In South Africa we were supposed to see tiger sharks but they eluded us. In Mozambique we were supposed to see tiger sharks but once again we didn’t see any. Finding a specific shark species around the world is hardly guaranteed as these are wild animals that swim the oceans. However, we were told that if you want to see tiger sharks then you need to go to the world famous “Tiger Beach” to have the highest probability of seeing them. So here we are and finally we have seen tiger sharks!
Tiger sharks are big sharks. They are generally between 10-14 feet in length and weigh between 850- 1400 pounds. We encountered 8 different tiger sharks and two were in the 14 foot range. Being a few feet from them makes you realize just how big they are and how insignificant you are. Truly amazing creatures and a privilege to share the ocean with them!
Tiger sharks are intelligent and it is important to maintain eye contact with them. As long as they knew that you were watching them they would keep back about 10 feet or more. But take your eyes off them and they will get close and personal with you. They had this habit of trying to sneak up from behind so we needed to constantly be looking over our shoulders for them. A few times we had to bump them off with our cameras as they got a little too friendly. Perhaps not for most people, but it is very cool and surreal to be face to face with a 1400 pound tiger shark! You can’t help wonder what they are thinking as they swim by and stare you down.
Strange to be photographing lions and leopards in the Serengeti National Park in Africa one week and then photographing sharks in the Bahamas about a week later! We departed from West Palm Beach, Florida and headed to the famous “Tiger Beach” off of Grand Bahamas Island in hopes of finding tiger sharks. The Dolphin Dream, a 83 foot ocean expedition liveaboard, was our home for a week and we were well looked after by Captain Scott, Gerard, Shane & Heidi. We sailed through the night, cleared customs in the Bahamas in the morning and headed to a spot to do a few checkout dives in the afternoon to make sure our gear was working fine. It wasn’t long before we were taking photos of lemon sharks which commonly inhabit this area. Day 1 was all about lemon sharks.
Sharks are opportunistic feeders and lemon sharks are no exception. They are slowly swimming about searching for food but once it appears they quickly shift gears and the action can get lively. These sharks discovered food in the sand and the competition to get there first is fierce. Notice a second shark below the first one in the second photograph.
Lemon sharks are easy to identify as the first and second dorsal fin (the fins on top of their backs) are almost the same size whereas most other sharks the back dorsal fin is much smaller. These sharks can reach 11 feet in length but are commonly found in the 7 to 10 foot range which are the size that we photographed. Their eyes are a bit smaller than other sharks and they often swim with their mouths partially open.
One of the new photographic techniques we are trying to master is what is called an over-under where you place your camera 1/2 in the water and 1/2 out. This captures the shark in the water and at the same time shows the sky. We tried these as the sun was going down at the end of the day. It gives a very unique and different perspective of these lemon sharks. Not bad photos for our first attempt at “lemon-snaps”! Thanks to Terry Steeley of In The Blue Photography for all his advice about this technique.
During the last two days we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with the Japanese Giant Salamanders in the mountain rivers of Japan in the Gifu area. These salamanders can reach 1.5 metres (5 feet) in length and weigh up to 25 kg (55pounds). They generally hide under rocks and in crevices but if you are patient you may have a chance to photograph them in the open for a brief period of time. Tricia had just that situation and is busy getting some excellent photos.
We would like to extend our thanks and sincere appreciation to Ito Yoshihiro, our salamander expert and guide. He spends numerous hours learning and studying them and was willing to share his expertise with us. Great job Ito-san! Also, thanks to Andy, of Big Fish Expeditions, for organizing this trip.
As you can see there is a wide variety of colours which is partly dependant on age. It is believed that they can live up to 80 years in the wild. It seems a bit surreal to have driven into the mountains of Japan, prepared our cameras, put on our wetsuits and spent time in the river interacting with these interesting creatures. It was a nice change from photographing sharks.
This was our 1st trip to Alaska and it was gorgeous! We booked with Big Fish Expeditions which planned out our complete itinerary once we arrived in Valdez. Our adventure started with a 2 1/2 hour boat ride from Valdez to Port Fidalgo Inlet in Prince William Sound.
Our home base was Raven Croft Lodge which is a fishing lodge only accessible by boat. The lodge’s isolation only adds to its allure and Boone, the owner, made sure we had an amazing time.
Our primary purpose of this trip was to have the chance to see Salmon Sharks but there were lots of other great photo ops such as:
Orcas – on our last evening we went across the bay to find salmon and came across a pod of Orcas. We were closer than it looks from the photos as we both had our cameras in the underwater housings with wide angle lenses.
Jelly Blooms – we came across numerous jelly blooms which was definitely a unique experience. Some of the blooms extended from the surface down to more than 100′!
Beautiful Scenery in the bay of Port Fidalgo –
Last, but certainly not least, we had a few brief encounters with some salmon sharks. Thanks to Boone & Emily, we found them! Salmon sharks are endangered and extremely rare to find. We count ourselves fortunate to be in a very small number of people worldwide who have had the chance to photograph them.
This is a trip we would be happy to repeat in the future.