The Mola Mola, or sunfish, is probably one of the most misunderstood, weird looking fish in the ocean. They look like a giant blob of a half-grown fish, awkwardly swimming with their large dorsal and anal fins. You might mistaken them for turtles from afar. Their swimming styles are strangely similar; the synchronised movement of their elongated fins on their flat body looks like a turtle—or a ray—has been turned on its side. When piercing to the surface, their big dorsal fins often tricks people into thinking that they are sharks. And when you meet their eyes, you will think that these fish are constantly confused. Yes, mola mola is bizarre. But all the weirdness of this sunfish only made them more attractive. And that’s the reason why divers flock to Bali each time Mola Mola season is approaching. If seeing the offbeat sunfish is in your list, here’s what you need to know.
Diving with Mola Mola is a Rare Opportunity
Mola Mola is not that kind of fish you can dive with anytime. Though they are known to love sunbathing—laying flat on one of their side on the water surface, hence the name sunfish—they generally prefer cold water. Mostly, sunfish spend their time on the epipelagic zone, 0-200 meter on the ocean. For them, it’s the shallow water, where sunlight still illuminates the area. But when they like it, they would dive deeper up to 600 m below the surface to the twilight zone. Sunlight cannot reach this area and the water is much darker and the temperature is far lower. This area is incredibly rich with planktons, Mola’s favourite dishes. And they need a LOT to satisfy their big bellies.
However, they never move from the tropical seas. They’re essentially a tropical creature, and that’s why Bali is one of the best place to see Mola Mola season! And due to their deep home, you can’t just dive with Mola Mola whenever you like it. You need to wait until they come to the surface.
Why Mola Needs to Go Up
Do you know that Mola’s skin can get heavily infected by parasites? There are hundreds of parasites live off Mola’s skin, and they can ‘house’ more than 40 kinds of parasites at once! This is the reason why Mola Mola needs to go to the surface. They need to get to the surface to have these nasty parasites removed by cleaner fish and seagulls once every year. Thus, marking our long-awaited Mola Mola season in Bali.
June Marks the Mola Mola Season in Bali
Do you know that the water temperature in Bali dropped during the middle of June to early November? Mola-Mola usually go up to the shallower water during these time to get cleaned in Nuda Penida’s cleaning station. They are most consistently seen around July to August, so this is your best bet to see Mola Mola in Bali at their peak of the season. However, their version of ‘shallow’ water is still deep to us! Mola would usually emerge to 40m – 18m depth below the surface—unless they are sunbathing. And that means you will need a PADI Advanced Open Water certification to see the Mola.