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A garden of delicate coral is sheltered from storms in the lee of a nearby peninsula. Kimbe’s reefs help sustain local fishermen, some of whom still rely on traditional outrigger canoes.

Picture of a threespot damselfish swimming in Kimbe Bay

A threespot damselfish swims near a trio of pink anemonefish in Papua New Guinea’s Kimbe Bay.

Its flippers spread like wings, a hawksbill sea turtle flies past batfish and barracuda. Submerged peaks attract many species from the open ocean and make Kimbe Bay a haven of biodiversity.

Animals that look like plants, feather stars sweep plankton from Kimbe’s waters. With 900 species of reef fish, the bay literally pulses with life—a movable feast for predators like these barracuda.

Volcanoes shrouded in rain forest slope to the bay, here punctuated by tiny Tuare and Kapepa Islands. According to the Nature Conservancy, Kimbe’s wide variety of marine habitats—coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, deep ocean waters, and submerged mountains—make it a global conservation priority.

Amid the folds of their host anemone, a pink anemonefish fans the eggs his mate has laid, keeping the nest free of sediment. Anemonefish are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female tissue. Some develop functioning sex organs to reproduce.

Cupped in the safety of an anemone, an anemonefish peers up at the vast bay beyond its home. A protective layer of slime lets these fish thrive where others dare not swim—anemones’ tentacles produce a paralyzing venom.

An anemone and its tenant look out for each other. The anemone’s sting warns predators away, while the fish eats parasites and drives off fish that feed on anemones.

A 60-foot-tall tower of barracuda rises past photographer Doubilet’s wife and collaborator, marine biologist Jennifer Hayes. Many of Kimbe’s coral pinnacles host a resident school of barracuda—a sign of a robust reef.

The bignose unicornfish may lack a horn, but two bony plates on its tail can cut predators.

Sharp bellied and nearly flat, razorfish swim in perfect formation as they rush for cover among the branches of a red sea whip. Says Doubilet: “It’s gratifying to see that wonders still abound in Kimbe Bay.”

Photograph by David Doubilet

Courtesy : National Geographic