Mar 282014

This post is written by Mr. Reeftraveler (aka Steve).

Mr. Reeftraveler

Mr. Reeftraveler

While following Meredith toward our exit from an early afternoon dive on Bari Reef in Bonaire, I had the scuba diver’s equivalent of a Michael Corleone moment: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”

At a depth of around 10 feet (3m), with just over 600 psi (41 bar) left in the tank and my buddy headed up the ladder, I was taking a last look back toward the reef when a critter a few feet below the surface caught my eye.

Before I could fully focus on it, the pattern match clicked in my head.  Squid.  That’s where we usually see them – clearish, streamlined with trailing tentacles, hanging just beneath the waterline.  A second later, more thoughts flashed

Not Squid – Jelly?  Need a photo of this.  Let me swim closer.

Tamoya Oboya, by Mr. Reeftraveler

Tamoya Oboya, by Mr. Reeftraveler

Boxy clear head and brightly striped tentacles.  What the heck?  (or the NJ native equivalent)

Don’t remember seeing this in any of the Humann & DeLoach fish or marine creature identification books.

Looks like a big sea wasp, or Australian box jelly, but the tentacles are all wrong.  There are four, and they’re not jelly looking at all – they are opaque and striped in a reddish copper and white banding, with no signs of trailing tendrils.

 Box Jellyfish/Chironex Fleckeri - Photo from Wikipedia Commons - Guido Gautsch, Toyota, Japan

Box Jellyfish/Chironex Fleckeri – Photo from Wikipedia Commons – Guido Gautsch, Toyota, Japan

It’s getting closer.  Back off.  Breathe.  Check gauge.  400 psi.

Dad always said beware critters that make no effort to hide. Those tentacles qualify.  Respect.

Hmmm – there are 4-5 fish swimming alongside it.   Maybe silversides or some kind of juveniles?  Is that one inside the jelly?

Fish Inside Tamoya Oboya, by Mr. Reeftraveler

Tamoya Ohboya, by Mr. Reeftraveler

Time to get some video and get home without bumping into this thing.

Closing on 250psi.  Low on air, time to exit.  Is that another chain moray in 6 feet?  OK, maybe just one more shot…

On exit, got the instant ID from another rare breed – the ever-helpful and supremely knowledgeable Michael G of Bonaire Help Desk – who confirmed it as the Bonaire Banded Box Jellyfish, aka Tamoya Ohboya.  Turns out it is not in the Humann & DeLoach books (yet) and its Wikipedia listing reports roughly 50 confirmed sightings, 45 on Bonaire.  In my 35 years of diving Bonaire, this was certainly a first for me – and a moment I will not soon forget.

For more on Tamoya Ohboya-

Tamoya ohboya – A Rare Sighting in Bonaire

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  24 Responses to “Mr. Reeftraveler Recounts his Tamoya Ohboya Sighting in Bonaire”

  1. Just had 2 divers get stung by Bonaire box jelly fish getting out at Buddy’s Dive. One was stung across face and went to ER for treatment. I saw at least six around stairs and kicked hard and exited fins and all up the stairs. Several divers on dock decided against a night dive. These jellies love to come to the light.

    • Oh no! That does not sound like fun. Are you sure that they weren’t stung by Alatina alata – aka Sea Wasp? Those jellies are much more common, and they are attracted to the light. The Bonaire Banded Box Jelly is very rarely seen.

  2. August 16 2017

    My family and I we’re doing a night dive on Buddy reef in Bonaire when we had an encounter with the box jellyfish. My two sons were very badly stung and rushed to the hospital. One son 12 was in excruciating pain for an hour before fentyl took effect. Treatment with warm vinegar and antihistamines was used, gradually taking effect.

    PLEASE BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL APPROXIMATELY 10 DAYS FOLLOWING A FULL MOON. These jellyfish come to shore at night and are attracted to dive lights and background ambient light.

    • David,

      So sorry to hear about your son’s encounter. That sounds very painful! The species that stung your son was likely Alatina Alata, aka Sea Wasp. And you are correct- 8-10 days after the full moon they swarm into shore to reproduce. It is not safe to swim or snorkel at night during these times, unless you are wearing a full stinger suit with hood and gloves.

      There is a product called Sting No More that is extremely effective in treating Jellyfish stings. It was developed by Dr. Angel Yanigahara of U. Of Hawaii for the Navy Seals. We always have some available at home in Bonaire. It also appears to treat lionfish stings.

  3. My wife and I found one of these at Playa Lagun in Curacao during a vacation recently.
    I do have some video of it. Is there a place to report sightings of it? It seems there must be…

    • Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m sure it was exciting to watch Tamoya in action. I will send you the contact information for reporting your sighting via email.


      • Meredith,

        Yes, it’s even more exciting now that I know what we saw.
        We had done some snorkeling on Maui last year and liked it so much we planned a trip specifically to Curacao for snorkeling. Definitely not our last snorkeling vacation!
        And this was our first encounter with a jellyfish. :)

        • Sounds like you are hooked on snorkeling! That’s a good thing… I would add Bonaire to your bucket list of snorkeling destinations. St. John, USVI is another great island for snorkeling.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Really nice photos and recording. I spotted one of these last weekend when snorkelling with a friend just of the beach at Buccament Bay hotel in St. Vincent. We had no idea what we had just seen and started searching for pictures later that day. A bit scary to find out that this is what we saw, but also fascinating.

    Just wanted to thank you for sharing your encounter and info. Will definitely be a bit more careful the next time I go for a swim in the Caribbean Sea :)

    – Anne

    • Anne,

      Thanks for your comment. Very interesting that you spotted this species in St. Vincent. Did you or your companion manage to snap a photo?

      As it turns out, the species that we sighted in Bonaire was officially declared #73.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Meredith & Steve

  5. Wow Reeftraveller, great pics and video…and those little fish around and inside the jelly!
    I’m also one of the lucky few who has seen this rare jellyfish, actually twice. But I did not see it with those little fish, so now you made me a little jealous.
    This is the article describing the new species: (You recognize some of the names of the writers? You seem to attract some jellyfish experts to your post :) )
    I hope you (and I) are lucky and get the change to swim with this gracious animal once again!!

  6. Excellent find, and great pictures and video. Looks like a couple of fish in the gut in the video. Hungry little jelly! So why is it more commonly seen in Bonaire than anywhere else??? Would love to know that. When I visit in September, I hope to get lucky and see one swimming for myself.

    • Thanks for your comment Allen. I’m not sure why Tamoya Oboya is more commonly seen in Bonaire. If you read the other recent comments to this post, you will see a comment from Bud Gillan (one of the original discoverers of this species) regarding the range of T. Oboya. It has recently been seen in Barbados and six other Caribbean locations.

  7. Steve the ReefTraveler,

    re: Tamoya ohboya

    Thanks for the great story, pics, and video of the Caribbean’s newest Cubozoan. I am one of the original discoverers of this new species along with my jelly buddies at the Smithsonian Institute. Your finding is going to be recorded at the official #72 sighting of this new species. This past year, fyi, it has been seen and collected on Barbados, to go with 6 other locations across the Caribbean. Your pics and story are surely welcomed plus the fact that you went back into the water to see and record is interesting. For the record, the recently release new version of Ned Deloach and Paul Human’s Reef Creature has the picture and documentation of Tamoya ohboya in it. It also moves the common sea wasp box jelly to the new Genus Alatina alata from Carybdea.
    I invite your readers to this year’s Jelly Jam July 20-22 on Karel’s Beach Bar to see and hear about Alatina swarming and aggregation.
    Thanks again,
    Bud Gillan
    Educator & Biologist

    • Bud, thank you for the info on Tamoya Oboya. We are honored that you contacted us, and are pleased to hear that our finding now has an official number!

      We will see you at the Jelly Jam next week.

      Meredith & Steve

  8. Congratulations! I was lucky enough to see and video one of these at the salt pier reef a few years ago. Like you I was heading in when I spotted it swimming toward open water. Got a quick video of it, not knowing how rare it was I would have done a better shot. When I got back to the local dive shop the owner about fell over when I innocently asked him to identify it. At the time he said it was only the second sighting he’d seen in twenty years, and it was my first time diving on the island. Welcome to the lucky few! ☺

    • Thank you Randall! It’s great to hear of your experience with this creature. I’ve read (Wiki, I believe) that there have been less than 50 reported sightings. It’s a small club.

  9. Totally cool, Ste! What a treat for you – I think it means good luck for you and Mere in Bonaire!


  10. Great post! Love the pictures and video! I know the answer to the NJ native equivalent Alex.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>