Now it’s time to hunt down all those fish I’ve been missing. As of now, there are still about 40 species left to discover, at least a third of which are located somewhere in Gatama Atoll. I really hadn’t been back to the placid waters of Gatama Atoll for quite awhile, and then it was in my “hurry up and finish the map” days when I didn’t take my time to explore carefully.

On my first attempt I tried bringing Hayako along, starting at square A1 and going left to right, north to south. Didn’t work. I don’t know what kind of range Hayako’s fish-dar’s got, but it isn’t much. We wound up hopping from coral head to coral head with the map spread out in front of us, scrolling through each species until we found the triple question marks we sought. It was like trying to tour your vacation spot with a road atlas open on the steering wheel—frustrating and no fun atoll (heh heh). After about five minutes I was ready to quit, so I did.

Clearly a new strategy was in order. Luckily at some point in the game the Marine Encyclopedia began revealing where each undiscovered species can be found—you just have to click on the magnifying glass icon and flip through the maps. Paging through the encyclopedia, I drew up a list of every creature I hadn’t found, noting the map coordinates where it could be located, so that it looked something like this:

Coral Reef Life 46/48

  1. Gatama Atoll E4, F4, F6
  2. Ciceros Strait A1, D1, E5

And so on. You may ask yourself, how is this funner than roving from square to square, left to right, top to bottom? I can only answer that I’m a compulsive list maker. When my wife saw me on the couch with my clipboard and printed-out list of coordinates, she really knew I’d gone off the deep end.

Judging from my list, I could see that most of the Gatama creatures I sought were concentrated on the southern portion of the map. So I would start at Row 6, Column G and work my way right to left; when I got into a target square, I’d keep my eyes open. It helped to take Oceana along, with her ability to find small creatures. This turned out to be just the ticket: within minutes I was crossing fish off my list like crazy.

I also encountered a lot of really cool stuff.  Just falling out of the boat, we blundered straight into a cuttlefish breeding frenzy. We were treated to some fascinating facts about cuttlefish, and invited to return in a few weeks when the eggs hatch.

Next we went on shore at G7 to discover the diminutive little penguin.

Little penguin mistakes my gear for a big penguin.

Back under water and a short swim to the west we find the charmingly named Randall’s pistol shrimp, sharing a foxhole with his faithful watchman goby.

Randall and his attack goby.

Then the psychedelically attired warty frogfish.

Closer to the blue cliff, we find a bluelashed butterflyfish, guarding another suprise.

Wandering around a bit more, Oceana and I found razorfish, rippled rockskippers, bluespotted jawfish, and finally, after much meticulous  searching, the weedy seadragon.

Overall, not a bad start to an animal safari.