Spy-hopping melonheaded whales in Nuku Hiva.
EPIC ENCOUNTERS IN NUKU HIVA
It has been a busy spring for Big Fish Expeditions. 2015 started in Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia where our guests were treated to high energy encounters with huge pods of melonheaded whales and endless close passes by scalloped hammerheads and reef mantas. Read all about it: Nuku Hiva Expedition Trip Report
In February we flew to Bimini in the Bahamas for our annual Great Hammerhead Expeditions. This year was our best yet for hammerhead encounters with 15 different great hammers showing up in one day. Plus, we were able to try some fun new settings like splits (over/unders) and hammerhead dives at night.
Follow this link for lots of great pics and all the details in our Great Hammerhead Trip Report. Next year’s first trip is already booked solid. Sign up for the second expedition of 2016 if you want to experience this world class encounter: Great Hammerheads of Bimini
SOCORRO’S AMAZING MANTAS AND HUMPBACKS
Speaking of epic encounters, our Socorro trip was off the chart this year. There were more mantas at the Boiler than I have ever seen and we were lucky to have multiple underwater encounters with families of humpbacks. See what you missed here: SOCORRO 2015 and then come with us next year:SOCORRO 2016
As usual, our yearly pilgrimage to Tiger Beach was a fantastic experience from start to finish with plentiful sharks and perfect weather; April is a great time to go to TB. We spent our days in the company of tigers and our evenings shooting ‘lemon snaps’ from the safety of the swim step. Follow this link to some great new pics: 2015 Tiger Beach Trip Report
After Tiger Beach, I traveled to Japan to test dive some fantastic new big animal encounters. I am not quite ready to add a guest trip yet but once I have everything worked out this will be an amazing new expedition.
NEXT STOP SOUTH AFRICA
June 1st we arrive in South Africa for a wonderful month of shark diving and big animal encounters. Our first trip (and my personal favorite) is our week long False Bay Shark Safari where we encounter breaching white sharks, massive sevengills, multiple species of catsharks, spotted gully sharks and blues and makos. We even squeeze in a full day game drive to see the big five: African elephants, lions, cheetahs, cape buffalo and rhinos. Its a jam packed week of adventure. Grab the last spot on this year’s trip: False Bay Shark Safari.
Immediately after False Bay we will head across South Africa to the Wild Coast to begin two back-to-back Sardine Run trips. You’ve probably seen it on Nat Geo and Discovery: dolphins, sharks and diving birds devouring swirling baitballs of sardines. This your chance to see it with your own eyes. Just two spots left on this year’s South African Sardine Run
LATER THIS YEAR:
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 this July!
SNORKELING WITH CROCODILES
Two 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 BFE this August.
September is your chance to enter the water with enormous Great White Sharks. Join me for a very close encounter that you will never forget! 5 spots left!
SEA OF CORTEZ ADVENTURE
Also in September, we have added a second week to our Sea of Cortez 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!
INTRODUCING TWO GREAT NEW TRIPS!
MANTA VALLEY / WHALE SHARKS
Our yearly pilgrimage to see whale sharks around Isla Mujeres is a lot of fun. Everyone loves the whale sharks but at Big Fish Expeditions we always try to offer our guests something special. This year, for qualified divers they have the option of visiting Manta Valley; a phenomenal new reef two hours east of the mainland that on a good day, can rival the Boiler at Socorro for manta action. Whale shark season is fringe season for mantas so there is a chance we won’t see them but its a beautiful day of diving either way: Whale Sharks + Manta Valley Expedition
ANDROS ISLAND SHARK AND SAWFISH SAFARI
Then in May 2016, we have another exciting new trip. We are heading to Andros Island in the Bahamas to dive with enormous sawfish, silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, bull sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, sharpnose sharks, bonnetheads and more. This will be one of the most ground breaking adventures you could possibly join. Read on for all the info: ANDROS ISLAND SAWFISH & SHARKS
That’s it for now. Its time to go diving. Hopefully, I’ll see you down there.
Andy Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of BigFishExpeditions.com
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
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
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
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.
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.
|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 Churchill. 5 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 is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of BigFishExpeditions.com
READ MORE BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS BLOG POSTS:
01/12/14 A Big Year for Big Fish Expeditions
01/05/14 More Wildly Successful Big Animal Expeditions
01/03/14 Predator Heaven!
01/01/14 Extreme Shark and Whale Diving!
01/09/13 Unexpected Big Animal Diving
01/07/13 African Sharks and Canadian Belugas
01/05/13 Crocodiles are the New Sharks!
01/03/13 Diving with Swords and Hammers
01/12/12 Nothing But Shark Diving All Year Long!
MORE WILDLY SUCCESSFUL BIG ANIMAL EXPEDITIONS!
‘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
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
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!
After California we continued into Baja. Mexican shark fishermen head out of sleepy San Felipe to gill net 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of BigFishExpeditions.com
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
LAST MINUTE SUMMER OPENINGS:
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
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.
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
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
Just four spots open on our Beluga Whale Expedition. Plunge into Hudson Bay among thousands of friendly Beluga Whales: Beluga Whale Expedition
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.
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!
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.
Andy Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of Big Fish Expeditions.
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
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
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
Attack of the Squat Lobsters from Andy Murch on Vimeo.
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:
Alaskan Salmon Shark Adventure
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
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.
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
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 Murch is a professional big animal photographer and the founder of Big Fish Expeditions.
UNEXPECTED BIG ANIMAL DIVING
WHALE SHARKS AND UNEXPECTED MANTAS
This year’s Whale Shark Expedition to Isla Mujeres was off the chart. On a good day during whale shark season we generally see scores of whale sharks feeding at the surface. This summer except for one slightly slow day, we spent everyday in the presence of hundreds of whale sharks! But that’s not all. This year, mixed in with whale sharks were hundreds of feeding manta rays. Where they came from and why they showed up this season is anyone’s guess but it was wonderful to spend three weeks surrounded by the biggest sharks and the biggest rays on the planet! Lets hope the mantas come back for our Whale Shark Expeditions in 2014. Follow this link to the full trip report and some amazing images: Whale Sharks 2013 Trip Report
BETWEEN BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS
After Isla Mujeres, we embarked on a shark diving road trip down to California. We came home with some great new shark pics for Elasmodiver.com including these images of tope sharks. We also tried to find prickly sharks off of Monterey. Night diving in deep, murky, cold water in the red triangle was a little creepy but its the only known place to shoot this deepwater species without using a submersible. Next year we will try again!
NEW ENGLAND MAKOS, BLUES AND 50+ SPINY DOGFISH SHARKS!
In September, Big Fish Expeditions went to Rhode Island. The seas were sometimes rough (as you would expect in New England) and we had a few boat problems but we all got to encounter blues and makos. And… our experimental chumming on an inshore wreck was a huge success! We had around 50 spiny dogfish sharks show up to the shark feed and managed to get some great images. Read more here: New England Shark Safari 2013 Trip Report
NEXT UP, THE PHILIPPINES!
We are heading off on a scouting trip to the Philippines in October. Hoping this will become a Big Fish Thresher Shark Expedition next year so stay tuned!
MARLINS AND MEXICAN HORN SHARKS
In December we have a sold out trip to dive with striped marlin in Baja. It should be an awesome adventure.
Before the guests arrive, I’ll be heading north to Loretto to see if I can find the illusive Mexican horn shark. I’ve seen their eggs on some of the deeper dive sites around that area of the Sea of Cortez so I know they’re around. Perhaps the colder winter water will be the key. Wish me luck!
After Striped Marlins, Big Fish is heading to Sri Lanka to chase blue whales (sold out) and then to Norway to swim with Killer Whales. That trip has been so popular that I am running a second trip in 2015. Space is very limited so if you want to swim with these amazing animals and dive on Norway’s pristine reefs, please let me know as soon as possible! KILLER WHALES 2015
BIMINI GREAT HAMMERHEADS
One spot has opened up on our Bimini trip so jump in if you relish the thought of close encounters with enormous great hammerhead sharks. I am heading to Bimini straight from Norway. I’m sure I’ll get some interesting looks going into The Bahamas in my snow parka and winter boots 🙂
Two spots left on our 2014 Sailfish Trip. Here is a reminder of the epic action you can experience when the sailfish are attacking a bait ball, check out this year’s video:
WORLD CLASS DIVING AT SOCORRO
Just three spots left on our Socorro trip next March. Socorro is one of the most well rounded destinations that you’ll ever have the pleasure of diving. And, its a quick hop down to Cabo to catch the boat. Expect mantas, hammerheads, silkies, galapagos sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, octos and more. You’ll probably see ALL of these species in a week at Socorro. Come see for yourself: SOCORRO EXPEDITION 2014
TIGER BEACH, SOUTH AFRICA, SCOTLAND AND BEYOND…
We have another sold out trip to TIGER BEACH in April. We’re booking spots in 2015 already so if you can plan that far ahead we look forward to hearing from you!
SOUTH AFRICAN SHARK SAFARI
Then we fly back to Cape Town to dive with more shark species than you can find on any other dive trip that I know of. One spot just came open so please let me know if you want to dive with great white sharks (cage diving), makos, blue sharks, sevengill sharks, spotted gully sharks, pyjama sharks, leopard catsharks, yellowspotted catsharks, brown shysharks, puffadder shysharks and natal shysharks. Then there’s penguins, fur seals and a game drive to see elephants, cape buffalo, cheatahs, rhinos and all the other terrestrial animals that Africa is famous for. Don’t miss this action packed WEST CAPE SHARK SAFARI
Then we have our very unique SOUTH AFRICAN SARDINE RUN AND WILD COAST SHARK SAFARIand then its time to fly back to Scotland to SWIM WITH BASKING SHARKS.
In July we’re going to Alaska to dive with Salmon Sharks and to snorkel with the salmon as they head upriver. One spot left! SALMON SHARK EXPEDITION
And then we head back to Isla Mujeres to SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS. I’ll have my drysuit with me in Mexico so that I can zip up to Churchill, Manitoba to lead our new BELUGA WHALE EXPEDITION and then fly straight back to Cancun to lead the MEXICAN CROCODILE EXPEDITION. My good friend Rodrigo Friscione just came back from Chinchorro Banks with some fantastic shots and reports of great crocodile encounters. I can’t wait to get down there and run this trip!
TWO KILLER NEW TRIPS ON THE 2014 SCHEDULE!
CALIFORNIA MAKO SHARK SAFARI
Don’t get me wrong, New England is a great place to dive with blues and makos but there are lots of other destinations to dive with them too. For a change of pace, next year Big Fish is heading to sunny California where the water is blue and the sharks are plentiful!
As well as free diving with blue and mako sharks we will be scuba diving around some of Southern California’s Channel Islands where we can find Pacific angel sharks, horn sharks and a number of other shark species. This is going to be an amazing adventure: four days on a liveaboard chasing sharks in the sharkiest state in the USA. Join us there! CALIFORNIA MAKO SHARK SAFARI.
MEXICAN BULL SHARKS
Each November, many large bull sharks congregate off the beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Many of them are pregnant females that stay in the area until early March and then head into shallow bays to pup before disappearing until the next season. By late November the bulls have reached their maximum strength; sometimes up to 20+ bull sharks on a dive.
This is a thrilling encounter that will impress the most jaded shark diver. Join us next November in Playa del Carmen; the playground of Mexico: 2014 BULL SHARK EXPEDITION
MEET THE TEAM
A few years ago I ran my first trip to Tiger Beach. It was such a fun trip that I decided to run it again the following year and I added a whale shark trip. Three years later, Big Fish Expeditions has 18 different trips on the schedule and there are more on the way!
Its been an amazing adventure and I will continue to lead most of the expeditions but I’m very happy to announce that Big Fish has some new Expedition Leaders to share the fun with. Meet the team: BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS DIVE TEAM
See you down there,
& CANADA’S ICONIC WHITE WHALES
SOUTH AFRICA WAS AMAZING!
Its been a month since I returned from our first South African Shark Safari and I still can’t get that incredible experience out of my head. With the possibility of fourteen species of sharks I knew that it would be a good trip but I had no idea how good. Cape Town is a shark diver’s paradise! On one memorable dive we slipped into a beautiful kelp forest amid a handful of broadnose sevengill sharks and then swum amongst five species of catsharks that were hunting on the reef. A couple of shy spotted gully sharks also made a brief appearance making a total of seven species on one dive alone! That would be enough to set the West Cape apart from almost every other dive site in the world but just a few kms away from the reef is Seal Island where you can also dive with hunting great white sharks and still be back in time to watch African penguins waddling along the beach in the afternoon sun.
SEE THE SHARK IMAGES AND READ THE FULL REPORT HERE
By the end of that amazing week, I was so impressed by South African shark diving that I immediately booked dates for 2014. Join me in Cape Town next year if you can: 2014 WEST CAPE SHARK SAFARI. After sharing a few pics on Big Fish Expedition’s Facebook Page this trip is already almost full so please contact me asap if you’d like to come!
A NEW BIG FISH EXPEDITION: THE SARDINE RUN
With so much world class diving on offer, it would be crazy to go all the way to South Africa for just one adventure. So, next year after the Cape Town Shark Safari, Big Fish Expeditions is staying in South Africa for the world famous Sardine Run. For most people the Sardine Run needs no introduction but for anyone that has been living in a bubble, the Sardine Run occurs each year when cold upwellings force millions of sardines to the surface. The resulting river of bait-fish is so enormous that sharks, dolphins, whales, diving birds and huge schools of tuna congregate off the Wild Coast of South Africa in record numbers to feast on the oil rich fish. The bait-ball action that sometimes occurs at this time is one of the most spectacular oceanic events on the planet. Join me in the thick of it!
Just on its own,The Sardine Run would be an epic event but to make our expedition even more special, I am combining the Sardine Run with some exploratory chumming dives for endemic catsharks on the inshore reefs of the Wild Coast and with offshore, blue water, baited dives for bronze whaler sharks, oceanic blacktips and any other shark species that show up to feed. Join me on the 2014 SARDINE RUN AND WILD COAST SHARK SAFARI Just one spot left!
ANOTHER NEW BIG FISH EXPEDITION: CANADIAN BELUGA WHALES
I’m very excited to bring you this new trip! Each summer, thousands of Beluga Whales congregate in Hudson Bay to feed, breed and socialize. Join me on a ground breaking expedition to swim with and photograph these iconic white whales in their natural environment. We will spend four mornings swimming among large pods of belugas. These are extremely curious animals so it is likely that they will approach us very closely.
In the afternoons we’ll drive into the tundra and look for topside wildlife such as polar bears that forage on berries during the arctic summer. And then on our final day, we will trade in our zodiac for a proper tour of the tundra on the world famous tundra buggy. This is an adventure that you will remember forever! Join me in Churchill, Manitoba for the CANADIAN WHITE WHALE MIGRATION
WHAT ELSE IS BUBBLING…
BASKING SHARKS WITH COLD FEET
Last week we were in Scotland searching for basking sharks. Scotland was ruggedly beautiful but because of a very late spring that brought unseasonably cold weather, the sharks did not arrive as predicted. We saw a couple of sharks breach but there was no opportunity for in-water encounters. It was tough luck but if you go on enough trips this will inevitably happen sooner or later. We had a great group so everyone had a good time anyway and we did get to dive with seals and other Scottish marine life and explore some interesting reefs around Tobermory. Next year we’ll be back there to finish what we started!
WHALE SHARK SEASON IS FINALLY HERE!
Next week we begin our whale shark season in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I’m happy to report that the sharks have already arrived in their hundreds so we’re expecting some great encounters over the next few weeks. We have just two spots open from August 2-7. So if you want to swim with the world’s biggest fish please drop me an email.
While we’re in Isla Mujeres, I am hoping to put together a film about this unique aggregation of enormous animals and the problems that they are facing. I’ll let you know how that went after this year’s trip.
BACK ON THE HUNT FOR RARE SHARKS & ILLUSIVE TORPEDO RAYS FOR ELASMODIVER.COM
Big Fish Expeditions would not exist if it wasn’t for the popularity of Elasmodiver.com. The Elasmodiver database remains one of the largest collections of shark and ray images on the internet and is an unbiased source of shark diving information. The images on Elasmodiver are frequently used by conservation groups to help push through regulations and treaties aimed at protecting sharks and rays (aka elasmobranchs) around the world.
After our whale shark trips, I am heading to California to look for a very illusive deepwater shark and to try to add some other elasmos including the Pacific torpedo ray to the Elasmodiver database. If you happen to see any along the southern California coast in August, please drop me a line!
Then at the end of August I’m back in Rhode Island for a sold out Blue/Mako/Dogfish Shark Safari. After the charter I’ll be shore diving for a few days around Rhode Island and Massachusetts to hunt for more endemic sharks and rays. Specifically, I’d like to track down an Atlantic torpedo ray so if you’re diving up that way and know where they’re hanging out this year, please email me with info!
MARLIN MADNESS IN MEXICO
We are planning a quick trip to Argentina to chase illusive sharks in November and then in early December I have an exciting Big Fish Expeditions trip to Baja for a week of chasing striped marlin, whales, mola mola and sharks. When the sardines are running, Baja’s west coast is a dynamic place to dive where anything can show up to feed. Join me there for a week of adventure!
2014 ORCA OPENING!
Finally, I have one spot that opened up on my Killer Whale trip to Norway in January. If you want to swim with one of the largest predators in the sea, this is your chance!
See you down there,
READ MORE BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS BLOG POSTS:
Are Crocodiles the new Sharks?
Diving with Swords and Hammers
Nothing But Shark Diving All Year Long!