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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, 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.

2014 EXTREME SHARK AND WHALE DIVING

     CHASING BIG FISH MIGRATIONS

It will be hard to top last year's amazing expeditions but we're going to give it a try. Our 2014 calendar is even more action packed with classic expeditions and brand new off-the-beaten-path adventures. Why? Because life is too darn short to NOT fill it with amazing memories whenever you can!
I love the planning and execution of new adventures. As I research new big animal destinations, one theme reoccurs over and over; if you want to see big pelagic predators, you need to follow the mass fish migrations that occur all around the world at different times of the year.
Some events are hard to predict and some frustratingly occur at the same time on opposite sides of the planet. But it seems as though there is always a sardine run, or a herring run, or a tuna spawning event going on somewhere. My job is to make sure that we're in the right place at exactly the right time to enjoy world class encounters with the ocean's heavy weights. Your job is to meet me there are enjoy the adventure of a life time.

STARTING 2014 WITH AN EXTREME ADVENTURE!
In a few days I am flying to Rorvik in Norway to lead our first Orca Diving Expedition. This is one of those encounters that is highly unpredictable but we have partnered with the absolute best Norwegian Orca Diving Operator. The news from Norwegian Killer Whale researchers is extremely promising. Apparently the North Sea Herring Run is in full swing right now and there are hundreds of orcas and whales coming in to feed up and down the coast. Expect a trip report as soon as we return.
We have chartered the boat again for the 2015 killer whale season and it is already filling up! If you didn't have a chance to come this year, join us for the 2015 Norwegian Orca Expedition
Orca diving

GREAT HAMMERHEAD SEASON
As soon as we make landfall after our killer whale expedition, I am flying directly to Bimini in the Bahamas for two back to back Great Hammerhead Expeditions. The hammers have already started showing up so 'hammer season' should be at its peak by the time our guests arrive. Its amazing to think that the most sought after shark species in the Bahamas has been congregating right off of coast of South Bimini Island without anyone having a clue until the researchers at the Bimini Shark Lab noticed them a few short years ago. Personally, I can't wait for the chance to share the water with multiple great hammerhead sharks! Grab the last spot on our Feb 8-14 trip: Great Hammerhead Diving

SAILFISH
Later in February I'll be down in Mexico for our yearly sailfish expedition. This is another encounter that is timed around a mass migration. Each year between January and March, millions of sardines migrate along the east coast of Mexico. The fish form a river of life on the sea bed. Thousands of sailfish head to the shores of Cancun to take advantage of this annual bounty. In groups of 20-50, the sailfish corral large swathes of sardines and herd them to the surface so that they can pin the hapless fish against the barrier of air and pick them off one by one. Witnessing the action first hand is an experience you'll never forget! We have one spot left if you would like to join us: Sailfish Diving

INTRODUCING THE BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS DEEP CAM
When you're diving in that tantalizingly shallow strip of ocean reachable on scuba or snorkel, do you ever wonder what is down deeper? I ALWAYS DO! So, I have built a deep cam to bring on all our future expeditions so that we can film the marine life 1000ft down while we're enjoying our big animal dives. Being a shark fanatic, I am hoping that I will eventually be able to film deep water sharks but any life hundreds of feet below the surface is fascinating as this first attempt (shot during our striped marlin expedition) demonstrates:
Follow this link if you cant see the video: ATTACK OF THE SQUAT LOBSTERS
From this point on, I will try to bring the deep cam on every trip where there is deep enough water. For those of you that are on our sold out Socorro and Tiger Beach trips in March and April, you'll be the first to witness this brand new dynamic on our trips!

NOTHING BEATS THE SHARK DIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA!
The place I am most excited about returning to this summer is South Africa! There are a number reasons:
Firstly, the shark diving in False Bay (near Cape Town) is the best I have ever done. Up to 10 species of sharks in a week of diving including flying white sharks! Plus, we manage to cram in a terrestrial game drive to shoot the big five, and other topside excursions to see African penguins and all sorts of other exotic African wildlife. If you've never dove South Africa, this is the trip for you: South African Shark Diving Safari

Secondly, straight after our Cape Town Shark Safari, we are heading east to the Sardine Run. This is an event that occurs each year when millions of sardines migrate along the South African coastline pursued by thousands of dolphins, sharks, whales and diving birds. When the weather, sardines, and big animals all come together, the South African Sardine Run is probably the most visually spectacular event in the ocean.
Added to this, Big Expeditions Sardine Run trip will have some exciting twists. Each afternoon when the other boats are heading back to land, we'll either be chumming offshore to bring in bronze whalers and other pelagic predators, or we'll conduct exploratory dives on the beautiful inshore reefs of the Wild Coast where few humans have had the chance to dive. Two spots left if you'd like to join this amazing expedition: Dive the Sardine Run

Thirdly, South Africa has incredible shark diversity. As I mentioned in my rant about the Cape Town Shark Safari, you can expect to see up to 10 species of sharks in False Bay (7 species on just one dive!) but there are even more sharks lurking below recreational diving limits and this year we'll have the deep cam with us and a big bag of bait. Who knows what species will show up to take a nibble!

SCOTTISH BASKING SHARKS
After spending three weeks in South Africa, we are heading back to the Isle of Mull to take another crack at the annual basking shark migration. Last year the warm water arrived a month later that expected which was a tragic blow to our first expedition. There was no way anyone could have known that would happen because the previous five years had enjoyed the best encounters exactly during our expedition window. This year we will try again and I expect that this year we will have an epic week of basking shark encounters! Just one spot left on the boat if you'd like to join us: Basking Shark Adventure.

ALASKAN SALMON SHARKS
In July we have our first trip to see the salmon sharks of Alaska. Think of them as mini great whites! These stocky bullets arrive in Prince William Sound each summer to feast on another migratory phenomenon; the great Alaskan salmon run. Notoriously shy, we will attempt to slip into the water with these sharks as they chase salmon into the river mouths in the northern reaches of the sound. This will be an amazing trip filled with diversity. As well as salmon sharks, we will also snorkel with the salmon themselves as they congregate in the shallows and we will do some exploratory dives on virgin shorelines where few (if any) divers have ever taken the plunge. And then there's the spectacular topside scenery plus eagles and grizzly and black bears foraging along the shores. We have just one spot left on each week:
diving in alaska

THE GREAT WHALE SHARK FIESTA
Its going to be a busy summer! After two weeks in Alaska, I arrive home to Vancouver Island early in the morning and leave again that afternoon for sunny Isla Mujeres (near Cancun).
At that time, whale sharks arrive from all over the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to gorge themselves on the eggs of spawning tunny - a small species of tuna. 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 THE BAY
Three days after whale sharks, we're heading to Churchill on the banks of Hudson Bay to swim with migrating beluga whales. This is the most accessible place on the planet to enjoy close up encounters with the world's only white whale. Known as 'the friendly whales', pods of curious belugas eagerly approach delighted snorkellers. Expect very close encounters!
After our morning beluga encounters we will drive along the shore to shoot migratory birds and beautiful tundra vistas. Although polar bears can be illusive in the summer months, hopefully we'll also get to see some cooling off in the bay.
Our first boat filled very quickly so we have chartered a second zodiac, making room for five more divers on this unique trip. : Beluga Whale Expedition

THE CROCODILES OF CHINCHORRO BANKS
As soon as we're back from belugas, I am flying straight back to Cancun to pick up our guests for our 'off the beaten path' American Crocodile Expedition. Two spots left on this trip for anyone feeling adventurous enough to follow me into the water with large crocs. Expect close encounters in clear Caribbean water. This one will be fun! Two spots left: The Crocodiles of Chinchorro Banks

CALIFORNIA MAKOS
Early September is a great time to dive in Southern California. Its an even better time to dive with shortfin mako sharks on a dedicated mako and blue shark trip! Witness the fastest fish in the sea in clear blue water and dive with blue sharks, angel sharks and explore the reefs surrounding the Santa Barbara Islands for swell sharks and horn sharks. All this in a quick 3 day, 4 night adventure! Join us if you can: Mako Shark Adventure

THE THRESHER SHARKS OF MALAPASCUA ISLAND
In November we went on a scouting trip to Malapascua Island in the Philippines to look for Pelagic Thresher Sharks. What we found was a tropical paradise in every sense of the word. The diving is extraordinary. Each morning we visited Monad Shoal where hundreds of thresher sharks make their way up from the inky depths to visit the cleaning stations. I watched one shy thresher circle me multiple times at a distance of a few meters. Finally deciding I wasn't a threat, the 10ft shark closed the gap and stalled in the water column right in front of me and then dropped its tail to signal the cleaner fish to swim over and start work.
I expected a few fleeting glimpses of this illusive species but the operator we are working with has a thresher sighting rate around 98%! That alone would be enough to warrant a guest trip but the marine life on the surrounding reefs is breath taking in its diversity. Expect pygmy sea horses, blue ringed octopuses, white spotted and banded bamboo sharks, mating mandarinfish, incredible soft coral reefs, multiple cuttlefish and squid species, ornate ghost pipefish, giant frogfishes and wrecks drenched in hard and soft corals. Malapascua is simply spectacular! Join us this November on our first guest trip:Thresher Shark Diving Malapascua.
A thresher shark on the reef

BULL SHARKS AND CENOTES
At the end of November, we are heading to sunny Mexico for the Bull Run. A stone's throw from Playa del Carmen, there is a patch of ocean patrolled by scores of beefy bull sharks. Each morning we will slip below the waves with the most experienced professional shark wranglers in Mexico. Expect very close encounters with extremely large bull sharks. The photo opportunities will be amazing!
Each afternoon, we will dive one of the thousands of ancient cenotes that pepper the jungles of Quintana Roo. Expect beautiful cave formations and exotic freshwater fishes and turtles, and if we're lucky maybe even an illusive Morolets Crocodile or two. BTW, you do not need any special certifications or experience to dive the cenotes (unless you want to go deeper into the underground labyrinths). This is the finest cavern diving in the world! Join us there: Mexican Bull Sharks and Cenotes
feeding bull sharks

So far that's it for 2014 but in 2015 the action continues...

THE GREAT WHITE SHARKS OF GUADAULPE ISLAND
The best place in the world to see Great White Sharks in crystal clear water is Guadalupe Island off the west coast of Northern Baja where hundreds of apex predators congregate each fall to feed on seals and sea lions. Feel the raw power of these incredible behemoths as they swim by, within touching distance. This is an experience that every avid shark diver must have at least once! Join us in September 2015 for an encounter you will never forget: The Great White Sharks of Guadalupe.

There are so many more trips to tell you about on the 2015 schedule but its time for me to sign off and start packing for Norway. I look forward to diving with you all on our adventures. We couldn't do this without you!

See you down there,
Andy


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