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    Expeditions

    AWTIMATE Expeditions

    My expeditions cater exclusively for marine life enthusiasts and underwater photographers. It is my policy to first research the location before I organize to lead an expedition. Your safety and enjoyment is my priority.   However some of the best diving is in remote corners of the world, the operation may not be 5-star, but the service and diving will be exceptional. I restrict numbers, which improves the quality of your experience.  Photographers will have ample space for the optimum photo opportunities.  You have the first opportunity to shoot – at all possible times, I will put you in the best possible position to get your shot.  Because I want you to enjoy the experience both underwater and above, we only select first class operations for accommodation, dive operations and live-aboards.

    To find out more of my current expeditions go to: PHOTOGRAPHY & NATURALIST : EXPLORATORY : PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKSHOP

     

    All Time Best Expeditions – they should be in your 'bucket list'

    1.Galápagos – Beyond the Ordinary Expedition

    “If life is but a dream, as poets say, a journey through the Galapagos is a journey of dream, a dream that is worth reliving again and again.” Michael AW

    Galapagos is a must on everyone’s bucket list.  Beyond the norm of enjoying nature’s splendor at its finest, it is in the Galápagos where one becomes part of the wilderness on islands, above and below the water. Isolated from the mainland of South America, creatures on Galapagos lack an instinctive sense fear of humans and their benign curiosity means you are allowed some interaction.  Specially packaged for naturalist and photographers, our Beyond the Ordinary Galapagos Tour is acclaimed the best ever put together where one will see and feel evolution in motion.  Highlights are hammerheads, white-tips sharks, Galapagos sharks, Whale sharks, Mola Mola, sea lions, torpedo ray, Eagle ray, Cow rays, mantas, dolphins, sea lions, penguins and of course the Red-lip bat fish. Iguanas overload – land and marine and we captured them underwater as well. There will be land excursion to see the giant tortoises, iguanas and boobies.

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    2.Cuba – Exploring a Time Capsule

    Marine biologists described GARDENS OF THE QUEEN AS A “WINDOW TO THE PAST”, a time capsule conjuring comparisons to what the Caribbean may have looked like 50 to 100 years ago.

    If Christopher Columbus was alive today, the only place he would recognise on our planet would be Jardines de la Reina, “the Gardens of the Queen”, an archipelago of a thousand low-lying islands embraced by lush mangrove swamps. In his exploration of the Americas, Columbus discovered this magnificent outpost and named it in honour of Queen Isabella of Castile (the country that later become Spain). Since its establishment as a national park, Gardens of the Queen, has become Cuba's oldest and largest protected area. Strictly prohibited from any development, the Gardens have not changed since the time of Columbus. However, the great explorer could not have possibly seen the garden’s incredible splendour, as its secrets are largely beneath its wave. 

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    3.Cocos, Costa Rica – Back to the Past Expedition

    Ever imagine what the ocean was like 50 years ago? Imagine a place that has not been fished by commercial and sports fishermen; where sharks, rays and pelagic fishes are found in extravagant numbers? Now imagine Tiger sharks, Galapagos sharks, Whale sharks and dolphins mingling among hundreds of hammerhead sharks and zillions of fishes. It can be a dream come true with a journey back to the past that is so surreal yet the reality that will blast through your fantasies. Immense will take on a new dimension. Join us to make this your reality; imagine jumping into a time capsule that take you back to the state of our ocean some 50 years ago. Cocos Island is uninhabited (except for a permanent ranger station) located 550km off the shore of mainland Costa Rica. Surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents, Cocos Island is a marine protected seamount in the Eastern Pacific. First declared a Costa Rican National Park in 1978, in recognition of its uniqueness of rich fauna it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. In 2002, the World Heritage Site designation was extended to include an expanded marine zone of 1,997 km. In 2009, a National Geographic expedition with local NGO’s revealed that Cocos to harbour the highest abundance of large ocean predators found anywhere in the world.

    For our next expedition to this guarded phenomenon, Ocean Geographic has garnered the best crew and an elite dive expedition cruiser – the Argo. Argo is a very intentional blend of working ship and luxury yacht; totally redesigned and refitted in 2008 to pamper 16 discriminating guests in 8 spacious well-appointed staterooms. This 40m vessel has a global reach and was conceived to serve as the ultimate platform for a deep-diving submersible as well as for remote operating vehicle deployment (R.O.V.). She is the mothership to the DeepSee submersible. With our expedition, you have the first priority to take a dive to 300m. (optional). This is unique; no other vessel in the world offers a true submersible dive to the abyssal depth – it is like going to the moon! 

    Our next expedition to the Cocos is part of Ocean Geographic’s on-going assessment of marine protected areas in the Indian and Pacific Ocean – we intend to include this biosphere into the pictorial index of species and habitats for climate change reference.

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    4.Sardine Run – South Africa

    Every Each year, between the months of May and July, millions of sardines migrate north from the cold water off South Africa's Cape Point. Cuddling close to shore they make their way up along the coastlines of the Transkei (northern Eastern Cape) and KwaZulu-Natal is commonly known as the annual Sardine Run - described as one of the greatest show on earth, it is the epitome of underwater wildlife adventure. As the dolphins herd the sardines into a tight ball and push them towards the surface, garnets falls like snow balls from the sky to feast. This is a special focus expedition designed for optimum interaction opportunities.

    Full board, transfer from Durban, twin share 3 star comfort accommodation, photographic tips, and 9 day sardine run charter. Our Beyond the Ordinary expedition is co-coordinated by our photographic associates and marine wild life aficionado based in Durban.  Limited spots book early. I have been leading this expedition since 2005 - small group with our own spotter micro light.

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    5.Cenderawasih Bay, Papua Indonesia

    The whale sharks found in Cenderawasih Bay are the new National Treasures of Indonesia – occurring nowhere else in the world in such conditions, whale sharks are predictably found the bay.

    Ocean Geographic team conducted a reconnaissance trip to West Papua in November 2010 followed by a 10 day expedition in 2011; we encountered regular appearances of up to 12 whale sharks in a day ranging from 3 metres to 11m in length! Yes – babies, young adults and breeding females all in one location and all at the same time. These sharks are supposedly residents of the bay and are very tame, allowing people to swim in close proximity while they consume fishes from the fishing pontoons.  In 2011, over the course of just four days in water interaction at two pontoons, 23 sharks were encountered. In conjunction with Ocean Geographic’s SOS’s projects, two expeditions are planned for Cenderawasih Bay in 2012.

    Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park's location can easily be discerned from the map of Indonesia; it occupies the northern coastal area of West Papua resembling the shape of a large bird’s neck. The marine park encompasses 80 square kilometres, making it the largest in Southeast Asia. There is a huge range of marine life in Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park comprising of all variations of coral reef; fringing reef, barrier reef, atoll, patch reef, and shallow water reef mounds. The fringing reefs are the most abundant and they are indeed the last of the few remaining pristine reefs in the world.

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    Until recent times, the bay was geologically isolated from the flow of the Pacific tides; this isolation has somewhat consecrated Cenderawasih with a wide variety of endemic species. Researchers have noted the interesting occurrences of many habitually deep-dwelling fish species found here in relatively shallow water. The wide variation of reef formations along with the resident population of the ocean’s largest fish, the whale shark, prompted Ocean Geographic Honorary Editor Dr. Gerald Allen to call Cenderawasih “the Galapagos of Indonesia’s Reefs”. To date Gerry has discovered five new species of fish, including a new dottyback and garden eel. Their current count of fish species has increased from 884 species to 955. 

    Though the expedition predominantly will survey coral reefs and muck sites for critters such as pygmies, tiger shrimps, frogfishes and octopi we will also explore a few well known wrecks - WW II ships and planes. However without a doubt, the highlight of the expeditions will be to locate the bay’s resident whale sharks that have learned to feast upon fish nets filled with ikan puri – small anchovies around fishing pontoons (bagans in local language). This perhaps is like a protein enrichment program for the habitually plankton eating sharks. According to whale shark scientists, Brent Stewart and Morgan Riley, this behaviour is out of the ordinary for these giant sharks. What is most extraordinary is that while elsewhere in the world, fishermen are culling these sharks for their fins, the bagan fishermen here seem to be friends with these sharks, encouraging their visits by offering them bucket loads of ikan puri. It is our intent to learn more about the resident population of whale sharks and as well ensure meaningful conservation efforts are made to protect the wellbeing of both fish and local stakeholders.

    Expedition Platform – the exquisite fine diving & fine dining live-board - MSY Seahorse; expedition staff comprise of photo pro and researcher.

    *OG members discount applicable. :

    Read about the first account of Ocean Geographic Recce Trip - http://www.getjealous.com/getjealous.php?action=showdiaryentry&diary_id=1855341&go=gaztrish

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    6.Raja Ampat & Triton Bay

    The Raja Ampat, Triton Bay, Banda Sea area are the bull eyes of marine biodiversity; supported by scientific facts it is heartland of the richest reefs system in the world. After several scientific surveys conducted by teams from Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy coral expert John Vernon affirmed that Raja Ampat has a higher density of species than elsewhere in the world. “Never before in the world have researchers found 400 coral species in one dive, as they did in Raja Ampat," he has said. To date, collectively, coral experts documented 540 species of scleractinian (hard) corals which equate to 75% of the world total.

    View the embedded image gallery online at:
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    World top ichthyologist Dr. Gerry Allen broke his own record three times in Raja Ampat/Triton Bay for numbers of species recorded on a single dive. Before diving in the Raja Ampat area his record was 204 different species recorded in Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea. In 2001, during his Raja Ampat expedition, he documented 283 species of coral fish at Cape Kri, an experience he had never previously encountered. Then, during the 2002 Nature Conservancy expedition, near the island of Kofiau, he set a new record by documenting 284 species during one dive but in a recent expedition he once again broke world record with a 330 species count in a site off Triton Bay which equates to about one species every 10 seconds! To many intrepid scientists and professional underwater photo journalist such as David Doubilet, Alex Mustard, Dr Gerry Allen, Dr Mark Erhman, Michael AW, Raja Ampat and Triton Bay is the final frontier, the last remaining coral reefs to be found in pristine condition harboring the world’s most prolific marine life. The area is comprised of 4.6 million hectares of reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and rocky coastline and it has one of the world lowest resident human population with minimal industrial development.

    The OBJECTIVE - As part of Ocean Geographic ongoing photographic project to build up a visual index of the marine environment of the region, the visual  assessment of our annual expedition aim document for global climate change research.

    Whether you are just a passionate diver or underwater photographer you will have a stupendous time and a great learning experience exploring this final coral frontier; we will show you the best sites and explore some new one as well. As this is a visual assessment expedition, we will dive the best sites and at the best time of the day for optimum enjoyment and photographic opportunities. There will be Impromptu presentations marine scientists on board will share with you their work and experience. Of course if you are photographer Michael will be happy to share with you some of their imaging tips and secrets.

    Since 2003 Michael AW has made seven expeditions to Raja Ampat & Fak Fak and 45 dive expeditions to Indonesia. In 2003 Michael and Leandro Blanco produced a broadcast documentary for the provincial government to lobby for conservation of the region. The photographic assessments were included three pictorial volumes of ‘Richest Reefs of Indonesia’ and ‘Indonesia’s Global Treasures’ in 2003, 2006, 2012 respectively. In 2008, Michael AW together Dr Cabell Davis and Eric Hogan conducted a brief survey of Triton Bay, Misool and North Raja Ampat for the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute.

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    Published Work

    "Sharing with Sharks" - National Geographic In a surprising interaction at sea, colossal whale sharks home...
    Researchers believe there are more 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. While about 20% are...
    Thumbnail Michael AW – selected as one of 40 world’s Most Influential Nature’s Photographer Outdoor Photographers Read...
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    Latest News

    ‘began as an epic expedition to the high Arctic. The body of work produced by some of the world’s best...
    Report by Michael AW Together with Marie Levine of Sharks Research Institute,  I was at the 16th meeting of the...
    Premiere Exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum13 April to 3 November 2013. February 2010, a team...
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    Email : fish@michaelaw.com
    Tel : +61 43083 3838