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shark diving

Whale Sharks, Whale Sharks and MORE Whale Sharks.

July 16, 2019 - 5:33pm our first day of whale shark diving off Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It was a good but tough day. So many new laws and regulations here, the captains were nervous as hell about it. CONAAP has everyone on their toes and up in arms. So now it is mandatory for everyone to wear life jackets. Even in the water. You can do a one free diver and one guide, but they do not allow for two anymore. Just silly.

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Over all we had an awesome day and despite the headaches of this new law, everyone had a good time. We stayed out as long as we could and everyone had a chance to get some solid whale shark time in. A very good first day. Of course there was so much food in the water that the sharks are feeding on, all my pictures are full of suck. Tomorrow is another day, hoping for patches of blue water for some decent images. Hoping for a coke bottling shark, that is always the best photo opportunities. A static shark that is just filter feeding in one spot.

July 17, 2019 - Day two of our whale shark expedition. We had a really good day - today the whale sharks were all surface feeding and there were a lot of sharks. Of course we are still dealing with the new rules, which are tough, but we will get used to them. A lot of silly bullshit if you ask me. Some of the other boats are asking for some sort of standard across the board service. Basically, they want everyone to act the same. Same crap service they give to tourists and bucket listers, who just want something to do on vacation. Which has nothing to do with the sharks or an appreciation for them.

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They want to end the service some of the better operators provide to people who want to see these sharks and want to spend quality time with these animals. It is horrible, and each year, they think of new rules to try and create more road blocks for the better operators. They even turned down prop guards for their boats, which will help protect the sharks and the swimmers. The excuse they use;  because they do not want to spend the money. It truly shows those operators do not give a shit about these animals. I saw fresh cuts on a whale shark today, just horrible when you know that it can be avoided.

July 18, 2019 - Just got back from day 3 in the water. We decided this morning to put an effort into finding manta rays. Sadly,  we did not find any. Where the hell are they? Last season they were all over the place, yet this season we have not seen any. No one has this week. Last week our captain told us they had a lot of mantas, but so far… goose egg. 

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The action today was good but hard. A lot of sharks but they wanted nothing to do with us. Part of that behavior I am very familiar with. Tomorrow it will be a great day, because the sharks will be feeding hard and they will not care about us. Hoping to find a coke bottling shark. So far I have not seen one yet. Our guests have, thankfully. Yesterday our guests had some decent coke bottling action. I stayed on the boat while they took turns photographing the shark. By the time it was my turn, the shark swam off. Tomorrow - tomorrow is my day.

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The plan tomorrow is to head out a bit earlier than our normal 9 am departure. We are headed to Contoy Island to try and find mantas, and a loggerhead for me. Still need me a loggerhead. Hoping to find a mating pair, which would be epic! The area around Contoy is always a really good spot for manta rays, so hoping to find some for our guests.

Side note; my best friend Tommy arrived here last night, along with my inlaws, and my son Gabriel. Lots of family here with my guests. Love it when my family joins me out here, it always makes travel so much more special.

July 19, 2019 - And it is over. Our time with the whale sharks has ended. It was a good four days of shark diving. No mantas, but damn, where the hell did they freaking go? This was the most stressful week of swimming with these sharks that we have ever experienced. The new rules were hard to deal with, but we made the best of it and figured out how to have an amazing time within the rules and everyone got plenty of water time. Hoping these guys get their shit together and create some rules that make sense for the sharks and the people who want to see them. 

I just did a quick check and it is officially 15 years that I have been running this trip. I have swam with whale sharks now for 15 years in a row, that is so wild. A lot of changes since that first trip. We originally started running these trips off Holbox but we decided to change the location over 10 years ago when the sharks were spending more time near Isla Mujeres then Holbox. It cut travel time by an hour each way. 

I do miss Holbox, especially now that I am big into bird photography, Holbox is a birder’s paradise. But Isla is better for our guests. It is more touristy with a lot more for them to do. 

So we spent the morning seeking out manta rays around Contoy and nada. No mantas… they are just gone this week. Our friend Tracey saw two of them down deep in the whale shark grounds. It was a super brief encounter and that was the best the mantas gave us. We spent all morning looking for them and nothing. About 11:30 we admitted defeat and went to finish up the day with the whale sharks. The sharks were everywhere, lots of feeding sharks AND lots of coke bottling sharks. 

Our guests had a lot of opportunities to photograph these sharks and they all left the water happy. On my final swim of the trip, I followed a slow swimming shark for a short while, when magic happened. She stopped swimming and went vertical. I finally got my coke bottling shark. She allowed me to snap a few images of her, before she decided to start swimming again. I was on fire and so very grateful for these amazing animals and this amazing place. 

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Tonite we will get together for one final group meal together. Going to have dinner by the water to watch the sunset. A perfect way to end this weird but wonderful trip. Thanks to all our friends who joined us, you all are amazing souls. Love you guys.

Images I Shared this week on Social Media

MARCH 10 - 16, 2019
I was going through images this week, I shared on social media. I always try not to repost images I have shared before, so that we are always putting out something new. The thing about social media is, images are lost in time. The speed of news and storytelling is always so fast, especially on Facebook, that most images never get seen. So, I thought I would try something new this weekend and share the images here in a blog.

Well not ALL the images I posted, but just the ones from this week’s stuff. March 10 - 16 to be exact. And just the header images, since I change them out, sometimes daily. Anyway, hopefully you will enjoy this and the short stories that went with capturing the images as well. As always my friends, thank you for reading and viewing my content.


SAIL

SAIL

This capture was from our December trip. I was trying get a different angle of Patches (the great hammerhead). I love this species, their dorsal fins are so impressive. This was the first day we had her on the trip, and it during our morning dive. The thing was, we had crap weather the day before, so there was a lot of debris and sand flying around still. So the images I captured were just coming out horrible. I loved the image, but when I went to process it in photoshop, it was just coming out blah, so I decided to try playing with it in black and white, and it seemed to work. Sometimes, when you think an image is lost, try a little creativity and you never know.

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This was taken on the same day, later in the afternoon when the currents and the dust settled. We were in a very shallow spot, maybe 18 feet deep, and I was coming up at the end of the dive. I was hanging on the down line, after I believe, over an hour long dive and Patches was swimming around. Because of the earlier currents, and the previous days bad weather, the ocean floor was laid out in a beautiful perfect looking pattern. I saw her swimming below and swam out to snap this image of her from above, while she slowly swam by.

Dirty Girl

Dirty Girl

Keeping with the shark theme right now, this is Dirty Girl, one of the larger tigers hanging around tiger beach. The first season, we met her she was a very fiesty girl. Normally the tigers are just fiesty around the feeders, but she was very aggressive around the guests as well. I had to keep a very close eye on her when she would swim in. I later learned, due to the way she was behaving, that she was in season and was maybe lashing out at everyone, believing they were trying to mate with her. And if you ask, how do I know she was in season? There is something tigers do, when they are in season which is super unique, that is hard to explain without video…and she repeatedly did it.

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I am pretty sure I have shared this top image of a mom and calf in the past, however, I think I had shared in on one of my pages, and not all three. Yes I have three FB social media pages, one personal, one for our company, SDM adventures, and one for my photography, Eli Martinez. If you are not following those pages, it is a must… for awesome content, news, stories and a devastatingly handsome photographer! AND NO… I am not biased at all when I say that last bit. lol. Anyway, back to reality and my story…

Visiting Tonga and seeing first hand the relationship between mothers and calves is something you will never forget… you can feel the love in the water. The babies are babies, playing around, dancing, and sometimes breaching. The mothers are normally resting below. The babies need more air then the mothers, so they come up quite often, play for a couple of minutes then return down to her, touching her, getting reassuring nudges from her, and when they rise up together, they are constantly touching and bonding all the way up. It is so damn beautiful.

Another shot I posted this week, here is a good angle to see the touching bond between the mother and calf as she comes up for a breath of air. I snapped this image then had to swim like mad, because they were rising up and I was in their direct path. Well her direct path.

Another shot I posted this week, here is a good angle to see the touching bond between the mother and calf as she comes up for a breath of air. I snapped this image then had to swim like mad, because they were rising up and I was in their direct path. Well her direct path.

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This was a shot from our April 2018 visit to Machu Picchu in Peru. Still one of the coolest places I have ever visited. The magic of this place is indescribable. I wish I had done more homework when we planned the original trip, because there are nearby rainforests that I could of visited for shots at birds, monkeys and bears. Next time… we are planning a return trip to the area, possibly even organizing a trip for it. Between the rainforests and Machu Picchu, it is an epic trip.

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One of my most favorite days in the water. We encountered a pod of spotted dolphins off Bimini. This was during a trip we run for them. We had to cancel this season’s trip, there was not a lot of interest in it. Not sure why? It’s an awesome trip. Anyway, we had a pod of very friendly dolphin’s hanging around for over an hour with us. Super social, some were mating, which I captured with stills. I was on fire about that. This group of dolphins swam up to me and went through me. Of course, I WISH, they would of done that with the sun on my back, instead of in front of me, because it yellowed out this image badly. So if they had done this with the sun on my back I would of had amazingly beautiful blue water, with these dolphins, instead I had this greenish looking tint in the background.

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I tried to get as low as possible when I photographed this giant river otter in the Pantanal, Brazil. It is difficult when you are in a moving boat, trying to photograph a fast moving subject. But with a high shutter speed and ridiculous amounts of sunlight (It was freaking hot and VERY sunny when we encountered these guys), I managed to capture a few images. This was captured while these guys were hunting.

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Macro photography is new to me, but I fell instantly in love with it, when I decided to practice in my backyard, on this tiny guy. This orchard spider is no bigger than a mosquito, but I was blown away with how much color it had. LIKE WHY? Why is an animal so tiny and so colorful, it just didn’t make sense to me. So since this first session, I have gone on a crazed spider kick and will be posting a blog this week on some of my macro images I captured of this tiny predatory animals. The next level for me will be stacking images. I still have a lot to learn about it, but can’t wait to get into it. I know this is different for me, but as I travel on this photography journey of mine, learning how to shoot anything and everything when it comes to wildlife is a must, if I am ever going to be able to help someone improve their photography, especially when they are with us on our travels. I want our guests to have the best experience possible.

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I saved the craziest for last. I went through my crocodile images and found one I hadn’t shared yet from our 2018 expedition. Crocodiles are such amazing photo subjects and are a must for all big animal photographers. They are big and scary looking, mostly slow moving, and will hang around for hours, giving you plenty of opportunities to capture some unique images or behaviors. I absolutely LOVE photographing them. You can do no wrong with these guys.

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So there you go… a few of my images from this weeks posts. Hopefully you like what you see and will comment, share it, or at least give it a thumbs up. Thanks for visiting our website.

Hugs and I will hopefully see you out in the world.
- Eli

Tiger Beach Photo Gallery's

January has always meant Tigers and Great Hammerheads to us. For the past 7 , or 8? Maybe 9 years (don’t remember exactly when we started, it’s been a while.), we have run our annual trip to Tiger Beach for tiger sharks, and over the past 5 seasons great hammerheads. It has been an amazing time of year for us, with both highs and lows, because you never know what you are going to get when it comes to the weather. Some seasons we get perfect conditions, other seasons we get crap weather with challenging swells. The one thing that we have been fortunate to do is dive with big tigers and great hammerheads on ALL our January trips. Not that we haven’t on our October and December trips, because thankfully we have. But January is during the Bahamas winter season and you just never know what you are going to get. We kicked off 2019 with two back to back trips and here are a few images from our time spent here. I do hope you enjoy. Thanks again to our friends who joined us on these trips, you guys are amazing and we couldn’t do this without you. BIG HUG my friends.

Trip one. January 19 - 26, 2019.

Trip Two January 27 - February 3, 2019

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My BEST and WORST Day at Tiger Beach!

Totally Gutted!
January 29, 2019, - So I dropped down for a feed on our second dive of the day and we had Patches the great hammerhead and a hand full of lemons buzzing around. No tigers. There was one lemon who was buzzing me pretty close that caught my attention. Her skin had a few wart looking spots on her and a crack on the left side of her gills. I started calling her Cracks. Just the name that came to mind. 

Anyway, Cracks approached close on her passes, and so I started giving her a nose rub. She really enjoyed it and came back for more. Before I knew it, Cracks came in for the rub and once I started, she would stop swimming and drop her tail onto the sand... Like, completely stop swimming. Of course Patches, would come in and push her off, but I really enjoyed this interaction with Cracks. So, every time she would swim up to me, I would rub her, and each time, she would drop. 

During one interaction, when she dropped, I just sort of stretched her out and allowed her to drop all the way down to lay down in front of me. This was the first time a swimming lemon shark, swam up to me, where I would rub her nose and she went completely still and drop down into the sand for me. It was one of the most amazing moments of my career. I was on fire. In all the years of working with lemon sharks, this had never happened before. It was a new behavior and I couldn’t be happier that I got to be a part of this magic.  A few people were around me with cameras and I couldnt wait to go up and check out what they captured. This moment, and this interaction, is the stuff I dream about when I think of sharks. 

THEN, reality hit my ass…  NO ONE had captured it on video, my heart sank. A few stills here and there and my buddy / safety diver Houston, got a short piece of it on video, but not the entire interactions, I was gutted. They all thought this was normal and didn’t think much of it. I saw everyone filming, so I assumed it was being filmed, but nope! Something, I need to make sure doesn’t happen next time. I will beg someone to capture it. Of course, if there is a next time?

Easily the COOLEST lemon shark interaction I have EVER had in my entire career diving at Tiger Beach, and sadly I don’t have the entire video to share with the world. I have it in my heart and mind, but showing people what is possible with these amazing animals is lost this time. Hopefully, I will get another opportunity with Cracks, but it is so rare that we do not have tiger sharks on our dives, I do not think that opportunity will happen again. The moment is with me forever, but I really would of loved to share that moment with you all.

Thank you for reading…

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Final Trip of the 2017 Season.

Our December Tiger Shark trip has been a crazy, scary, fun ride so far. It is only day 3 and I have had several gut checks. The tigers have been on fire. This morning we had 6 players come in. Emma, Freckles, Maui, Tequila, a new big shark we haven't named yet and  of course our freaking pain in the ass, Jitterbug. 

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Jitterbug is turning out to be a real nightmare of a shark. I was hoping she would of settled down by now, but she hasn’t. The thing is, she is not just a jerk to the feeders, she is also a pain to the other tigers and lemons. Today she bit one of the lemons on the dorsal fin and I watched the lemon turn and slam her on her side, pushing JB, up and away. I am Hopeful as she gets older, she will settle down. But, I highly doubt it... She is just a crazy shark.

Jitterbug and a bull shark

Jitterbug and a bull shark

It has been a great week for species. When we arrived at Fish Tales yesterday, we had 4 bull sharks hanging around, which is a new thing. We normally do not have bull sharks here. But the way these sharks are behaving, it looks like the bulls are here to stay. So we will see what that turns into. Often when a few bulls show up, it won’t be long before they invite a bunch of their friends here and long term, that will be a bad thing. 

We also had Patches the great hammerhead show up here today. Which was awesome. She is one of the Bimini hammerheads, but has decided she likes it here at TB, so she has returned again for  second season. I do hope she stays, it always makes for better dives. If she decides to hang out permanently, and with the addition of bull sharks, Tiger Beach will have easily become, the all time greatest shark dive in the world. 3 marquee species on one dive... Just incredible.

Patches the Great Hammerhead. Image by Victor Osipov

Patches the Great Hammerhead. Image by Victor Osipov

We finished up the trip with time spent at Bimini, seeking out great hammerheads. Over a three day period we had five different hammerheads visit us. Two of them I recognized from previous trips, the others were new to me. One of the hammerheads had a badly broken jaw (fishermen). It did a quick pass, so I didn’t get a really good look at it. The only thing I could confirm was that it was a male shark. I was hoping it was not Spartacus, a shark I have known for a while. It was hard to tell from the distance, but it had dark brown skin, like Spartacus. The other male we frequently see here, Anchor, has more of a buck skin color to him.  

Over all, it was an amazing trip and an amazing way to end the 2017 season. I was excited to see my old friends, Emma and Tequila back at Tiger Beach. They safely made it through another season. We still have not seen Princess or Hook yet, which makes me worry, they are really late to arrive. If they show up together in January, it will sort of reinforce my theory that tigers travel in twos, and that Hook and Princess are travel partners. More importantly than that, I just want to know these two beauties make it back safely to Tiger Beach. 


Photo Gallery

The Photography BUG!

October 30 - So I am taking you all on my wildlife journey with me. I know, I was supposed to video blog my entire 2017 dive travel season, but damn - that become really hard to do, when you are a one man band. By one man band, I am referring to; shooting video and stills, recording blogs, editing stills for social media, editing the videos for our video channels. All the while, hosting our friends, managing trips, as well as, marketing and planning for future trips. It just got really hard to do. Maybe one day, I will have the budget to get it done proper, but until that day comes…going to continue to wear the different hats to keep the circus going.

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Also, right now, I am on a big wildlife photography kick. I truly enjoy shooting stills. For the past 10 years my entire focus has been shooting video, but I think burn out set in and somewhere in 2014 I started trying to shoot less video and more stills. The bug hit me hard this year and I am on a full on kick right now, trying to improve my photography. I still shoot video, because I believe that video tells a way better story. But it is not my main focus. I am enjoying the process right now and this journey that I am on. So videos and video blogs will be few and far between.

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For those of you that have been following my story, (I have been writing blogs since 2005), my journey is always ever evolving. Maybe that is due to my ADD mind set, along with my addictive personality? I don’t really know. But so far it has been a lot of fun, even with all the bump and bruises along the way.  Anyway, on to my latest blog and what I have been up too...

We just returned from Tiger Beach (Oct. 21 -27). This was our first SDM trip of the winter tiger season. It was an amazing trip with a lot of really great people. I was on fire to get back there. I had not been there since January of this year, so it was long over due and I was anxious to get there and check on my friends.

October has always been a great time of year to visit Tiger Beach because that is when all our big tigers return to these waters. They normally leave during the summer months and go off to different parts of the world. Some of the tagged TB tigers have been reported off the coast of Cuba, some Florida. Others up the Atlantic towards New York. So crazy how far some of them travel. 

Of course it worries the hell out of me because once the tigers leave the Bahamas, they are no longer protected. Bahamas is a shark sanctuary, but the rest of the Atlantic and waters beyond are not. SO, when my tigers migrate off during the summer, I am always worried some damn fishermen will find them. Especially Hook and Emma, the jaws on these massive tigers would make some dirtbag fisherman, a dream trophy for their wall. I have been working with a few of these tigers for a lot of years now and it would kill me if anything ever happened to them. 

Emma and Hook. Have known both of these sharks for ten years.

Emma and Hook. Have known both of these sharks for ten years.

Hook with a bullet hole. She healed up fine.

Hook with a bullet hole. She healed up fine.

Normally my girls, Hook, Emma, Princess and Tequila are here in October. This year, they were a no-show. We had a few others there; Maui, Freckles, Jitterbug and Zena spent the week with us, but not my main girls. So I am starting out this season a bit on edge. Where the hell are they? One year, Hook showed up with a bullet wound in her. So yes, I am always worried until I seem them safely back in the Bahamas.

On the positive side of things,  the waters at Tiger Beach are still very warm, so I am hoping that is what is causing our big tiger shark aggregation delay this season. I will thankfully be back there the first week of December, and hopefully there will be a nice reunion waiting for us when we get there. I will for sure keep you posted.

Here are a few images from our October trip. I didn’t take them, my partner in crime, Maritza did. I was busy feeding and keeping everyone safe, so I didn’t have a chance to shoot. 



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Of course that does make sense when you read the first part of my blog and I am talking about my photography journey, then show case Mari’s work. Well, when I started writing this blog, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to say...so I just started writing. Plus, I had just finished editing some images of wild deer, my Sophia and I went to photograph yesterday evening. We make it a point to seek out wildlife to photograph everyday when I am home. Most of the time it is birds, but when we find wild mammals to photograph, we are all over it. So here are a few pics from our evening session the other night.

We went at dusk to try and catch the golden light that the setting sun gives off. I have seen so many amazing images from world class photographers when they catch wildlife with this light and the images are just epic. So I have been trying to mimic some of those shots I have seen. I still have a lot of work to do to try and capture that perfect golden moment, but I am slowly on my way…

Thank you for reading...Next adventure report...Pelagics off Baja!

White Shark Expedition 2017 Trip Report

You just never know what to expect from Guadalupe Island. Of course it is almost guaranteed you will see great whites, even though I hate to use that word when it comes to wild animal encounters, because there is never any guarantees. But with the amount of white sharks in the area during this time of year, the chances of encounters are very high. Plus, that is why I always choose September for the month we visit Guadalupe. The sharks are in full force.

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Of course the big question is always, how many sharks will we see? I have had some lean seasons out there, where we only saw a few white sharks, during our three day trip. Don't get me wrong, having the chance to see even one white shark is still an honor. Because any trip where you have great whites hanging around is always a great thing. But when you have experienced 15 plus white sharks on an expedition, you realize how special this place can be. And that is what I want for everyone, opportunities for our friends who travel with us to see as many white sharks as possible in the short time that we are there. 

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Well this season, we had an EPIC trip. It was an amazing group of people, and we had white shark, after white shark, show up to our boat. In fact, today I got the email from the observers/researchers that were aboard our boat. They recorded 24 different white sharks that had visited us this season. 24 is a new record high for us. 24 WHITE SHARKS! That is a lot of white sharks during a three day period.

Last season we had 21 different white sharks visit us. Which was a new record for us then. Sadly, it was only two days, we lost the third to a hurricane barreling down on us. Who knows what that extra day would of brought? Of course we will never know, but it is nice knowing there are a lot of white sharks in the area. 

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So back to this season. Upon arrival, we had sharks within minutes of dropping our anchor. Once the sharks arrived it was non-stop all day, the sharks were on fire. They were breaching on the hang baits all day, with a lot of close passes by the cages, which was great for everyone. Those encounters provided a lot of opportunities for every type of photo and video our friends were hoping to capture. Face shots, side shots, multiple sharks, breaching shots. Most were half breaches, but there were a few full breaches as well. A bonus added to the shark action was; the seas were calm, the sun was out and the visibility was amazing. It was a dream. 


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I even had time to break out the drone and record the whites breaching on the hang baits as well. It was crazy. Guadalupe Island delivered this season and the encounters were everything that we all hoped for.  I guess it is good that you never know what you are going to get when you show up to a place, because, surprise is the spice of life. Makes me anxious to find out what is in store for us next season?


White Shark Photo Gallery