Kuita vakalolo, cassava dalo – boiled octopus in coconut cream

Photos, memorabilia and souvenirs are usually what one thinks of  as a reminder of a place visited. I too tried to keep my own collection but grew bored after seeing that the photos would often be those of the same land marks and gifts and souvenirs would either be too expensive or for the really authentic ones, be simply too much hassle to get through customs – so I decided to use food to recall my experiences of different places. Too often have there been dishes that are widely known like the french (freedom) fries, taco, guacamole or my personal favorite, philly-cheese stake where any comment on how good these are would attract responses about where the best ones are made. In my experience, I know the best pizzas outside of Italy is at New York, the best philly-cheese stake is at Philadelphia and the best clam chowder is at Cape Cod,  not to mention the best whiskey at 313 Pine Street, North Carolina and the best bond fire is at Kevin’ place.

It actually did not start as something I wanted to do but after seeing that there was always a specific dish in each of the places I’ve visited that I remembered well where I would make my goal of tasting again each time I got back, it became a hobby. I must make a point here that my experiences are not always good and some of these serve as reminders to myself on what I must avoid –  like my famous tale of the Roach Fried Rice. So why would all of a sudden, I start talking about food? let’s just say i got my inspiration from Fiji’s Kuita vakalolo, cassava dalo – a Fijian dish of boiled octopus and vegetables in coconut cream served with taro as cassava.

kuita vakalolo, cassava dalo - Fijian for boiled octopus in coconut cream. my inspiration to this post

kuita vakalolo, cassava dalo – Fijian for boiled octopus in coconut cream. my inspiration to this post. Picture courtesy of BomaiCruz

What I really liked about this dish was that all the ingredients were local, but the presentation was very professional making me think back of home and how our many local dishes could be just as good if we just gave it a little more attention in presenting the food. It would be cheap, puts money back in the pockets lo local farmers and most importantly, gives the diner that unique PNG flavor. This is definitely going to be one of the dishes i comeback to the next time I am in Fiji.

em tasol, bula vinaka 

Posted in Tourism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Prepping for fish talks

In Nadi, Fiji now, having arrived last night from Port Moresby . A part from the long flight into the heart of the Pacific, everyone arrived in good spirits and are well rested looking forward for tomorrow when the forum starts.

Air Niugini, our national carrier

Air Niugini, our national carrier

Descending into Nadi, the Air Niugini logo still a standout against the dark skies

Descending into Nadi, the Air Niugini logo still a standout against the dark skies

Posted in Conservation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lets talk fish

The fifth Pacific Tuna Forum is on next week at the luxurious Sofitel Resort, Denarau, Nadi, Fiji. More than 250 delegates including over 30 well known speakers are expected to attend as Pacific Island countries come together to discuss sustainable management of their tuna stocks.

Join me on twitter (@BomaiCruz) or follow #PTF15 for what i am hoping would be a week of fruitful discussions.


Posted in Conservation, Marine Biology, Science | Tagged | Leave a comment

Twitter celebrates International Polychaete Day

Here are some images of polychaetes from the recently celebrated International Polychaete Day and a link to the discussions on twitter

Posted in Creature feature, Science | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shark Week

Its #SharkWeek this week this week and while I cook up a new post to commemorate this occasion, lets start off with this picture

Say "Ahhh" BomaiCruz checking out the teeth on this young pup

Say “Ahhh” BomaiCruz checking out the teeth on this young pup

Posted in PNG, Science | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hermaphrodite flatworm that fucks itself in the head

Today marks the International Polychaete Day and you can use #InternationalPolychaeteDay  on twitter to follow interesting discussions on Polychaetes but while the focus is on Polychaetes, I have a rather interesting flatworm that I will discuss in this post.

Flat worms are of the phylum Platyhelminthes, the main difference between the two groups is that polychaetes are segmented and plathyhelminthes are not. This particular post is about the mating styles of Macrostomum hystrix a hermaphroditic flatworm that quite literally “fucks itself in the head” – yup, you read that right!

Flat worms are capable of self fertilization because they are Hermaphrodites – animals that produce both sperm and eggs and although they do prefer mating with other worms they do have the ability to self fertilize as a back up plan. A very good description of this can be seen in this YouTube video which describes the mating ritual as “penis fencing”.

In a paper just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a group of scientists studying the mating behavior and adaptations to hypodermic insemination in M. hystrix researched this ability by splitting 100 individuals into two groups, one batch had isolated individuals and the other had animals in small groups (three to a group) and kept them for a month before measuring the sperm living in their bodies. What they found was that isolated flatworms had more sperm in their heads compared to those in groups who had sperm more towards their tail ends leading to the discussion that isolated worms must have self fertilized themselves. While the act of self insemination itself was NEVER observed, the placement of the sperm does suggest a strange insemination route – animals living in isolation must have swung their sharpened penis around to inject themselves in the head.

While lots of animals are able to self fertilize, this is the first example of one that uses a hypodermic appendage to do so.


Ramm Steven A., Schlatter A, Poirier M, Scharer (2015) Hypodermic self-insemination as a reproductive assurance strategy.  DOI 10.1098/rspb.2015.0660

Posted in Creature feature, Marine Biology, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not for the dinner plate but for science

I always love a good fighting fish when not fishing off a hand line and I’ve had my share of memorable moments but this next catch that I am going to talk about here is one of the few moments that I will remember not because of the fight in the fish but because
I wont be able to get a bite off this beautiful specimen. In a way, it was a wasted resource, at least not for science anyway.

So a few days after my glorious double wahoo day  I was out on the water again with my lines in the water and my eyes into the horizon of this beautiful spot. The day was hot and the sun was out but the cool ocean breeze was just enough to keep us on deck looking out onto the water and waiting for that magical sound from the reels when a fish was on the line. It had been some time since the lures went into the water and everyone was slowly losing focus on the reels and moving about doing their duties for the afternoon. All of a sudden, that famous crunching sound was in the air and the reel was paying out, “fish on!”

It was a good fight and it was worth it when the fish was landed on deck as on the other end of the line was a Great Barracuda (Sphyranea barracuda), an animal that inhabits coastal waters and offshore reefs, feeds on other fishes and is distinguished by faint oblique bars on its back and usually has scattered black blotches on its side. Its a good feed too and reminded me of those days when a barracuda at this time of the day was the perfect excuse for a 6-pack some salad and a front row seat to the sun disappearing in the horizon pulling back its rays like and octopus going back into its crevice.

A man and his fish.

A man and his fish.


What was disappointing was that at my feet was a magnificent animal, one of the top predators of the oceans but also one that currently has a ban on eating (link to ban in Australia). Barracuda is a great fish but is also the main carrier of Ciguatera, a neurotoxin that is caused by a dinoflagellate that occurs in algae. When the algae are stressed either by human or natural activities, they react by increasing the amount of this toxin in them. Other herbivorous fishes eat these algae

and ciguatera makes its way into the food chain and eventually into the bodies of these beautiful animals where is accumulates and can then be passed onto humans.

There is currently a ban on eating Barracuda in Australia and I have decided that this one is not going on my dinner plate. On any other day, this would go back to the sea but right now, I will sacrifice this animal for science will be collecting some flesh and liver tissues from this animal for science.

Posted in Marine Biology, PNG, Science | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A fish of a day

BomaiCruz will be spending a lot of time this year out on oceanic cruises. Internet accessibility might not be great on most of these cruises but I will do my best to keep you all posted in this short time out. For starters, here is a taste of what my day is usually like.

I am currently working with a team of scientists doing environmental studies around selected sites. I am not able to disclose information on the study sites just yet but I can tell you a little bit about what we are doing.

For this leg of the cruise, we are doing a near shore coral reef and fish survey. Our targets are locations close to human settlement so we can get an idea of the impacts of humans on these reefs and the fish life there. To be brief, I can say that what we are seeing is not good.

Anyways, that aside, my day was spent diving, bottom fishing and some trawling. Caught some fish but the highlight of my day was the two Wahoos (Acanthocybium solandri) pictured here. What a day it has been…


Posted in Marine Biology, PNG, Science, Tourism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mysterious light in the sky

Below is a picture taken from a mobile phone at 7 am, Thursday, 26th June, 2014. According tot he person who took the picture, the glow seemed to have a tail, was very bright and was stationary in the sky (well if it was moving, it was very slow).

The descriptions provieded so far tend to point to a comet. While internet searches does indicate that 5 commets will be passing by earth this month (June), none of these would be visible without a telescope. So what exactly could this unexplained light be?

Mysterious light in Port Moresby

Mysterious light in Port Moresby

Posted in PNG | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Reptiles of Papua New Guinea: Sea Turtles – Flatback Sea Turtles

Adult flatback turtle. Image courtesy of Jarrad Sherborne

Adult flatback turtle. Image courtesy of Jarrad Sherborne

While discussing the Reptiles of Papua New Guinea, Rom and Zai Whitaker (1984) have done very little to talk about sea turtles eventhough their fresh water cousins are widely represented. In my discussions of the Reptiles of Papua New Guinea, I will go out of my way to provide some information on the sea turtles of Papua New Guinea. All information provided for sea turtles are readilly available on the net, I will only attempt to capture the relevant information and provide links for further readings.

Rom and Zai Whitaker (1984) have done very little to talk about sea turtles

Flatback sea turtles (Natator depressus) get their name from their flat carapace or shell, which is unlike the curved shell of other turtle species. The carapace on flatbacks are greyish-green in color with the outer margins distinctly upturned. Other distinguishable features include a single pair of prefrontal scales at teh front of the head and four pairs of coastal scutes on the carapace.


Flatback hatchlings are proportionally larger than other species, a trait which is believed in aiding hatchlings evade predators

Flatback hatchlings are proportionally larger than other species, a trait which is believed in aiding hatchlings evade predators

Flatbacks have the smallest distribution of all sea turtle species and only breeds and nests in Australia although their distribution range can span tot eh southern part of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Flatbacks are also small in size, reaching up to 1 m in length and weighing up to 90 kg.

Flatbacks are omnivores, feeding on a variety of prey including sea cucumbers, jellies, soft corals, shrimps, crabs, molluscs, fish and seaweed.

Current status can not be classified internationally because of their restricted range, however, in Australia, flatback turtles are listed as Vulnerable under the Australian Commonwealth’s Endangered Species Protection Act. The main threats to this species include;

  • habitat loss and degradation
  • wildlife trade
  • collection of eggs and meat for consumption
  • incidential catch (bycatch)
  • climate change and
  • pollution

Flatbacks are also threatened by predation by other animals including foxes, feral dogs and pigs. Despite their limited range and non-migratory behaviour, this species remains the least studied sea turtle species.

Links and resources

Flatback sea turtles

Flatback turtle

Posted in Creature feature, Marine Biology, PNG, Science | Tagged , , | Leave a comment