Big Fish, Big Whales and Big Squid
WHALES AND HUMBOLDTS TRIP REPORT
I've been home for 3 weeks from this year's Sea of Cortez Expeditions and I'm still reliving the highlights in my mind. It was an incredible adventure with great people and great encounters.
Over a two week span, we spent time in the water with absolutely every big animal that we had hoped to see. From voracious humboldt squid to enormous sperm whales, the ocean just kept delivering us new and amazing animals.
To give you an idea of how diverse it was, we managed to cram humboldt squid diving, a pod of sperm whales, a twenty meter solitary bull sperm whale, a few finback whales, multiple pods of pilot whales, schooling scalloped hammerheads, schooling mobula rays, playful sea lions, scores of reef dives and three whale shark encounters into two weeks at sea.
The shooting opportunities ranged from challenging to great to epic but now I am faced with the daunting task of wading through thousands of images of fish, squid, whales and reefs. The best will be loaded onto Elasmodiver when I have the chance except for the ones that are saved for magazine articles. Every time I open a new folder of pics, I am transported back to that particular dive or encounter. Its a great way to relive the adventures between trips but no substitute for actually being there.
For me this was a very experimental trip and I was not sure if it would all work out. By the time we arrived back in La Paz, I had dates nailed down for next August's squid run so if you'd like to join me next year please let me know:2012 Sea of Cortez Expedition
I've also added two more epic trips to next year's Big Fish Expeditions line up:
In March I am running a Humpback Whale and Manta Expedition to world famous Socorro Island. Socorro breaks the surface 200 miles south of the Baja Peninsula and is reached by liveaboard from Cabo San Lucas. It is probably most famous for the amazing manta encounters that take place there. The rays are some of the biggest that you are ever likely to dive with. They are known for interacting with people at the islands and allowing divers to swim within inches of them (perhaps enjoying the feeling of the divers exhaust bubbles rolling over their skin). Interestingly, the mantas at Socorro have been shown to be able to identify individual divers which they return to time after time for more attention.
The islands are also known for excellent reefs and sharks! Resident species include Galapagos sharks, silkies and whitetips but hammers and other species can also be seen.
But, like all Big Fish Expeditions, the Socorro Expedition is timed to deliver the maximum amount of big animals so we are visiting Socorro during the humpback whale migration. Late March is an excellent time to encounter female humpbacks with new calves. The calves are very curious and they have a reputation for closely approaching divers and snorkellers before being steered away by their more cautious mothers.
Each day between dives, we will head around the islands and jump in with any whales that we see. Between humpback whales (and possibly other whale species), mantas, sharks, dolphins and other pelagics, this should be an epic adventure. Socorro Humpback and Manta Expedition
I also have a new Whale Shark Trip to Isla Mujeres on the tip of Mexico's beautiful Yucatan Peninsula. Over the last few years, this area has become renowned for enormous aggregations of whale sharks. The number of animals that gather in the area is unprecedented making encounters virtually guaranteed. Combined with warm, blue Caribbean water, and the chance of encounters with other pelagics like sailfish and schooling cownose rays, this is a great place to interact with whale sharks.
This is also the perfect trip for those that want to encounter the largest fish in the sea in style! We will be staying at a beautiful beachfront hotel within walking distance of the center. No crowds, no hassle, just wake up to the sounds of the sea and be whisked away to the whale sharking grounds directly from the hotel. Then jump in and swim with giants all day before returning back to the comfort of the hotel. Wow, I sound like a travel brochure but after some of the hard 'off the beaten path' adventures that I sometimes go on in search of strange shark species, this expedition sounds just fine! Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Expedition
SPEAKING OF OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Its been a while since I had the chance to chase new sharks but in a few days I am heading off to Cape Eleuthera which is one of the lesser known outer islands in the Bahamas Chain. For the next two weeks I will be documenting the work of the Cape Eleuthera Institute while they conduct a survey of abyssal sharks that live in their waters. Once they take measurements and DNA samples from the deep water species, I will have the chance to jump in and photograph the released sharks. This will be a golden opportunity to nail some shots of species that divers would normally never see. The work that is being done on the island is very unique and I am looking forward to telling you all about it after the trip. And hopefully, bringing you some very interesting pics.
THE BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS 2012 LINE UP
2012 is looking pretty amazing and the trips are filling up. Of the first three shark diving expeditions, Malpelo is sold out, Tiger Beach has just two spots left and our Cat Island Oceanic Whitetip adventure has 4 spots open so jump in while you can!
You can now see an Expedition Calendar with all the expedition dates we have planned here:
Last but far from least, its a long time until Sharkfest but if you are interested in joining me for a great weekend of brand new shark films, shark diving with sanftigers and generally partying with a group of likeminded shark junkies, please consider joining us next August. Also, if you're a budding film maker (or a seasoned professional) and you have a short shark film that you would like to air at the festival, please send me an email!
More on Sharkfest here: http://bigfishphotographyexpeditions.com/sharkfest.html
See you out there,