friends and strangers

Of whale sharks and memelas

Of whale sharks and memelas

A few years ago on a trip to Cozumel, a fellow diver shared with us over beer and tacos a magical tale of swimming alongside whale sharks – the largest fish in the ocean – off Isla Holbox. We'd never heard of Holbox, but were surprised and thrilled to learn that these magnificent animals come to the Yucatan Channel each summer, and Cancun is but a four-hour flight away. When the inadvertent sighting of a lone whale shark in Raja Ampat threw our group into a frenzy (and exposed the true extent of our trust in friends, Matt), we knew that we just had to take a trip down here...

The whale shark migration is one of the longest documented (published only in April of 2018!), with hundreds of individuals congregating at and returning to a handful of known feeding locations around the world. The northeastern Yucatan is the site of the largest such gathering, attracting an estimated 800 (!) sharks each summer.

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Raja Ampat Central and North

Raja Ampat Central and North

After motoring all night, we’ve left Misool and are now in the Pyanemo (central) region of Raja Ampat, and this is our first dive in the area. You'd think no dive pioneer would name an unsightly reef after his own daughter, and indeed, this reef is home to some of the most beautiful hard corals we’ve yet seen. Small fishes darted in and out of the staghorns, and a school of spadefish lazed about a cleaning station, unperturbed by our approach.

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Raja Ampat South

Raja Ampat South

Ever since our first trip to The Similans onboard The Mariner, we’ve been itching to go on another sea adventure; and whenever we talked to other divers, Raja Ampat would inevitably come up as a favorite. An archipelago spanning over 1,500 islands and more than 40,000 km2, Raja Ampat (Four Kings) is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the world: over 1,500 species of fish and 600 species of hard coral have been documented here, representing over 75% of all coral species known worldwide (!!). Its relative remoteness has also left its reefs relatively intact and pristine, and so our Raja Ampat dream was borne.

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Bonaire 2017 Part II

Bonaire 2017 Part II

The Lake itself was beautiful: a white sandy "lake" separating the double reef system, connected by coral bridges, and brimming with life. We saw tarpons, a Southern stingray, a big tiger grouper, but the highlight, at the top of the outer reef, was this black cloud that materialized out of nowhere. As it caught up with each of us, we each in turn realized that we were about to be subsumed by an incoming, house-sized bait ball of bogas being chased by horse-eye jacks.

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Bonaire 2017 Part I

Bonaire 2017 Part I

Oil Slick is one of our favorite sites from the previous trips. The reef starts almost immediately from the rocky, critter-filled cliff that lines the iron shore and entry is via a GIANT leap straight into the ocean. Chewie may have given everyone a heart attack with a near-stumble on the cliffs while putting on his fins. For the less adventurous, there is a metal ladder that can used for both entry and exit. It's a very short swim to the drop-off and mooring buoy. Sightings here: creole wrasses, parrotfish, eels, shrimps, drums, and so many sweepers under the ledges. 

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