Archive for the ‘basking sharks’ Tag



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.



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



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



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!



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!



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.



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

diving in alaska



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



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



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



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



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 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.



Its been an amazing year; from enormous whale shark aggregations in Isla Mujeres to epic giant manta encounters in Isla Socorro. Then, after all the guest trips were over, I snuck in an Elasmodiver Expedition to Central Chile to photograph even more sharks 🙂 
Chile may not be a shark diving mecca but I was after a rarely photographed little catshark that lives in Central Chile’s shallow bays and wraps its eggs around stunted kelp trees. I’m happy to say that it was a successful trip. Follow this link for more Redspotted Catshark Info.

Next year is shaping up to be the biggest year so far for shark trips. Unofficially, the shark season kicks off at Socorro Island during our Manta Trip. I expect that we’ll bump into at least 3 species of sharks at Socorro but the first dedicated shark expedition will be at Tiger Beach in April. Shark magnet and award winning film maker Joe Romeiro will be joining me on the boat; adding some extra magic to the shark encounters. We’ll be visiting all the best spots like Tiger Beach, Fish Tales and other sharky reefs and probably exploring some new ones. Grab the last spot if you’d like to join us: Tiger Beach Expedition or join our second Tiger Beach trip next October.

After one day back in Florida, BFE’s final oceanic whitetip expedition starts in Cat Island, Bahamas.This year’s oceanic expedition was outstanding with more oceanics than anyone expected plus some silky sharks mixed in just for fun. We also pioneered some unique split frame photo ops with the resident nurse sharks right in the marina.
With so many new adventures on the books, this will be our last chance to dive Cat Island for a while (sad but true) so join me if you can: Oceanic Odyssey

Then, Big Fish Expeditions heads to South Africa for a sold out Shark Safari of epic proportions. 14 species in 11 days. Now that’s an expedition!

Two weeks later, we will be in bonnie Scotland chasing basking sharks. We have an amazing week planned in the Inner Hebredes swimming with giant sharks and diving with grey seals. Incidentally, if you’ve already signed up for this one, I’m staying for an extra day at the end of the trip to visit a puffin colony. Contact me if you want to tag along: Basking Shark Expedition


Here is a beautiful video shot by Simon Spear in the area that we’re heading to:

I’d like to stay longer in Scotland and shoot some little British catsharks but the Whale Sharks will be congregating in Mexico. Next year’s Isla Mujeres whale shark boats are almost full. If you want to swim next to the biggest fishes in the sea, this is your chance. Don a mask and fins and jump into an encounter that you’ll never forget: Whale Shark Encounter.

Then in August, a well established shark encounter with an interesting new twist! Big Fish is running a mako and blue shark trip with Joe Romeiro in Rhode Island. That alone would be a great adventure but on our third and final day we’re planning to tie up to one of New England’s fish filled wrecks and lay down a chum slick for smoothhounds and spiny dogfish sharks. Spear-fishermen regularly complain about being harassed by dogfish on their wreck dives so imagine what will happen when we bring a little shark attractant of our own 🙂 Join the trip and find out what happens: Rhode Island Shark Safari

And finally, next December I’m putting together a thresher shark trip. I’ve wanted to photograph threshers for a very long time but I’ve been put off by the no-flash photography rules and dwindling encounters at Malapascua in the Philippines.
Fortunately, there is a new hotspot for thresher sharks. After fairly consistent reports of sightings at ‘Brothers Reef’ in the Red Sea I have decided that it is worth an exploratory liveaboard trip. I don’t have a page on for this trip yet but I can tell you that we’ll be heading there next December and its a surprisingly affordable place to dive. Email me if you’d like more info:

In Jan 2014 I have an already sold out Blue Whale Expedition to Sri Lanka. If that sounds like a dream trip, well… it probably will be. If you’d like to be put on the waiting list please let me know.

And, I have one cancellation on the Jan 2014 Killer Whale trip to Norway. Let me know if you’re coming!

I know its a long way off but this is a big ticket trip. Join me in February 2015 for leopard seals in Antarctica!

Don’t let your gills dry out over Christmas!

See you down there,
Andy Murch

The SECOND Biggest Fish in the Sea   Leave a comment

Its been an awesome year so far but before I talk about the action on the last few trips, lets talk about the second biggest fish in the sea:



Next June/July I have organized a very unique adventure. Join me on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland to dive with feeding basking sharks. Although there are other locations like Cornwall and the Isle of Man that get sporadic sightings, nowhere is as reliable as the seas around the Isle of Mull. As well as the frequency of encounters, the visibility this far north is far superior as well, making this the ideal location for serious shark hunters.

We will also dive with friendly grey seals, photograph any whales and dolphins that we see and generally soak up the atmosphere of the Inner Hebredes in a fun filled week on the water.

At night we’ll either be staying in a stone cottage in the quaint village of Tobermory or camping on the outer islands right where the sharks are. To me, this sounds like an awesome adventure. Apparently I’m not alone because the first trip sold out the day I posted it on Big Fish Expeditions. The second week has four spots open so jump in while you can! Check out the images, info and an awesome video by Film Maker Simon Spear about the amazing wildlife around the Isle of Mull: Basking Shark Expedition


diving with basking sharks




Building on the success of seeing smalltooth sandtigers at Malpelo, our next adventure was in Rugged Socorro which is 200 miles south of the tip of Baja. The manta action at the islands was off the hook. We encountered giant mantas on virtually every dive but unlike many other places around the world, the mantas at Socorro actually crave the company of divers. Many times, a manta would find us and hang out for the entire dive playing in our bubbles. It was a fantastic experience for everyone that went. Read more in the Socorro trip report.


After Socorro I led back-to-back trips to Tiger Beach and Cat Island. Of course Tiger Beach was non-stop shark action everyday but Cat Island far exceeded my expectations. Stuart Cove bought one of his boats over to the island especially for this trip and although the persistent wind made the surface a bit bumpy, we simply submerged into the tranquility of the underworld surrounded by oceanic whitetip sharks on every dive. On our first (and best) day we had 12 big oceanics surrounding our small group of divers! There are some great pics from the trip in the Cat Island Oceanic Expedition Trip Report. I’ve booked back to back dates again next year and not surprisingly the boats are already half full.


diving with oceanic whitetip sharks



Next up on the Big Fish Calendar is whale sharks at Isla Mujeres in July. This should be a lot of fun. The world’s biggest fishes aggregate off of Isla Mujeres each July to feed and we’ll be there to play with them! There are two spots left on the second trip. If you’ve never dove with a whale shark don’t miss this opportunity:Whale Shark Expedition


whale shark trips

Less than a week after returning from Whale Sharks at Isla Mujeres, its time for Sharkfest. As I write this there is one spot left on the trip which I’m sure will be gone in no time. Sharkfest is a fun filled weekend with three days of diving with Sandtiger Sharks, a night where we screen the best recent shark films and a cook out on the last night. This is the third annual Sharkfest and although its a bit of a monster to organize, I don’t think I can break tradition now. So, if you can’t come this year then please pencil it into your calendar for next August: SHARKFEST



Then its time for my last guest trip of the season. This will be my second year in the Sea of Cortez diving with whales, sea lions, humboldt squid and sharks. By far the most diverse trip on the Big Fish Itinerary, if you’re looking for an adventure with lots of diving plus marine mammal encounters, you can’t go wrong in theSea of Cortez

sea of cortez diving


This fall, I have purposely avoided scheduling any Big Fish Expeditions. I love running guest trips but there is work to be done. I am planning two trips to Mexico to work with researchers and fishermen to try to document more of the endemic shark species that divers do not normally get the chance to encounter. In particular, there are a number of smoothhound shark species that need some time in the spotlight. Hopefully, by the end of the year I should have at least one or two documented but I’m hoping for more. If you’ve never seen a smoothhound shark, this image shows a Gulf of Mexico Smoothhound; an animal that lives in deep water in a tiny pocket of ocean in the northern Gulf and is therefore extremely vulnerable to depletion.


gulf smoothhound

While I’m on the subject of Predators in Peril, you may remember that last year I had the opportunity to photograph deep sea gulper sharks with Edd Brooks from Cape Eluethera Institute. Since then Edd has moved into the next phase of the project which involves monitoring activity and species composition on the actual sea floor rather than bringing sharks up to the surface. Here is a link to a video about his recent work:




Next year’s schedule is getting ridiculously busy already. In January we’ll be in Mexico for the sailfish migration. Divers can see up to 40 or 50 sailfish attacking enormous bait balls; a spectacular sight! (Just three spots left).


diving with sailfish


Then in February, we’re heading to French Polynesia on a shark safari of epic proportions. First stop will be Moorea to dive with sicklefin lemon sharks. Then we are heading to Fakarava ‘where it rains sharks’ to dive with 5 species including hundreds and hundreds of grey reef sharks. In my entire shark diving career I have never seen this many sharks in one place. Join me in paradise for an amazing shark filled adventure: French Polynesia Shark Safari


tahiti diving


Then a brand new experimental trip. In late Feb, Great Hammerheads congregate in an area near the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. Great hammerheads are usually extremely difficult to see (as many frustrated photographers will tell you). But, in this one small area, Great hammers have been reliably documented by the shark researchers that are based on Bimini. This year, Stuart Cove took his boat over to to try to chum up the sharks and he was extremely successful. At one point he had a 4 or 5 great hammers around the bait. That is the best encounter I have ever heard of so I have asked Stuart to bring his boat back next year to try to repeat the excitement. If you’re an experienced diver and you’ve been waiting for the chance to add a great hammerhead to your life list, this is the trip:Great Hammerhead Expedition



Beyond the hammer trip we’re taking another shot at the mantas in Socorro and then its time for Tiger Beach, Cat Island, Scotland and South Africa. To see our entire Big Fish Expeditions Schedule for next year. Please follow this link:

Big Fish Expeditions Schedule 2012/13


See you out there!

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

Life is Short (especially for divers).   Leave a comment

Life is Short (especially for divers).

August 19th 2011

Life is short. For divers it seems even shorter because we have more to explore and experience. Therefore, we have less time to dedicate to each amazing place or animal encounter. So, I try to cram as much into every trip as I possibly can.

As an example, I have just returned from a two week adventure along the eastern seaboard of the United States. It started with a two day Big Fish ExpeditionsTrip to see blue and mako sharks in Rhode Island. Then I nipped up to Massachusetts with Film Maker Joe Romeiro and photographer Tom Burns to track down and swim with some enormous basking sharks. 



After that I snuck in a day of shore diving with some New England skate species and other local critters which gave me one free day for an impromptu trip back out to play with the blues and makos. All this was followed by a hell for leather, thousand mile drive to North Carolina to host Sharkfest.



After a fantastic long weekend with new friends, diving with sandtiger sharks, watching shark films and generally having a good time, I jumped back in my rental car and drove a thousand miles back to Rhode Island in time to join friends at a NOAA lab to shoot some scientific shots of shark embryos.

Finally, exhausted but ecstatic with all those sharky experiences, I boarded a string of flights back to the west coast and spent one day at home on Vancouver Island. Phew….


Far from recovered, I dumped all my hard drives and drove west to Tofino which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Pinnacle Scuba Adventures had arranged a three day dive trip in Clayoquot Sound and in the scheme of things, sleep came a poor second compared to diving on the rugged west coast of Canada.



I remember the super endurance I felt as a youth, when stopping to rest was for mere mortals. But sadly it turns out that I am human after all and so with blurred vision and nursing a raging throat infection, I then spent four gloriously slow days at home with my girl recuperating.


Which brings me (chronologically speaking) to the plane that I am currently sitting in while writing this blog. I am on a red eye flight to Baja to join 18 likeminded souls that think that racing through the Sea of Cortez in search of fin and pilot whales and chasing humboldt squid is a fine way to spend their vacations.

All the guests appear to appreciate how short life is too, which is why we are planning to dive on all the reefs that we can cram into our trip and try to hit a sea lion colony or two to boot. And for good measure, the liveaboard operator has agreed to let me chum now and then to see if we can bring in a few sharks. Now that is an action packed itinerary!

I will be home in early September. As the water temps decline in the North Pacific, so does the plankton which leads to great visibility. The steller sea lions will have migrated in too and I can’t wait to spend some quality time with them. Stellers are so enormous that they remind me of underwater grizzlies. Fortunately they are rather more playful than your average land carnivore so its possible to float along underwater while they contort and pirouette in front of your camera.

By the end of September I’ll be back on the road. Bound for Cape Eleuthera to document a deep water shark tagging project. Expect some cool new shark species on Elasmodiver after that trip.


Looking ahead to what’s bubbling…

There are only two spots left on the Malpelo Shark Safari in Feb. Its going to be an epic trip filled with lots of different sharks and extraordinary reef life. Top of the bill if we find them will be the illusive smalltooth sandtiger sharks. More on this adventure on the Big Fish Expeditions Site.


We’re going back to Tiger Beach in April for my yearly shark photography workshop. This time we’ll be dedicating a day to swimming with spotted dolphins. I’ve always wanted to dive with them but I’ve never been able to tear myself (or the group) away from the sharks. This time its officially a ‘shark and dolphin’ trip. The boat is about half full already so jump in if you want to come. Its far more about sharks than shooting, so non shooters will have just as much fun. At Tiger Beach the pool is always open so expect endless shark encounters every day.


Straight after Tiger Beach I’m running another trip to Cat Island to shoot Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (and reef shark species closer to shore). This is the best place in the world to dive with threatened oceanics! Space is very limited.


Then in July I’m organizing a trip to Isla Mujeres on Mexicos beautiful Yucatan Peninsula to dive with the masses of whale sharks that migrate into the area at that time. There are more whale sharks at this location than anywhere else on the planet. Sometimes there are so many that aerial footage makes them look like a cloud of krill milling around on the surface. And the water is warm and blue!

I’ll build a page for this trip on Big Fish soon but space will be limited so if you want to ensure a spot on the boat please let me know asap.


I’m sure there will also be more blue and mako trips to Rhode Island but I’ll figure those out in the spring.


Even further ahead is Sharkfest 2012. I am chartering the Olympus for next year which holds 24 divers. The Midnight Express (Olympus Dive Center’s other ship) is simply getting too small for our yearly festival. I actually tried to charter both boats but I couldn’t find a weekend when both were available. Maybe we’ll get both for 2013. Imagine that – 40+ shark junkies congregating in one place to shark dive, watch shark films and party. Now that’s gonna be fun!

Its a long way off but this year the Sharkfest boat filled up in two weeks so if you want to come and enjoy the fun please drop me a line.


See you out there,

Andy Murch