Giant Mantas of San Benedicto Island

The focus of our trip was to photograph the giant mantas (Manta birostris) at San Benedicto Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago. These are the largest mantas in the world and can be more than 20 feet (6 meters) across and weigh up to 3,500 pounds (1600 kilograms). The dive site called “the Boiler” is a cleaning station for these mantas where fish remove parasites from their bodies. Consequently, this site provides the best opportunities to see and photograph these gentle giants.

Giant manta with two remoras attached. San Benedicto Island, Mexico.

The Revillagigedo Archipelago lies approximately 390 kilometers (240 miles) off the coast of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. These Pacific islands are more commonly referred to as the Socorro Islands. Aboard the Southern Sport, we dove 3 of the 4 islands (Roca Partida, San Benedicto, and Socorro).

“The Boiler” has the best encounters in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico.

A color variant from the more common black and white manta is an all black or nearly all black manta. It is not a different species of Manta birostris. However, it is exciting when one showed up as it looks so different.

The “black manta” is a color variant of the Manta birostris. Pacific ocean, Mexico.
Both color variants are shown here. San Benedicto Island, Mexico.

San Benedicto is the island for the giant mantas. They are used to divers and show no fear of people. They swim It seems a bit surreal, even a few weeks after our encounter with them, to have had huge mantas swim within a few meters of us. 

What do they think of us when we look into each other’s eyes? “The Boiler”, Mexico.
Pair of mantas (Manta birostris) at San Benedicto island, Pacific ocean, Mexico.
“The Boiler” at San Benedicto Island, in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico.



Whitetip Reef Sharks: Socorro Islands

The Revillagigedo Archipelago lies approximately 390 kilometers (240 miles) off the coast of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. These Pacific islands are more commonly referred to as the Socorro islands. Aboard the Southern Sport, we dove 3 of the 4 islands (Roca Partida, San Benedicto, and Socorro). The whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) is common here.

Whitetip Reef Shark Swimming At El Canyon Dive Site At San Benedicto Island
Male Whitetip Reef Shark. The Reproductive Claspers Are On The Bottom

The whitetip reef shark rarely exceeds 1.6 meters (5 feet). It is nocturnal and rests during the day under ledges and caves.  At Roca Partida, we observed many groups of whitetip reef sharks congregating in groups of 3 to 15 on the ledges. By approaching them slowly we were able to capture this behavior.

Group Of Five Whitetip Reef Sharks On Ledge At Roca Partida


Group Photos Are Possible By Approaching These Sharks Slowly


These sharks hunt at night and eat mainly crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, and shrimp as well as bony fishes. They tend to hunt in groups. During the day, it was interesting to observe many large lobsters out in the open just a few feet away from the whitetip reef sharks. Apparently, the lobsters know that they are safe from these sharks during the day.

If Disturbed Whitetip Reef Sharks Swim A Short Distance And Return To Their Ledge.
Pregnant Female Cruising Over The Volcanic Island Known As Roca Partida.


Shrimp of Bonaire

Our time in the Dutch island of Bonaire in the Lesser Antilles is quickly coming to an end. Our passion is shark photography but this trip was focussed on learning macro photography – you know, the really little stuff. It started off with frustration but slowly produced some good results. These shrimp range in size from 1/4 inch (2-3mm) to about 1 inch (25mm) and some are very difficult to see, especially the transparent ones. Most of the time they are tucked away inside a sponge or an anemone giving few good photo opportunities. As we discovered, perseverance and a bit of good luck are both needed!

Sun Anemone Shrimp3
Juvenile Sun Anemone shrimp approximately 1/4 inch (2-3mm) in length
squat anemone shrimp 2
Squat anemone shrimp on giant anemone
Pedersen Cleaner Shrimp
Pedersen Cleaner Shrimp
Coral Banded Shrimp (4)
Banded Coral Shrimp
Unknown shrimp
Unidentified shrimp inside Giant Anemone, Bonaire
Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp
Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp, Bonaire
peppermint shrimp
Peppermint Shrimp in Sponge (note the crab in the background)
Juvenile Sun Anemone 3
Juvenile Sun anemone shrimp, Bonaire
squat anemone shrimp
Squat Anemone Shrimp, Bonaire
Pedersen Shrimp cropped (3)
Pedersen Cleaner Shrimp Living In A Corkscrew Anemone
banded coral shrimp
Banded Coral Shrimp

Octopus On The Run

What do you do if you are an octopus out during the day and a diver with a camera spots you? First, you keep still and use camouflage hoping nobody can spot you, but when that fails you need to move. This octopus tried a number of tactics from trying to blend in, making a run for it, to puffing up to what I assume is to make itself look bigger. Here is a picture sequence that lasted less than a minute until it found a hole to retreat into. Safety at last!Octopus-0064octopus7octopus6octopus10octopus2octopus9octopus4octopus8octopus1octopus11octopus12