December 8, 2010
Written by Amos Nachoum
In the Company of Striped Marlin - an Underwater Expedition
The first year I led my Striped Marlin Expedition to Todos Santos in Mexico, it was splendid. Last year was almost a bust because we hardly saw any Striped Marlin. The reason for that was the water temperature rose to over 81 degrees, and that meant there were not many plankton and the sardines had nothing to feed on. The marlin somehow figured that out and almost totally avoided the normal pattern.
This year with support and reports from the University in La Paz and the local fisherman, I have understood that the marlin will show up, but later than last year. What you see below are images from the first two days here. The sea is placid, the wind very calm and water temperature is between 76 – 78 – just right for the plankton bloom, the sardine are feeding and … the marlin are here. Take a look:
My Team of Guests
Chris and Jerry were with me last year – they understood very well what was happening with the water temperature and feeding patterns. We did all that was humanly possible to show them a good time and we succeeded to a limited level. Both were so impressed by the effort they have joined me again and they are here with us and they are so happy that they counted on my research. I am so proud to be able to deliver to such loyal guests, pictured above.
Every day we leave at 6:30 am along the western cost of Baja (on the Pacific side) and stay out till 5pm – watching the Frigate birds feeding action and formation. It’s the birds who actually give us information about the marlin. When a formation of two dozen or more Frigates is tight and close over the water I know the birds are feeding on sardines below – and the marlin are in pursuit.
All day we jump in and out of the water. The encounters last from just one minute up to sometimes 20 minutes. It’s a dance among the birds and fish. The “bait ball” of sardines, the Striped Marlin below, and the birds above all work in opposite directions from each other. The sardines run for their life but they are not much of a match for the quantity and skills of the birds up above and the marlin under the water. Both the flying and swimming predators are relentless and work the bait ball till it is consumed. It’s dramatic and exciting, especially when visibility ranges from 80 to 150 feet plus … next year we will come back in December. There will be room for only four people to join in the adventure, to be in the company of the ocean giants like the Striped Marlin.
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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
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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May 10, 2010
The Everest of Diving Adventures: Diving with the Great White Shark
Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.
- from Mack the Knife, by Bertolt Brecht,
as sung by Bobby Darin
We’re convinced Mr. Bobby Darin had the great white shark in mind when he recorded his massive chart-topper of 1959. Because, frankly, once you get to know the great white shark (GWS, to friends), you can only come to one conclusion…this fish is the coolest. In other words, a certain 1970s shark movie you’ve seen many times was wrong and actually a bit of slander.
Amos will lead two departures: one for five days of diving, and the other four days of diving. Our underwater photography expedition to scuba dive with this epic predator takes place 180 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California, Isla Guadalupe. With pristine, clear waters providing visibility from 60 – 100 feet, and a comfortable 68-70 degrees, you’ll have ideal conditions for in-cage encounters with one of the world’s most misunderstood creatures.
During the great white shark’s annual autumn visit to Isla Guadalupe in search of elephant seals and tuna, local researchers have identified by now over 140 sharks, male, female and young one as well. We bring just 10 guests on each of these expeditions to guarantee maximum time with these remarkable animals in a respectful, non-obtrusive way. We don’t bait them, we don’t tease them, we just chum the water lightly to get their attention, and then enter their world and admire who they are and what they do. We take this bold action one step at a time, all the while aware that this is a thoroughly wild animal — but also knowing that their bad rap is largely unsubstantiated and undeserved. And so, we use our spectacular wildlife photography to show the rest of the world that everything they think they know about the great white shark is wrong. That’s a pretty cool thing for us humans to do.
By way of luring you in, please take a look at some of our great white shark photographs from previous expeditions. Once you’ve had your vision fill, we’re sure you’ll be eager to make your reservation now.