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Spider Monkeys and some Wicked Cool Bugs!

July 11, 2019 - Coba, Mexico. So the girls and I. Mari, Sophia and my niece Oya rented a car today from my buddy Andres and we drove to Coba, Mexico this afternoon. The plan was to visit Punta Laguna National Reserve to seek out spider monkeys and howler monkeys, and other wildlife that we might find. I wanted David to go with us, but he had divers today so he couldn’t get away. 

This is just a quick visit for us and our second time visiting this park, we went three years ago. It is such a great spot, we had to return. I really wanted another shot at photographing these monkeys. It is such a challenge to capture nice images of these primates, because they are up in the tree canopy and the great light is lost in the thickness of the leaves here - and I am not a fan of using strobes on wildlife, so I avoid it when I can. We just have to look for opportunities for images and that takes some work.

It is an easy trip from Playa. The reserve is an hour and 26 minutes away. So we packed an over night bag and hit the road, to try and find some animals to photograph. The plan was to visit the park at dusk when the monkeys come in close to the entrance to sleep, and then again in the early morning when they were just waking up, seeking breakfast in the fruit trees. Spider monkeys are easiest to find, but the coveted howler monkeys are a lot tougher. 

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We checked into the hotel and hid from the scorching afternoon sun. Today was hot. We prepped cameras and took off around 4:30pm and drove to the reserve which was about a 20 minute drive.

When we got to the reserve we paid our entrance fees and hired a guide. The guides walk these parks everyday and know where the best spots to find these primates are. After we paid our fees, we told our guide what we wanted  which was monkeys of course, he said ok, then walked us to the parking lot where a bunch of spider monkeys were feeding on the fruit of one of the forest trees. They were on the low hanging branches and in good light, so Sophia and I snapped a bunch of images. We spent about 10 minutes with them and then pushed on. We joked with our guide saying that he was pretty much done now. He got a kick out of that.

Spider monkeys can live to be 45-50 years old. This guy was definitely a very old monkey.

Spider monkeys can live to be 45-50 years old. This guy was definitely a very old monkey.

He took us deeper into the forest where we found more spider monkeys, they were up high, jumping from tree to tree, I managed to snap a shot of the monkey jumping, however, my ISO was a bit too high, so it is a bit blown out. I was bummed but still happy I managed a decent jumping shot of one. A new challenge begins!

Spider monkey jumping from tree to tree.

Spider monkey jumping from tree to tree.

After we found these guys, our guide ( I feel bad calling him our guide in this story, but I forgot the kids name.), took us onto a small jungle trail where he found us a family of about 20 spider monkeys all feeding on fruit. There were some very young babies with this group, and once we played with our settings, we were able to capture a few amazing shots. One of the babies was very curious about us and climbed to the low hanging branches to get a better look at us, his vigilant mother, was feeding nearby, watching him, to make sure he didn’t get into too much trouble.

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We shot for a while then pressed on, now in search of howler monkeys. These are awesome little monkeys that look like tiny gorillas, and they have a tremendous roar. If you heard them and did not know what was roaring in the jungle, it would scare the crap out of you. 

Next to one of the trails we were walking on, our guide showed us a big area where there was a lot of dirt piles which were home to leaf cutter ants. He pointed out this huge trail where the ants were busy bringing leaves home. It was so fascinating. I have a macro lens which I brought in case we found cool small stuff, but I left it in the hotel room. At this point I was kicking myself hard for missing the opportunity. We had the next best thing, our iPhones did a great job of recording the ants working away. Such cool little animals. 

After we left the ants, our guide kept searching and led us to a lone male howler monkey eating leaves up high… freaking jackpot. He kind of knew it was in the area from one of the other guides, but actually finding it is another story. The guide was good, howler monkeys are so hard to find, so we were pumped that we found one. We tried to capture images of him, but he was never in a good position for a nice shot. Hoping we get another shot at him tomorrow morning. Despite not getting any decent images, it was still really exciting seeing one. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in capturing images, you forget to just enjoy watching them.

We finished up the tour with a stop at the lagoon. It was huge and absolutely beautiful. Some rain clouds were out there killing our view of the setting sun, but it was still amazing to see.

Our guide showed us one last exciting sight before we called it a day; feeding Yucatan locusts. These are really big bugs and there were hundreds of them. They feed on the bark of a very particular tree, it was so interesting and fun watching and trying to photograph these guys. 

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Over all a great afternoon of wildlife and a fun day with my girls. Looking forward to tomorrow morning…

Journal Notes of our Croc Diving Trip #2

July 6, 2019 - Sitting here at Banco Chinchorro at the end of the day. This was our first day of croc diving and it went well. Gambit showed up to give our friends one hell of a show. Of course, she was not the first to show up, we had a small croc show up, around 6 feet in length and she was a sweet little hot fire. I had not met her before, I don’t think? We also had a third croc come in, one I know I have seen before. It has a crooked jaw and one bottom tooth that sits square in the middle of its face. He also has a big portion of his tail missing. Whether it was bitten off or cut off I am not sure, but it is gone. Just makes it easy to identify the croc from a distance.

A croc named Bobo. His/her tail has been chopped off. Gambit (below) getting a snack.

A croc named Bobo. His/her tail has been chopped off. Gambit (below) getting a snack.


Mark going through footage.

Mark going through footage.

Our guests who joined us had a good time and enjoyed the crocs, not that I didn’t think they wouldn’t. But it is always nice and my favorite part of any trip we do when we know that someone truly appreciates these animals the way I do. We still have two more days of croc diving to go before we head back to mainland. Just happy it was a good day, with a kick ass crossing. Super freaking happy about that. Nothing worse than a shit ass crossing, (last week’s crossing was horrible). Now - all that is left for our day; pour through today’s images ( I think I managed one or two today that I am happy with), eat dinner, super hungry right now, and hit the hammock for a good nights sleep. Till tomorrow. 

July 7, 2019 - 8PM. Today was a tough day for crocs, they just did not want to play. We had them come in, but they did not want to hang around, they were super skittish. They would come in, and within minutes, they would leave. Felt crappy for the boys, because that is why they are here, but that is nature, and you get what you get.  They are all still fired up because of yesterday’s action. We spent about six hours with them, so that was good. But I still wanted some better action for them. The crew from XTC tried super hard to get them to come in, but they just didn’t want to play. We had thunder and rain storms come in hard for a while, which may have contributed to why the crocs did not want to come in? Not sure?

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The highlights for the day was the dive this morning, we went out hunting for lion fish for bait for the crocs, we ended up killing 19 of them, with a few escapes. Garin, one of our guests hunts lion fish in Bermuda where he lives, so we gave him a spear and it was comedy when he had a few of them escape when he shot at them. Mark recorded a video of it and you can hear Mark laughing and giving him hell when it happened. Love that a bond between these guys and this group is building.

We also visited the ranger station to get a look at the crocs and iguanas on the beach. The iguanas are shedding right now and getting their amazing breeding colors in, they look so freaking beautiful. We played with the crocs on the beach, one of the locals brought some bait out for us and called in the crocs. A couple of them came in. They are obviously bringing them out onto the beach, becuase these crocs came right out of the water at us. 

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I am flat out just a wildlife junky, becuase I was trying to capture images of everything on the island (wildlife); I snapped a couple shots of an anole. They have two species, one comes from mainland Mexico, the other is an endemic species. I captured a picture of the mainland species. My next trip out is this coming August, I will try for the endemic one. One of my favorite things about the island is it’s an amazing place for a hard to find warbler species; Mangrove warblers. Every time I visit the island, my goal is to try and capture better and better images of these cute little birds. On this trip, I captured a picture of a female mangrove warbler and I snapped a shot of the male last week - I was pretty happy with that shot, but fired up I captured a nice picture of the female as well.

Female mangrove warbler. Below is the male and a pic of the anole.

Female mangrove warbler. Below is the male and a pic of the anole.

Over all a decent day of wildlife, our guests all got some great images of everything we experienced here. I also captured a bunch of video clips, will try to load them onto our youtube channel later. Now we just need some better in water action for our guests, hoping tomorrow (which is our final day), is better.

July 8, 2019 -  It is late as shit, tired and bit on the feeling good side. We returned from Chinchorro. It turned into a super amazing trip. Today we had crocs! In fact we had five different crocs visit us. Our final day was the stuff dreams are made of, our guests had an amazing time and they all captured images they are happy with and spent some quality time with very different croc personalities. Our buddy Greg had just bought a new camera before this trip and happy I was able to help him dial it in so that he could snap some images he was happy with.

From the very mellow Gambit, to the super fiery Pinto. We also had a new croc show up, which was a monster croc. Bigger than Gambit and super thick. We dubbed him Godzilla. He was new to divers and it showed. He was wild and crazy and very bitey. We had to be cautious around him. Hoping he becomes one of the regulars we see, becuase he was fun. Sadly I did not capture any video or stills of him, but hoping he returns in August.

Pinto in her usually very active mood.

Pinto in her usually very active mood.


I was pretty happy to capture hero shots of the boys with the crocs, they all wanted one. It makes for a great reminder of a really fun trip when you have a nice shot of you and the animals. Especially an animal like a crocodile. They are just an exciting species.

A gift from my buddy Christian Kemper. He wrote this book about crocs and gave me a copy of it. It is written in German so I don’t know what is says, but the pics are amazing. Thank you brother.

A gift from my buddy Christian Kemper. He wrote this book about crocs and gave me a copy of it. It is written in German so I don’t know what is says, but the pics are amazing. Thank you brother.

We left the Cabin today (Casa Matraca), and returned to Xcalak. The group loved the trip and that makes me happy. They hated leaving, but didn’t mind returning to civilization for a shower and a beer.

July 9, 2019 - Went out for a morning dive to try and find manatees. On last week’s trip we found them, which was way over due for me. I have been diving here for five years and I’ve never seen one. So it was a massive relief for me to finally capture an image of one. Sadly we didn’t see one this morning. Our group was just thrilled to get wet this morning. Diving is always a great way to start your day.

I am writing this while waiting for Andres, our driver to pick us up and take us to Playa del Carmen for our final night of the trip. I had a lot of fun with this group, the boys got on well and there was a lot of back and forth jabbing at each other. Always makes the trip a lot fun when that happens…

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July 10, 2019 - Last night we celebrated the end of the trip together, and laughed into the night. Such a great way to finish off this fun and amazing adventure. Thanks again to our friends who joined us out here and thank you to XTC, our host operator for always kicking ass for us… Until August and to my buddies, safe travels home, miss you guys already and till the next one.

Mark is missing from the picture becuase he had to leave early, but we have his passport in the pic. He was there in spirit.

Mark is missing from the picture becuase he had to leave early, but we have his passport in the pic. He was there in spirit.

Travel Day... Croc Diving Trip 2.

July 5, 2019 - Travel Day… Headed to Xcalak Mexico for our second croc diving trip of the 2019 season. Yes, we are taking our new group of friends out there to swim with crocodiles. The down side, it is another 5 hour drive to get from Cancun to Xcalak, and then a minimum 2 hour boat ride to get to Banco Chinchorro. Why are all the best places so freaking hard to get too? This week we are taking 6 people from very different parts of the world; Belgium, Australia, Guatemala, Bermuda, California and New York. The accents you hear are always fun. Super pumped to introduce them to the crocs tomorrow. The weather looks favorable for us and I am referring to the crossing from Xcalak to Banco Chinchorro, because once you are at Chinchorro, the weather is always good.

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Last week, the crossing kicked our ass. It normally takes about two and half hours to get there, and less than two hours on a smooth glassy day. But last week’s crossing took us 5 hours of crap weather. It was a beating on the body and soul man. The winds and the swells kicked us around and kept us wet the entire ride. Hoping for a nicer ocean crossing for this group, and not going to lie, for me!

The croc action last week was pretty good, Gambit (the star croc of Chinchorro), was with us two of the three days. She/he is getting big. I know it is a slow growth, but finally she is starting to girth up. Hoping to see her get in to the teen sizes, here in the next few years. It always makes for a more amazing dive when you get these monster sized animals coming in to play with.

So an update from yesterday’s blog, and my new art project. I am super pumped that I am almost finished with the photos for my friend Sandra, the amazing soul that gave me the honor of allowing me to share my work on the walls of our local hospital. So far I have sent about 46 images to my buddy Chris, who is printing them up for me, and drop shipping them to the framer. I still need 6 more and then I am done with my part until they do the red carpet opening party they have planned, which should be fun. I just hope I am in town for that. Excited that my daughter Sophia will have a few images up there with me, along with my brother in law, AJ. 

We need to add some variety to the art we are displaying for local wildlife and it wouldn’t be complete without some RGV reptiles, and sadly, I didn’t have any, but AJ for sure did. He loves capturing images of local wildlife as well, so I asked if he had a few images that he would allow us to use for the project. He was fired up about it and sent me a lot to choose from. I found three that were pretty amazing. So anyway, this is today’s update for the blog. I will try and finish up a video for the trip before I return from Chinchorro, to share with you guys when I get back to Playa for our final night of the trip.

This one didn’t make the cut, but one similar to it did. This shot is pretty amazing though.

This one didn’t make the cut, but one similar to it did. This shot is pretty amazing though.

I am going to try and write up a daily blog when I can and I wanted to write one up before we left to the island tomorrow, but not sure if I can, since we are leaving at 8am tomorrow morning. Tomorrow will be a bit of chaos, because we will be packing for a two night stay at Casa Matracka’s fishing cabin. So not sure if I will have time, but will try. For now, good night my friends…

Mexico Madness... Our Summer Continues.

Hey guys, so I have been super behind on blogs and vlogs and updates. So sorry about that, the craziness of our summer has begun and it is hard trying to keep everyone up to date on what we have been doing and where we have been going. Well, it is a bit easier on our social media pages, because we can drop an image to share what we did that day or week. It is fast and easy. So if you are not following us on Facebook and Instagram, get on it.

I did post a vlog from our Africa trip, well the first day of the trip. I recorded one everyday and I wanted to do all five days, but I have not been able to. Here is the reason why. Right now, I have been commissioned to provide 50 plus images for one of the big hospitals in our area, which is remodeling their entire first floor, with all new framed images, and I have been given the honor of having our wildlife pictures, of both local wildlife, and ocean wildlife for this project. So for the past month and change, I have been seeking out some of mine, and Sophia’s favorite and best images for this project. It has been super time consuming and a lot of fun. Looking forward to sharing with you guys, this project when it is done.

Anyway, I am almost finished with submitting the images and once that is done, I can try and catch up with more vlogs, blogs, and trip reports, for you guys. I need to write up Africa and Baja orcas (I am so behind). So far I have submitted 40 of the 50 images already to our printer, but I still need 10 more to go. So I promised myself this blog would be short, because I need to finish this up before I leave tomorrow for our second crocodile diving trip to Banco Chinchorro.

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This morning, I said good bye to our guests who joined us on the first trip. Writing this on the couch in our (Air BnB) apartment in Mexico. The people you meet on these trips are always cool, and it’s sad saying goodbye. We had a great week with the crocs and it was good to see Gambit again and Fireball, two crocodiles I have gotten to know through the years, they are such amazing animals. I also finally got the chance to finally see a manatee out here, it was an animal I have been really wanting to see but never got the opportunity. It was a long wait- after 5 or 6 seasons, I saw that beautiful mermaid.

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So, going to stop here because I need to get back at it. And I am going to try and keep you guys updated a bit more on this journey of mine, even if I can’t get to editing vlogs for you guys, I will start writing in this journal more. I have some crazy projects that I want to do and will be sharing as I move forward. But until then, wishing you guys an amazing summer, and I promise to keep you guys posted more.

MY EPIC FAILURE!

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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.

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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. 

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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