February 16, 2011
Written by Amos Nachoum
The Galapagos, one of the world’s great adventure travel destinations, just got more accessible. But before I tell you about the special deal I’ve made for you to go there, I want to tell you about the journey. Your trip includes BigAnimals encounters with massive 35-foot-long Whale sharks, schooling Hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, Manta Eagle and squadron of Mobula rays. You’ll not only explore Darwin Island and Wolf Island, but your itinerary includes a rare visit and dive to Isabela and Fernandina Islands to see feeding Marine Iguana (only found on the Galapagos Islands) and the elusive Batfish. Because of a special arrangement I’ve made for you, I am able to reduce the price of this unforgettable trip by $2,000 for each spot. Book now and take advantage of this deal because there are only a few spaces left. Departures on Sept 17 – Oct 3.
The region has become ecologically healthier also, according to scientists. There’s no better time to go! If you feel anything of the ocean conservation movement in your soul, you have to go there. Here are some details about the ecological health of the area.
The BBC, in an article titled Have the Galapagos Been Saved, recently wrote that the United National Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to remove the Galapagos Island from the list of endangered World Heritage sites. It’s good news, but some are cautious, because of the importance of the Galapagos.
“I think many folks in the conservation community felt concerned that this action would give the impression that all the issues had been resolved,” said Johannah Barry, president of the Galapagos Conservancy, according to the article.
The Galapagos area should be treated with respect – always. There’s no chance anything will ever be “resolved” there because it’s unlike anywhere else in the world and will always be studied by scientists and visited by adventurers. But it’s also fair to say that tourism is a big part of contributing to the income levels in the Galapagos. It’s a fact that people make a living from adventure tourism. The bottom line is that we all want to be careful about the way we travel there, in the way we make our imprint on the land and sea, and they that we respect this habitat which is unlike anywhere else in the world. How do we do that?
I work with an adventure/excursion company called Ecoventura, which has been certified as ecologically sound by the UN. They are the first Galapagos cruise ship company to offset carbon emissions and to install alternative energy sources on their watercraft. Working with Ecoventura, you can travel with me on the M/V Galapagos Sky, a custom-built dive vessel, and our expedition is scheduled to take place during prime time for encounters with Whale sharks, schooling Hammerhead sharks and maybe some free diving.We have a special permit to spend eight to ten days at one of the world’s most exciting and unique locations – the islands of Darwin and Wolf, and we’ll get to explore the most western islands in the archipelago. That’s a total of two weeks of Whale shark diving and other events on Wolf, Darwin, Isabella and Fernandia Islands. You’ll never forget what you see and experience in the Galapagos. I keep returning and I find something fresh and inspiring every time.
This is a rare dive trip to the Galapagos, since it is for a full two weeks and i have adjusted my price by not less than the awesome amount of $2,000. Last year’s prices were $13,900 for the Master cabin and $13,500 for the Deluxe. Now we’re offering them at $11,900 and $11,500. This includes the domestic flight to Galapagos and other local taxes!
Join me in the Galapagos for my whale shark expedition. The departure is September 17th, the perfect time to see BigAnimals as they were really meant to be seen.
December 1, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
If you need any more proof that sharks are amazing animals, here’s news that I’ll be sharing with divers and photographers on my next BigAnimals shark dive expeditions. According to Jeremy Hsu, writing about science on the MSNBC site, the Shortfin Mako shark uses flexible scales on its body to make to make tight underwater turns during high-speed pursuits. The scales give Mako exceptional control and this allows them to move in for the kill at speeds of 60 mph.
“The Mako has evolved to be the cheetah of the ocean,” according Amy Lang, an aerospace engineer at the University of Alabama who specializes in experimental fluid dynamics, and who was quoted in the article. “It has evolved to chase down tuna.”
Ten, fifteen years ago I saw a lot of Makos and Blue sharks on dives off the coast of San Diego. Recently – not so often. But I have some good news – and it comes from the other coast. I’ve been looking into surveying a shark dive location off Cape Cod with plans to start an expedition there. Prime season for this would be September to October. I am thrilled to learn about this location, because it represents an opportunity on so many levels. It’s a chance to see BigAnimals in their habitat, but it also represents an opportunity to help protect sharks.
As we know all too well, for sportsfishermen sharks are game to be hunted and to the shipping industry, sharks simply get in the way of the shipping lanes which can cost them their lives.
It’s a plan of mine to go to areas where Blues and Makos are thriving and talk to the hoteliers and dive centers in those places. I would want to explain that leading expeditions to experience BigAnimals up close will help local businesses. Instead of fishing these species into extinction we can take divers out on expeditions and capture the shark’s spirit with a camera instead taking their lives. When it comes to local business, a live shark is worth a lot more money than a dead shark.
I’ll let you know what develops in Cape Code and other sites. For now, have a look at my upcoming shark dives. Next September, come with me to Mexico to experience the Great White Shark – for a special few adventurers I select, there will be an out-of-the-cage experience. In the Galapagos next fall during the perfect season, we’ll be diving with the Whale Shark.
November 17, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
Great White Sharks – Nasty Predator?
My expeditions to encounter the Great White Shark tend to sell out fast. That’s what just happened to my last two October expeditions. My favorite spot in the world to see Great Whites is in Mexico’s Baja California. Luckily, I have another Mexico diving trip coming up. The trips sell out fast for a good reason. People are fascinated with Great Whites, even though these sharks have the undeserved reputation of being a nasty predator. They’ve got a lot of teeth, as many as 300. They’re big – 12 to 16 feet long, and they weigh a couple thousand pounds. Steven Spielberg gave a starring role to a Great White in Jaws, and that didn’t help their reputation as a ferocious man eater.
But the truth is they are one of the most fascinating animals you’ll ever encounter, and one of the most rare.
When young, they feed on small harbor seals and later go after sea lions, elephant seals and even small toothed whales. They like to ambush their prey from below – one big bite usually does the trick. They will also scavenge – eating the carcass of a whale shark. They will sometimes eat sea turtles and sea otters.
Let’s be fair, though. Scientists and others who study the Great White say that in the past 100 years more people have been killed by dogs than by Great White sharks. That’s not to say that they don’t look scary. They do, especially when you’re facing one close up. But that’s only part of what makes them so fascinating.
The Great White Shark: A Rare Species
There are only about 100 adult Great Whites in the state of California’s waters. Scientists say less than 3,500 Great Whites are left in the world’s oceans, making them rarer than tigers. They are long distance swimmers, capable of traveling 12,000 miles over a nine month period. A trip from California to Hawaii is a common trip for them. Scientists have tracked them swimming from South African to Australia and back in nine months’ time.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been capturing young white sharks, exhibiting them for a a short time, and then releasing them. The first time they did this, in 2004, the shark had almost a million visitors. The aquarium’s executive director Julie Packard said the shark was “the post powerful emissary for ocean conservation in our history.” The aquarium is also studying the adult Great White sharks to learn how to protect them from overfishing and the effects of bycatch – sharks that get caught in the nets of industrial fishing operations, get injured and can die because of it.
That’s what happened to one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s White sharks, a female. Captured on August 26, 2009 and released on November 4, the shark traveled more than 500 miles, from Monterey Bay to Baja California. There, she was accidentally caught in a gill net and died.
Baja California – One of the Best Dive Sites for Epic Shark Diving
There’s no doubt that Great White sharks are worthy of great respect. They’re found in the waters of Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It’s true that are amazing dives to be enjoyed in all of those locations, but my favorite place to see them is in Baja California. The water is clear and warm and the shark encounters will always be your best memories of shark diving.
October 20, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
Last week I advised you to “stay tuned” for the second part of our Guadalupe Island expedition. We were diving – sometimes “cage-free”– with Great White sharks. Here’s one moment from the shark’s point of view.
Over the two weeks of this expedition a total of 20 divers learned first-hand about the Great White shark with some real “face time” experience. When they returned to their homes all over the world - Germany, Greece, New York, Florida and California – they all instantly became ambassadors for aquatic wildlife. Why is that possible?
Everest of Shark Diving
When you are introduced to this — the Everest of Shark Diving — you are never the same afterward. It’s a soul-shaking experience and it simply changes your life forever. I know it’s been that way for me, and it’s fresh each time I visit Guadalupe Island to see the Great Whites. For me, and for the divers I bring along on these trips, that’s the only way – you just have to go there. The experience is unfiltered. Completely real. This is a lot better than reading a newspaper or getting a TV reporter’s view of the ocean and its wildlife. Certainly, there are a lot of good sources out there: The Monterey Bay Aquarium, BBC Science News, and Google Earth with the Oceans plug-in is a fantastic resource. But nothing can replace actually going there yourself. Seeing these animals for yourself changes everything. You can be your own reality filter by getting up close and personal with a Great White shark. Like in this picture:
While I was in Baja California for the Great White dive, I learned that yet another body surfer along the California coast became the fatal victim of a shark attack. It happened in Santa Barbara County and it was a tragedy. But it also sparked yet another media frenzy about “predator” behavior of the Great White. In fact, a California Fish and Game official called the Great White involved in the attack a “perfect predator.” This makes me sad, not only because of the human tragedy, but also because so many of the positive, peaceful encounters I’ve lead for years get very little coverage. I’m all for dispelling the hype and myth of danger. But this can only be done when we dive with great responsibility and respect for aquatic wildlife. Here’s it it looks like with a real shark, real people, real life.
I say it’s the responsibility of the conservationists, the photojournalists and the environmentalists to keep the information flowing freely, and avoid spreading panic and the “witch hunts” of a shark attack. We need to help create a shark image makeover.
Will you join us? We’re ready to go with next season’s adventures. It promises to be another classic Big Animals expedition. I can tell you that life is good when you have three sharks around you.
October 20, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
Great White Shark Diving Field Report: Guadalupe Island
Here’s a field report from Baja California, Mexico as I wrap up part one of this year’s shark diving adventure. I’m getting this out to you before the next group of guests arrive.
Under my leadership, nine people just had the trip of a lifetime. They gathered from across the USA, South Africa, Australia and Germany to encounter the Great White Shark as only as biganimals.com expedition can deliver it. For five of them, “once was not enough.” They had been with me already on as many as six other trips – and, amazingly, one was back for the second time for an adventure with the Great Whites. It’s always gratifying for me to reconnect with people with a passion for adventure. This trip was no exception.
Cage-Free Diving with Great Whites
Shark dives off Guadalupe Island are usually done inside a protective shark cage. But with through preparation and very close supervision, it is possible to have the “cageless sensation” for a select few. On this trip I carefully chose five divers to join me, one at a time, for a cage-free experience, described by some as the “Everest of Diving experiences.” Here’s one guest as he’s getting ready to leave the cage.
I go about this very carefully. I started everyone in the surface cage at first. As you can see from the picture below, when guests leave the cage, they are always escorted by a safety diver. Though we saw sharks during the whole five day-trip ranging in size from 12 feet up to 15, the pace of shark visits on the first and second days was slow. But then, on the third day, the pace of the sharks frequenting our cages picked up and on the last day and last dive out of the cage we had four Great Whites circling the cage while we were swimming with them…carefully yes, and very much aware. Everyone returned home safely this morning, and now I’m waiting for the second team of this year’s Great White shark expedition.
The weather was calm and sunny, the sea was flat, and the team — they were an extraordinary group of adults who clearly understood what is at stake, the risk, and the adventure. All of the guests did a great job, and know very well how to work as a team, and take part in my know-how to manage risks as I lead them to experience the Great White in this dramatic way. Together we were able to dispel the myth of the “mindless predator” the Great White is so often made out to be. But the myth can only be dispelled when it is done thoughtfully, with responsibility and respect for these magnificent animals.
The water temp was a chilly 66-degrees F at 40 feet and at 80 feet, even cooler at 64 F. The semi drysuit by Bare was very helpful! A good thing, because the lower we took the cage obviously the colder the water got – but also more and more sharks were around us. We even recognized a few from last year. (We named them Lucy and Schroeder.) The year before as well as saw and ID’d some newcomers. One of them we called Noreiga. Once you see a Great White up close, like in the picture below, you’ll never forget it.
Next year’s Great White trip is scheduled for October 9 – 16, 2011, and only five spaces remain open. I suggest that you reserve your spot to see the great white shark for yourself as soon as you can.
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October 12, 2010
The Great White Shark and Guadalupe Island
If you want to swim with a Great White Shark you can come along on my next expedition to Mexico. A select few of us will be going “cage-free” – which is about a close to a totally free fish-like experience as any human might ever experience. We’re interested in underwater photography, catching these amazing creatures close up in their natural habitat. We travel just 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California, Guadalupe Island. Visibility is fantastic – 60-100 feet – and the water is warm – about 72 degrees. Conditions that are just right to merge heart and soul with the sea.
Swimming with Sharks
That state of becoming “one” with the ocean has been something lots of divers have tried to feel, and not just on a Great White Shark dive. An Israeli inventor I read about recently named Alon Bodner has been working on an underwater breathing apparatus that lets you swim like a fish without carrying compresses air tanks on your back. It sounds like science fiction, something out of Star Wars (Obi-Wan used an underwater breathing apparatus in “The Phantom Menace”). But there’s really more science to it than fiction. Nuclear subs and the International Space Station use something called electrolysis to split oxygen from hydrogen to get you something you can breathe. It seems like a system like that would work underwater, since even at a depth of 200 meters (nearly 700 feet) there’s still 1.5% dissolved air.
Scuba like the Fish Do It
You can’t mention SCUBA without mentioning Jacques Cousteau. With Emil Gagnon, he receives credit for basic design of the equipment we use today – a portable air supply. Alon Bodner’s idea is to use the same system fish use. The fish’s breathing apparatus work by allowing them to extract oxygen from seater, even deep in the sea. Amazing! But can we do it that way too, and dive without a tank? There’s a problem. And it brings us back to sharks.
Sharks are cold-blooded. That they don’t have to worry about regulating their body temperature – they rely on the water to do it for them. A shark has to stay in a part of the sea that has temperatures he can work with. He also swims all day with his mouth open and water streaming through his gills. That’s because seawater supplies just a little oxygen, and to extract it and support his large body, a shark has to keep moving. According to experts, only little fish, with little bodies, can sleep. But big sharks have to keep moving, and keep processing that seawater so they can breathe.
What’s that mean for you and me? We’re warm-blooded, so we have to regulate our temperature. That requires a lot of oxygen, more than anybody can figure out how to extract from seawater using a compact technology. (The technology they use on subs is really big and requires lots of energy to work.)
So I think that swimming completely free at depth, like a fish, might be pretty far off technologically, but I can give you that experience in real life. Just sign up for one of my adventures. The two most recent expeditions to see Great White Sharks in Isla Guadalupe sold out quickly. But you can sign up now to be part of the next one.