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I am a Shark and Big Animal Photographer and the Founder of Big Fish Expeditions. I also pilot research submersibles on rare occasions but primarily I photograph sharks and rays. The shark images that I take have been used in many commercial publications but most importantly I try to concentrate on shooting rare and endangered species of sharks for conservation initiatives. It is a labour of love.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A BIG YEAR FOR BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS!



When I last had time to write a newsletter I had just returned from an action packed trip to Tiger Beach. Since then, we have enjoyed so many incredible encounters that it is going to be tricky cramming them all into a few short paragraphs with enough space left to tell you about our brand new Big Fish Expeditions. But here goes:

AMAZING SHARK ACTION IN FALSE BAY 
The first stop on our back-to-back summer schedule was our annual South African Shark Safari. This year was our best yet: not only did we see spectacular aerial displays by multiple great white sharks at Seal Island, we also had intense activity around the cages, immersed ourselves in a kelp forest overrun with sevengill sharks and all manner of cat sharks and spent a day with 25+ blue sharks and four makos. Check out some of the pictures in the full trip report here: False Bay Shark Safari 2014 Trip Report

Breaching great whte shark, False Bay, South Africa.

BAIT BALL MAYHEM ON THE SARDINE RUN
After the False Bay Shark Safari, we drove east with some of our guests that wanted to experience more of South Africa. It was our first year on the Wild Coast and after this year's trip I can't wait to get back there. Between exploratory dives on the reefs, chumming sessions attended by beefy bronze whaler sharks, snorkeling sessions with humpbacks and better bait ball action that I could ever have anticipated, we definitely nailed it! Follow this link to all the action: Sardine Run 2014 Trip Report


BASKING SHARK BUST
I will always tell it like it is. We got completely skunked on our Scottish Basking Shark Expedition this summer. Next year we going a month later when the baskers should be there in force. Basking sharks are always tricky to find but we have the right boat, the right crew, the right attitude and the right intel to find these elusive giants in 2015. Our guests seem to think so too as we only have one spot left!

SALMON SHARK SUCCESS!!!
This was a trip that I thought might be difficult but as soon as we arrived at the lodge we saw salmon sharks breaking the surface! Follow this link to read what an amazing adventure it turned out to be, with salmon sharks, salmon, great reef diving and spectacular topside vistas: Salmon Sharks 2014 Trip Report 

Salmon shark diving

WHALE SHARK WONDERLAND
July is always a month for big animal encounters in North America. After just 4 hours back in Canada after our salmon shark trips, I jumped straight back on a plane to fly to Mexico for our annual Whale Shark Expedition. From there I went immediately onto yet another trip so I didn't have time to write a 2014 Whale Shark Trip Report but as I have come to expect from Isla Mujeres, the whale sharks showed up in force and did not disappoint any of our guests! 
For two weeks we had whale sharks every single day. There were also a few mantas here and there, schooling mobula rays and schooling cownose rays. Isla Mujeres is the undisputed Whale Shark Capital of the World! Join us in 2015 for what I am sure will be another great season: Whale Sharks 2015


WORLD CLASS BELUGA WHALE ACTION!
As our whale shark guests departed for home, I boarded a plane bound for Churchill, Canada. 
Better known as the 'Polar Bear Capital of the World', Churchill also has the world's most accessible population of wild beluga whales. We spent one epic week bobbing around in Hudson Bay with curious and exceedingly playful white whales. True to its word, Churchill also delivered great topside polar bear encounters and we enjoyed surreal excursions into the tundra in search of other arctic wildlife. I can't wait to get back there next year for more time interacting with the 'canaries of the sea'. Read about our fantastic beluga adventure here: Beluga Whale and Polar Bear 2014 Trip Report


INTENSE MEXICAN CROCODILE ACTION!
After belugas I flew straight back to Mexico to lead two back-to-back crocodile expeditions to Chinchorro Atoll. Crocs are amazing players; as fearless as they are ferocious, we were able to snorkel right up to them for some amazing encounters. Plus, we got to see manatees on both trips. Read all about it:Mexican Crocodile 2014 Trip Report


BLUES, MAKOS AND LEOPARD SHARKS.
At the end of the summer we tried our luck down in California with the blues and makos. Although we got a mako fly-by and spent some quality time with a boisterous blue shark, it was unseasonably warm when we arrived so the action was not what we had hoped. Fortunately, after the trip, most of our guests were able to join us in San Diego for some fantastic encounters with inshore sharks. As it wasn't part of the trip I didn't write a report about it but if you want to see more images please follow us on Facebook. Everyday we try to upload an image or two from our latest adventures:Facebook.com/bigfishexpeditions


THRESHER SHARKS ON DEMAND!
After some much needed down time, we headed to magical Malapascua Island in the Philippines. Monad Shoal (a 15 minute boat ride from tiny Malapascua) is the best location in the world to dive with thresher sharks.
For six mornings we dove the shoal hoping to see pelagic threshers and six mornings in a row the threshers showed up for us!
As well as threshers, we also found coral catsharks, banded bamboo sharks and all manner of otherworldly macro critters. I can't wait to repeat this trip next year!
Check out some of the images from this year's fantastically successful trip: Thresher Sharks 2014 Trip Report

Thresher shark diving in Malapascua

NEW TRIPS ON THE BIG FISH CALENDAR!

NILE CROCODILE EXPEDITION
At the end of the summer I finally had a chance to catch my breath and plan some new adventures. After two great weeks with American Crocodiles, a Nile Crocodile Expedition to Botswana was the only way to one-up that experience.
Nile crocs are not a species to be treated casually. Diving with them in relative safety requires a great deal of skill and expertise. Consequently, we have partnered with South African Big Animal Expert Walter Bernardis who has more time in the water with Nile Crocs that almost anyone alive.
We are taking a very small group of skilled divers that have racked up plenty of bottom time around big animals. Our first trip filled almost immediately so please keep an eye on our Nile Crocodile Expedition page for further dates.


BLUES, MAKOS AND MOBULAS OF THE AZORES
I also wanted to add a new location for blues and makos. In the past we have run trips to Rhode Island and California. Both of those locations are great for shark action but why repeat the same trips when there are even more interesting places to chase these species!
So, we are heading to the Azores - a remote (but easy to get to) group of islands in middle of the North Atlantic that belong to Portugal.
Why the Azores? Firstly, the Azorean island of Pico has a very healthy population of blue and mako sharks. Secondly, the Azores also provides access to world famous Princess Alice Banks - a deep reef far from shore inhabited by huge Pelagic Mobula Rays. Unlike smaller mobulas that bolt at the sight of divers, this species is extremely friendly and curious, allowing divers to swim next to them within touching distance. I have been looking forward to running a trip to Princess Alice Banks for many years. Join me there in 2016 on our first one: Azores Shark Adventure.

Devil Ray Diving

THE 2015 LINE UP:
The first half of 2015 is completely sold out but we have a few spots left if you are looking for a world class big animal encounter later in the year.

Dive with Great Whites, Sevengill Sharks, Makos, Blue Sharks, 5 species of Catsharks and Spotted Gully Sharks in False Bay, South Africa.Two spots left in on our False Bay Shark Safari in June: Ten species of sharks in 5 days of diving plus a full day game drive to shoot the big five!
Expect, breaching great whites, lumbering sevengill sharks, a good variety of catsharks and blues and makos. You can't beat this trip!
Join us for the greatest shoal on earth. We have 4 spots left on our excellent East London/Port Saint John Sardine Run Trip. Between bait balls, we will also be chumming up bronze whaler sharks and other Wild Coast sharks that are attracted to our slick. Last year's expedition was amazing!
One spot only on our Scottish Basking Shark Expedition. If you want to dive with the second largest shark in the sea. Join us in the Inner Hebrides next July!
Swim with the largest aggregation of whale sharks on planet earth in the warm, blue waters of the Mexican Caribbean. 
You may also see mantas, schooling mobula rays, cownose rays and even the occasional sailfish. You will definitely see whale sharks! 5 spots left for next July: Whale Sharks of Isla Mujeres
Join us on our second year of beluga whales. On our first trip we had exceptional encounters with both belugas and polar bears. Next year will be a trip to remember! Beluga Whales of Churchill5 spots left!
Three spots left on our Mexican Crocodile Expedition. This encounter is an amazing opportunity to get up close to American crocodiles in the wild. If you are looking for the ultimate in dramatic images, join our newest trip leader Pro Shooter Terry Steeley in Mexico next August. 
This is your chance to enter the water with enormous Great White Sharks. Join me next September for a very close encounter that you will never forget! We leave for Guadalupe Island from Ensenada - just a few hours south of San Diego. 5 spots left!
Due to popular demand, we have added a second week to our Midriff Islands Big Animal Safari. Expect great reef diving in the Sea of Cortez plus encounters with pilot whales, baleen whales, whale sharks, humboldt squid, Mexican horn sharks and much more!
Join us next December in the Thresher Shark Capital of the World! Plus experience world class macro diving. Six days of threshers, bamboo sharks, octos and macro mayhem. Don't miss this awesome trip!

Overwhelmed? Me too, but life is too short to procrastinate. Join us in 2015 for a big animal adventure you will never forget!

See you down there.

Andy Murch Trip Leader

Andy Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of BigFishExpeditions.com

Monday, May 5, 2014

MORE WILDLY SUCCESSFUL BIG ANIMAL EXPEDITIONS!


Whale shark at Roca Partida

'Wildly Successful' pretty much sums up this year so far. Our 2014 expeditions have been wildly successful! As I mentioned in my last update, we found the Killer Whales we were looking for in Norway, we had two amazing Great Hammerhead weeks in the Bahamas and we swam with hunting Sailfish and False Killer Whales in Mexico. Since then. we've added two more great expeditions to our list of successes. Read on to find out more:

SOCORRO & ROCA PARTIDA
We enjoyed a great week of world class encounters at Socorro Island and Roca Partida aboard the MV Southern Sport.
Not only did we see Giant mantas, Galapagos sharks, scalloped hammerheads, silvertips and whitetips in abundance, this year we had an (out of season) whale shark circling Roca Partida to the delight of everyone on the liveaboard. All the action and some great images can be seen here: Socorro and Roca Partida 2014

Dive Socorro

INSANE TIGER SHARK ACTION AT TIGER BEACH
This was our best year ever for tiger sharks at that infamous sand bank in the northern Bahamas that has come to be known as Tiger Beach. There were so many sharks that it was impossible to keep track of them all but at one point I counted at least 5 tiger sharks, a handful of nurse sharks, more than a dozen lemon sharks and countless Caribbean reef sharks. If you want to see the images of that crazy adventure, please follow this link: Tiger Beach 2014 Trip Report

Dive with three tiger sharks at Tiger Beach.

PREDATORS IN PERIL BAJA 2014
After Tiger Beach we headed down to California and San Felipe in Northern Baja, Mexico. This was partly a scouting trip for California shark species and partly an opportunity for me to take more shark fishing pictures for the Predators in Peril Project.
While in Long Beach, California, I went out chasing makos with expert shark tagger Keith Poe and Captain Chris Wade who will be our host for our California mako shark trip this September. The water was amazingly clear compared to other places where you can sometimes see makos and we saw at least ten different shortfin mako sharks in a single day. It was great trip and I'm looking forward to coming back for our Big Fish Expeditions California Mako Shark Adventure. Join us in Long Beach this September!

mako diving California

After California we continued into Baja. Mexican shark fishermen head out of sleepy San Felipe to gill nest for a number of different food fish. Unfortunately they inadvertently pull up a number of different sharks that they collectively refer to as Cazon or Tollos. The bycatch generally includes a number of smoothhound shark species plus Pacific sharpnose sharks, mall blacktips, juvenile hammerheads and tope (soupfin) sharks.
Some of these species are heavily fished and are in danger of depletion in parts of their range. Our intention was to find out what species they were catching and at what times of year. There is virtually no accessible catch data available so a field trip was the only way to gather this kind of information.
As I have come to expect, the fishermen were cautious but approachable and I managed to talk my way onto one of the fishing boats to get a broader understanding of their efforts. While I was onboard I saw a number of grey smoothhound sharks come up in the nets. Sadly only one was still swimming and after a quick negotiation with the Captain I returned it to the ocean and took a few images as it swam off into the jade green waters of the northern gulf.
We left San Felipe with the intel and contacts we needed to plan a second trip that will hopefully result in some images of new species and the release of far more sharks.

Grey smoothhound shark San Felipe Mexico.

A BUSY SUMMER AHEAD!
May will be a busy month at Big Fish Expeditions HQ on Vancouver Island because at the beginning of June we launch into an insane summer season of back to back shark trips. Here is the run down if you are looking for a great adventure:

FALSE BAY SHARK SAFARI June 1-8. 1 SPOT AVAILABLE
Flying Great Whites, Sevengill Sharks, Catsharks and Blues and Makos!

THE SOUTH AFRICAN SARDINE RUN June 8-18 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Baitball action with Bronze Whalers, Blacktips, dolphins, feeding Brydes Whales and diving birds.

SCOTTISH BASKING SHARKS June 22-28 SOLD OUT
Migrating basking sharks around the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

ALASKAN SALMON SHARKS July 6-12. 1 SPOT LEFT, July 12-18 2 SPOTS LEFT.
Salmon Sharks, Bear watching, Salmon dives and exploratory reef diving in pristine Alaska.

MEXICAN WHALE SHARKS July 20-25 5 SPOTS AVAILABLE. July 25-30 SOLD OUT
The largest aggregation of Whale Sharks on Planet Earth.

CANADIAN BELUGA WHALES August 3-9 2 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Encounters with thousands of friendly Beluga Whales in Hudson Bay.

MEXICAN CROCODILES August 17-23, 24-30. SOLD OUT
Snorkeling with American Crocodile at Chinchorro Banks, Mexico.

CALIFORNIA MAKOS AND BLUES August 31 - September 4. 6 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Makos, Blue Sharks, Angel Sharks, Horn Sharks and More.

THRESHER SHARKS OF MALAPSCUA
thresher shark diving

As soon as the exhaustion has worn off from our summer expeditions, it'll be time to head to marvelous Malapascua Island in the Philippines. Monad Shoal (a 10min boat ride from tiny Malapascua) is the best location in the world to dive with thresher sharks.
Around Malapscua you can also find whitespotted bamboo sharks, banded bamboo sharks, coral catsharks and all manner of crazy macro critters like pygmy seahorses, blue ringed octopuses, mating mandarinfish and reefs ablaze with beautiful orange soft corals.
As I write this, we have four spot left on the expedition. Join us there! Thresher Shark Expedition.

Dive with bamboo sharks

LOOKING FAR, FAR AHEAD...
In 2015 we'll be back at many of these great locations, starting with another chance to swim with orcas in Norway, cavort with Melonheaded Whales in French Polynesia and enjoy two back to back Great Hammerhead trips in the Bahamas. All of these are either full or almost full so please email us if you'd like to snag one of the last spots.
There are opportunities to enjoy world class big animal dives with us throughout the year as we now have 20 expeditions on the schedule and more in the planning stages! To see what you can join and when, please visit our schedule page: BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS DIVE SCHEDULE

  
  
 Dive with Great Whites, Sevengill Sharks, Makos, Blue Sharks, 5 species of Catsharks and Spotted Gully Sharks in False Bay, South Africa. 
  
  
  

INTRODUCING THE HUMPBACK WHALES OF THE SILVER BANKS
I am very excited to announce that in March 2016 we'll be spending a week swimming with humpback whales and their playful calves at the world famous Silver Banks in the Dominican Republic.
News of the trip has already got out so if you would like to enjoy a world class adventure in the company of whales, please let us know as soon as possible: Humpback Whale Expedition 2016.

Humpback Whale snorkeling, Silver Banks, Dominican Republic

That's it from me. Time to break out my drysuit and enjoy some great Vancouver Island kelp forest diving while the visibility is still spectacular.
See you down there,
Andy


Andy Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of BigFishExpeditions.com

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PREDATOR HEAVEN!

     A KILLER START TO 2014!

Our first Norwegian Orca Expedition was a resounding success! We spent the first half of the trip scuba diving in the fiords while a storm raged offshore but as soon as the wind dropped we headed out to sea and found multiple pods of killer whales feeding on huge balls of herring. It was an experience I will never forget! Follow this link to the 2014 Killer Whale Expedition Trip Report

HAMMERED IN BIMINI
Great hammerheads on a dive
As soon as we made landfall in Kristiansund at the end of the Killer Whale Expedition, I flew straight to the Bahamas to meet our first group of hammerhead shark divers. For two glorious weeks we dove with Great Hammerheads, Bull Sharks, Nurse Sharks and even snuck in a reef dive with Caribbean Reef Sharks and Blacknose Sharks. The hammer action was world class. With thousands of great hammerhead images to choose from and some amazing videos submitted our guests, this trip report will definitely make you drool! Plus, you have to see what showed up on the Big Fish Deep Cam at 800ft!2014 Great Hammerhead Expedition Trip Report

ALLIGATOR SNAPS
On the way home from the Bahamas we stopped in South Florida for a couple of days to decompress. What better way to do that, than to spend some time playing in the swamp with alligators :) It was also a great warm up for our American Crocodile Expedition in Chinchorro Mexico later this summer

SAILFISH SURPRISE!
After only three days back in Canada I was back on a plane for our Sailfish Expedition in Cancun, Mexico. After a slow start, the sailfish finally showed themselves and we spent many hours finning manically after sardine bait balls being decimated by sailfish.
A large group of hunting sailfish
It was great to see so many healthy predators hunting in the wild but on our last day we also encountered a large aggregation of feeding mantas and mobulas and then a completely unexpected super pod of False Killer Whales appeared. It doesn't get much better than that! Read the trip report here: 2014 Sailfish Expedition Trip Report.
Swimming with false killer whales


INTRODUCING THE MIDRIFF ISLANDS - A GREAT NEW EVENT ON THE BIG FISH SCHEDULE!
In September 2015, join us aboard the Rocio Del Mar for a week long expedition to the Midriff Islands in the northern Sea of Cortez. The Midriffs are a seldom visited group of islands with dramatic reefscapes, numerous whale species and schooling humboldt squid. Get ready for adventure!
Not only is this a world class destination, it is also affordable and extremely easy for North Americans to get to: Whale and Humboldt Squid Adventure
Humboldt Squid Diving

LAST MINUTE SUMMER OPENINGS:

SOCORRO
If you're reeeeeally quick, we have one cancellation on our yearly Socorro Trip. The boat leaves Cabo San Lucas on March 19th... Socorro Manta Adventure

THE SARDINE RUN
We have a few spots left if you'd like to join us in South Africa this June. The yearly Sardine Run is one of the most spectacular events in the sea. If you haven't done this epic adventure. Join us! Sardine Run and Wild Coast Shark Safari.
Blacktips hunting on the sardine run

SALMON SHARKS
Just a couple of spots open on our Salmon Shark Adventure in Prince William Sound, Alaska. As well as chasing salmon sharks, we'll be diving Alaska's pristine reefs and bear watching along the shores of Fidalgo Inlet. Join us for an adventure on a grand scale! Salmon Shark Adventure
Salmon Shark Diving

ISLA MUJERES GREAT WHALE SHARK ADVENTURE
Nowhere in the world can you see this many enormous whale sharks in one place. So if you have time in the summer, don't miss this epic event: The Great Whale Shark Fiesta

BELUGAS IN CANADA
Just four spots open on our Beluga Whale Expedition. Plunge into Hudson Bay among thousands of friendly Beluga Whales: Beluga Whale Expedition

MAKO MADNESS
Join us in September aboard the Sea Watch and dive with mako and blue sharks in the crystal clear waters of Southern California. Then drift along a reef with angel sharks and other Pacific shark species:Mako Shark Adventure

SWIM WITH THRESHER SHARKS
Then in November join us on beautiful Malapascua Island in the Philippines to dive with Pelagic Thresher Sharks. Malapascua is a real tropical paradise and the diving (both big animal and macro) is extraordinary. Don't miss this amazing trip: Thresher Shark Diving Malapascua.
thresher shark diving

NO MORE BULL SHARKS
To be candid, we had a Bull Shark Expedition scheduled for November but there were so many bulls on our Bimini Hammerhead Trip that we feel a dedicated bull shark trip would be redundant. So, if you want to see bull sharks up close and personal, join us in Bimini next February!
diving with a bull shark

I guess that's enough temptation for now. If like me you live in the northern hemisphere, enjoy the spring and get ready for a long hot summer. If you live down south and its starting feel kinda cold in your neck of the woods, maybe you should fly up here and join one of our action-packed big animal adventures.

Never hang up your fins,
Andy


Andy Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of Big Fish Expeditions.