Orca season begins!

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October comes to the end, which means that all big animal divers switch focus from Mexico, where great white shark season comes to the end, to Norway, where the orca season begins.

Despite killer whales are present in all oceans around the globe, Norway keeps the name of world capital of orca snorkeling. When I first time visited Lofoten islands in 2013 onboard Sula, it was kind of exotic travel destination. Today, plenty of companies offer this programme. Is it good or bad? Time will tell.

So, I decided to join the trend and show you the video from our February’s adventure with Northern Explorers. There are moments when DLSR refuses to focus underwater because of the lack of light, so GoPro is the only way to record what’s happening. Murphy’s Law still works perfectly, so those failures usually happen in during the most exciting moments, when orca comes close to you, look eye-in-the-eye, circles around, test you with the clicks. These special moments you can find in this video. Enjoy.

P.S. Orca snorkeling gifts you with one of the most exciting and emotional moments in lifetime. I will definitely come back to Norway, and I can strongly recommend it to everyone who haven’t tried it yet.

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Ethical difficulties of whale shark snorkeling

Ethical difficulties of whale shark snorkeling

After spending a great week in Malapascua (Philippines), the world capital of thresher sharks, we headed to the southern Cebu, to the small town of Oslob, famous for having year-round whale sharks feeding. Here local fishermen realized that they can make money out of feeding whale sharks with shrimps.

We got from Oslob to the place by local “taxi”, sitting on the 2nd place on the scooter and holding my DLSR with UW housing in my hands, while driving along the wet slippery serpentine. That was the invigorating start of the day.

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Shark swim vertically and suck the shrimps from the surface. After a while shark become bored, swim several meters away and start feeding again. Local whale sharks are 5-6 meters long, much less than their maximum lenght – they can grow up to 14 meters.

If you decide to go there, you should remember about several things which can make your day worse than you expected. First of all, the number of tourists is enormous – everybody goes here for the whale shakrs. The smell of shripms is everywhere, and the visibility could be much better. Nevertheless, it worth visiting if you haven’t seen this big guys before. And you should also remember that you can go to jail if you touch the shark.

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How this way of making tourism affects the ecosystem and the living of wild animals?  Many conservationists claim that feeding in Oslob is wrong, unnatural and unethical. If you google “Oslob” you can find several articles with scary titles and pics of bloody corpses of whale sharks killed by bad guys.

I understand that conservationists who write such articles love sharks. And they also love shark diving in places like Tiger Beach or Capetown, where exactly the same process takes place – shark feeding, but with the different species of sharks. The only real difference is that here in Oslob anyone can go in the water with the sharks, while in Tiger beach and other places it looks like “diving for the chosen” or “diving for the brave”, because there we dive with dangerous sharks. Isn’t it hypocritical?

I love diving with sharks and I don’t blame anyone who feeds the sharks, as long as it doesn’t cause a real harm to the animal. If the animal feels uncomfortable, it will simply go away. And I don’t think that the shark can forget how to find food if you feed it.

What is your opinion?

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Inuit traditional hunt for marine mammals.

Inuit traditional hunt for marine mammals.

It’s not a secret that Arctic is a very severe place. There are no trees, cereals can’t grow here. It’s impossible to survive by gathering or agriculturing. Arctic is not a place for human being. The only way to survive here is fishing and hunting everything you can find. So inuits from Greenland and Canada hunt and fish for living.

Hunting is not just a part of inuit life – it’s a core of their culture, basis of their self-identity. Every man is a hunter. Inuits hunt literally everything they can – seals, whales, polar bears, caribou, musk ox, birds etc. Their hunting techniques are unique and very interesting, so let’s leave this topic for the next article.

Whales are hunted by inuits during summertime.

When man kills the animal, he takes everything – meat for food, fat for lamps, skin for clothes, kayaks and houses, tendons for making ropes, colon as the waterproof material etc. Many people consider hunting as unethical and blame hunters, especially when it’s all about hunting rare and beautiful animals. But what about hunting if there is no other way to survive? I don’t blame people who hunt for living, if there is no other way to survive.

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Humpback diving away from our boat scared by engine sound.

This kind of traditional hunting takes place nowaday in the most remote northern regions of Greenland and Canadian Arctic.

However, the lifestyle of the most inuit people changed dramatically in XX-XXI centuries. Denmark and Canada pays benefts to them, and hunting is not essential for living anymore. The availability of technologies, especially firearms and motorized boats, has lead to the depletion of the Greenland coast.

Take a look at this poster. This one I bought in Tasiilaq during our trip to Greenland. This poster shows the whale species you can meet there. Is that true that you can meet so many species here? So why didn’t Greenland became a whale-lovers capital o the world?

Yes, it is possible to meet different whale species here. But there is not so many whales – you can see much more in other places. The second thing is the whales are extremely shy here and they dive immediately when they hear the sound of engine – the sound of death for the whales. We didn’t seen one single seal or caribou, but what we have seen was shops where you can buy narwhal’s horn, polar bear’s claws and other cute souvenirs.

Tooth of killer whale in the local shop. Tasiilaq, Greenland.

What is the meaning of hunting for the most inuint nowadays? The possibility to kill animal for selling it’s parts to the tourists? For example, would you like to buy a toy seal covered with the real seal fur? Does hunting remains being a core of inuit culture, or is it just a way to get some additional money? Could you count killing narwhal by riffle as the traditional hunting? I don’t have the answers. What’s your opinion?

Hall of our hotel in Tasiilaq. On the right from bear’s skin you can see narwhal’s horn.

Happy ending story

Happy ending story

Human impact on planet Earth is becoming more and more obvious nowadays. Excessive resource usage, global warming and species extinction are the most notable effects of humankind presence on the planet.

According to IUCN data, 844 species of animals and plants became extinct during last 500 years. And the reason for this extinction was, doubtless, a humankind, because 500 years is not the a significant time for natural exticntion.

Helpless dodo bird from Mauritius, Tasmanian thylacine, two giant ostrich species – moa and elephant bird, steller’s sea cow decimated in 27 years after being discovered…  the most known, but the lesser part of sad stroies of extinction caused by people. Plenty of species are still moving to the edge. Our grandkids risk to be born in the world without tigers, black rhinos, blue whales and other animals.

But this chronicles contains happy ending stories. I would name the whaling ban and the acceptance of CITES among the most important points of wildlife conservation in XX century.

For USSR and Eastern Europe, wisent recovery became the most notable achievment.


Wisent also known as European bison, got such names as “Tsar’s beast” and “The lord of Taiga”. This giants look like a relicts survived from the Ice age and can grow up to 2 meters height and weight up to 1200 kilos. Such big and beautiful animal was popular hunting target and became nearly extinct in the beginning of XX century. Plenty of national parks and zoos were destroyed or abandoned after Worl War I. In 1926th the last wild wisent was killed in mountains of Caucasus, and from 45 to 70 individauls left in zoos and private reserves.

After the terrors of war were gone, scientists and conservationists from USSR and Eastern Europe have cooperated to start the wisent recovery programm. After decades of hard work, the goal was riched – today wisent population counts 4500 individuals, and most of them live in the wild. There are three most important places in CIS where wisent population was recovered – Belovezhski forest, Caucasus nature reserve and Priokasko-Terrasny nature reserve, where I took the pictures for this article.

This story has became a great example of how human efforts can  save a species that nearly gone extinct. I hope we all can make a right conclusions from this lesson.

 

Warm hugs

Warm hugs

Great hammerheads, same as any other shark, not able to swim backwards. This fact sometimes leads to such close and warm touches. This is not agressive behavior, shark just don’t have enough space to turn around after grabbing a chum, so they are pushing divers gifting them with unforgettable emotions. Thay are very strong and you can truly feel it when you try to push them away. My underwater camera was killed by hammerhead’s hard push.

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