I was in Ambon for a week earlier this month for a scuba diving assignment and had a fairly unique experience which I thought I would use for this year’s diary entry.
Ambon is the capital of Maluku Province in the far east of Indonesia and is where the spice islands are – the original source of nutmegs and cloves which were phenomenally valuable back in the 16th century (just in case you were wondering…)
I had heard of the fresh water eels of Larike from somebody who had been there a few years ago. Larike is a small village on the south coast of Ambon island and it has a large fresh-water stream running through it which is where all the villages bathe and do their washing.
Underneath a rock on one side of the stream is a colony of about 25 fresh water eels – described by the village head man as “gentle & kind” – but at an average of four feet long and about 5” round I had to say that I was having second thoughts about swimming with them so could take their picture.
So the deal was I get in the water with my camera and the villagers throw in bits of fish I had bought earlier from them – with the plan that the feeding takes place right in front of my lens.
The problem with that was the water is only about three feet deep and so I had to squat down to balance the heavy camera, which left me feeling strangely vulnerable as the eels swarmed around me and between my legs!
I was expecting them to feel quite slimy, but in fact they were quite silky so it was not too scary apart from the obvious concerns that they may mistake parts of my anatomy for the pieces of fish…
It was a very interesting experience and one I hope to repeat when I go to New Ireland in Papua New Guinea next February as I have heard about a similar thing there in one of the villages near Kavieng.
Here is one of the underwater images, that will give you an indication of what it looked like through the camera…