The amazing Sunfish on Bali

The amazing Sunfish on Bali

Not long to go now before the elusive sunfish will be spotted again on our dives on Bali. 
To encounter this special creature on your dives is certainly a jaw-dropping experience. 
They are unexpectedly quick and are huge in size (up to 3 metres). They are the heaviest bony fish in the world and adults can weigh over 2,000 kg.

Bali is one of the few locations in the world where as a diver you have the opportunity to spot them up close and personal and they even breach the surface at times. Why? We don’t exactly know, but recent research from Japan suggests these gentle giants come up to sunbathe and warm up after hunting for food in deeper, colder waters between 50-200 metres depth. During the day they actually swim back and forth between deep and shallow parts of the ocean multiple times! They only hunt during the day; at night they stay at around 20 metres depth. While the species in Japan is different from the sunfish we have here on Bali, chances are their behaviour will be similar. However, our sunfish here in Bali are most commonly seen getting cleaned from skin parasites by bannerfish, butterfly fish, cleaner wrasse and even the emperor angelfish. That is why you will always see your dive guide getting excited if they see groups of bannerfish waiting in the blue, as it might mean a sunfish is in the vicinity.

Spotting the sunfish on Bali

In Bali, the sunfish is often spotted around Nusa Penida and in the Candidasa area, but there have also been the odd sightings in Tulamben and Padang Bay. Your chances of seeing one is the highest between July-October. But outside of those months, there are occasional sightings for a few days. Often we see them at 20-30 metres depth and when the water is colder, but we have been lucky enough to see them at 8 metres and when the water is nice and warm. There is not much known yet about the amazing sunfish on Bali. We do know however that while we all happily call the sunfish Mola Mola here on Bali; this is actually incorrect. The scientific name for the species we spot here is Mola Ramsayi. We also know, that even though Crystal Bay is best known for spotting the sunfish around Nusa Penida, you are able to see them on a wide range of spots around Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.

Sunfish Research

Fortunately, research is on the way to learn more about the incredible Mola Ramsayi! 
Marine Biologist Marianne Nyegaard is doing her PhD at Murdoch University in Perth on the wonderful sunfish. As part of her studies, she looks into the diver sightings of sunfish in the Nusa Penida area, and is relating those to the incredible temperature changes we experience in this area. During the sunfish season, we can experience temperature changes (thermoclines) of more then 10 degrees! Marianne also identifies individual sunfish by their unique patterns on their bodies to investigate if the sunfish we meet underwater are resident to our beautiful area. 
For this, she uses photos taken by us divers – you can even name your own fish! Later this year, she will take her research to the next level by deploying satellite tags on sunfish. We cannot wait to see the results.

Marianne will be giving another presentation on her fascinating research at Joe’s Gone Diving later this year, so keep an eye out for our upcoming events.

Scuba diving with the amazing sunfish with Joe’s Gone Diving on Bali

Between July and October Joe’s Gone Diving organizes dive trips to Nusa Penida at least 3 times a week. This often includes dive sites where you are likely to spot the sunfish. We also organize regular trips to Candidasa area, due to the challenging conditions this is only appropriate for the advanced diver though. 

Contact us to find out more and to reserve your spot!

To find out more about the Bali dive sites, visit our dive site section.

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