The last few days have bounced between episodes of patient waiting (for our boat) and frantic gulps for air…
Our accommodation has moved around, meaning we have carried crate after crate after pelican box after camera – in fact most of our 1,515kgs of luggage back and forth up the beach more than once. Working from one base yesterday and today we had time again to focus on looking for sharks and getting the shots.
Yesterday we went to the outer reef to refill bait station 2 and see what shark species we would find. Sharks = 0 : Massive Net = 1. The net, a big green monstrosity hanging from a platform of floating bamboo poles and attached to a fish-attracting device (FAD) is put to sea by fishermen who return, with the help of its satellite/ GPS beacon, weeks or months later to pole the fish. The fishermen mainly catch tuna that are attracted to the smaller fish species using the net as cover, a scarce resource in the blue ocean. While Rainer was busy cutting the net free from the reef and our bait station Dan hovered over the reef’s bottom filming the coral and a friendly grouper.
This morning kicked off with some high action acrobatics. Heading out for a dive up the main channel to film and photograph the abundant and healthy coral life, the ocean surprised us with a display of somersaulting, twisty turning spinner dolphins – living up to their name in style. After photographing them bow riding the boat Tom and Dan slipped into the water in attempt to capture the whirlwind underwater. A trick that normally works if the dolphins are feeling playful is to drive the boat in circles – they sometimes start following the boat and use the wake as a jumping platform. Today their mind was pre-occupied, with perhaps a mixture of mating and fishing and no matter how many circles we did they were not particularly interested in the two neoprene-clad figures with their cameras in the middle. After a few sessions with these marine mammals we headed up main channel before the tide brought in dirty, silt-laden water from the lagoon.
Drifting alongside James, who was tasked with holding onto the baited drum line and keeping it near the reef’s edge, Tom and I photographed the reef and added a new species of shark to our list – a white tip reef shark. Meanwhile the others were diving on SCUBA and almost at the end of our drift Dan popped up asking if we had seen Rainer and Kim. They had drifted into the centre of the main channel, where the current was fast and furious and were already at the mouth. The boat collected them safely and we continued our drift until the visibility was unworkable.
In the afternoon our mission was to look for silvertip sharks in a place that Rainer swore was silvertip central. On the way we found turtle central instead and when Tom got in the water to photograph he found about 8 green turtles lying on the sandy bottom and proceeded to try and hide himself on the reef in the hopes a mating couple would swim close and not spot him. We watched from the boat as one by one the turtles, wise of his hiding place, left the area. Every now and then one would drift close to the boat or Tom, come up for a breath of air and get the fright of its life before darting in the opposite direction. Not easy subjects!
Our mission to find silvertips continued but they remained elusive and we abandoned searching for them in favour of more reef dives. The ocean, however, surprised us again and on our way we found a particularly amorous pair of green turtles that were so intent on mating they ignored the camera. Tom spent a good half an hour photographing and finning after the couple before Dan jumped in with his HD film camera. Follow turtles in the water is exhausting – their gracefulness makes us look (and feel) very very very clumsy – especially when dragging heavy cameras in housings, with flash arms that look like giant aluminum spiders or in Dan’s case a 30kg monster! I think I swallowed litres of seawater while trying to catch up to them, dive down, photograph them and breath in one go! It was definitely worth the effort though and I think we are all looking forward to downloading and watching some footage.
We did see a silvertip in the end!! A beautiful, sleek little one… two new shark species in one day.