We just returned from our final trip of the 2018 season. We visited the Bahamas for tiger sharks and great hammerheads, which was the last trip of the season for us. It was a great trip with a lot of tiger sharks and a visit from Patches the great hammerhead. We also were given a very white Christmas when Hook the tiger shark returned to Tiger Beach after being gone for 2 years. I was afraid she was killed by fishermen and I was ever so happy to be wrong. So here is a photo album from the trip. Hope you guys enjoy…
So we just returned from our annual trip to Puerto San Carlos, Mexico for a shot at swimming with striped marlins hunting sardines and mackerel. It was an epic success. We spent two weeks out there and had the opportunity to not only photograph these amazing animals but share a fun story for our youtube channel as well. Here is the video I co-hosted with my buddy Chris Doherty… hope you enjoy.
I also just shared a photo album from the trip which we posted yesterday with my favorite images from the adventure. Hope you enjoy.
Hey guys, so here is the latest episode of SDM adventures. We were invited by our friends at Big River Brewery to present our daughter Sophia’s photography work. She was nervous and excited and totally up for the challenge of putting herself out there to showcase her work. She is such a fun kid and full of energy. Super proud of her accomplishments and her passion for wildlife photography…hope you enjoy.
Hey guys, just wanted to share our latest and the first episode of our new weekly Youtube series, entitled, SDM Adventures. We started our Youtube channel back in 2011, but it has been off and on for new shows through the years, with no real direction. So I decided to commit to creating a series that shares our adventures, the highs and the lows of this crazy life we are living. So with no further ado, here it is.
A little back ground on this episode; we visited Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, last week to kick off the winter tiger shark season. October is when all the big females return to these waters to breed, socialize and fatten up a little before they leave to give birth. We spent five days here and dove 16 times during the week. On our second dive of the trip we had two tiger sharks show up and on the second to the last dive, we had 9 tiger sharks show up. It was one hell of a week.
In this episode I take you through our week, hope you enjoy…
Thank you for watching, if you like what you see, please share this video. Truly would appreciate that. Again we will be posting a weekly episode so please subscribe to our channel to check out more episodes.
“I AM THE SHARK WHISPERER,” I had those words floating through my head today, as I was on a morning jog, “Eli the Shark Whisperer.” Those words have been used to describe me throughout much of my career. Even at the peak of all the craziness, I never liked, believed or cared to be called that. In fact, I freaking hated being called that… because I always felt like it was not true and I was a fake.
The facts are, as much as I know and understand shark behavior, especially the species that I have had the pleasure of working intimately with, I really do not know anything about sharks. They are, and will always, continue to be a mystery to me. I have been blessed with sharing countless hours with sharks, and I have been allowed extended glimpses into their lives; and that has allowed me to learn things and behaviors about these animals that few get to see, or understand. But even with that, the idea that I am, or was, some sort of whisperer, makes me laugh.
The thought that anyone could be considered a shark whisperer is a silly idea to me, because there are over 500 different species of sharks. They all have different personalities, hunting behaviors, the way they interact with each other, they are all so very different. So unless you have shared time with every single species of shark, the idea of being some kind of master is… well, you get it.
Plus, these are truly wild animals and even though I have spent a lot of time with many different shark species, especially tiger sharks, I never once felt comfortable, or fell under any illusions that I could snuggle up to them, or that they are some sort of loyal pet. I have always known that if I screwed up, I would pay the ultimate price, at the hands (or mouth), of one of my favorite sharks. That knowledge always drove me to stay vigilant when I was/am down there.
I have seen a few other people out there being called the same thing… and maybe they are? A few pros I know, have been diving with the same sharks for 20 plus years, and know their sharks intimately, they for sure are deserving of that kind of title. They have a deep understanding of their sharks, and for that I do give them props, and I have mad respect for them. But just like me, they lack experience with other species of sharks, and probably, just like me, may find that name uncomfortable.
And don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciated that people would say that about me. Because it meant they respected my work - and it is a good feeling when people see what you have done, and show some love. I think at our core we all want to be appreciated for our life’s work, but to be called some kind of master, just never sat well with me, because I knew that I wasn’t.
Anyway, as we move forward, I am sure I will see future news stories, with new Shark Whisperers, - all with killer images, trying new things and sharing new behaviors with us. Which is the way it is supposed to be - The passion of shark diving, should always be that we move forward, and someone NEEDS to continue carrying the torch; showing people what sharks are truly like. Who knows…maybe, just maybe, a shark diver will show up, that truly is a real Shark Whisperer, and they will be able to come in and finally get a tiger shark to lay down on their lap, or the ultimate, roll a white shark. Now, that is a person that I would love to dive with and learn from. But until that day comes, the world is stuck with the one’s that we have… including a fake one like me.
WOW! When trying to write up a blog for our recent black bear expedition, I was fumbling around with words to describe how I felt about this exploratory trip and WOW, was the first, and really the only word that came to mind. We went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to photograph black bears, and by we, I mean the SDM crew; Maritza, Sophia, David and I.
Black bears are one of North Americas most iconic animals and one of it’s most exciting predators. As everyone knows, I am extremely passionate about predators, ocean predators own my soul, but land predators are just as sexy. So when we decided to start offering trips out to see some of the woodlands bad boys and girls, I did my home work. Yellow Stone and California are amazing and reliable places, and with so many other iconic animals, it was tempting. But I wanted to find a place with more than just a brief sighting of bears, and with less crowds. After some research I located my dream spot… the Outer Banks, of North Carolina.
Not only does North Carolina boast one of densest populations of black bears, it also is where you can find the biggest black bears in North America. And by big I am talking, 600 to 1,000 lb. kind of big. I had to visit. So a plan was made, but when to go? Our bear guide Tom Harrison, told me that the very best time was in August- September time frame, but our summer schedule was way too crazy this season to go during that time. We asked about May, and he said it was a solid month as well, it wasn’t thick with bears, like later in the season, but it was still a great time to go. We didn’t have anything scheduled, so we set up the trip and off we went.
This was also the first time we had the entire SDM crew together for an adventure, which hasn’t happened in, EVER. So we took advantage of this window to head out to NC and explore what it had to offer. The priceless thing for me was not just experiencing the bears and this magical place, but also the reactions of my crew. This was their first time around bears and watching their reactions and excitement was something I will never forget.
I could go on and on with a detailed report of everything we experienced but that would turn into a book. So I decided to cut together a video of moments from the trip to try and share the emotion of what we were feeling out there. It is difficult to do, but will do my best to see if it can be captured…
Of course the main focus on all our trips is to capture video and stills of these animals, so here are a few of our stills of this expedition. We were also lucky enough to capture a few images of a bobcat that we encountered, which is extremely rare to see in this area. We spoke to one lady who has spent the last 42 years documenting the local wildlife here off the Outer Banks and in all those years, she has only seen 2 bobcats. So we definitely felt blessed to have seen one.
We were hoping to capture images of a red wolf, which is also extremely rare, but there are only 40 wolves left in the area, so the chances of seeing one was extremely low. We did find some fresh tracks, so we knew they were in the area. However, we do have plans to return to the outer banks next September, so we are hoping for another shot at encountering one then for sure.
For the past 15 years much of my focus has been on working with sharks; learning about these animals, their behaviors and more importantly why we need every single shark, (alive) in our oceans. I have shared this message (along with many of my friends), with whoever would listen. The one thing I have learned, is that sharks, like all predators, are feared and completely misunderstood. People are fascinated with them, yet many still believe that the only good shark is a dead shark.
I have been spending a lot more time studying and learning about land predators - and just like their ocean kin, they too suffer from bad PR problems. What it boils down to is fear. People fear the unknown and because of their fears, thousands of animals die and suffer needlessly. Sharks, bears, wolves, wild cats, snakes, all play an important roll in our eco-systems. We need them, the world needs them and yet they are killed, for sport, for their skin and sadly (and mostly) because of fear.
It is heart breaking knowing why these animals are killed, and almost feeling powerless to stop it. Despite it being an uphill climb, we will continue to share the predator's story. Educating people on why we need them, and why they are important. Hopefully, inspiring more people to do their part to help save them. We must become a voice for the voiceless, because these animals deserve to be here more than we do.
We are going to be spending more time learning about land predators this year, trying to understand the issues and politics surrounding their survival, and how we all can help. I've always known that these animals have PR problems, I just didn't know much about their plights, because my time had been spent in the ocean, working with sharks. Of course, we are still continuing our work with sharks, however, we are going to do our part to help people understand more about animals that are closer to home.
Such as bears and bobcats. I have been learning a lot about them and the severe pressure they are under, due to human encroachment on their habitat. Bears, such as black bears and speckled bears are often killed by people who are tired of bears eating their crops, or digging into their trash. Bobcats, are often killed by hunters for trophies, or by vehicles. They are running out of room and as they move into urban areas where people live, more conflicts with these predators are happening.
So expect more projects with us involving land predators. We are going to help do our part to show the beauty of these animals, why we need them, as well as create more awareness of what is happening to them. Because, the more we know about these animals, the better prepared we are to protect them.
Thank you guys for reading.
Visiting the ruins of Macchu Picchu has been a dream for Maritza and I’s, for a very long time. I know its not an animal adventure, (even though I did get to see a few), but seeing those ruins and the views from the top of those mountains was high on my list of must see things in this lifetime. So we decided to plan a little getaway, just the two of us and fly up to Peru, to see what this place was all about.
It's always a bit nerve racking visiting a new place. You never know what to expect. Will it be good, will it be bad? You just don't know until you climb in a plane and set off into the unknown.
But of course, that is the beauty of traveling to new places. Meeting new people, seeing new places and experiencing new things. That unknown is what I live for. We got it all when we landed in Peru. The biggest shock for me was the spiritual high I got from place. Peru is truly magical, filled with history, both good and bad. I can honestly say, I am in love with it all, and I was completely over whelmed with everything I experienced.
And that is because I was not expecting to be. I mean, I was going to Peru to see some ruins, not animals, so I was expecting to just check this place off my very long list of places I needed to see, before I die list. But I left there in awe of everything this place represents, and is. It truly humbled the shit out of me.
The photo opportunities here also blew me away. From the rainbow mountains to Macchu Picchu. It was an emotional experience, standing up on top of those mountains. I wanted to just stand there and soak it all in, leaving my camera in the bag...but that is not who I am. I am a storyteller and my job is to share the experience of being out there. Capturing moments to share is my passion and what I really love to do. So as I was trying to figure out how to write a blog about this experience, I decided the best way to do it is with some of the images I captured. Every one has a story attached to it. Figured it might be the only way I can really try and share what I felt…
We visited the Rainbow mountains. This was the first place we visited on our trip, which was a mistake. If I knew then what I know now, I would of left visiting this mountain till the end of the trip, or maybe not visit it at all. We had to hike up what I believe is about 2 - 3 miles to get to the top of rainbow mountain from base camp (where the cars are). However, base camp is at about 14,000 feet, and the top is around 17,000 feet. It is hard to breathe, AND a very, very tough hike. We are flat landers and a bit out of shape for such an ambitious hike. This really kicked our asses. We hiked up for about an hour and then had to pay one of the locals for a horse ride up the mountain trail. There are a lot of locals hanging around, selling rides. These are really tough ponies and really tough people walking these animals up and down this mountain trail, every day, all year. Mad respect for them.
The views, up and down this trail were spectacular. In the distance there were snow covered peaks, in fact, while we were hiking down, it began snowing for a little while, which added to the fun and misery. For me, one of the highlights was all the alpacas. There were herds of them all over the valley.
When we finally made it to the top of the mountain we were thrilled to have made it, even though we did ride a horse for part of it, we still had to hike the final leg to the top of the mountain. We were so exhausted and breathless, due to having very thin air up there, and being out of shape. We took in the sights, it was really beautiful. Snow clouds rolled in and covered up the entire area, but just as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone. I took as many photos as I could, but my head was pounding from the altitude. We did drink a lot of coca tea, which helped, but it was still very tough. We rested for a bit, then began the hike down. We walked the entire way down, thinking it would be easier. It was still freaking hard, but we did it. Maritza ending up hurting her knee on the decent, she continued to walk, but it was painful.
Visiting Macchu Picchu was one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. Climbing this mountain and seeing the brilliant ruins here. The architecture here is a marvel. The stone work and the engineering is amazing. Even for todays standards it is beyond amazing.
The Incas that built this place were geniuses. Still to this day, it has not been figured out how it was done. Of course I am an ancient alien theorist, so I know who helped them. Which is part of the reason I wanted to visit Peru. I wanted to visit the Inca museum to see the Paracas skulls (elongated skulls). Now that was beyond cool, seeing them with my own eyes. Just love the crazy mysteries of this world. Not knowing where we truly came from.
Peru was amazing. We will definitely be returning next season. The big thing was finding out that Peru was so much more than ruins. The wildlife!!! I knew Peru would have some wildlife, what I didn't know was how much. We will be returning to visit the rainforests here for opportunities to photograph, jaguars, speckled bears, giant river otters, monkeys, capybaras and one of the most beautiful birds out there, the cock on the rock! Yes, thats really its name. Google it. I took advantage of my limited time out here (we had 5 days), and photographed as much wildlife as I could, but as amazing as this place is... we will be back for more.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,