Hovering silently in the dusky gloom we watched for signs of movement. We finally spotted our target as she prowled in and around the coral reef searching for an unsuspecting victim. Dressed to impress in electric blue and orange, this mandarinfish was sure to capture the attention of any virile young bachelor.
We could see a solitary male unknowingly approaching the trap. The temptress however took a wrong turn in the labyrinth of coral and their paths never crossed. The next gentleman was not so lucky.
Their eyes met across the reef and he was instantly drawn towards her. After a short flirtatious dance, he began to have second thoughts and made a break for freedom. She quickly moved to block the exit and with her superior size easily herded him back into position. Impressed by her tenacity, the young male conceded defeat.
He latched on and they floated upwards in a passionate embrace, their frantically flapping fins just a blue blur. A few seconds later they sprung apart and darted back to the shelter of the reef. Unsatisfied with the first performance, they tried twice more before the exhausted male was allowed some respite.
With her insatiable appetite, the harlot quickly moved on to the next eligible mate. Shortly after that she found a third. After a rewarding evening, she had finally had enough and retreated into the depths of the reef.
Every evening, female mandarinfish in Bali scour their territory in search of suitable partners. During the mating spectacle they venture a short distance away from the safety of the reef. Whilst it may seem weird to spy on mandarinfish in their most intimate moments, this really is the best way to get a close up look at this spectacular and elusive creature.
Where To See Mandarinfish
Although they are quite rare, mandarinfish are territorial creatures of habit and can reliably be found in certain places throughout Southeast Asia. Dive shops in these areas will offer a specific mandarinfish dive. We saw mandarinfish in Mimpi Lagoon, near Menjangan Island in Bali.
The mandarinfish mating ritual occurs at dusk. Mandarinfish dives generally start just before sunset.
Many thanks to Mimpi Menjangan for their kind hospitality. Their friendly staff offered an outstanding personalised service, which really made our stay. Not to mention the abundant wildlife. Mimpi Menjangan had everything from monkeys to mudskippers with mandarinfish only a five minute boat ride away.