Alor & The Mola Mola

I’m just back from a very recent Alor & Komodo trip – and what a trip it was. Our guests certainly had one of the best snorkeling trips you could wish for. With our Alor trips we always hope to find Mola Mola, but as all things with wildlife tours nothing is guaranteed. However, on this last trip our group was very lucky. By far one of the strangest fish out there, but we love to see them. While out on the hunt for Mola we had our first large encounter. A huge blue whale pops up and passes by. On day two we were escorted out to the snorkel sites by a large pod of melon headed whales. Once I put the drone in the air, it became apparent we were observing a mating behaviour. Then the jackpot!! We found our first of 5 Mola that day. For the next 4 days we would find the Mola Mola.

When on tour in Alor we always try to see if we can find them. While out on the speed boats we spend time in between the islands, in the channels looking out for them. The best time to find the Mola is when the currents are strong and the water is cold. What we are looking for is that very large fin sticking out of the water. Sometimes it can take some patience and others we find them as soon as we arrive or on the way to our snorkel sites. What makes this extra special, is watching how excited the team from Alami gets when we find them. Lots of excitement and adrenaline pumping. So some facts about this weird and wonderful fish.

Mola Mola, also named ocean sunfish or head fish. All six species of oceanic sunfish . Mo have a distinctive bullet-shaped appearance, with a short body that ends abruptly in a thick rudderlike structure called a clavus just behind the tall triangular dorsal fin. The evolution of the clavus results from the folding of the sunfishes back fin into its body as the fish grows. The Molas have a very  flattened appearance  with tough skin, and small mouth. Molas are the largest of the bony fish family, and they are separated into three sub species: Masturus, Mola, and Ranzania. The mola is an enormous grey and  brownish species reaching a maximum length and weight of about 3 metres (10 feet) and weighing in at a whopping 1900 kg (4000 lbs). Spending Most their time in the dark deep waters eating jellyfish. While in most places where they have sightings of them, they are at cleaning stations. This is the process of smaller fish, such as cleaner wrasse, moorish idols, butterfly fish coming and removing dead skin and parasites. A bit like us going for a body scrub at the spa. However in Alor it’s not really known why they suddenly appear and on the surface. The theory is the strong upwelling currents push them up, and while up on the surface take advantage of the sun and birds to remove parasites. A very interesting fact that was brought to my attention recently, is that the Mola can in fact change their coloration. In a matter of seconds they can lose their brown spots and turn all grey.

Making this one of the reasons I love leading the trips with Alor involved. Is such a wild and authentic place. Never knowing what is going to turn up. With endless pristine reefs and plenty of fish, what is there not to love. Needles to say our group had a blast here. We still cant believe how rare and lucky encounters like these are. 

About Author

Marcus Blake
Marcus joined the Snorkel Venture team in 2021. Prior to that for five years was managing dive and snorkel operations at Komodo Resort in Indonesia. He has been fortunate enough to have worked and travelled to some of the best snorkel locations in the world. Giving him a wealth of experience and knowledge of the oceans.