession mode” and started snapping lots of photographs.  James patiently waited for me to finish…I must have taken a total of 40 photos for the three Ceratosoma gracillimum nudibranchs we saw.  After snapping a whole bunch I turned to find James and I saw him posing like “The Thinker.”  Absolutely hilarious and I started laughing underwater.  I snapped a few pictures of him and then we moved on.


Ceratosoma Gracillimum Nudibranch – Silly Face


To the photo posted above, I asked people to post captions for what they thought the nudibranch was thinking.  The responses I got back were really funny and I had a good laugh with each one.

‎”A tuna sand-which sounds good right now.” – Josh Milligan

‎”Should I fly or nap?” – Bradley Worland

“That’s some high quality H20” – Kelli Langford-Sutton Simpson

“Does this color make my butt look big???” – Kelli Langford-Sutton Simpson

‎”If you’re happy and you know clap your mantle edge pseudopodia” – Randy Birt

Pepe le pew voice; “well helloooo my little sea flower; you come to lay with me on my patch of coral, no?” – Jessie Kloeker

So cute!! Looks like Cookie Monster thinking “Cookies!”. =) – El Cool Jay

“Y!!!! (MCA)” – Erica Morris

That’s the same stupid look my husband gets when he pee’s in his wetsuit and doesn’t want anyone to know LOL :0) – Shawnee Lovato


James’ Underwater Interpretation Of “The Thinker”


James At The Water Treatment Plant


The second Ceratosoma gracillimum nudibranch I spotted was hanging onto the underside of a ledge.  I managed to get under it and take some photos but each time I exhaled, I had to move out from under the ledge so my bubbles wouldn’t freak the little guy out.  Also, I was afraid that my bubbles might dislodge him.  It required a bit more work than usual but I managed to get some nice pictures.


Ceratosoma Gracillimum Nudibranch


Ceratosoma Gracillimum Nudibranch


Ceratosoma Gracillimum Nudibranch


According to The Okinawa Slug Site, the Ceratosoma gracillimum is a very rare nudibranch.  Robert F. Bolland only saw a collect a single one of these during his many years diving here on Okinawa.  I was very lucky to have spotted 3 of them in 1 dive!  These nudibranchs, in my opinion, are difficult to spot.  Although my pictures don’t really show it, they blend in extremely well with their surroundings.  The vibrant red spots on their back and reddish-brown patches provide excellent camoflauge.  I was only able to spot them because the shape of their body was protruding from the rocks.  If they had been flatter, I would have probably passed right over all three.


Phyllidia Coelestis Nudibranch


When we reached our designated ascent point, James and I still had a little bit of air left in our tanks so we decided to kick a bit farther north just to see what was there.  There was a small area with some broken coral along the bottom with some outcroppings of plants and corals.  We spotted a blenny watching us from within the rocks.  Because I wasn’t able to see its entire body, I’m not very sure of what type it was.  I have compared facial features as best I can to my Fish ID book and I think it was a Fringelip Blenny.


Fringelip Blenny


We also saw a hermit crab resting on a ledge.  Surprisingly, it didn’t retract into its shell so I nabbed several nice photos.  I normally only see these guys while diving at night so this was a pleasant surprise.


Hermit Crab


While making out safety stop, I noticed a Hypselodoris bullocki nudibranch moving the front half of its body around in the water.  I positioned myself to the side of it and snapped off a few photos.  The black background behind the nudibranch really helped highlight its beautiful colors.


Hypselodoris Bullocki Nudibranch


Snorkeling back to our exit point proved to be very enjoyable.  I saw a Pteraeolidia ianthina nudibranch, also called a Blue Dragon, and took some nice close-ups of it.


Pteraeolidia Ianthina Nudibranch


Pteraeolidia Ianthina Nudibranch


About 2 minutes from getting out of the water, I noticed a small nudibranch (another new find!) clinging to the side of a rock.  The water was surging a bit so it was impossible to steady my camera.  I took two photos and then made my exit.  Back home I identified it as a Roboastra gracilis.  Apparently this is also a rare type of nudibranch for Okinawa.  I wish the water had been calmer so I could have taken some better photos but I guess it wasn’t meant to be!


Roboastra Gracilis Nudibranch


Roboastra Gracilis Nudibranch


Diving with James was a tremendous amount of fun and we both had a great time exploring The Water Treatment Plant.  I was able to identify several nudibranchs I’d never see before (several rare and vary rare) and I plan to come back in the hopes seeing some more great wildlife.



Bolland, Robert F. “OKINAWAN OPISTHOBRANCH OF THE WEEK.”Chromodoris Magnifica. The Okinawa Slug Site, 1999. Web. 29 May 2012. <http://rfbolland.com/okislugs/chromagn.html>.

Bolland, Robert F. “OKINAWAN OPISTHOBRANCH OF THE WEEK.” Philinopsis Pilsbryi. The Okinawa Slug Site, 29 Apr. 2002. Web. 29 May 2012. <http://rfbolland.com/okislugs/philpils.html>.