The crisp morning boat ride to meet a couple dozen silky sharks was one of the more exciting journeys I’ve had to a dive site. My apprehensions were high yet I was determined to get in the water and make them smile for the camera! In this particular location silkies are referred to as “brown sweeties” for their affectionate disposition. They certainly lived up to their nickname, quickly becoming one of my favourite shark species. Known to be somewhat aggressive in other parts of the world these particular sharks were actually quite friendly as well as patient with my dome port and flashguns in their faces.Now listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, these sharks were once thought to be immune to overfishing. With worldwide shark populations declining at an alarming rate, it is always a privilege to be able to spend some time in the water with these highly misunderstood creatures.
Slipping into the green water of Jellyfish Lake (Palauan: Ongeim’l Tketau, “Fifth Lake”) in search of the Golden Jellyfish (Mastigias cf. Papua Etpisoni) felt like something only my wildest imagination could conjure up. Yet, I found myself in Palau, ten thousand miles from home with nothing more than my snorkelling gear and camera in a very surreal environment.
As the jellyfish move from one side of the lake to the other, following the path of the sun every day, finding them required a lengthy swim. However, little by little, a few jellyfish began to appear; until finally I was surrounded by thousands of these delicate creatures. I spent the next hour or so in this watery wonderland admiring these fragile creatures going about their daily routine. A true privilege to witness!
Finding beauty in the mundane is not always an easy task. Take this image for example. A simple collection of leaves and their reflections on the surface in Palau.
While on a lunch break in a shallow nook of a Palauan Island I jumped into the water to photograph the shipwreck (below) in about 7 meters of water. The wreck itself was beautifully decorated in coral with a lush green hill set behind it. Yet there were thousands of leaves floating on the surface that had to go for the over-under shot to work. It was a never-ending attempt to remove them from the frame. Having exhausted myself, I gave up and started to float on my back in the warm, midday sun. When it was time to get back on the boat I put my face in the water for one last look at the wreck and saw this . . . I can only imagine what I would have captured if I had only noticed their beauty earlier on.
Every time I look at the image above, I am reminded to never dismiss the mundane because sometimes what we’re searching for may well be right in front of us. For the Full Gallery of Ocean Images click here.
This place is definitely off the beaten path, but well worth the effort of getting there. The service here is top-notch. Everything is taken care of and everyone’s there to dive. Of course you don’t have to dive to have a good time as there is plenty of snorkelling along their extensive house reef that will keep you entertained for some time. On the short boat ride from the airport you’ll pass by the local town which is supported by visitors to Wakatobi. It was great to hear that the resort has had sucha positive impact on the locals livelihoods as well as the protection of the reefs.
Speaking of reefs, it doesn’t get much better than this. Cut off from mass tourism, Wakatobi truly is a remote island refuge. It is situated in the heart of the Coral Triangle and if you know anything about reefs, you know this is where it’s at in terms of diving. But do take note, if you are hoping to see large pelagic you’re headed to the wrong island. This place is all about macro. For those of you that are into photography, be sure to pack your macro lens and port. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time with video on this trip and don’t have a lot in terms of macro shots. But I can assure you if macro isn’t your thing there are many other options. The walls and reefs capes are incredibly dramatic.
If you haven’t already heard about the amazing set up they have waiting for you, let me just tell you there is actually an entire room dedicated to keeping your photography equipment protected while changing batteries, memory cards, lenses and ports. And believe me there is plenty of room for everyone. There is nothing worse than trying to clean an o-ring on your night table.
The rooms here come in the form of individual bungalows which are really cute and private. One thing that I thought was a nice touch were the built-in foot baths which are sunken just before the front steps going up to the bungalow’s porch. For the most part, we walked around the island barefoot so it felt good to be able to rinse and dry our feet before we entered our room. Oh, and I almost forgot, there was a large pitcher of water in our room when we returned from a full day of diving which was much appreciated.
These guys really are extremely organised and attentive to your needs. Just take a look at the board that’s updated every day. For those opting for enriched air, before you head off to dinner you are encouraged to analyse two of your tanks for the following day so that they are all ready to go in the morning. The third tank is analysed after your second dive. Since this such a serious dive location they probably get more nitrox divers than your average resort therefore keeping things organised and perfectly structured is important to them. There is a very real emphasis on safety and efficiency all while achieving a sort of family environment amongst the staff and guests. That’s actually something else I want to mention. The crew worked very hard to make us feel at home in such a far away place. For example, on the last evening of the trip they presented a slideshow consisting of underwater images submitted by guests as well as a montage of the dive guides with their groups. This close-knit environment of like-minded people is bolstered by the resorts structured schedule. Their calendar requires a fixed start and end date for in- and outgoing guests. By requiring this they automatically create a very social environment for all of their guests.
Have you been to Wakatobi or are planning to go? Would love to hear what you thought of it!