Triggerfish of Koh Tao, Bobbys’ close encounters with them!

Davy Jones Locker would like to welcome one of our newest diving instructors. Bobby has plenty of experience of diving around Koh Tao and is a great addition to the team. He is also currently the DJL poster boy as he certified PADIs’ 25,000,000th student. His first article for the DJL Blog describes his run ins with the infamous triggerfish which occupy the the waters around Koh Tao. While not life threatening, they can occasionally go after divers who stray into their territory. Luckily Bobby has survived his battles with them and lives to fight another day.

Triggerfish of Koh Tao

“Diving in Koh Tao is an extremely relaxing activity. The tides, waves, currents and threat of marine life injuries are extremely small, which is why beginning your training here is ideal. With that said, all divers need to stay extremely aware of their immediate surroundings in order to protect both themselves and the environment around them.

Don’t touch, don’t touch, don’t touch is a reoccurring theme preached by many responsible instructors and divemasters. The marine life as a general rule, doesn’t interact with divers too often and certainly doesn’t attempt to harm divers.

There are however exceptions to this rule. One of the larger, faster and more powerful fish here is the triggerfish. There are over 40 different species all over the world. On Koh Tao we are blessed with just 3, the Titan triggerfish, the Yellowmargin triggerfish and the extremely rare Clown triggerfish. Unfortunately after well over 500 dives here on Koh Tao I have yet to see the beautiful Clown triggerfish.

clown triggerfish djl blog

Clown Triggerfish

An intelligent fish

I’ve seen countless Titan and Yellowmargin. I have averaged more than one triggerfish per dive as they are extremely common. The majority of the time they’re just going about their business digging out worms, crabs, and fish to prey on. Their interactions with other fish can be extremely engaging just to watch just how smart they can be. They are one of the only fish here that can be seen using tools: coral, glass bottles, other debris to scare their prey out of the holes and crevices. They can spit water and sand into holes to disorientate their prey. Often times they can be seen with other fish almost like a travelling, multi-facetted hunting pack.

yellowmargin triggerfish djl blog koh tao

Yellowmargin Triggerfish

Triggerfish aggression

This isn’t meant to be a scare piece but triggerfish can become aggressive in a very short time. They want to protect their home, usually in the sand, and the larger surrounding area above it; think inverted cone. Males can be extremely defensive of their homes, eggs, and babies. I have been attacked for over 12 minutes by one Titan that seemed a bit out of it. It was uncharacteristic but nonetheless, makes for an awesome story.

titan triggerfish djl blog

Titan Triggerfish

My encounter with a triggerfish

He went after my fins, another diver on his 100th dive and my good friends’ mask. They are extremely powerful and kicks to their face don’t seem to deter them. My friend said it felt like a punch in the face from a human. Almost every attack I’ve heard of has left the diver with a fright, some nicks on his/her fins but no physical injuries. Of the injuries I have heard from friends are major bruising, small pin pricks of the skin and concussion like symptoms from charging Triggerfish. After any marine-life injury a visit to the clinic is prudent as they can be toxic and infection is almost certain to occur.

Keep your wits about you, keep your instructor or divemaster between the triggerfish and you; think human shield, and you will be safe. If this is not an option, swim on your back using your fins to protect yourself. It is extremely unlikely that you will witness an attack. If you do, it will make for a great story you can retell for a long, long time.”