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Where to See Mandarinfish | Scuba Diving Blog

Updated: Apr 9

The elusive mandarinfish, or synchiropus splendidus, is on most underwater photographers’ bucket lists. Mandarinfish are the most colorful dragonets, with striking orange bodies decorated in vibrant green and electric blue. Hiding deep in their coral habitat during the day, your best chance to see mandarinfish is during a dusk dive when they become active at sunset. At dusk, the mandarinfish seek a mate and when they find a willing participant, they perform a unique mating dance. The mating ritual lasts mere seconds, so photographers need to be quick to capture it!

If you're a fan of these colorful fish and are wondering where the best places are to see them, look no further. Here are the top locations to see mandarinfish:

  1. Bali, Indonesia. If you’re specifically seeking a close encounter with mandarinfish and would like multiple opportunities to see and/or photograph them, Northwest Bali is a great option. Mandarinfish are easily spotted during dusk dives from shore at Pemuteran Bay or in West Bali National Park. Diving is great year-round in Bali and there are plenty of other dive sites in the area to visit during the daytime to make the most of your dive holiday.

  2. Bunaken National Marine Park, Indonesia. Bunaken National Marine Park is located in the north of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia. Well known by scuba divers, the park is home to a diverse range of marine life, including mandarinfish. The park also has a range of other activities, including snorkeling, diving, and island hopping. To dive Bunaken, pick one of the dive resorts in the area and take your dive holiday to the max by adding nearby Lembeh and Manado to your itinerary.

  3. Palau, Micronesia. Palau is a group of islands located in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. It's known for its clear waters and diverse marine life, including mandarinfish. Palau is a spectacular location for diving, with a range of different dive sites to explore, including a site called “Mandarin Fish Lake”, where divers are likely to spot the elusive dragonet. October to May is the best season for diving Palau, and the diving is great from both resorts and liveaboards.

  4. Komodo National Park, Indonesia. Komodo is located in the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia and is famous for its Komodo dragons and exceptional scuba diving. Well known for strong currents, the waters around Komodo Island are home to a diverse range of marine life, including mandarinfish. The best way to dive Komodo is by liveaboard from March to May, and September to November.

  5. Tubbataha Reef, Philippines. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reef is located in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines. It's one of the best diving spots in the world, with crystal-clear waters and a diverse range of marine life. Diving Tubbataha Reef is only done by liveaboards during a short season from March to June, so book a spot early as they tend to fill up fast!

  6. Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Also known as the "Four Kings", Raja Ampat is a group of islands located in the northwest of Indonesia. It's known for its incredible biodiversity, both on land and in the sea. The waters around Raja Ampat are home to over 600 species of coral and 1,700 species of fish, including mandarinfish. The best time to visit Raja Ampat is October to May, and while liveaboards offer the most diverse itinerary, land-based diving is also possible.

The Coal Triangle remains the best area in the world to see mandarinfish. Indonesia is a particularly great spot, with Bali, Komodo, Raja Ampat, and Bunaken National Marine Park all offering incredible diving and snorkeling opportunities. Micronesia's Palau and Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines are also fantastic spots to see mandarinfish. No matter where you go, these vibrant and colorful fish are sure to impress.

Need a new camera to capture mandarinfish on your next trip? Learn about our best underwater cameras of 2022.

Interested in learning macro photography? Join our photo workshop in Lembeh!

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