Only an inch or so long, harlequin shrimp are one of the most beautiful - and elusive - critters you can encounter while diving in Thailand. What they lack in size they make up for in fiestiness though...
While diving last week at my favourite Thailand dive site Koh Haa (just a couple hours boat ride from Koh Lanta), I had an unforgettable encounter with two harlequin shrimp. Often known as "the funky shrimp" on account of their outrageous disco-like outfits, harlequin shrimp are usually found in pairs but are also very hard to spot. They are only an inch long, and mostly prefer to hide in the crevices of the reef. However, on this occassion, they weren't shy and retiring at all.
Once the nearest shrimp had noticed I was gently nosing my camera into their space to get a a photo, instead of fleeing into the recesses of their crevice one of them came straight out at me. You can tell how close it got to the camera because it's a little bit out of focus.
Never mind that I am about 1000 times bigger than it, the harlequin shrimp proceeds to put on a warning display. You can almost hear it say "Oi! Gerrout of it!"
It then goes through several different poses, making itself look far bigger than it actually is.
It holds each of these poses for a couple of seconds, then tries something different to look even more menacing.
Its mate, however, seemed completely indifferent to my presence.
Fearlessly the harlequin shrimp gets nearer and nearer to the camera. Maybe it saw its own reflection in the camera lens cover - its own eyes are up on the ends of the top most stalks
I left the shrimp alone after this ninja crouch was adopted. I was a bit concerned it might go for the throat.
Thanks to my mate and ace dive instructor Rob for finding the harlequin shrimp for me - if you want to read more about Koh Lanta and the awesome Thailand dive sites around it, please see my article Koh Lanta: Manta Ray Paradise. And if you want to go diving with Rob, visit AmazingLanta.com