Archive for the ‘shark diving’ Tag

AFRICAN SHARKS & CANADA’S ICONIC WHITE WHALES   Leave a comment

AFRICAN SHARKS

& CANADA’S ICONIC WHITE WHALES

 

SOUTH AFRICA WAS AMAZING!

Diving with sevengill sharks

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!

Sardine Run birds diving

Dolphins attacking sardines on the Sardine Run

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!

 

Striped Marlin Diving and feeding

 

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,

Andy Murch

 

 

READ MORE BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS BLOG POSTS:

Are Crocodiles the new Sharks?

Diving with Swords and Hammers

Nothing But Shark Diving All Year Long!

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DIVING POLAR SEAS AND THE SOUTH AFRICA SHARK SAFARI   Leave a comment

DIVING POLAR SEAS AND THE SOUTH AFRICA SHARK SAFARI

 

HOW THE POLAR SEAS EXPEDITIONS WERE BORN

I am lucky enough to live on Vancouver Island in western Canada. Believe it or not, the island is warm. We get a little snow some years (not this year) but so does Texas. Its a great place to live and play.

The Salish Sea which separates the island from the mainland is considered ‘temperate’ but virtually everyone that dives here picks up a drysuit sooner or later. A wimp like me wouldn’t be caught dead diving wet in our local waters.

A lot of divers that I meet in the tropics tell me that they’d love to see a giant pacific octopus or dive with a tumbling gang of adolescent steller sea lions but they just don’t relish diving in the restrictions of a drysuit.

 

dive with steller sea lions

Adolescent Steller Sea Lions off Vancouver Island

 

I get it. Diving is about freedom as much as it is about seeing the wonders of the ocean. Its about that feeling of underwater flight. No restrictions. No boundries. Traditional inflexible drysuits took away that freedom and left divers feeling clumsy and confined. And then, Whites Manufacturing changed everything by designing the Fusion – a stretchy , form fitting drysuit that feels like you’re diving in a wetsuit. My fusion has made such a profound difference to my cold water diving that I’ve started looking at the world’s ‘non-tropical’ diving destinations very differently.

Recently, I was sitting in Whites office raving like a lunatic about my Fusion and talking about all of the places I’d like to dive in it. Instead of slapping a restraining order on me, Whites Brand  Manager Justin Balaski suggested that Whites and Big Fish Expeditions team up to create a series of Polar Seas Expeditions to the world’s most amazing cold water destinations. Sometimes the focus would be on big animals and sometimes it would be on diving the world’s best cold water wrecks and reefs (wrecks tend to stay better preserved in colder water).

We would promote the trips together. I would lead them and White’s would send me off with some extra Fusions for anyone that wanted to find out how comfortable it is diving in one. I jumped at the idea and started looking for destinations worthy of both companies.

Combining the best of Big Wrecks and Big Animals, our first Polar Seas Expedition will be in July of this year to Newfoundland, Eastern Canada. The Bell Island Wrecks consist of four 400ft long merchant ships that were sunk by U-boats in 1942. Think of Bell Island as Truuk Lagoon with Icebergs!

For the hardcore big animal divers, on the days that we are not diving on Bell Island’s world class wrecks, we will have the opportunity to jump in with friendly humpback whales that cruise up and down the coast of Newfoundland during their summer migration. It’ll be epic. Join me if you can. Click on the pic for more info:

 

SOUTH AFRICA SHARKOHOLICS EXPEDITION

Yep, we’re heading to South Africa to shoot sharks. 14 different species if all goes to plan: great white sharks (breaching and underwater), mako sharks, tiger sharks, Bull Sharks, Dusky Sharks, Ragged Tooth Sharks, Blue Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Broadnose Sevengill Sharks, Spotted Gully Sharks, Puffadder Cat Sharks, Dark Shy Sharks, Pajama Sharks and Leopard Cat Sharks. That pretty much sums it up except to say that we’ll likely see lots of other stuff too like Cape fur seals, lots of pelagics, African penguins and a whole bunch of land based critters like lions and cheatahs because the trip also includes a big game drive. Click on the Pic for more info:

 

 

 

KICKING OFF THE 2012 EXPEDITION SEASON

The 2012 expedition season is about to kick off at Isla Malpelo which is famous for its wild pelagic shark action. I couldn’t be more excited as (like most divers) I have never seen a smalltooth sandtiger shark and there’s a very good chance we see some there. If we nail the shots there will be one more shark listed on Elasmodiver.com and many new pics of old favorites like schooling hammerheads, silkies and Galapagos sharks.

I’ll post a trip report as soon as we get back to land so keep an eye on this blog page and on Elasmodiver’s Facebook Page for updates.

 

CONSIDER THIS A STANDING REQUEST FROM ELMODIVER: LOOKING FOR HELP FINDING NORTH AMERICAN SHARKS AND RAYS

To keep Elasmodiver growing I need to keep shooting new species. In the big picture I’ve barely made a dent in the total number of sharks out there but you’d be surprised how hard it is to find new species once you have shot the standard elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) that divers regularly see.

Right now I am focusing on finishing up the North American Elasmos. There are three main areas that I need help with: Skates in Alaska, Smoothhound sharks in California and Baja, and some of the more elusive species from the Gulf of Mexico such as finetooth sharks, smalltail sharks, night sharks and Atlantic Angelsharks or ‘sand devils’.

If you know where or how to find any of these critters (whether diving or fishing) please let me know and I may plan an expedition based around that info.

Remember, the rarer they are, the more we need images to make sure the world knows about them. Invisible animals don’t get protected.

 

First live images of a scoophead shark. Shot in Panama in 2011. Only on Elasmodiver!

 

For the oceans,

Andy Murch

Oceanic Overload and some Awesome New Diving Adventures   Leave a comment

Oceanic Overload and some Awesome New Diving Adventures

May 27th 2011

RHODE ISLAND BLUES AND MAKOS

Before I get stuck into the Oceanic Whitetip Trip Report, I’d like to let everyone know that I’m heading to Rhode Island to dive with blue sharks and makos on July 30-31. There are only a couple of spots open on the trip which is being run by mako magnet Joe Romeiro. Its $325 a day. If you want to come out and play with some beautiful east coast sharks, please let me know asap: elasmodiver@gmail.com

THIS YEAR’S OCEANIC WHITETIP EXPEDITION

We had an awesome week on Cat Island in the Bahamas. The oceanic whitetip shark images that you see here represent a tiny slice of what we encountered. If you want to see a larger selection of images from the trip please follow this link: Oceanic Whitetip Shark Pictures

It was a very productive trip with hours and hours of photo opportunities. The great thing about oceanics is that when they arrive, they generally stay for the whole day. Some days we had sharks virtually from the minute we arrived. To be fair, we had a couple of slow days too but you have to expect to sit and wait sometimes when you’re looking for sharks in the open ocean.

When oceanic whitetip sharks catch the scent trail, they are definitely not shy. This was my first experience with oceanics and I was extremely impressed with their boldness and their beautiful lines. In comparison with other species, their personalities are somewhere between makos and blue sharks; inquisitive and bold like a mako but laid back and nonchalant like a blue shark at the same time.

All in all it was a great week. Next year I’ll be running another Cat Island Oceanic Expedition with a few small tweaks to make it even better. One of the things we noticed this year was that if the current takes you away from shore the oceanic action is good but if you drift into shore other species come in too. So we’ll spend at least one day chumming exclusively on the reef so that we can swim with all the other species that Cat Island has to offer. If you want to join me, here’s the info: 2012 Oceanic Whitetip Expedition

AN EXCITING SUMMER AHEAD

The blue and mako weekend in Rhode Island marks the start of a manic summer schedule both for me and for Big Fish Expeditions. After playing with the blues and makos, I’ll have just enough time to hunt for some new elasmobranchs on the shores of New England (hoping to add some Atlantic Torpedo Ray images to Elasmodiver) and then Sharkfest kicks off in Morehead City, North Carolina.

The Sharkfest boat is full but if you happen to be diving in the area, please swing by Olympus Dive Centre or the lodge. We’ll be airing some awesome short shark films on Saturday night August 6th and we’ll have our Sharkfest BBQ on the docks on the 7th. Come one, come all.

After Sharkfest I’ll be racing home to Vancouver Island to join an exploratory diving expedition in Nootka Sound which is on the wild west side of the island. The trip is being run by Pinnacle Scuba Adventures. We’ll be visiting some brand new dive sites with the possibility of Giant Pacific Octopuses, sixgill sharks (unlikely but you never know) and a whole whack of other Pacific Northwest critters. Space is limited but the trip hasn’t been advertised yet so there is still room if you’re a not so tropical diver…

After barely a week on the island its Baja time. We’ll be reef diving on two week long trips specifically looking for fin whales, pilot whales, sperm whales and humboldt squid as well as plenty of regular reef dives and hopefully some good sea lion encounters. The first trip is sold out except for one spot for a female diver. The second trip still has a bit of room but its getting a lot of interest so please sign up asap if you would like to join me.

As usual, I’ll be coaching anyone that brings a camera if you want help. These will be great trips with a huge amount of diversity.

SALMON SHARK EXPEDITION

Here’s a unique idea, any true shark fanatics reading this blog will be aware that there’s a healthy population of Salmon Sharks in Alaska in the late summer. You may not know that they also congregate much further south in our accessible Vancouver Island waters. With that in mind, I’m trying to put together a salmon shark chumming trip for early September aboard one of our local liveaboards. It will be very experimental but not crazy expensive for a week on a BC liveaboard. More on this if I manage to pull everything together in time.

PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT

By the time October rolls around I’ll be ready to head out looking for new rare shark species for the Predators in Peril Project. This time I’ll be working with researchers in the Bahamas that are bringing up deep sea sharks to measure and tag them. Their motives are to assess abundance and to find out which species inhabit great depth in the Bahamas tropical seas. I’ll be documenting their work in pictures and slipping into the water to shoot each species as it is released. Its a very exciting project that should yield some great images.

BULL SHARKS IN MEXICO

On my Big Fish Expeditions Website I have a Bull Shark trip listed for December in Playa Del Carmen but there are no exact dates because I’m still sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens this year. Last season, after the sharks had congregated to attend the shark feed, they were captured and killed by shark fishermen from the surrounding villages. As a conservationist, I can’t participate in a feed this year if the sharks are likely to meet the same fate. So, the trip is on hold until I hear that the locals have found a way to protect the sharks.

MALPELO SHARK SAFARI

MALPELO SHARK SAFARI

Looking even further forward, I have chartered the Inula which is a liveaboard catamaran that sails out of Panama to Malpelo which is a small volcanic island deep in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. If you haven’t heard of Malpelo, imagine world famous Cocos Island but with even more shark diversity. Malpelo has schooling hammers in relatively shallow water, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, whitetips (not the oceanic kind), occasional whale sharks, mantas and in February (which is when we’ll be going) Smalltooth Sandtiger Sharks which are the regular sandtiger’s oversized cousin. The smalltooths live in very deep water and swim up to the 50-60 meter range at Malpelo for a short time each year. The pics from this year’s trip (taken by accomplished photographer Tomas Kotouc) show how impressive and accessible these animals are at the island.

With six full days at Malpelo and two extra dive days on Panama’s excellent off shore reefs on the way there and back, the Malpelo Shark Safari will be an amazing adventure. More info on Big Fish: Malpelo Shark Safari

TIGER BEACH PHOTO WORKSHOP 2012

Dates are up! The Tiger Beach Experience stands alone. I hope you can make it next year: 2012 Tiger Beach Photo Workshop and Shark Safari

ELASMO TEES

And finally, by popular demand I have a new batch of Elasmo Tees hot off the printing press. This time they have logos front and back and come in three colours. Support Elasmodiver and Predators in Peril with a stylin’ new elasmo-tee (or two, or three…)

Men’s fitted and women’s fitted cap sleeved are available. Get ’em while you can, I’m running out already. Ordering info here: Elasmo Tees

For the sharks,

Andy Murch

I am no longer a ‘Shark Diver’   15 comments

Hi everyone, this particular blog post is an industry rant. So, if you don’t like petty politics you’ll probably want to skip it.

You would think that the term ‘shark diver’ refers to all of us. For example, I have been shark diving every chance I get for more than a decade. I have photographed more species of sharks than most people on this planet and therefore I thought (in my naivety) that I might indeed be a ‘shark diver’. Therefore, a few years ago, as an extension of my passion for shark diving, it seemed appropriate to call my WordPress blog ‘Shark Diver’.

I had heard horror stories of an over zealous operator who theatens other operators and magazines with court action if they use the the term ‘shark diver’ but I believed that being a shark photographer and generally a magnanimous guy with a reputation for being neutral, that the operator would be gracious enough to realize that I was indeed a ‘shark diver’ and that my blog was appropriately named.

Considering that my website Elasmodiver.com (BTW, that means SHARKDIVER IN LATIN!!!!!!)  links to ALL shark diving operators (including the one that has registered ‘shark diver’) I thought I would be left in peace to come up with more hair-brained expeditions, take people shark diving (can I even say that now?), showcase endangered shark species on my website and generally have fun with sharks.

Apparently I was mistaken. Yesterday, I was unable to access my WordPress account because it had been suspended. The operator has trademarked the term shark diver. They presented WordPress with enough legalese to scare them into suspending my blog. I don’t blame WordPress at all for agreeing. After all, who wants to fight a court case if you don’t have to? Well, the operator does but he doesn’t really count.

How someone can trademark the generic term shark diver is beyond me but there are some devious people out there that will do whatever they can to get ahead. I’m not saying that the company that trademarked (and is trying to monopolize) the term ‘shark diver’ is devious. Far from it! Its a completely legitimate thing to do, like trademarking the term scuba diver or horse rider or hiker or person. Obviously its very specific to what that company does and we should all respect that. And, even if I secretly thought that it was a low move to stop other companies from using the term ‘shark diver’ I wouldn’t dream of saying it! I might get sued by them! That would be kinda fun especially because I’m Canadian and our court system is a lot different. But, at the end of the day I’d rather be in the water with sharks than in the courtroom with them.

So from now on, I guess that I should be very careful about using the term ‘shark diver’. Perhaps we should all consider a ‘shark diver’ as someone who dives exclusively with the company that has trademarked the term ‘shark diver’. That would make the rest of us ‘cartilaginous fish divers’. Its a bit wordy but I’m sure we’ll all get used to it.

For the cartilaginous fishes,

Andy Murch

Oh, and before I forget, I better take the link to their website off of the Elasmodiver links page. I’ve been displaying it for free for them for many years without their permission and I wouldn’t want them to get even more upset 😉