By Bob Goemans
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A Divers Guide to Underwater Malaysia Macrolife

Authored by: Andrea & Antonella Ferrari

A book review by Bob Goemans

TITLE: A Diver's Guide to Underwater Malaysia Macrolife

AUTHORS: Andrea & Antonella Ferrari

PUBLISHER: Nautilus Publishing (2003)

ISBN 983-2731-00-3

PAGES: 468

PRICE: $45.00

Book Jacket

Whether you're an armchair adventurer, an aquarist, or a diver of any skill level that has already viewed some of the better coral reefs in the world, this is definitely a must-have book for your library. Never has any publication so accurately and colorfully depicted the Indo-Pacific marine species that presently exist in the South China, Sulu and Sulawesi seas.

This book, or possibly more correctly called a 'Field Guide' is an outstanding identification guide for the scientist, diver, student, and the hobbyist for those species living in the covered area. It describes over 600 different fish and invertebrate species, including colorful nudibranchs, cleaner shrimps and some exceptionally rare cuttlefish. Each species notes its scientific and common name, distribution, habitat, size, life habits, and many also provide some extremely helpful underwater photography tips. All illustrated with over 800 beautiful color photographs. In fact, it was difficult for me to get past the early part of the book as the scenery photos put me into a dream mode. Honestly, after viewing the first few photos in the Introduction section I was tempted to make airline reservations!

A Diver's Guide to Underwater Malaysia Macrolife is basically divided into three sections: Introduction; Invertebrates; and, Fishes. However, there are eight pages prior to the Introduction section that helps put the tone of the overall work into perspective. The first, "Selected Bibliography" is a list of some publication titles that compliment this work. Following that, there is a list of "Recommended Internet Web Sites" that includes dive travel information in Malaysia, and an underwater camera-housing site that can be quite helpful in assembling the right equipment before leaving home. Also mentioned is "Addenda" which contains a list of corrections and updates that came along too near the end of the publication cycle to be incorporated into the finished version. Really a thoughtful and useful touch. There are also maps of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, and Malaysia, Indonesian, and Borneo areas. This is followed by a list of the "Top Ten Dive Sites of Malaysia" and a very well written piece on "How to Use This Book."

The "Introduction" section, which consists of 37 pages, was the most difficult portion for me to get through. As mentioned above it scenery photos were mesmerizing! But when you get past those you'll find this section divided into various mini subjects of interest. To begin, "Why Macrolife" notes that actually shallow water diving is more rewarding than deep diving and it requires no special body fitness or risk. Therefore good dive spots are easy to find, and with good patience and eyesight your experiences will be quite rewarding. Next, "Redressing the Balance" notes that the areas mentioned in this book are without equal, even if visiting the more public and heavily advertised dive sites. Following that, "Where and How" pinpoints Pulau Sipadan in the Sulawesi Sea off Borneo, and the South China Sea atoll of Layang Layang as Malaysia's two majestic dive areas. Next, "The Fine Art of Marcophotography" dispels some of the myths about underwater photography and describes the equipment used by the authors along with some very helpful hints in getting that perfect photo. "Macro Habitats" is next and briefly notes the need for careful and thoughtful observation. Of course the weather you would experience in these areas is of interest and in the next portion of the Introduction the subject of "Climate" is examined. What are the best months to visit these areas and their temperature ranges are discussed. Ending this section "A Matter of Choice" notes what creatures were photographed for this book and why.

The following two portions of the book are massive when compared to the Introduction section. The "Invertebrates" section consists of 166 pages and is divided into five subsections. Over 300 hundred species of flatworms, nudibranchs, cuttlefish, octopi,, squids, shrimps, crabs, lobsters, sea stars, brittle stars, and sea urchins are described. Each containing a high quality color photo accompanied with various levels of information as noted above.

The "Fishes" section consists of 232 pages, and concentrates on bony fishes. The families Blennies, Gobies, Filefishes, Dartfishes, Dragonets, Jawfishes, Anemonefishes, Hawkfishes, Cardinalfishes, Flatheads, Scorpionfishes, Lionfishes, Pipefishes, Seahorses, Frogfishes, and Morays are among the many well depicted. There are also two brief, but interesting subtopics titled "The Host and the Hosted" and "Fish Juveniles." The first provides an insight into the micro-world where some close-ups of various parasites or commensals are shown. The second provides some shots of fish juveniles, and contains an interesting photo of a juvenile dragonet that is only a few millimeters in length. Excellent photography!

This superb work completes with an "Index of Common Names" and "Index of Scientific Names." Also, on the inside back cover there's a little more information about the Authors and their previous books and magazine articles. Both the front and back cover foldout and can be used as a bookmark, which is always very convenient when it comes to 'Field Guide' type books.

As a pictorial guide of the fishes and invertebrates found in this part of the world, you'll not find any better! And it's written in a clear and concise style, which truly makes it a must for all divers and students interested in the underwater creatures that inhabit this part of the world. And for those that don't dive, yet keep aquariums, this work serves as a valuable identification source along with some habitat information that might benefit the species in their aquariums.

In conclusion, A Diver's Guide to Underwater Malaysia Macrolife is well written, quite informative, beautifully illustrated, and a priced right quality publication. Get a copy, you'll be happy you did!

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