BENEATH THE WAVES WITH SD EXPEDITIONS 2016
So let me immerse you into the adventures I've experienced with SD Expeditions so far, my dreams have come true and my goals have been met. There is really nothing more an ocean lover could ask for. SDE are a company that show you the underwater world in their natural habitat, founded by Nick Lebeouf you can experience so many life changing opportunities with these guys. Scuba, snorkel, Ocean safaris, Shark tours, you name it, they do it! So let me travel you through my journey and talk to you a little bit about SDE during my internship.
I embarked on my first scuba tour here in La Jolla right after I arrived from the UK and boy was I in for a surprise. Before I came to La Jolla, I had read about the expected marine life to see here whilst diving, but I had no real idea about the abundance of life that is hidden here at the shores and the cove. Plus the beautiful underwater landscapes and canyons that blanket the surrounding area, with life that weaves in and around the crevices of the walls right in front of your eyes. The underwater park at La Jolla Shores is one of the best diving spots in San Diego, being a natural reserve means no marine life can be taken - so more species for us to see!
The SD Expedition dive team that lead the tours are incredibly knowledgable and filled with enthusiasm, which as you can imagine makes the entire adventure a truly fantastic experience. The cove dive is one of my favourite dives here in La Jolla, venturing through the giant ribbon-like kelp gives me a surreal mermaid moment every time - it never gets old! Whilst going through the motions and embodying the stillness of the dive, the inquisitive company of the local sea lions (of which there are many) will join us for an ocean dance mostly every dive I do.
The scuba tours here are at La Jolla definitely something anyone should experience, regardless if you are new to the scuba world or not. Both sites are really spectacular dives and you are guaranteed to see all types of marine species, from a Sea Horse to a Shark! Every time I dive these spots, I will always see new species that I haven't seen on a dive previously and I am always amazingly satisfied. I qualified as a rescue diver in a Quarry back in the UK, with murky and ‘can’t see you hand in front of your face’ sorta visibility. So diving here is a real treat for me and for anyone looking to venture into the great dive scene. The entrances at the shore and the cove are super easy and are really close to where you kit up, so it couldn’t get more relaxed if it tried. The sites are like a bait ball of marine life that are exploding with bright colours all around, it’s definitely something different that anyone into they're diving should practise. Seriously, you gotta dive here!
So if you’re not into the whole scuba diving scene, SD have loads of other options to chose from! And for me.. I'll take all the Ocean time I can get. The ocean safari trip is definitely something different, an adventure that builds and advances your understanding of the pelagic life in the ocean before us. This trip is truly something I would recommend to anyone and myself being a huge cetacean enthusiast - this is the perfect tour for me! The team continuously motor around the coast looking for marine animals, from Mola Molas to Whales, Dolphins and even bait balls. But it doesn’t stop there! Placed above the boat are kayaks and the team allow you to slip in the water and experience the animals first hand - the team have really got you covered. There are some incredible animals located in the Pacific Ocean and the team know where to find them - which was really cool for me as that meant I could slip in ready with my camera if we motored aside something. The boat is rigged with a knowledge and the ocean is really at your fingertips - I was always so ready to jump in!
The snorkelling tours are another thrilling adventure that SD Expeditions hold, that I have helped with during my intern. The team will guide you into the colourful, clear waters and let you immerse yourself with the wildlife that are around here. The cove (one of the snorkel sites as well as scuba sites) is covered with the Garibaldi (California State fish), an orange goldfish looking species that overrides the sea grass filled shallow waters. These guys are super inquisitive, their bright orange complexion really entices you into watching their type of world and how they move and behave in the ocean they call home. They are everywhere and are perfect to photograph!
The Sea Lions relax and sleep on the warm sand all day at the cove, watching everyone pass them by. But if your lucky, they will come over and check you out. Their curious and puppy-like nature makes them really playful and really interactive, they love to see your fins kicking in the water and they love to be a part of what you are doing. It’s a short walk to the entrance, so carrying all my equipment wasn't too bad. Seriously, I feel so blessed as soon as I enter the water.. you are graced with so many species and it's like they just want to see what you're up to. It’s called a snorkel trip right? But nothings stopping you from diving down and experiencing that stillness and quietness that the ocean gives to us, a feeling all ocean lovers long to witness - I sure do! Snorkelling here in San Diego is worth all the time in the world and it’s truly wonderful to live side by side to nature and experience the freedom they behold in the ocean, it’s something I can’t stay away from! Believe me - it will leave you wanting more! (Hence why I went back in 2017...)
So here it is, the tail end of my blog and what a way to leave the best till last. The Shark tour!
This is definitely an exhilarating experience that will never get old for me! The moment you get to see these beautiful creatures grace their presence with yours, is a moment you will never forget - trust me! If anyone has been in the water with Sharks before you will definitely know what I’m talking about. But to start with, the whole day out on the boat consists of laughs and the SD Expeditions team really treat you like family. The boat is truly your temple for the day! A friendly, relaxed vibe and Sharks... What more could an ocean lover want? I mean, really!
So once you have reached the point to stop and begin your search, the team have it all covered! You have time to sit, relax, enjoy the sun and just wait for the majestic beasts to swim your way. I remember my first trip out on the Shark tour, the guests and I were all catching some rays and chatting, but then I hear Kyle shout out to me “Madi, come in the water”. At this moment, I knew this was my time to see something I’ve been waiting to see all my life. Before heading over to the ladder, I peaked over the side to see a small Mako Shark gracefully swimming around the boat. She was beautiful. My heart raced and my adrenaline was up, I was ready for my first encounter with a Mako. I slipped into the water and there she was, appearing from the shadows..my first Mako.
All I can say is WOW - what an experience. So i’m describing details about my time here with SD Expeditions during this blog, but there are truly no words to describe the feeling I felt when she appeared. She came close enough for me to get a real good look at her, the sun glistened off her iridescent skin as she moved swiftly but rapidly past me and her beauty was more intense than I had ever imagined. You’ll never understand the feelings that rush over you until you try it, if you’re an ocean addict like me it’s such a privilege to be granted with the elegance of such an animal. I even thought I had a slight fear of Sharks before I came here, but the ocean, the dive team and of course the animal itself show you that the stigma attached to them is true baloney. They have such an important role in our ecosystem and the ocean needs them, we need them!
However, I hope you have dived deep into my fantastic travels and I hope you can soon join me, or get out there and travel yourself. SD Expeditions have reminded me of the wonderful ways of the ocean and how we can be a part of it’s wonderful existence. Their trips are definitely the best I have ever embarked on and their knowledge extends far further than you will imagine, they will certainly show you something different.
'be the movement' with sd expeditions 2017
So.. i'm going to dive you into the deep end of my second trip with SDE. But first, let me explain that I'm back home now and i'm over flowing with University work. I finish my studies at the end of April, when someone tells you University goes fast - they are not kidding! It's flown by. Anyways, the whole point of going back to SDE this time was for my final major project. In my last blog I (hopefully) introduced you into SDE and everything they do, so this time i'm going to do a little bit of that but also talk more about the whole reasoning behind it all. Firstly, my trip was amazing as always. I've never been so captivated by a place before, San Diego truly is the place for me! I feel so at home as soon as I slip into the Ocean there, surrounded by all the creatures - I couldn't be a happier mermaid!
So this particular trip time was shorter, I spent two weeks with SDE and lived with the Owner (Nick Lebeouf) during my stay. We got out on the boat as much as possible this time as my main goal was to get those Sharks in my lens! I didn't do any diving as there wasn't great conditions, plus the Sharks I was focussing on are way out at Sea! However, I did a lot of free diving with the crew and spent a lot of time in the water (which is great) and I saw a lot more of Kyle McBurnie (co-founder and professional underwater photographer) as he was back in town. (pic of Kyle below)
This time the trip was different, I was solely focussing on my project but I was still interning for two weeks. As I went in January, there wasn't a lot of trips going out because of the unreliable weather. So Nick and Kyle were so kind to take me out on my own tours! These are so relaxing and fun, spending the day on the water in the sun, being granted with lots of other marine life and not just Sharks - what more could you ask for?
I'm not sure if i've mentioned before but I love all things Cetaceans, especially Dolphins. So during the time we take to get to the site to look for Sharks, we encounter many other species. I've seen in total five Blue Whales on one trip! Now that was a once in a lifetime experience. We also (mostly every time) see lots of active behaviour from Dolphins, these including Common Dolphins and offshore Bottlenose Dolphins. I even had the chance to jump in on a pod of feeding Dolphins twice now! The noises they make from echolocation to locate food and the whistle and pulse sounds they create to communicate whilst feeding is incredible. It's almost piercing and it's so overwhelming you don't know where to look! A feeling of complete elation i'll never forget or never overcome, ever! Below are some pics I captured during some trips, both of Common Dolphins and both performing some gorgeous ariel behaviour. The colours in the sky are nice right? That was after a long day out photographing Sharks, we were presented with Mother Natures greatest gift of the sunset. It was incredibly peaceful and still, then we were granted with some active behaviour of the Commons, it was delightful.
Ok i'm waffling, I guess you want to know more about the actual point of this blog? I could talk about my experiences all day and all night, it's something I was born to do and something i'll never ever want to be away from.
So... my major project. Remember those Sea Lion images I showed you in my last SDE blog? They were the starting point of my project. I am looking at 'Movement', but my idea has developed a lot more since then. Initially, I presented a series of Sea Lion images that move in a line of movements, exploring the physical locomotion of the Sea Lion. However, my newest project has progressed from this. I've obviously focussed on a different subject (Sharks) but i've also developed my idea.
Sharks face various issues in their life and they struggle to just stay in their homes, just minding their own business without us interfering. We are a huge part of this destruction, coastal development, dumping poisons and toxins into their homes, using them for soup and even 'health' supplements. But the main reason behind it all? Fear. We think its OK to do this because well, the majority are scared of them right? They aren't that important to our Oceans right? WRONG.
Sharks rule our Oceans, they keep everything in check and they regulate all the little and big things in the Ocean. They prey on the weak and infected, which keeps populations at bay and also destroys the the weak individuals, making stronger populations. Without Sharks we wouldn't be here! No Ocean, No Land, No Blue, No Green... basically.. No Sharks, No Us. So.... my project focusses on movement, yes, but not just locomotion this time. The movement of falling in love..
What do I mean by that? I mean, we need to fall in love again with species we condemn, species we fear, but species that just wish for heed. I want to be a part of that movement, I want to be the movement. I want to be a part of it through my own creative mind. So I decided to photograph them - yes, theres lots of Shark photographers out there! But my idea was simple.
Natural, clean, wild & free. I wanted to create an impact to my viewers (you guys) through beauty, because aesthetic is attractive right? So why can't Sharks be attractive, they are beautiful and majestic creatures. To produce 'pretty' images was my goal, but not just for the aesthetic. But to attract the mass and create a new perception on the Shark for them, to allow people to engage with my images and appreciate Sharks for what they truly are.
So here it is... my final images!
My journey with SDE came to an end very quick, but I got the images I needed and I experienced a whole new consciousness of movement. Along the way I met so many influential people, including Amos Nachoum! Whole truly opened my eyes to the world of understanding. I explored the wonderful ways of movement and I was again, exposed to Mother Natures greatest gifts. Natural, clean, wild & free. The rulers of our Oceans, the movements of our Marine Ecosystems, the mighty Shark. I hope you can see what I see, a creature so beautiful and full of elegance, not a mindless man killing beast. So please, if you are a person who fears Sharks, let me immerse you into the real perception of the species and hopefully express a new and 'pretty' view of them - a view thats true. Lets fall in love again, lets BE THE MOVEMENT.