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End of 2017 Travel Season Blog

I am so behind on blogging, so much going on here and it has been tough to sit down and write or blog. So for the delay in new material, I apologize. I have been meaning to post this blog to thank everyone who joined us for the 2017 expedition season.  It was an amazing year, filled with fun, highs, lows and special unforgettable moments.


I have the best job in the world, getting to show and share the amazing animals the earth and the ocean has to offer with the world. It is a privilege that we all get to experience nature at it's best, and worst. We experienced everything this year; We had ocean storms, winds, rain, swells that kicked our asses, animals that did not show up... but on the flip side, we also had perfect flat calm days, beautiful skies, warm water and lots and lots of wildlife to appreciate. 

Through it all, the constant was the great people that we got to share these adventures with. We couldn't do it with out you, so thank you - from the SDM crew, to each and everyone of you. You all make these moments worth it all. We love you guys...

2017 Behind the Scenes Gallery

Finally...Patience Pays Off!

My daughter, Sophia and I have been visiting one of our local state parks (when I am home) for the past 4 months, Bensten State Park. Specifically, one of the bird feeding stations here. We visit this spot religiously, because of a bobcat that has been stalking the bird feeder daily here. 

When we found out it was possible that we could encounter bobcats at this park, we decided that this was the place we needed to be. Our first encounter with a cat here was an accident. We were walking around the park center, looking for birds to photograph when we saw a bobcat walking by one of the buildings here. Sophia and I dropped our gear and began snapping images of the cat. We ran after it, and it slowly walked away, we snapped more images of it, mostly of its butt and tail. It walked back into the bush and disappeared. We were both on fire and fell instantly in love with this wildcat.

After that first encounter, our obsession with bobcats began. 

I began researching into where we could reliably encounter one. There are a few parks where they are regularly seen, mostly in the summer, when it is really hot and water becomes scarce. During that time of year, they begin visiting the water features at these parks. However, this was winter season and there was plenty of water around, so that was out. Another option was the rumors that a bobcat would visit one of the feeders at Bensten park. The park begins feeding birds during the winter season, which is during fall migration. We decided to follow up on this one to see if it was true. 

Happy to report, the rumors were true.

It started out as an occasional visits to this feeder. It took a few visits for Sophia to get use to the idea of sitting still waiting for wildlife. That is the hardest part for this type of photography; Long hours of waiting, with nothing happening, and no guarantee you will see any animals. 

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Trying to photograph this cat was not easy, there were a lot of missed opportunities and no shows. Plus it does not visit the feeder everyday. Somedays we would arrive only to find out that the cat had already successfully hunted a bird and was gone. Missing it by 5 minutes. Other days it was a no show. Weather was also a serious issue, cold, wet and windy conditions made for miserable moments out there, especially for Sophia. She does not handle cold weather very well yet. 

bobcat 5.jpg

After a couple of weeks of misses, the first sighting happened. The bobcat appeared from out the bush, grace us with its presence for a few seconds and then disappeared again. I snapped a few images of it, excited that I finally got a glimpse of it. Sophia decided to sleep in, she was worn out with visiting this cat. When I texted her the images from that day. She was so angry, she sulked around the rest of the day.

Bad image of the cats failed attempt at feeder birds

We continued visiting the feeder with more misses and more no shows. Finally a couple of weeks after that first encounter, we got another sighting. The second encounter, it attempted to catch a bird but failed. It was an incredible moment, it tried to jump up onto a four foot tall feeder to catch the bird. It missed, looked at me briefly when it landed and then disappeared into the bush. It tried again and failed. As I was leaving that day, I spotted our bobcat walking on the side of the road. I snapped images like crazy as it crossed the road in front of me. I was on fire, it was such a good day. Again, my Sophia was not with me. This time, her cousins were visiting from out of town and she stayed in. Again, my Sophia was not a happy camper.

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February 24 - We arrived at the feeder bright and early, set up our tripods and began our normal routine of watching and waiting. Finally a red-winged blackbird dropped down onto the water feature and our cat exploded out, trying to grab the bird. He missed and slunk back into the grass. An hour later he tried again and missed. We snapped some fun images of him and then called it a day. Sophia was on fire, she finally got her cat. She named him Bob. Now that we both had captured some images of Bob, it was time to up the ante. We wanted some images of the cat with a successful hunt. 

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We spent the next few days waiting by the feeder to see if he would show up, but nothing, Bob was either a no show or he never had any birds at the feeder to chase, so he never came out of the grass. However, our enthusiasm and energy was renewed. After our encounter on the 24th we were willing to wait as long as it took for our dream shot. 

We did not have to wait long…this morning we visited the feeder and set up tripods and cameras and began the wait. The park volunteers showed up soon after to refill the feeders. A flock of blackbirds were all over the feeders as soon they left. Within 30 minutes they were completely relaxed and two birds dropped down onto the water feature. Sophia and I were ready and waiting. Seconds later, our cat exploded out and finally captured a bird in front of us. We rapidly fired away, image after image. We kept snapping until our cameras tired out and would only shoot one image at a time. Which was frustrating. But it was done. We captured images of a successful hunt. 

 Our bunting is not a perfect image, but it is a start. Can't wait to get back there tomorrow. 

Our bunting is not a perfect image, but it is a start. Can't wait to get back there tomorrow. 

I threw up my hands in victory and let out a yell! Cheering away. There were a few people there, including a couple from Canada who also had been stalking this bobcat. We all high fived each other. It was sad that this bird lost its life, but it was also the reason why this cat could continue to live...the circle of life thing. Sophia and I hugged tightly, happy that we finally accomplished this goal. 

We got home, happy with the images we captured. We thought after we had accomplished this goal that we would move on to our next goal, which is to photograph a grey fox that has been hanging around at Edinburg wetlands. But nope, we are addicted…we are far from done with our time with our wildcat. They are keeping the feeders open till the end of April, which means we have two more months with our cat. So tomorrow at 6:30, we will again be out there, hoping, waiting, and wishing for another shot at our buddy Bob.

Thanks for reading,

Tiger Beach is on Fire!

We returned from another Tiger Beach trip, which was our second adventure of the 2018 expedition season. It was a challenging weather week. Sadly we lost the first two days of the trip to weather. However, I wasn’t too worried, because I knew that once we got to TB and the tigers showed up, everyone would forget about those lost days. As of late, when the tigers are there, Tiger Beach has been epic.

 Image by Thomas Nolting

Image by Thomas Nolting

On our third day, the weather started clearing and we were finally able to get to TB and begin diving. My only fear was that due to the storms, the tigers would take a few dives to arrive, which is normal. During storms, they always leave the shallow water and retreat to the deeper water. My guess is… better visibility, less surging water and better hunting. 

Image by Thomas Nolting

Anyway, thankfully when we arrived - it was on, the tigers were there and we were able to go straight into a feed with a few tigers. Everyone was on fire and the week turned into a magical time, with plenty of tigers for everyone to capture videos and images. And yes, the bulls were there everyday. Again, they were well behaved, which is nice. I do have to admit, they are growing on me. It is nice having them around for people to see, especially when the tigers are late to show up. Of course, we still have zero plans to feed them here. We do not want them to get that comfortable. It is a marquee species, but it is a shark we have to be very wary of. So as long as they stay well behaved, it is nice having them here.

They did make the night dive on this trip a lot more interesting. On one of the nights, we dropped down for a night feed with the tigers. It was pretty intense, the lemons were on fire and the action was crazy and non-stop. Taxi the lemon shark showed up, which is one of my oldest lemon shark buddies. She was up to her mischievous self and made me smile. She has learned how to dive into the bait box to steal bait, which, of course, she did on this dive. She went vertical, with her trade mark head dive into the box. She wasn’t able to snag a piece, because I am on to her game, but she did try.

 Image by Thomas Nolting

Image by Thomas Nolting

During our night dive, it took about 25 minutes before the tiger came in. We were just about to call the dive, when I spotted this massive shape of a tiger in the darkness. It was Jenn. A 13 foot, 1,200 Lb. tiger shark. Everyone got excited and I got back into position to wait for Jenn to come in. It took a while before she did, she was nervous with all the lights and the lemons swimming all over the place. It took about 10 minutes before she relaxed enough to come in, but when she finally did... it was game on. She is a big shark, but damn, does she look huge at night!

The dive was sharky… during the dive, we had about 15 lemon sharks swimming around the box, (all on fire), a handful of reef sharks, a very big tiger shark and a couple of bull sharks swimming in and out…it was easily the best night dive I have ever experienced here.

tiger night.jpg

This trip was supposed to be a Tiger Beach / Bimini  trip, but due to the lost days, we decided to stay at Tiger Beach, which everyone was fine with. Of course everyone wanted to see a great hammerhead, but with all the tiger shark action, they were fine with the outcome of the trip. 

I do have to share this story… One of the biggest highlights of my career happened on this trip. On one of our dives, two of our guests, my buddies, Thomas, Jazzy Judy and I were the first three in the water. I was not feeding on this dive, so I dropped in with my camera, Gloria. Tom and Jazzy were in first, then I followed. When I hit the sand, Tequila, one of our resident tigers swam past Tom and Jazzy and came right up to me, within touching distance, and swam around me. I gave her a back rub as she did. She swam around me twice, allowing me to rub her back as she did. After the second time she did this, she swam off. I watched her swim off, and then fell back onto the ocean floor, looking up at the surface with my hand stretched out in victory. I was on fire, she recognized me!

 Tequila approaching me. In the back, Jazzy and Tom. 

Tequila approaching me. In the back, Jazzy and Tom. 

I am always asked if the tigers recognize me when I am down there?   I always said, “No I do not think so. What I think they recognize is my energy, because I do the same things with them, every time I am down there.”  But Tequila clearly recognized me and came over to see if I had a snack. I was teary eyed and so freaking happy. I looked at Tom and Jazzy in disbelief.  As I was doing that, Tequila swam back up to me for a third time, circled me again, allowing me to pet her back and finally swam off. I was just floored and so grateful for this moment. 

People are always asking me what my favorite moment in the water is, it used to be when I was dancing and playing with orcas in New Zealand, but this moment, just topped that by a thousand fold. Experiencing moments like that and getting to share them with dear friends is the very best and why I love returning to the same places, year after year. You just never know what gifts the ocean and her wildlife are going to give you. Like I said, Tiger Beach has been EPIC!

Thanks for reading.

Image Gallery

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

Pelagic Expedition Trip Report


It is always a nerve racking thing organizing pelagic expeditions, because you have no idea what to expect. You plan it during a time of year when you know the animals normally run through the area, but ultimately, it is left up to nature and the ocean what you will see out there. For this trip, we were after marlin feeding on baitballs. We were also hoping to see other open oceans animals like; whales, mola molas, turtles, sharks and the big O! There is a resident pod of orcas that frequently visits the area and we were hoping for a shot at seeing them as well.

During the month of November the pelagic activity is extremely good around Puerto San Carlos off Baja, Mexico. And after a few years of watching and waiting, I pulled the trigger in February of this year and organized our first trip out to the area to find those fish…at least I hoped we would.

A week before we arrived, there were reports of marlin baitball activity. That’s exactly what you hope to hear, marlin was our main goal of this trip. But that was a week before our trip. Anything can happen in a week. I was a nervous wreck. Which is typical of me on any trip I run.


On the first day of the expedition, expectations were high. We headed out to the area where they had been seeing the baitballs…and nothing! There was no bird activity, which is what helps us find the baitballs. No birds, meant, no sardines and sadly no marlin. We searched the area for a couple of hours. We found a small school of young mahi mahi that we jumped in with for a few minutes. But other than that we had zero signs of life, so we opted for plan B. Plan B was to cut the motors, drop some chum and hang baits and wait for sharks to show up. After 3 hours, we decided to call it a day. No sharks either. Day one was a bust. I was worried but not gutted, We still had 4 more days to find them. Which is why you plan these types of expeditions over several days, to give you the best opportunities to succeed. 

We finished the day with a visit to the shark fishing camp. It is never fun, but it is always good to see what is happening out there. After seeing all the sharks they brought in, it was not hard to wonder why our chum slick was left unanswered. 

When we got back, we heard reports that the marlin had moved on to another area, which was about 45 miles away from where they originally were. The following morning, we woke to clear and sunny skies. The weather was favoring us, and so we buckled in for a long ride out to the area where they had been spotting them. 

 Image by Marty Wolff

Image by Marty Wolff

As we were heading out, we spotted some porpoising dolphins in the bay. The dolphins were feeding on sardines and they were joined by tens of thousands of pelican, sea gulls and cormorants. This was easily one of the coolest natural predation events I have ever witnessed. The pelicans were dive bombing the ocean, Gulls were trying to steal away the sardines, the cormorants were diving down to prey on the sardines. We were surrounded by birds. It was an insane spectacle. 

 Bird baitball...Image by Marty Wolff

Bird baitball...Image by Marty Wolff

We left the birds and continued to motor out. After a couple hours we found the spot. There was several sport fishing boats in the area, some with marlin on their lines. But still no birds? The marlin were here, but we had no visible signs of birds trying to feed on the sardines that the marlin round up. I was worried that we were in for a second day of skunking. 


We motored around for a little while with no luck. Finally we ran into one of our captain Gabino’s local fishing buddy. He asked if they had seen any baitballs. They said, “oh yea, there are thousands of them over there.” Pointing to an area about a half mile away. We motored over to the area, scanning the skies but still no birds. However as we looked at the ocean’s surface it was boiling over with activity. There were marlin jumping, chasing sardines all over the place. We found an oasis! Strangely there was no birds out there taking advantage of these baitballs, so we had to find them the old fashion way, which is normally really hard to do. Thankfully, because there were so many baitballs everywhere, that made it easy to do.


We jumped in, photographed and filmed baitball after batiball. It was insane. The marlin were on fire and so were we. We even had some bottlenose dolphin join in for a couple of passes. It was such a great day and everything we had hoped for. During the ride home, I sat back with a huge relief washing through me. I was grateful the fishermen were out there, it would of been very hard for us to find them without there help. It was so weird that there were no birds. Frigate birds are how we normally find these types of feeding activities. Yet, they were not around?

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Day three. We headed out for more marlin.  This time the frigate birds were around, making it much easier to find the baitballs. Again, we spent an amazing day with the marlin. 

Towards the end we were all pretty tired, to the point where we skipped turns in the water. We were about to call it a day, when a brydes whale broke the surface  nearby to catch a breath of air. We motored over to where we saw it drop. We cut the motors and scanned the area. It broke the surface about fifty yards away from our boat and was swimming in our direction. We geared up as quickly as we could and silently slid in the water for a shot at seeing the whale. It was diving down and I swam toward it snapping away. There is no greater feeling in the world than when you get to share the water with one of these animals. They are just massive and so breathtakingly beautiful.

brydes whale.jpg


Sadly the weather changed and for our last two days, we were not able to get out to the area where the marlins were, so we stayed local to see what we could find. We chummed again, but no sharks showed up. We ended up spending some time in the bay, checking out the bird action. There are so many birds here, it is unreal. We also set up a photo session with the pelicans which was a lot of fun. 

The trip ended for us and I am so damn happy to report that everyone left happy. The marlin performed like rock stars and if the weather hadn’t turned on us, we would of been able to spend all week with them. We only spent two days with them, but it was enough time for everyone to leave the trip satisfied with the week they spent here in San Carlos. For me the trip was amazing. The ocean life, the birds, the people. It is everything I want from an adventure. I am already excited about next season and the unknown surprises it will bring us. Hopefully, it will be with more marlin, more whales, more birds, lots of sharks and that pod of orcas we so dreamily hope to encounter?

Until then...

Trip Photo Gallery

Birding Images from the Trip

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. 


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 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!



The boat slowly approached two mating anacondas. The boys quickly and as silently as possible threw on their gear. One by one they slid off the boat and into the water. The snakes, aware of their presence, broke off their courtship and swam in different directions. The boys chose the biggest of the pair to follow, an 18 foot long beauty. They filmed and photographed the snake as it silently swam away from them. The encounter was brief but everything we all had hoped it would be. This moment was exactly what I had been dreaming about since I first learned that it was possible to swim with anacondas in Brazil. A dream come true!  This was also just the first encounter of a perfect week of diving... Sadly, I was NOT there for any of it!

September 22 - San Fransisco International Airport. I arrived at the airport late for my flight. I screwed up on my departure time, so a nice final breakfast with Maritza, Sophia and our buddy Larisa, turned into a mad race towards the airport in an effort of getting me on my flight for Brazil. I made it with seconds to spare. HOWEVER, when I was checking in for my flight, the airline attendant asked me for my travel visa... My heart sank. My eye's wide with fear, I responded, "What do you mean travel visa?" She then told me that for americans to fly to Brazil, a travel visa was required. I told her I didn't have one. She looked at me, handed back my passport and said, "Sorry, you are NOT going to Brazil today." 

I was stunned. I have never needed a tourist visa for any of the countries I have visited in the past, so that caught me completely off guard. I started scrambling, trying to see if I could get one in a hurry. It turns out, that I needed to get it through the Brazilian Consulate. However, they wouldn't be able to get it until Monday, because they are closed over the weekend, ( today was Friday ). That meant I wouldn't get it in my hands until Tuesday. Which meant I couldn't fly till Wednesday, and I wouldn't get to my group until Friday. Which was the final day of the trip.

I.. freaking.. screwed.. up.. badly! I sat down, head in my hands, just devastated. I missed the window for my trip, I disappointed our friends who joined us. This trip was one that I had been dreaming about for a very long time. I was gutted.


Thankfully, my good friend Jorge Cervera Hauser, who was joining us on this trip picked up the reins and led the group. The week would of been so much harder without his help. And I am happy to report that the Brazil trip was a smashing success. They had 3 days with an 18 foot anaconda, mating anacondas, jaguars, caiman, river otters, families of capybaras. Just everything we had hoped the trip would be. Of course, I wasn’t there to see it this season, but that is the price I paid for my American vanity and stupidity. Everyday, the boys updated me with the trip and how it was going. I received image after image, of an epic wildlife adventure. I was extremely excited for them and so damn happy that the trip was a huge success. But I was also dying inside, wanting desperately to be there with them, to experience it all. For that, I will forever regret. 


The trip ended and everyone one went safely home. I was ever grateful that the boys had the adventure of a lifetime. The images I am sharing from the trip are all Jorge's pics… and they are all just stunning! We are of course planning our trip for next season already and I can say this with confidence, I won’t make that same epic mistake next season... and I WILL be there for all of it!

Images by Jorge Cervera Hauser

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.

ariel 1.jpg

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. 

ariel 5.jpg

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. 

white breach.jpg

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. 

ariel 3.jpg


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

Two Months of Craziness...with the SDM crew.

 I apologize for the long waits for my blogs. When I committed to my goal of blogging my entire season, I knew it was going to to be a tough goal to accomplish. But damn, I didnt realize how hard and exhausting it really is to do. Especially while trying to accomplish everything else as well. You know, marketing, email writing, hosting, editing images and videos and spending time with my family.

Of course I admit, it was easier when all I did was record videos. But I have gotten deeply into photography as well. Something I had not concentrated on for a very long time. But I fell in love with it again and I have been enjoying my time behind a shutter. The thing is, I am not just shooting underwater wildlife, but also topside animals as well.


Which is why I changed the name of my blog from "Notes from a Shark Junkies Journal." to "Notes from a wildlife junkies journal." Because I am shooting everything now. Every type of animal that flies, runs, crawls, swims and hops. I haven't quite gotten into bugs yet... but if they are birds, reptiles or mammals, I want to shoot it. Of course my true passion is the ocean and everything in it, especially sharks. But I am enjoying the land life as well.

This new direction is exhausting though. Because of my addictive personality I am shooting all the time now. When I set off on a dive trip, I shoot all day in the water. Then when I return to port, I clean up, refresh the batteries and cards, change lenses and set off to find more animals to shoot. It is fun as hell, but it has been physically taxing. 

 The SDM crew

The SDM crew

Anyway, on to my blog...for two months I have been on the road; traveling, shooting and diving with the SDM crew. I haven't done anything like this since we filmed Summer of the Sharks back in 2006. That was a road trip doco I filmed with my bro, Andy Murch. However this time I did it with my loves, which was amazing. The trip was full of fun, craziness and of course headaches because yup, you're traveling with your loves. So here is a quick recap of what I did during my time on the road;

 I started my adventure on June 17 in Mexico, where I took a group of happy crazies, to swim with American crocodiles off Banco Chinchorro. This is an annual trip we run through SDM diving every summer. As usual, when I bring people to a place, I am always a mess, worrying about whether the animals we advertise will show up. Thankfully, I didn't have to worry for very long. Upon our arrival, we had crocs swimming up to our boat. And when they arrived, it was on. They stayed the entire two days we were there. (we lost our third day to a storm that rolled in.)

We also visited the island to check out the ranger station. This was a great opportunity to check out the wildlife on the island. The island is pretty much just a huge mangrove. It is thick with marshes, small estuaries and trees. Here I found a few different bird species, two iguana species and some mating land crabs to photograph. 

When the trip ended I hooked up with my family (June 22), and spent the following two weeks (on a mini photography vacation), hanging out in Playa del Carmen with my son David, who lives and works there, seeking out loggerhead sea turtles to photograph. I didn't score any though. We shot an Atlantic green and a bunch of hawksbill sea turtles, but no loggers. I have photographed one before, but I am not happy with how those images came out, so I really want to reshoot it. 

During our  time, me and the SDM crew, (my wife Maritza, Sophia C. and my boy Gabriel), rented a car, (a small little box car, we dubbed the Red Ruby), and went on a road trip through the Yucatan. We visited Rio Lagartos, Coba, Punta Lagua and Tulum. We were in search of birds, monkeys and Mayan ruins. It was a lot of fun and we photographed a lot of animals.

Pink Lakes

Rio Lagartos was an amazing place to visit. We hired a boat and went out birding. This place is a birders paradise. It is also known for it's Pink lakes. These lakes are where flamingos get their color from. The salty minerals turn the plankton and the shrimp pink. The birds eat the shrimp and that is how they get their color. Pretty wild. The lake itself is beautiful and the wildlife here is all time.

 Birding in the Yucatan

The highlight of this road trip was visiting the wildlife preserve to seek out spider monkeys and howler monkeys. These animals roam free throughout the forest. The best time to visit the reserve is at dawn and dusk. That is when the spider monkeys are easiest to find. Many of the fruit trees they enjoy are close to the reserve entrance. So we found them pretty quickly. The howler monkeys however are not. It took us two hours to find them. When we did, it was unreal

 SDM crew, Maritza, Gabriel, Sophia C., and me.

SDM crew, Maritza, Gabriel, Sophia C., and me.

The howler monkeys have this crazy loud roar. If I was walking through the forest and I heard that roar and I didnt know what animal made it. It would scare the crap out of me. It is loud. The howlers are small but thick. They look like mini gorillas. Beautiful little guys.

My boy David coming in from a day at the office.

When our time in Playa ran out, we said goodbye to my son David and made our way to Isla Mujeres (July 7), for our annual whale shark expedition. We have been bringing people to swim with whale sharks here since 2005. I have experienced some amazing moments with these sharks and this year was no exception. The sharks were on fire. We arrived at the right time and had hundreds of sharks all around us. Always an amazing time. Thankfully the governing body that manages the whale sharks gave out less permits to the operators and there was not as many boats out there. Which is so much better for the sharks.  So many of these sharks have been cut and banged up by boat propellers. You would think they would require all boats to have prop guards. But sadly, so far nothing. 

Whale Shark Gallery

After we said goodbye, we headed home (July 14). I was only there for less than 24 hours, then I boarded a plane and was off to Churchill Canada (July 15), for our annual beluga and polar bear expedition. It was an amazing trip, the water visibility was not the greatest due to a colder than normal winter with record snow fall. The snow melt mucked up the river. But despite the poor vis,  we did find some areas with decent visibility , plus we had hundreds of belugas and that always makes for an amazing time.

My bro Thomas seeking out wildlife.

Everyday we went out in search of polar bears and other wildlife. (the birding in Churchill is insane). We were driving around for hours trying to find bears. Sadly, we didn't find any while driving, it was a bit early in the season for them, but we did find one while out on the boat. Seeing that one polar bear made everyone's trip. He was a big battle scarred male, with blood on his face. It looked like he just got into a major scrap.  Bears are just freaking awesome. Next season, when we go back to Churchill, I am going to spend a few more days with them. I want some quality bear time. 

Beluga Whale Expedition

The trip ended and I reluctantly left Churchill. I took an early morning flight to LA (July 23), and met up with my wife, Maritza and my girl Sophia. We hooked up and jumped on a plane (July 24), bound for Fiji and Tonga. 12 hours of flying is tough to deal with but so worth it when you climb out of the plane and your in Fiji. 

We spent a couple of days exploring Fiji. We rented a car and drove around the island. The birding is great here, which I loved, but I really wanted to photograph a fruit bat. They are commonly seen here and are huge animals. They have been nicknamed the flying fox.  After a couple days of seeing the land and scanning the skies for birds and bats, we flew to Tonga (July 28), for a week of humpback whales. I was able to photograph a lot of bird species in Fiji, but sadly no bats.

Birding in Fiji        

Tonga was epic. There are so many whales here it is crazy. I have been to other places for humpbacks; Salt Cay, Baja, but really there is no comparison. Don't get me wrong, Salt Cay and Baja are really good and very special places. But Tonga is mind blowing. There were so many whales, lots of moms and very friendly calves. And that is because we arrived early in the season, the big migration of whales had not arrived yet. I also added a new shark species to my seen it life list. The zebra shark. I have seen one in an aquarium , but that was a captive shark and it does not count.  

The main reason we went was to see if we wanted to add Tonga humpback whales as a destination for us to take our friends to...and hell yea it is! The whales are unreal with great visibility, the reefs are beautiful and the island just rocks. This is a new home away from home for us. I can't wait to get back there. 

Tonga Gallery

sophia free dive.jpg

A huge highlight for me on the Tonga trip was watching my Sophia in the water with these beautiful whales. She is so much fun to hang out with and dive with. Every moment with her is a privilege. She was a total mermaid on this trip. She never wanted to get out of the water. She was trying hard to improve her free diving skills and set a personal record of 6 meters. Which was insane to see. I was on fire!

 Fruit Bat

Fruit Bat

On our final night in Tonga, they took me to a small island to see is I could find fruit bats. Our host Darren swore they see fruit bats fly from the island at dusk. So we walked around the entire island without seeing a single bat. However right at dusk, fruit bats began emerging from the interior of the island. hundreds of them began flying around. I was not prepared for it and I did not have lights to photograph the few bats that came close to us in the failing light, so I took a few proof of life pictures.  I am more determined for next season to bring lights to get some good images of these big beautiful bats. 

Sophia C. with the crew from BAD divers.

We ended our time on Tonga and headed back to Fiji (Aug. 5), for a few days to hang out with Mike and the crew from BAD divers. It was time to introduce Mari and Sophia to the Fiji bull sharks. This was my Sophie's first real shark dive. She was blown away. She was super cold, so she only did one dive but she rocked it. She was very comfortable around the sharks and blew everyone's mind. She is the youngest diver they have ever taken on their shark dive, which was really cool. Another nice little personal memory for her (and us).

Fiji Dive Gallery

We ended our trip on the other side of the world and jumped on our plane bound for California (Aug. 9). We scheduled a few more days in California to visit with friends and my Cali. cousins before we flew home back to Texas (Aug. 14) to relax, catch up on emails, work and more importantly spend time with our  families.

As I write this and post the images and videos, I am finding it hard to believe this all happened in a two month period. It feels like a weird dream. Everyday was amazing and special, and crazy, and hard, and frustrating all in its own special way. I am very happy the two months are over, but also sad that they are over. I have been home for a week now and I have already forgotten how exhausting the travel life is. All I can think about is dropping everything, packing up my gear again and getting back out there to seek out more craziness with my crew. September looks like a good month to make that happen... So why the hell not?

Thank you all for reading.