Archive for manta ray

Isla Mujeres Sailfish – 2012

Posted in news, photography, production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2012 by shawnheinrichs

Sailfish lights up as it strikes baitball

We returned to Isla Mujeres for our 4th season of sailfish action aboard the Lilly M and Andrea M of Keen M International. Captains Anthony, Rogelio and David did an outstanding job as usual. Despite challenging weather conditions and fluctuations in the activity, each trip was huge success with epic sailfish baitball action. In addition, we encountered many other species of marine life, and scored some terrific interactions.

Richard and striking sailfish - close one

In our first trip, Richard Branson and his family joined us to give the sailfish a try. Having already experienced the whale shark aggregations in July, he was ready to turn up the heat several notches and experience one of the most exciting and intense marine spectacles found anywhere in the Ocean. Also with me was my good friend John Petry who was trying his hand at a “Shawn Epic” for the first time. Lawrence kindly invited us as guests to join him on the his vessel the Chachalaca for some incredible action!

Sailfish lines up on Richard Branson

Sailfish makes a very close pass by Richard!

Whale shark swoops through with ball of bait fish

Manta ray comes in close to investigate and turns right under Richard

The trip was a huge success with baitballs lasting for hours and sailfish ripping apart the sardines just inches from our masks.  We also swam with groups of giant mantas, a whale shark. One curious manta decided to give Richard a closer look, coming nose to nose before ducking right under him. For Richard’s son Sam, his interaction with a whale shark was a first in his lifetime. Everyone left with huge smiles, excited to return to Isla again from more marine mega-fauna activity.

Sailfish poses with Branson family

Richard Branson and family in the sailfish mix

Sam Branson swims up from the blue

Team Shot: Bransons, Anthony and Shawn

Great trip with Lawrence on the Chacalaca...thank you!

I also had a second group with me during that first week. Sean Havas, Sterling Zumbunn (Backscatter) and my older brother Brett Heinrichs. The group was incredibly proficient in the water and I even struggled to keep up with the furious pace that we chased down baitball after bait ball. Day one we landed a 3 hour baitball and another 2 hour baitball. Day 2 was much the same. Day 3 and 4 I was off the boat and the success continued without me. Day 5 we regrouped and found sails again, but this time conditions had turned and we called it an early day. Overall the trip was a huge success and everyone came back with epic imagery.

Sailfish bites down on sardine

Sean Havas gets up close on the action

Brett Heinrichs photographs sailfish

Sterling Zumbrunn working the baitball

Sailfish blocks retreating sardine ball

On our second trip, David Vic and Debbie, Phil Sokol and Greg Redfern joined me. Except for Greg, the entire team were sailfish veterans so I knew we are going to get it done right. With several very slow days from the outset, I was beginning to get nervous. The team however remained upbeat and positive, and on day four we landed the mother load.

Sailfish charges head on, inches from my dome

We spent 4 hours on a single baitball (5 hours is my record length baitball )with 75-100 sailfish tearing it apart. The action never let up and we documented the ball whittle down to the last few sardines. Two days later we scored another baitball that lasted another 2 hours, and with 6 hours or intense baitball action for the week, the group left with full CF cards and lifetime memories.

Sailfish uses sail to block sardines

Sailfish hits sardine

Sailfish in perfect harmony

Frigates pick up scraps from sailfish

Frigate birds hover right above baitball

Our third and final trip faced just as challenging sea conditions, with persistent winds and upwellings creating green/turbid waters. I was joined by Lupo Dion, and Michael and Nadine Umbscheiden. Unfortunately, Mary O’Malley was booked to come but fell sick the day before the trip and had to cancel. We missed here dearly, but there is always next year!

Chaos - Feeding frigates and pelicans

Day one we chased down a baitball and spent 2 hours with it. Unfortunately the waters were green but we still managed some great shots. On day 3 we landed a 2 hour baitball of epic intensity. In four years interacting with the sailfish, I have never experienced such ferocious activity. The sailfish boxed in a very tired ball of sardines and set about tearing it apart. The passes were fast, furious and often terrifying. Though the entire group were no strangers to intense bill animal action, I have never seen so many defensive postures and dodges. The sailfish would slice off a few sardines from the ball, who would race toward us for cover. The entire swarm of sailfish would set upon them, charging by us at light-speed as we winced behind our cameras. Way to many close calls for my liking!

Sailfish flares in front of Lupo

Very close call!

Sailfish strikes sardine

Full Sail

Sailfish shows it colors

Sailfish chase down baitball

Day 4 turned out to be especially memorable. While motoring across blue waters in search of sailfish action, we came across 100-150 whale sharks feeding on the surface. This looked to be exactly the same scene as we witness in July/August during the annual whale shark aggregation here. At this time of year, satellite tagging data indicates that these whale sharks are meant to be at the furthest extent of their migrations from Isla. But here they were? We dove in and discovered the water was full of tiny clear eggs that looked very much like the eggs we see the whale sharks feeding on in July. It was a mystery why the whale sharks have arrived 3 months early, but one thing was clear; we were going to snorkel with them! We spent 5 hours with these majestic animals, filming as groups of whale sharks, swimming up to 5 abreast and 4 deep came cruising by. It was an incredible prelude to the summer whale shark trips that lay ahead for us.

Whale sharks feeding on surface

Whale shark feeds on surface

Whale shark gulps down fish eggs

Whale shark with snorkeler

Split shot with whale sharks and Lilly M

Juan, Nadine, Shawn, Rogelio and Lupo

Overall this year was a huge success and offered even more diversity of interactions than prior seasons. In addition to sailfish, we encountered:

–       Whale Sharks

–       Giant Mantas

–       Caribbean Mantas

–       Mobula Rays

–       4 species of dolphins

–       Wahoo (hunting)

–       Barracuda (hunting)

–       Jacks  (massive school)

–       Bonito schools (hunting)

Gulping Whale Shark

Manta ray glides overhead

Caribbean Manta passes below

Dolphins hunt bonito

The diversity, quantity and quality of big animal interactions sets Isla Mujeres apart from other locations on the planet. Working in small groups, we achieve the best interactions possible. I can’t wait for next year!

Home away from home

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Tonga – Ocean Voice Great Whales

Posted in conservation, photography, production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by shawnheinrichs

I just returned from several weeks of filming in the Kingdom of Tonga with my partner John Weller. We are working on a global project, The Ocean Voice Film Series, addressing conservation issues and strategies at all levels of the ecosystem. This stop of the project took us back to the Kingdom of Tonga, located as far as one can get from a continent in the South-Central Pacific.

With the invaluable help of our good friend Tony Wu, we returned again this year to complete the filming and documentary work. As with last year, the weather proved to be a real challenge. For all but perhaps a day, the wind howled over the islands, driven by a strong high-pressure cell to the south of us. Fortunately for us, and in stark contrast to last season, this year was a banner year for mothers and calves, with total ID’d calves running at twice the running average. Capitalizing on this, we managed some stunning encounters which again, created lifetime memories for both John and I.

The following are a selection of images. Enjoy!

Vava'u Island Group in Tonga Kingdom

Calf Rises Slowly to Greet Us While Mother Watches from Below

Humpback Calf Playfully Approaches in Tonga Blue Water

Humpback Calf Breaches As We Pass By

Mother and Calf Swim over Reefs in 40 Meters of Vis

Calf Playfully Swims Past as Mother Chase After

Tail Shot from Zero Meters - How Small is Baby Compared to Mom!

Calf Rises into Sun Rays With Mother Tailing Behind

Water Pours from Mothers Mouth as She Breaches

Breaching Whale Throwing Scissor Maneuver

John Weller Likes Big Lenses

Marshall Lally Grinning After Day with Whales

Stunning Hard Coral Formations of Tonga Reefs

Calf and Mother on Surface Over Shallow Reef

Mother and Calf Drifting By

Mother and Calf Humpback Rise from Shallow Reef

White Sided Mother with Calf

Humpback Calf Twirls Below

Curious Calf Playing on Surface

Calf Rolls and Twists on Surface

Close Up of Curious Calf

Calf Rolls Over for Better Look as Mother Swims Below

Good Bye Whales 😦

HDR View of Harbor in the Morning

HDR Pigs - They are Everywhere in Tonga!

Enormous Spider That Could (and Would) Eat You!

Close Encounter With Yearling - a First for Us

Nose to Nose with Mother and Calf

Fisheye Lens - VERY Close to Pectoral Fin!

Calf Injured by Unidentified Source

Mother Rises to Great Playful Calf

There are Mantas (alfredi) in Tonga!

Islet with Abandoned Military Post - Surrounded by Tonga Blue

What Can I Say!

Tidal Pools with Perpetual Waterfalls

John Weller Filming One of the Most Beautiful Islands We Have Visited

Harbor View from Paradise Hotel

Milky Way Over Harbor with Diver in Water

Till Next Time!

Misool Eco Resort – New Promo Video

Posted in conservation, photography, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

With Misool Eco Resort fully operational, it was time to refresh it’s promotional video. After many visits and hours or filming through the archipelago, I had amassed an impressive library of underwater footage. In addition I had the opportunity to film the resort grounds, facilities and luxurious accommodations.

The surface and underwater elements were assembled into new video which showcases the marine treasures and resort comforts of Misool Eco Resort. Hunting mobulas, swirling mantas, sharks, turtles, blue ring octopus, mantis shrimp and much, much more fill the screen for the 15 minute duration of video.

Bali – Mola Madness

Posted in travel, video with tags , , , , , , , on September 10, 2006 by shawnheinrichs

The famous mola mola off the east coast of Bali had some how evaded me over the years. I had not even managed to catch a glimpse of this strange creature. As such, I decided to put an end to this streak.

The peak of Mola Mola season in Bali falls in September (and extends into October) when waters are at the coldest. In addition, peak viewing times coincide with lunar cycles. If you manage to time it just right (and nature cooperates) you will be in for a treat of a lifetime. As it turns out, we hit the nail on the head!

We spent several days in the crystal clear waters of Crystal Bay, Nusa Pendia (appropriately named) diving with these gentle giants. On each and every dive in the bay, we encountered between 3 and 5 Mola Mola. On one occasion, the largest of the group, measuring about 3 meters in span, allowed us to approach within inches. We spent several minutes shooting every possible angle, examining the tiny parasites crawling on its skin and being picked off by banner fish, and just appreciating the gentleness and beauty of these giant awkward fish.

These were some of the more memorable days in my diving experience. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in such close and personal proximity to the giant mola mola. They were fully aware of our presence, yet seemed to understand that we meant them no harm. Perhaps this is why they allowed us to approach so closely and spend so much time with them. Or, perhaps they were just as curious about us, the strange, bubble bellowing, glassy-eyed fish!

Phi Phi Thailand – Manta Blue

Posted in travel, video with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2006 by shawnheinrichs

We had visited Phi Phi Island on several occasions prior to the Tsunami. It was an amazing paradise island, a gathering place for people from all over the world looking for a place to escape to, and an island surrounded by lush reefs and unusual sea life.

The Tsunami on December 26, 2004 created a different vision of Phi Phi for the rest of the world. Overnight, the island became infamous for the devastation it sustained in the Tsunami. A 10 meter wave swept across the island, destroying everything in it’s path. Hundreds of lives were lost and many more were devastated.

We returned to Phi Phi to witness for ourselves the recovery effort and to dive again the reefs we had come to love. We had no idea what to expect, but our hopes were for the better. Our images and video captured it all…including a beautiful manta we had met two years earlier on a visit.