Miracle island

Miracle island

Today’s story about Maldives. Is there anything new to say about this place? It looks like Maldives are completely explored by divers and travelers, but we were surprised a lot after exploring Dhigurah island. Here, you won’t find expensive hotels and beaches crowded with tourists. In local village you can taste pure Maldivian food (mostly fish + coconut), the wild beach is glowing with plankton lights during the night, half of the island covered with the real jungle. Dhigurah is not a regular island for Maldives.

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But the main point of interest here is underwater wildlife. On the house reef you can meet a whale sharks which are just locals and live here on the reef. Not so common, am I right? You just go out of the hotel and go snorkeling on the house reef. For free. You don’t have to go to Mexico or Tanzania and pay a lot for the whale sharks!

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On the other side of the island you can find large aggregation of manta rays, the most beautiful ray of tropical and equatorial seas. Of course it’s not such a giants that you may find in Mexico, just “common” reef mantas. It takes 10 minutes from the island to reach the manta point, and they can be found there every day.

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In 2009 the status of reef manta as a separate species was confirmed. As the smaller relatives, the were given a new name of Manta alfredi, while the larger oceanic mantas keeped the classic name of Manta birostris. Both species are listed as “vulnerable” by IUCN.

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Today it’s hard to impress experienced divers with mantas and whale sharks. But here you can find both in the same place and in 10 minutes from your hotel! Local divers told us that you can see both species all year round. We came to Dhigurah by accidentally and fell in love with this place.

Honestly, this article was written to show you this video. I really love it.

P.S. That was a lovely time when I haven’t started to use DLSR underwater, so all the pictures and videos are made on my GoPro HERO3. Sorry for that:)

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What fears the ocean’s top predator and who is the biggest carnivorous fish?

 

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Great white shark was one of the main targets in our South Africa trip. I was lucky, as always – the orcas have arrived to False Bay a week before us, and all the Great whites and cowsharks were gone. Do I love orcas? Yes I do, but not when they cause problems with the sharks! Such stories happen from time to time in several places in the world, including Australia and New Zealand. It’s pretty obvious for me who is the ocean’s top predator. Great whites always avoid the orcas.

So, we had a plan to meet great whites in False Bay, there weren’t any so we went to Gaansbai. This is the bay where you can always find great whites, which are the main touristic attraction and the main city-forming factor.

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But let me describe the process and the sharks. It was my first encounter with the great whites, and it impressed me a lot. The viz was something like 2 meters, so watching sharks from surface was not the worst option, but I spent the most time in the water. The guys begin with chumming, and when the sharks are there, they start to attract it closer to the cage by dropping and pulling a rope with a tuna head, which is considered to be the most delicious food for sharks.

Great white shark is a massive and fat fish. It swims slowly to the bait, but when grabs, it starts to fight in attempt to tear it off the rope. This fight is very impressive when you are inside the cage and you can see and feel how the shark hardly hits the cage with it’s body and tail, with a feeling of a sledgehammer. Sometimes it suddenly appears from the murky water following the bait, with it’sl primal fury and great power. A breathtaking scene.

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Despite the local sharks are not the biggest great whites (3-4 meters comparing to 6 meters-long giants in Guadalupe island), it’s much more impressive than any other shark I’ve seen before, because you can feel it’s great strength and power, same as in twisted spring ready to strike. That day we saw four sharks near the boat, which was unforgettable. 

The video is not as cool as you can film on Guadalupe, but it gives you the feeling of the process of being inside the cage.

BTW, did you know that great white is not the biggest carnivorous shark, as many people think? The first place is held by the legendary Greenland shark with a result of 7,5 meters. The same sized smalltooth sawfish is the biggest carnivorous ray. Comparing to this fishes, the great white is not such a giant.

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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Portrait: Tiger shark.

I was lukcy to dive with these sharks in the best place you can imagine, famous Tiger beach, Bahamas. This was my first “serious” shark dive. Fairly speaking, first time it was scary. But after a short time it became so much fun and I became a shark friend.

Tiger sharks are wide spread in tropical and equatorial waters around the world. This guys grow up to 4-4.5 meters and weight from 400 to 650 kilos. Tigers eat literally everything they can grab – fish, invertebrates, turtle, birds, mammals and even smaller tiger sharks.

Tiger sharks are massive and slow moving. They swim smoothly, like enormous airships, circling around feeder and other divers. Strenght and speed are hidden under their slowness. When shark makes an attempt to grab the chum or the feeder, it moves very rapidly. I’ve noticed how the group instinct works on people – those who were diving with tigers the first time, including myself, were constantly trying to move closer to each other and to protect their back, quite the same as sardines or herring which noticed a predator. Sharks come close, and you need to make a barrier between yourself and shark. That time I was a happy guy and haven’t used a DLSR camera underwater, so I had to protect myself with a plastic stick. When shark comes close, it closes the eyes.I suppose it’s made to protect the eyes.

The guys who work in Tiger beach behave with tiger sharks as if they were pets – playing with them, scratching bellys, grabbing noses etc. At first it looks insane, but then you realise it’s just okay. Sometimes shark makes an attempt to attack feeder, but those guys are well-prepaired and don’t have any accidents. Fairly speaking, all guys who involved in shark diving industry are cool guys and great divers. And they never have serious accidents with the sharks.

There are also carribean reef sharks and lemon sharks feeding around in Tiger beach. Once a great hammerhead came to us, but it’s shy species and usually afraid of tigers so we saw it just for a couple of seconds.

Why do hammerheads need such a strange head shape?

Why do hammerheads need such a strange head shape?

The unique head of all hammerhead sharks serves as an improtant instrument for it’s owners. It contains plenty of electroreceptors which help shark to find prey under the sand using it’s electric field. Nostrils are placed far away from each other, so the shark can prescisely define the distance to the source of any smell, the same as we use our binocular vision to define the distance to the object.
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Shark’s vision is not so good – it can not see what’s happening right ahead of it! Head shape also helps shark to maneuver, a very smooth head movement can lead to strong and fast body turn, the same as in wind sports and aerodinamics. This is the list of superpowers given to the shark by it’s absurd head.

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Yucatan. Wildlife rampage. Bullsharks.

Yucatan. Wildlife rampage. Bullsharks.

After a week of diving in the Bahamas I went to the touristic capital of Mexico, Cancun, in attepmt to dive with sailfish. In the end we didn’t found any sailfish because of horrible weather, but we saw giant oceanic mantas, mobulas, thousands of birds, black iguanas, horseshoe crabs in mangroves and the main stars of the show – bullsharks.

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From November to March, bullsharks aggregate in Playa del Carmen which is one hour drive from Cancun. Here you will find bullshark diving without cage. After Walker’s Cay in the Bahamas was closed for divers, Playa took the leadership for bullshark diving in this region.

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Facts about bullsharks: This shark species is responsible for the most part of unprovoked attacks on humans. The reason is shark’s metabolsim which allows shark to enter fresh water, so they swim into the rivers and attack swimmers in murky water. In Africa they are often seen in Zambezi river, which have given the shark it’s local name – Zambezi shark. This species is wide spread, it’s seen in tropical and equtorial coastal waters all around the world. Also, bullsharks hold a record of strongest bite among sharks.

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You can find a great amount of species right in the city. This, for example, black iguana, but if you’re more lucky, you can meet a salt water crocodile in mangroves.

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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