Up close and personal: 7 tricks to ensure you have amazing encounters with marine life every dive.

Up close and personal: 7 tricks to ensure you have amazing encounters with marine life every dive.

Ever see a photo of a turtle that’s so impossibly close-up that you’re sure the turtle’s head must have been touching the camera dome when it was taken, and wonder how the photographer got so close to a wild animal?

turtle on great barrier reef close up to camera surrounded by coral

It’s not only because sea turtles are often adorably friendly (the ones that reside in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia are some of the friendliest). Professional underwater photographers and experienced divers have some of the most up close encounters with wildlife, and there’s a reason why.

There are a few tricks that will help you get that little bit closer to marine life, resulting in even more magical and heart-pumping dives that really allow you to get back in touch (almost literally) with nature.

Don’t chase the wildlife!

If a strange-looking animal came charging at me whilst furiously blowing bubbles and kicking up and down as fast as they could, I’d turn the other way and swim too.

How many of us have spotted a manta ray and sped up to get that little bit closer? When the feeling of adrenalin and excitement takes over, it can be hard to ignore it and stay cool, calm and collected.

Fight the urge to chase after the shark/ray/turtle. If it’s swimming quickly already, trust me, you’ll never catch it. If it isn’t, remaining slow and kicking in a controlled and calm manner will allow you to sidle up right beside it.

Get your buoyancy just right.

When I learned to dive, my instructor made me perform every single skill in my Open Water Course neutrally buoyant. At the time, it made me throw my gear at him in frustration. Now, I can’t thank him enough.

Being able to control your buoyancy and trim is one of the most important skills to master when it comes to scuba diving. When you have your buoyancy down pat and are streamlined in the water, you are more relaxed and in control which allows you to focus on other things, like searching for marine life or practicing underwater photography.

Good neutral buoyancy results in not only more enjoyable diving where you feel relaxed and in control, but safer diving. Not only this, but a curious marine creature is more likely to come and say hello to a diver who maintains neutral buoyancy throughout a dive, than someone who is going up, down and everywhere.

Don’t block the path of an animal

Making an animal feel threatened is a sure fire way to annoy it, and even get yourself injured.

Always remain next to a marine creature, rather that above or in front of it. And it goes without saying not to block its exit path.

Keep your hands off!

This is important. Not just for getting that little bit closer to an animal, but for your own safety and for theirs.

It’s tempting when you’re mere inches from an animal to reach out and give it a pat, but 99% of the time this will cause the creature to swim off or turn around and give you a bite. We can harm fragile species of coral simply by touching them, as many coat themselves with protective secretions.

lionfish
The lion fish is

Many marine species of coral and fish are poisonous, and there is no quicker way to ruin a liveaboard dive trip than to touch something that will send you to hospital!

You should feel humbled that a marine animal allows you to get in to such close proximity with it. It’s a rare and special feeling. Enjoy it, and keep your hands to yourself.

Know your gear

This rule is a blanket one for any dive.

Knowing your gear will mean you’re not fumbling around underwater. You’re in control. Control equals a calmer diver, which in return equals closer encounters with marine life.

If all else fails, stop!

You’re on a liveaboard trip in the Maldives, and you’ve spotted a dark shadowy shape coming towards you out in the never-ending expanse of blue. It’s a manta ray!

manta and diver side by side in open water
Image by Mike Veitch

Rather than swimming towards it, stop. Again, this is where neutral buoyancy will help you out. You can hang motionless in the water, not floating up, not sinking down, as the enormous ray comes towards you and glides over your head.

Look for the little things in life

Close encounters with marine mammals, reptiles and pelagic is always mind-blowing, but there are countless other tiny species out there that are just as incredible.

two pygmy seahorses side by side on pink coral
Image by Ocean Real Images

Pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs and the seriously underrated mantis shrimp are some of the smaller species that are just as beautiful as the bigger life.

Give these tips a whirl next time you go for a splash. You’ll be well prepared for getting up even closer with marine life on your next liveaboard dive trip. 

The top 3 live aboard diving trips for shark lovers.

The top 3 live aboard diving trips for shark lovers.

Sharks have long been portrayed in the media as mindless killing machines (thanks Jaws!) but this is far from the truth.  These apex predators are essential to keeping ocean ecosystems thriving and healthy.

If you are a bit apprehensive about diving with sharks, let me put your mind at ease. You’re more likely to win an Oscar than get bitten by a shark, and you’re also more likely to be killed by a toaster. So watch yourself when you’re making breakfast tomorrow.

Sharks are graceful and often shy and timid creatures, and are mesmerising to see on a dive. Watching them slink through the water with such ease is a stark contrast to the clips we see of them on the news, eyes rolled back in their head as they bite down on bait.

The picturesque dive destination; the Maldives, is home to over 26 species of shark. The Maldives is most well-known for its impossibly beautiful sandy cays bordered by turquoise water and abundance of coral reefs, so it’s easy to over-look the fact that this destination offers divers the chance to come face to face with a whole range of different shark species, including the enormous and completely harmless whale shark. Since 2009 there has been a complete ban on any form of shark fishing, so the Maldives is the place to head to to dive with healthy and stable populations of sharks.

1. The Maldives: Want sharks? Head south. Deep south.

school of hammerhead sharks from below
A school of hammerheads swimming overhead.

No doubt you’ve seen those awe-inspiring images of giant schools of hammerheads circling together on the web. How much better would it be to see it in real life?!

The Maldives is one of the few places where divers have the chance to spend some time immersed in a school of hammerhead sharks. One of the best spot in the Maldives to see hammerheads is in the Thaa Atoll, which is only accessible by live aboard boat. The ‘Deep South Shark’ trip on board the liveaboard ‘Carpe Vita’ will take you here among many other shark-filled destinations.

The ‘Deep South Shark’ trip is designed specifically for shark diving experiences in the Maldives. Starting in Male, this unique intinerary includes diving in Vaavu Atoll, Meemu Atoll and the Laamu atoll. You will also have the rare chance to see the the illusive thresher shark when you pass the equator and reach the Fuvahmulah atoll, where tiger sharks and thresher sharks are plentiful.

During the trip the ‘Carpe Vita’ will visit up to 8 different atolls, each more spectacular than the last and offering divers a variety of encounters with numerous different species of shark. Add Atoll is normally visited last, and here you’ll even have the chance to see manta rays.

These ‘Deep South’ shark trips only run in February and March when the conditions are premium. Spaces fill up quick so what are you waiting for?! Start planning your ‘Deep South’ shark adventure now!

The Carpe Vita during a beautiful Maldivian sunset. Click the image to learn more about this vessel.
The Carpe Vita during a beautiful Maldivian sunset. Click the image to learn more about this vessel.

2. The Maldives: A ‘Sharktastic’ adventure on board Emperor Atoll

woman diver and whale shark in the ocean
Coming face to face with a whale shark in South Ari Atoll. Image by Victoria Monk.

Between January and April divers can have ten days filled with nothing but sharks (and of course a few sunset cocktails!) onboard the Emperor Atoll. During these early months of the year, currents flowing from Sumatra and Indonesia not only bring fantastic visibility of 40 metres, but pelagic species coming to the reef for a quick snack.

Lonely planet rated the Maldives as one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks, and it’s easy to see why.  The 12 foot ocean giants can be spotted year round in certain parts of the Maldives, and one of the best sites to spot whale sharks is at ‘Maamigili Beyru‘ in the southern part of Ari Atoll.  You’ll visit this area as part of your ‘Sharktastic’ journey and be able to come face to face with one of the largest, yet completely harmless sharks as juvenile whale sharks can be spotted here year-round.

South Ari Atoll is one of the largest atolls in the Maldives, and is renowned for encounters with big marine life. The area is scattered with pinnacles where pelagic species congregate, supplying divers with no shortage of incredible dive sites and more importantly, no shortage of shark interaction. ‘Rangali Madivaru’ translates directly from ‘Divehi’ (Maldivian language) to english as ‘Manta Point’. This is without a doubt one of the best Manta cleaning stations in the Maldives, and mantas coming in for a quick clean are regularly spotted.

Kandooma Thila’ in the South Male Atoll is home to shark cleaning stations and grey reef sharks and eagles rays can be seen in abundance. ‘Cocoa Corner’ is one of the best shark dives in the Male atoll, with hundreds of grey reef sharks stalking the outer edges of the reef.

Onboard the MV Emperor Atoll you’ll head to the Vaavu and Meemu atolls which like the South and South Male Atoll, are places plentiful in sharks. If the conditions are right, you’ll visit ‘Bodu Miyaru Kandu’ or ‘Big Shark Channel’. It’s all in the name really, and shark fanatics won’t be disappointed on this dive.

The picturesque Emperor Atoll. Click the image to learn more!
The picturesque Emperor Atoll. Click the image to learn more!

The MV Emperor Atoll takes a maximum of 12 divers on each trip, making your live aboard adventure far more personal and resulting in crowd-free diving. Most dives are drift dives, so divers should be comfortable diving in strong current.

3. Indonesia: A festival of whale sharks on board WAOW

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) gather under fishing platforms to feed from fishermens nets. Source: unknown
Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) gather under fishing platforms to feed from fishermens nets. Source: unknown

In Cenderawasih Bay in the northern Province of West Papua, Indonesia whale sharks gather under the platforms of traditional fishing platforms; ‘bagans’. Normally filter feeders that consume plankton, these opportunistic feeders have developed a taste for the fish that slip through the fishermans’ nets. Because of this, intimate sightings of whale sharks are guaranteed onboard the WAOWs’ ‘Festival of Whale Sharks’ trip.

Along with intimate encounters with these gentle giants well off the beaten track, a ‘Festival of Whale Shark’ trip on board the WAOW will visit dive sites full of pelagic species, and also offers some fantastic muck dives such as the ‘Fish Market’ so all divers tastes are catered for, however the friendly whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay are the show stoppers of this live aboard. Diving in Cenderawasih Bay is best from April – November, when the weather is fine and calm.

The luxury live aboard 'WAOW'. Click the image and find out more.
The luxury live aboard ‘WAOW’. Click the image and find out more.

Diving with the most respected fish in the sea is a fantastic experience. Live aboard diving on a trip with an itinerary that is specifically tailored to increase shark experiences is a great way to holiday for any shark enthusiast!

The top six dive destinations to encounter BIG animals.

The top six dive destinations to encounter BIG animals.

Macro diving is great, but there’s nothing quite like being side by side underwater with some of the biggest animals in the ocean. Being a mere body length away from an inquisitive dolphin, or watching on in awe as a manta ray dances around you is indescribably amazing. From humpback whales to great white sharks, we’ve got you covered for the best places to dive with the biggest creatures to call the ocean home.

Where to go if…

You want to come face to face with a great white shark.

Media worldwide has long portrayed Great White Sharks to be monsters of the deep, but after diving with these sharks you’ll realize this just simply isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, your heart will be beating at a hundred miles an hours as the sharks slowly swim past you as they check you out, but it’s impossible to return from a dive with a great white without a new sense of respect for these apex predators.

Mexico is the place to head if you’re up for coming face to face with a great white shark. Choosing an itinerary when it comes to live aboard diving in Mexico is a tough decision, as there are no shortage of fantastic dive sites. For great white shark diving though, you want to book a trip that includes Guadalupe in its itinerary. Dive live aboard’s visiting Mexico, such as Solmar V, are specifically set up for cage diving with great white sharks.

You want to be immersed in a school of hammerhead sharks.

In the Coco’s Islands off Costa Rica hammerhead sharks can be found in the hundreds, and that’s not all you’ll see diving in this iconic and protected area.

The renowned dive destination is a melting pot of underwater biodiversity, and is 550 kilo metres off the coast of Costa Rica so is best explored by live aboard. It seems that the more remote the destination, the more phenomenal the marine life and along with swimming alongside 200 or so scalloped hammerheads divers on a live aboard in Costa Rica can expect to see Pacific manta rays, eagle rays, sea turtles giant schools of pelagic fish and whale sharks. The schools of fish can be so dense that they cover the sun, and all of a sudden it’s as if someone has flicked off the light switch and you’re surrounded by hundreds of hammerhead sharks.

You want to dive with manta rays. In the dark.

Manta rays are often referred to as the ‘ballerinas of the sea’. The completely harmless and unbelievably graceful rays are one of the most beautiful animals to see underwater. But how about a manta ray experience that gets the adrenalin racing even more? Diving with manta rays after dark in Kona, Hawaii is an amazing experience. The rays gather to feed on the plankton in the moonlight, and you simply watch on as the mantas twirl and spin around you. On one night dive onboard the Kona Aggressor II guests were astonished when over 46 manta rays showed up on a single dive.

You want to dive with the largest bony fish in the sea.

Sunfish are the largest, and the most bizarre looking species of fish. These giant fish love to sunbathe, and divers can often see them soaking up some rays on the surface of the ocean (hence the name!) Liveaboard diving in Indonesia is the best way to get yourself next to these enormous fish, and they can often be spotted visiting cleaning stations on shallower reefs.

You fancy babysitting a humpback whale calf.

Imagine being so close to a humpback whale that you can see every groove it it’s skin, every curve of its enormous body. Humpback whales are a migratory species, and when they head to warmer waters to mate and have their young that ocean-enthusiasts are presented with the rare opportunity to swim with them.

There are a handful of places to swim with humpback whales, but without a doubt the Dominican Republic is one of the best. Between January and March every year, the Turks and Caicos Explorer 11 visits Silver Bank and offers itineraries purely focused on getting people up close and personal with humpback whales.

You can’t decide what large animal you most want to encounter.

So why not try for them all on one phenomenal dive trip?

Ask an avid diver what their number one dream live aboard destination is, and no doubt they’ll respond with a live aboard in the Galapagos Islands. This area is so well protected that the marine life feels no need to shy away from divers. Here you can spot schools of hammerheads, whales, marine iguanas, birds with bright blue feet and almost every species of pelagic you can think of.

Had any amazing encounters with BIG marine life? Let us know by leaving a comment.

WATCH: Incredible footage of mother whale and dolphin with their babies.

WATCH: Incredible footage of mother whale and dolphin with their babies.

Isn’t the ocean marvellous?

A place where the unimaginable is a regular occurrence. Like this video of a humpback whale and calf swimming behind a dolphin and a calf. It’s the underwater version of the morning school run. Maybe after dropping the kids off the mother cetaceans will grab some plankton and squid together?

All jokes aside, this is some amazing footage shot from a birds eye view. Check it out below.

This isn’t the first time dolphins and whales have been spotted interacting together, and actually, according to researchers it’s pretty old news.

Biologists have observed bottle nose dolphins in Hawaii lying leisurely across the top of whales heads for a while as they use the whales enormous head as a slippery dip. Yep, it’s a thing.

Dolphins use the humpback whales giant heads as a slide, and get lifted out of the water as the whale brings it head to the surface. Then these fun-loving dolphins just slide right back in to the ocean to do it all over again.  See what we mean about the ocean dishing up unimaginable sights?

Experts in the field, such as the team at the American Museum of Natural History, have said that as the two species seemed to cooperate in the activity, and neither displayed signs of aggression or distress it seemed to be a social activity. In a single word – play. You can see dolphin x whales slip and slide fun in the clip below.

While on a dive live aboard in Tonga I myself watched as a pod of dolphins and whales interacted together, jumping out of the water and splashing around in one big joyful group. Species interaction in the wild usually consists of one animal getting eaten by another, so animals spending time with one another just to play is something seen very rarely.

Dolphins and humpback whales are amazing animals for us to spend some time with underwater, too. Swimming with humpback whales is one of those awe-inspiring moments where all you can hear is your heart thudding in your chest while you simultaneously hold your breath out of excitement at being so close to one of the ocean’s gently giants.

Samana Peninsula in the Dominican Republic shelters a tranquil bay and is one of the best places in the Caribbean to observe humpback whales that come here to mate and give birth from January through March. January? That’s only a few months away! Start 2016 with a bang and book a dive liveaboard in the Dominican Republic? so you can come face to face with these enormous creatures.

How to cope when sickness strikes on a live aboard dive trip.

How to cope when sickness strikes on a live aboard dive trip.

You’ve been religiously counting down the days until you could yell “I’M OFFICIALLY ON HOLIDAY” on the last Friday in the office before your live aboard dive trip. You spent a whole night organising your dive gear, camera equipment and chose wisely which novel to bring along (you only get so many kilos per person, and diving gear comes before literature! Although if you do need a few extra hints, check out our article on smart packing).

Finally, the time you’ve been so looking forward to has arrived and you’re off on your dive holiday!

You wake up on the first morning of the dive trip, way out in a remote and exotic dive location. The smell of salt water floats on the ocean breeze, along with the scent of freshly brewed coffee and tropical fruit from the pineapples being cut up for the morning fruit platter. The sun rays begin to shine through the porthole and you excitedly jump out bed ready for the first dive of the day. And when you actually get out of bed you’re overwhelmed by the thud, thud, thud in your head of an all-consuming headache.

What do you do when you’ve looked so forward to a dive live aboard trip and then you’re overcome by dehydration, nausea, headaches or sea-sickness? There are a few simple tricks to overcoming feeling sick that will have you back into making the most of your diving!

Dehydration

If you didn’t grow up with a mum like mine who was constantly reminding you to ‘drink more water!’ then you may not be getting all the H20 you need, especially if you’re diving all day. Diving really dehydrates you, and becoming dehydrated can leave you feeling energy-less and make you more susceptible to decompression illness, so it’s of incredible importance to keep your fluids up throughout the day.

First thing in the morning I drink a 600 ml bottle of water, sipping it whilst I get ready for my day. I make sure water is the first thing I drink, and not coffee or any other sugary, caffeinated drink.  Ensure you are drinking water before every dive, and during the surface interval. I like to keep a bottle of water in the dive tender so I know there is always going to be water nearby.

Water is the best substitute for water, but if you want to drink some electrolytes feel free, especially if you’ve been sweating in the hot tropical sun. Soft drinks and alcohol are not a suitable replacement for water! At the end of your diving day you’ll be so exhausted that getting on the sauce is the last thing on your mind, but make sure you stick with only one or two sundowner drinks so you’re fresh for your next day of live aboard diving.

Seasickness

If you are someone who really suffers with seasickness, then maybe live aboard diving isn’t the best holiday option for you. However most divers get it at some point, no matter how tough their stomachs are!

When people feel nauseous, they want to stay far away from fluids for fear of them returning. However keeping hydrated is one easy and effective way of preventing seasickness.

The best cure for seasickness is being well prepared, so make sure you stock up on seasickness tablets if you think you’re at risk. Seasickness medication does not work once you’ve started to feel sick, so make sure you follow the directions on the packet and take them in a good amount of time prior to approaching any turbulent waters. If you’re diving make sure to choose a non-drowsy medication.

If you pass the point of prevention, and feel those tell-tale symptoms of seasickness such as nausea, lethargy, dizziness and excessive sweating then get some fresh air! Avoid your cabin or any other stuffy enclosed spaces, particularly the bathroom or toilets. Going outside and enjoying your surroundings while keeping your eye on the horizon will start to settle your stomach. Take some deep breaths in and out and focus on your breathing rather than how you’re feeling.

Don’t set your gear up on the way to a dive site if the ocean is anything less than calm, and try not to chow down on any greasy or highly acidic foods. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat anything though, when it comes to feeling seasick an empty stomach is just as bad one filled with bacon and eggs!

If you’re still feeling sea sick once you arrive at the next site sip some water, give yourself a few moments to take some big breaths in and out and try and if you’re feeling up to it get ready for your next dive. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel if you jump in for the dive, and even if the surface of the ocean is choppy you’ll find it far more relaxing and soothing below the ocean than above it.

Headaches

Spending too much time in the hot sun, drinking too much alcohol the night prior to diving, not enough fluid and feeling seasick can all result in overwhelmingly painful headaches. I  regularly suffer from bad headaches, which is why I ensure I am constantly drinking water during diving.

If you love catching rays on the top deck in between dives, make sure you wear a hat, a pair of sunnies and some sunscreen to avoid getting heat stroke or sunburn which can result in thumping headaches and dehydration. Suffering from terrible sunburn is a sure-fire way to ruin your live aboard dive trip pretty quickly, so make sure you slip slop slap throughout your trip!

If you do find yourself with a headache that just won’t go away, you might have to skip the next dive out and have a big glass of water and a bit of a snooze. Taking some painkillers is also a quick-fix to headaches, but make sure they are non-drowsy before you take any medication and go diving.

If you are feeling really terrible, don’t dive. The crew onboard your live aboard dive vessel are there to help you and the boat will be equipped with a well-stocked first aid kit, so let them know how you’re feeling and they can help you out. Having a nap out side of the bright sun and sipping on some fluids can do you the world of good, and can have you feeling on top of the world in no-time and back in the water to continue diving.

Love live aboard diving like we do? Liveaboard.com offers the worlds widest variety of dive live aboards, at the most competitive rates. Your next dive trip is only a click away! 

5 photoshop tricks for saving your underwater photographs.

5 photoshop tricks for saving your underwater photographs.

If you’re interested in underwater photography, one of the best things about booking your next live aboard diving trip is the prospect of being able to spend an entire week underwater snapping away.

While taking photos underwater is rewarding and a great way to show off to all your work colleagues remember the amazing sites you’ve visited, underwater photography presents budding photographers with a whole range of different challenges that you don’t need to worry about on the surface. Visibility, particles in the water, moving subjects, and light are all new issues that will affect how your underwater images turn out.

Sometimes I find myself taking better photos on my smart phone above the water, than on my fancy digital SLR below it. Or I’ll have spent a week on a live aboard only to discover once I’ve returned home and uploaded a shot of a sea turtle that looked epic on the LCD screen, that it’s actually slightly blurry. If you’ve just started taking underwater photo’s, chances are one out of a hundred of your pictures are actually worth keeping (trust me, I’ve been there!) However there a few little tricks that you can use to potentially save that image you were about to send to the trash.

Good photos start before you’re even under the water.

Think about what setting you have your camera on, and what format these images are being stored in. If you want to be able to maximise your potential to digitally improve your images once you’ve finished snapping away in the ocean, make sure you are shooting all your images in RAW format.

RAW files are far larger than JPEG images (which is probably the format your camera is currently on if you haven’t switched to RAW yet), so you won’t be able to store as many photos on your memory card.  The editing freedom that comes with shooting in RAW however far outweighs the downside of the large size of these files. Just make sure you invest in an extra memory card or two before you head off to your next live aboard dive destination.

Buoyancy, buoyancy, buoyancy!

Not only does good buoyancy equal more relaxed and safe diving but drastically improves your underwater photography technique. If you’re constantly inflating and deflating your BCD, flapping about with your hands and knocking the marine life around you’re going to struggle to return from your dive with good photos.

Becoming a good diver takes time, and you should enjoy the learning process. Too many divers want to rush through their courses and spend little time focusing on actually becoming a better scuba diver. Go diving purely to practice your buoyancy and then start dabbling in underwater photography. To learn some more tips about how good buoyancy will help your photography techniques, check out our article. 

Camera Raw Editor.

An underwater image that could use some TLC.
An underwater image that could use some TLC.
The same image after editing in Camera Raw.
The same image after editing in Camera Raw.

This is an average underwater images’ best friend. Time and time again I have relied on Camera Raw Editor to turn a less than perfect image into a keeper. Camera Raw gives you a second chance at creating great underwater images.

Here you can edit the temperature, tint, exposure and contrast of an image. Over exposed image? Bring down the highlights and play around with your image until you’re happy. You can lift the whites and the blacks of the image and bring more clarity to your photo to create an image that really pops with colour and contrast.

One of the best tools in Camera Raw and Photoshop is the spot healing brush, which literally replaces a selected area of the image with another part of the photo. This means with a little time and effort you can remove all those particles or light spots scattered throughout your photo.  Spend some time in Camera Raw and I can assure you your images will go from woeful to wonderful.

The ‘diffuse glow’ filter.

The edited image with Photoshop filter 'diffuse glow' applied.
The edited image with Photoshop filter ‘diffuse glow’ applied.

After you’ve played around in Camera Raw you can either save your image or continue tweaking it in Photoshop. My one go-to filter for images that are less than ideal is the ‘diffuse glow’ filter. This filter really accentuates underwater light breaking through the surface of the ocean, and give underwater photographs an ethereal and magical feel. To find the ‘diffuse glow’ filter in Photoshop, head to ‘Filter Gallery’ under the Filter menu, and you’ll find it in the distort section.

If all else fails, convert to black and white.

Colour can be hard to correct in underwater images. Black and white is far easier to work with, and you can bring the contrast up without changing the colours to garish neon versions of the original hues. An image that you thought was beyond saving can suddenly turn into an artistic impression of the underwater world. Convert your image to black and white, play around with contrast and brightness and watch it transform.

Live aboard diving in Mexico: you’re guaranteed to have a whale of a time.

Live aboard diving in Mexico: you’re guaranteed to have a whale of a time.

With a head like a truck and a body covered in polka dots, swimming alongside the enormous whale shark is high up on any avid divers ‘must do’ list of underwater experiences.

Whale sharks are the largest cartilaginous fish in the world, yet are nothing to be afraid of. The ocean giants filter feed on plankton, which explains the enormous size of their head and mouth. To sustain a 12 metre long shark feeding on a food source that is around 0.04% of its size requires one huge set of jaws.  Whale sharks scoop up plankton and any unsuspecting small fish hanging near the ocean’s surface, using their mouth like a net to collect the massive amount of food they require.

Whale sharks thrive in waters of warmer temperatures, which means if you want to spend some time underwater with them pack your bags for somewhere tropical. Mexico is not only renowned for the encounters travellers can have with these magical animals, but is an insanely fantastic and relatively untouched dive destination in its own right.

Mexico is  where seeing these incredible creatures is almost guaranteed at certain times of the year. Live aboard diving vessels in Mexico usually plan their itineraries around the seasons, so you’ll have to decide where you want to go and what you want to see prior to booking your trip.

Whale sharks can often be spotted in the Sea of Cortez. Protected by the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez’s relatively calm water stretches for over 1000 kilometres. Almost a third of the world’s species of cetaceans can be found in this underwater microcosm, and diving in the Sea of Cortez is absolutely phenomenal. From July to October, dive live aboards  visit this area for week long action-packed trips.

Scattered throughout the Sea of Cortez are endless pinnacles, islands and rock formations so there’s no shortage of live aboard dive sites. There are few animals that can melt even the coldest of hearts quite like sea lions can, and the Sea of Cortez is where a dive can quickly turn into an underwater play session with these puppies of the sea! It’s not uncommon to be able to tick more than one kind of whale off your bucket list, with species of orcas, dolphins and whales spotted regularly.

The unique geographical position of the sea and the surrounding area has resulted in species that can only be found in this area, and diving in the Sea of Cortez presents divers with the rare chance to encounter the endangered and unique sub species of porpoise endemic to the area, the vaquita. The Sea of Cortez is bursting with so much life that it’s difficult to list it all and really do this melting pot of marine life justice, so I recommend you just book that trip and head over there yourself! Due to the remoteness of the Sea of Cortez, the best way to head over to this part of the world is by a dive live aboard.

A humpback whale calf comes in a little closer to inspect my camera lens.
A humpback whale calf comes in a little closer to inspect my camera lens.

If a different kind of ocean giant is more your thing, Socorro in Mexico is one of the few destinations where you have the chance to interact underwater with humpback whales (another great spot to swim with humpbacks is the Kingdom of Tonga).  Socorro has been coined ‘Mexicos Galapagos’, and it’s easy to see why.

The Socorro Islands are a group of 4 islands each named individually, but are often collectively referred to as the Socorro group. Liveaboard diving at Socorro offers encounters of the pelagic kind, and plenty of them. Sharks can be found here in the hundreds.

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The luxury Mexican dive liveaboard, the Solmar V. Click the image to learn more!

The team onboard the Solmar V live aboard once counted 7 different species of shark on a single dive!

Huge schools of hammerheads can be seen gliding past along with Giant Pacific manta ray. This species of manta can grow to just under 7 metres from wing-tip to wing-tip, and are regularly visitors to the Socorro Islands. Whale sharks are a special treat at the islands, and can be spotted in November/December and late April/May.

If heart-stopping adrenalin rushes and interactions with some of the biggest creatures to call this blue planet of ours home is what you’re all about, Mexico needs to be your next live aboard dive destination. The biodiversity of this dive destination truly needs to be seen to be believed.