Mobulas and silversides! That was the name of the game for our back-to-back trips to Raja Ampat aboard the Dewi Nusantara this October and November. Each year large shoals of baitfish move in and amongst the karst islets of Raja Ampat and with them come large aggregations of mobula rays.

Mobula rays (Mobula sp.)  send schooling silversides (Atheriniformes sp.) scattering as they pass through in formation.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

A group of Mobulas (mobula sp.) heads for the surface in a channel between two isalnds in southern Raja Ampat.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Mobula rays (Mobula sp.) emerge from a shoal of silversides (Atheriniformes sp.) as they pass through the narrow channel of the Three Sisters dive site in southern Raja Ampat.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

A ball formation of silversides (Atheriniformes sp.) against a Raja Ampat sunset.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

We were lucky to be fairly early in the aggregations as predators seem to cull down their numbers quite quickly. Even over the three weeks that we were there we noticed significantly fewer baitfish by the end of the second trip. The mobula rays seemed most concentrated in the Frondi region of Misool.

Mobulas (mobula kuhlii) and silversides (atheriniformes sp.)  gather in large numbers every year in Raja Ampat with the schools becoming progressively smaller from week to week.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

On our first trip there were occasions where the baitfish were so thick they would blot out the sun and cause fits of vertigo as they swarmed around you in midwater before suddenly changing direction at a perceived threat.

Sun rays pass through a cylinder of silversides (Atheriniformes sp.)  as the shoal moves around one of Misool's karst islands.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

In addition to the amazing schools of fish themselves, they also enhanced photo of the already spectacular Raja Ampat reefs by creating nice mid and backgrounds. Even setups we had shot several time before became entirely different looking.

The silversides (atheriniformes sp.)   add another level to this colorful Raja Ampat soft coral (Alcyonacea) reefscape.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

One spot that was particularly thick with baitfish was Four Kings in Misool.

With so much action we were hard pressed to leave and see what was happening farther north but did spend some time and of course had to visit Mioskon for our wetsuit beach parties!