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Humpback Whales - Our last night and day on Island.

March 11, 2017 - Three weeks of HIGH, High’s and LOW, low’s. Salt Cay is a one of kind place. It truly was a learning experience for me, when it comes to patience and dealing with the ocean, wind and wild life. I love this place and experience and learned that, no matter how big an animal is, if they do not want to interact with you, they will not. 

It is crazy, when I arrived on Salt Cay, I had these high expectations and dreams about what I thought was going to happen, but of course when you are dealing with wild life, everything you think or hope happens, goes directly out the window. But that is what makes these encounters and those moments so special when they happen. Because if it was easy, the magic would completely disappear and it would just be a zoo, and there is NOTHING special or magical about zoos. So we took what we could get, when the animals would allow us to get it. 

Of course the weather played a huge factor in our time here. Every week the winds would kick up and kill our chances of seeing whales, or getting to areas where the whales would hang out the most. So we had to make due with searching for whales in areas where the sightings were few and far between. This is course was completely out of our control, but when you have people with you, all seeking out top encounters, you hurt for them. 

I had an amazing time here. In fact, I am really going to miss this place when I leave. I am going to miss the pace; donkeys in the streets roaming free, magical sunsets, starry nights, great friends, locals just making it through their days with a smile, and doors that never had to be locked, which is such a rarity in today's world. Salt Cay is amazing and whales are magical animals and when they allow you into their world, there is no greater feeling... I am more than sure, I have found a new addiction.

Humpback Whale Expedition- HELL YEA...What a Great Day!

March 1, 2017 - WE HIT THE JACKPOT…Finally. So after three days of bad weather and no whales, we got our great day. We ran into a breeding group of four humpback whales. There was three males, all trying to win the affection of a female. We spent an hour and a half with this group. They were fighting with each other, all of them in hot pursuit of this female who looked like she was enjoying the attention. 

I was on fire. Everybody got to spend quality time with the whales. We jumped in with them over and over to watch the show. The weather was still tough on us. Towards the end we had to leave, the swells were building and white caps were everywhere. So we called it a day. The ride home was just so great. I was exhausted from swimming and smiling ear to ear. Everyone was tired and chattering away. I love that feeling I get when people see the animal they came here to see. It is the absolute best.

 I really wanted our friends to have an amazing experience but this exceeded anything I could of hoped or dreamed of. I was so happy for them - and for me. My anxiety finally got a break. Yes the ocean was kicking our asses and because of it, we had not gotten opportunities to see the whales. But we paid our dues and we were rewarded for our time out here. The ocean gods gave us this amazing gift. What a great day. Of course we still have two more days left to find whales...damn, there goes my anxiety again.

Today's Images from our Session. 

Humpback Whale Expedtion - I have hit a low!

February 28, 2017 - So the last three days have been tough as hell. The weather has just kicked our asses. The wind for the last three days has been coming out of the east. Sadly all our great whale encounters have been from the east side of the island. So, needless to say we have not been able to get out there and see if we can find any humpback whales. 

We have been out looking for whales but they just have not been there. I have reached a low point emotionally with this. It is hard taking people out there to see a wild animal. It is rewarding when the magic is happening and everyone is having the time of their lives, but when it is not…it is really, really hard. We have made the most of our time. Some of us have gone diving, others have explored the beauty of this island. Don't get me wrong, everyone is having a good time, each in our own way. But WHALES are on everyone's mind.  We - need - whales. Sometimes you can want something so bad, it feels like you push it away. I have seen that happen to good friends of mine, so maybe its just my turn to have that happen? Just not sure???

(a few stills from our dive.)

So, I hit a wall today, emotionally. From January 1, it has been go-go-go and we have had to deal with a shitty winter/weather season so far. It really feels like its been one, after another. I am frustrated and feel like complete shit and just feeling terrible like I let everyone down. I know that it is the weather and I can't do a thing about that, but I still feel as if it is totally my fault, because I brought these people here. They trusted me and they came here to this place to swim with whales. It is just tough. 

I posted March 1 in the video. That was a mistake, it should be February 28. Sorry guys. I got the date wrong. 

Being away from home, for going on two weeks doesn't help. Yes, I on a beautiful tropical island, yes, I am with very cool people, but being away from my family is always a hard thing to deal with. Hoping that today finishes up to be a better day. I really need it. Sorry for the low today, but it is, what it is. Not always sun and rainbows.

Humpback Whale Expedition. The New Adventure Begins... FInally!

February 18 - We arrived on Salt Cay. I was excited to finally get on the island. Nervous as hell but happy. When you get to a new place you never know what to expect. I mean, you have ideas and dreams of what it will be like, and you hope and dream it will be amazing, but you just don't know, until you touch down and see the ground. SO it gets me real nervous for my friends who travel with us. Love the hell out of the people who travel with us and I want them to have an amazing time. So until I see where we will be spending the week, and until we see the animal we are hoping to encounter. I am an emotional mess.

We landed and the first thing I noticed was this tiny little airport. It was as small as the airport off Cat Island, Bahamas. And, as my good friend Daniel Botehlo once told me, “the smaller the airplane, the smaller the airport…the best diving!” So based off of this, I was thinking we are in store for some epic shit! At least I hope we are.

We drove through town and Salt Cay lives up to its name. It is filled with salt ponds. This was once an economic salt producing powerhouse, that dates back all the way to the 1800’s. Salt Cay was once the economic hub for the salt industry, distributing all throughout the Caribbean and the americas. All that remains of that industry, are the historical buildings and salt ponds, which pepper the island.  And donkeys! There are donkeys all over the island. They used the donkeys to carry the salt to the long boats that would come in and pick up the salt. Now they are left alone to freely roam the island and be cute donkeys…enjoying the life their ancestors obviously did not have, as beasts of burden.

We got to our Villa, and were blown away with not only the house, but the view of the ocean, sunsets and sunrises here are just the best. This is not going to suck hanging out here for the next few weeks. So, so far, so good. Lodgings are a check! Humpback whales…we will see? Tomorrow is our first day in the water.

February 19 - Our first day on the water. We went out looking for whales. Sadly the whales are late this year, which is unusual for this time of year. Normally by now, there are a lot of female whales with newborn calves hanging around. However this year, the mothers and babies are late? Most of the whales that are here now are horny young males, all seeking out females to mate with. So it was difficult getting close to them. We could see breaching whales and we would approach them, but when we did, the whales would run (or swim away, if you want to get sciency on me.)

SO despite our efforts we did not get any encounters, other than breaching whales in the distance. My stress level is through the roof right now.

February 20 - We went today and hit the freaking jackpot! There were a lot of whales today. It was still horny male teenagers and they were still kind of skittish, but they were a lot of them around and close together, which made jumping in for encounters really good. Even though, many of the encounters were brief, it was still great having the opportunity to get in and see some whales. We saw a mating pair, (from the boat) which was great. We also were able to jump in and see a bunch of whales courting and flirting. It was a great day. We left the water that day, really excited and hopeful for the week. All of us thankful for this great start to our week. 

Have to note that, the morning was beautiful, but the afternoon was tough, wind and rain came in and made the ride home extremely crappy. I was hoping it was just a passing storm and nothing that was going to stick around. Sadly it did and we were not able to get out the following day.

Humpback Whale Adventure Begins...Travel Day...ALL Freaking Day.

February 16, 2018 - Travel day. My stay at home was so short on this one. I was only home for a day and a half, before I had to turn around and head back out. That is the hardest part of doing this for a living. Leaving home and my family. It is never easy. 

Anyway, we left Texas and spent the entire day traveling (4AM to 9PM). Mcallen to Dallas to Miami and finally Providential, Turks and Caicos. Of course we still need to catch our flight from Provo to Salt Cay, but we do that tomorrow. Thankfully my camera, Vera got to ride shotgun with me on this adventure, so she was safe and happy.

Vera all safe and snuggled up next to me. 

Vera all safe and snuggled up next to me. 

Today we are hanging out in Provo, a 24 hour layover. Which is cool, it means we get to catch up with a member of our extended shark family. Our buddy Tracie lives on Provo, so we will be meeting up with her later for a few beers and my first Turk’s sunset.

That is my favorite part of the travel life. Making friends in different parts of the world. Like on our last trip to Baja, we over nighted on our way home in Mexico City and got to catch up with more of our extended shark family, Jero and Jorge who live there. On this trip, we are meeting up with Tracie. 

Speaking of sunsets. So we left the house at 4am and were up in the air at 6am. Flying to Dallas we got to see the sunrise, which was just awesome. By the time we left Miami for Provo, we were watching the sunset from the air. Both of them were beautiful, each in their own way. As I have always said, you can NEVER watch too many sunsets. 

So tomorrow we catch our puddle jumper to Salt Cay. This is my first time here and I am excited and nervous. I always get nervous before a trip. Nervous for our friends who join us on these trips. We are headed there for humpback whales and even though I know the whales are there, I am still nervous. Because there are never any guarantees with wildlife. Especially whales, because you can't chum them in. So its always a natural encounter. So until we see that first whale and until our friends get to jump in with them. I am biting my nails…the adventure begins!

Before my buddies remark... yes, since winter is over...I traded in the arctic blond look for a more summery look. 

Next blog, live from Salt Cay. Thank you again guys for reading and watching our blogs. If you like what you read and see, please subscribe to our channel and share this blog. That helps out so much. 

Baja Grey Whale Expedition - Just Damn! What an amazing adventure.

February 10, 2017 - We arrived at the airport in Reynosa, Mexico, to board a plane bound for Baja. This was a trip I had been itching to do for a long time. I had seen the images of friendly grey whales seeking out attention from people on boats and this was something I had to experience for myself. We were checking in and dropping off my gear, when the ticket agent dropped a bomb on me. My precious Vera was too heavy and had to go under the plane. I was devastated. My camera has always rode shotgun with me on all my trips and the thought of her being in the luggage where anything could happen to her just killed me. I felt sick.

We boarded the plane to fly to Mexico City, which was where we would pick up our connecting flight to La Paz. I watched them put Vera in the cargo hold, so I knew she was going with us. Of course I didn't see her in Mexico City, so the next four hours was murder on my soul. When we landed in La Paz, I watched them unload the bags but I didn't see her. Finally as the bags were making their way down the conveyor belt, there she was. I grabbed her off the belt and the box fell open. I quickly shut her before everything spilled out. I looked inside to see if anything was missing. Thankfully everything was there. I breathed a deep breath and relaxed for the first time since take off. The adventure could now officially begin!

We jumped in our rental car and took off towards San Carlos. It is a 3 hour journey though some absolutely beautiful landscape. Giant cactus plants, golden brown grass peppered the sides of the roads and rolling mountains and hills everywhere…Baja is defiantly eye candy.

February 11, 2017 - We headed out for our first day on the water. It was a beautiful morning. There was a lot of cloud cover, which is typical. But I knew as the sun rose throughout the day, it would burn them off. No words can truly describe how amazing this day was. I knew it was going to be special when I planned this trip, I just did not realize how special. You can talk about it and dream about…but until you are there, with your hands gently touching a whale. Just damn. I am not going to waste too much time writing about this day. Please watch this video blog I have shared, it truly sums up how amazing these moments are. Oh yea sorry about the shaky video at the end of my vlog. I was so on fire I couldn't contain my excitement.

February 12, 2017 - We headed out for another day on the water. Today’s conditions were not as good as yesterday. The clouds were thick and were drowning out the sun. But despite that, it was still a beautiful day. We went to the same area, but today the whales were not in the mood to play. There was more serious business going on. MATING! Everywhere we looked whales were trying to pair up. They were dancing and wrestling. Thrashing tails and lots of rolling. We watched this amazing show completely in awe. I finally brought out my drone. I was nervous and I wished I had more practice with it, because I hovered it over mating grey whales. We got to see this crazy ballet from the air. It was fun and I was excited that I got some footage. If I was a better pilot and shooter it would of been BBC shit that I documented. But sadly, it was another Eli production filmed in 3B (three beers and it looks good!). 

I had fun and am looking forward to next season already, becuase we will be returning to this magical place. This trip is definitely going up on our expedition page. I cant wait to get back there. 

Next Blog Report - Travel Day - Headed to the Turks and Caicos for humpback whales

GREY WHALE PHOTO GALLERY

Shark School - The new season of teaching kids about sharks begins!

February 7, 2017 - Shark School started today! This is something I have been doing since 2003, which is to visit schools and talk shark. Today we spoke to 475 kids. A lot of kids, and a great way to kick off the new season, but nowhere close to how many kids I am hoping to share the sharks story with. I have this crazy dream of speaking to a million kids in my lifetime. It is an ambitious goal, but something I am hoping to achieve. 

I know I have reached millions of people through the TV shows I have hosted on Discovery and the Outdoor Channel, but those are TV sharks and not real sharks. TV sharks are scary, they are faster, bigger, and way more dangerous. Real sharks are mellow, super nervous, and just want to be sharks, doing what ever it is sharks do - Being cool and being sharks. 

Anyway, for the past 13 years I have been visiting schools to share with kids the sharks story; Why we need them, where they live and how important and amazing they really are. I have spoken to 1st graders, all the way up to college kids about sharks. It really does not matter the age, they all love these talks.  Not just because it gets them out of class for an hour. Well, that is probably why they really love these talks. But also because, sharks are fascinating animals and whether you love or hate sharks, they can captivate an audience.

So anyway, the dream is to personally speak to a million kids. I know over these past 13 years, I have spoken to tens of thousands of kids. I have never actually counted them all, but I know it is nowhere near a million. That will be a full time job when I commit to accomplishing that goal. Maybe, one day when I am burnt out with airports and Vera (my camera) has clicked off her last underwater pic in my hands, I will focus all my energy on achieving my goal of sharing the sharks story and accomplish that dream. Until then, I will talk to as many kids as I can, whenever that opportunity arises. And kicking off the season with 475 kids is a great start, towards a crazy, but amazing goal.

Next Blog; Travel prep for grey whales off Baja begins.

Bimini Island - Hello Great Hammerheads...or should I say, Hello Bull Sharks???

February 3, 2017 - Traveling to Bimini. We left Tiger Beach. That is always a sad time for me, because I hate leaving this amazing place. I have been traveling to Tiger Beach since 2003. I have seen the changes and the evolution of this amazing dive site. This spot is only 13 years old, not even old enough to drive a car yet. But it is hands down the World's greatest shark dive. 

We motored off as the sun was setting. The sunsets here are amazing as well. That is part of our ritual here at TB, dive all day, clean up and then drink something cold while watching the sunset. Nothing like saying goodbye to another day, just happy to be alive. Watching sunsets is easily one of my most favorite things in the world to do. They are always different, always beautiful and always perfect. 

We arrived at Bimini in the AM and we were treated with a great sunrise (more sappy stuff, I know. But I do love nature.). We were also greeted by 7 bull sharks. Damn, not exactly the sharks we were hoping to see. Bimini is a hot spot for great hammerheads and the last thing anyone wants is for other species of sharks to over whelm the place, which is exactly what is slowly happening with all the bulls and nurse sharks in the area. 

Sharks can be very territorial, especially bulls and will intimidate the other species from the area. The larger great hammerheads are not so easily intimidated, but the smaller ones are. So we made certain not to feed or allow any scraps to get loose for the “other” sharks to eat. 

The currents were running the wrong way when we arrived and our chum scent was not going out into the deep water, which is where the great hammerheads are. So we spent quite a few hours waiting for the sharks to arrive. We finally got one hammerhead in. A big dark female named Epic. She stayed with us the rest of the day and everyone got images and video. They also got plenty of bull shark footage as well. A different species for our week, so yes that was great. We just do not want those sharks to get comfortable and ruin this dive. Bull sharks can easily be found in other places. Bimini is special and we all want to keep it that way.

The following day, we woke up to an early surprise, a big great hammerhead named Hook Face. She stayed with us all morning. Along with the same seven bull sharks. We had a great morning with her. We also had two other great hammerheads try to come in. But before they could come in, the bulls would start their intimidation dance and the great hammerheads would leave. I helplessly watched them swim off. Those dirty gangsters won today.

Frustrating, but it is what it is…that is nature, sometimes you get amazing crazy encounters and other times, you get bull sharks! Lol. It was still an amazing trip with great shark encounters, amazing people and good times. Sadly our trip ended. I had to say goodbye to the Bahamas, our friends who joined us out there, and my beautiful sharks. I am headed home for a few days. I am excited about going home, because I miss my family, but sad that I am saying goodbye to these great sharks for the season, that are like my family as well. 

Thank you guys for reading an watching our Travel Vlogs. If you like what you read, please share it or subscribe to our channel for more adventures and videos. We will definitely be sharing more Notes from the Road for sure...as the adventures must continue… next travel blog report; grey whales off Baja, Mexico! 

Tiger Beach...Thank You Ocean Gods! Finally, we have beautiful weather.

January 31, 2017 - Tiger Beach, Northern Bahamas. When we arrived in the Bahamas we had to deal with crappy weather again. But thankfully we were only dealing with the tail end of the storm that hit us last week. That storm cut our dive week in half. We were only able to get out 3 of the 6 days of diving that were planned. So we only lost the first day of diving. Which was good. It sucked that we lost a day, but it was great that we still had 5 days of diving ahead of us.

The winds were dying down and we were able to motor out to Tiger Beach in the evening. So when we woke up the following morning, we woke up to flat calm seas. It was just perfection. We anchored up at Fish Tales and started chumming. When we got out there, there were two other liveaboards diving TB as well, so I knew the tiger action would be much more relaxed than the previous week. Last week we averaged 4 to 6 tigers on each dive. When we share sharks with other boats, we average 2 to 3. The action is always slower, but a lot safer.

We had an amazing time with the sharks on our first day. I had recorded some blogs about it. But the card was corrupted and all my videos disappeared. Which sucked, but I guess my camera decided my blogs were more horrible than they usually are. lol
Reader Disclaimer: all my video blogs are recorded in 3B. Three beers and they look good. 

Tiger Beach is such an amazing place. It truly does ruin people here. When you dive this spot, you will never be able to go anywhere else again and do normal reef dives. It is just that magical. On our third day diving here, we had Patches the great hammerhead show up. It seems she has decided to call Tiger Beach home. At least for this season. It truly does make the dives that much more special when you have a great hammerhead swimming among the tiger sharks here. The photos and videos just pop with excitement and life. Just epic stuff.

We ended up having a meeting to discuss whether we all wanted to stay or move on to Bimini as per our schedule. The majority wanted to stay, but a few people really wanted to experience Bimini. So we pulled anchor and motored over to Bimini. I was very sad leaving TB, especially because I won't be back until October. It’s such a special place for me. This place truly is home.

To Be continued. Next blog update…Hello Bimini. 

Florida Shark Diving- Killer Way to spend my Day!

January 28 - West Palm Beach, Florida. We just returned from Tiger Beach. I said good bye to our friends who joined us and then prepped my dive gear. I wanted to check out the local diving and was invited by Ryan, the owner of Deep Obsession charters. The only problem was when we arrived it was cold as hell. we had left the Bahamas and it was windy, but warm. Here in Florida, it was rainy and really freaking cold. I was rethinking my decision to go diving.

Thankfully as the day progressed, so did the sun’s warmth. So I put my big boy pants on, grabbed Vera, (my camera) and headed out to meet up with Ryan and the rest of the divers that were joining us on this trip. It was still chilly, but the sun felt good. We headed out for a three tank dive. (I only did two, it was freaking cold and too dark for Vera to capture any decent images.) 

We dropped in for the first dive and were greeted by a couple of goliath groupers. Damn, I love these crazy big fish. They are just cool looking and so massive. We also had a bunch of lemon sharks with us and I totally ignored them. I was busy chasing the goliath’s around, trying to get some shots of them. The photos for me here are challenging because I shoot natural light and it is so deep (80 - 90 feet), that the deeper images do not pop like when I shoot shallow. Maybe one day I will attach my strobes?

So I was taking a few pics of the grouper when I noticed one lemon that Ryan was playing with acting a bit different. I quickly left the groupers and swam over to watch what was going on. One of the lemons, they call Stevie, was coming in for a nose rub and just dropping onto the sand. 

It was amazing to watch, Ryan would grab her nose, no chain mail stimulation and no real rubbing going on and the shark would drop. He did this over and over. My total focus tuned into that one shark. I watched her swimming around. I found out pretty quickly that she is blind from one eye. 

The one thing I noticed was that as she swam around, she kept bumping into everything and everyone. At first I thought it was because of her eye. But that just seemed too clumsy and we have one eyed lemons at Tiger Beach and they are not that clumsy. But, as I continued to watch her, I realized that she knew exactly what she was doing, she was purposely running into divers, seeking out attention. It was so wild. My excitement grew. This was new behavior that I was witnessing and I wanted to learn more. She had a comfort level with the divers that none of the other lemons there shared.  

She followed us up and Ryan kept playing with her. He would grab her nose and she would drop. It was such an amazing thing to witness. I have always said that lemon sharks are one of the most intelligent of the shark species and here I was learning something new. She followed us all the way up to the surface and he played with her all the way up. I was on fire, and extremely happy I decided to visit. 

I have been documenting lemon shark behavior and this one is definately going in the book. 

We dropped in for our second dive on a spot where they regularly see tigers and great hammerheads. As we were dropping in, We saw this huge loggerhead turtle laying in the sand. I have never photographed one before so I raced over to shoot it. I felt guilty as hell because my Waterbug (my daughter) was not with me to see it. Sea turtles are our thing that we do together. So I haven't even told her yet. 

The action was slow, it took our entire dive, but we finally got a great hammerhead in. He grabbed a piece of bait and then took off. The encounter was brief, but I was satisfied. I really wasn't thinking about the hammer anyway, my mind just kept going back to Stevie the lemon shark. I was excited knowing I learned something new about these amazing sharks. It makes me excited to get back to Tiger Beach and see what new things I can learn from my lemon sharks there. I wont have to wait long, I am headed back out to Tiger Beach tomorrow night. The adventures and my education continues.