Raja Ampat in 2017

Raja Ampat! It’s the location that I consider to have the best diving in Indonesia. The marine life here simply thrives due to the sheer size of the area, along with a small human population and a long running successful protection program. What this means to divers is the opportunity to experience one of the healthiest and most diverse reef systems on the planet. I am fortunate enough that I typically spend 2-3 months per year diving in Raja Ampat aboard different vessels exploring areas far from where other boats typically venture. Of course, I also spend a lot of time at the popular spots as well, after all, these spots are popular for a reason! However, “popular” in Raja Ampat does not mean 15 boats on a site like in other areas of the world. Due to the amount of great sites so close to one another and the fact that boats communicate with one another, it’s rare to run into another set of divers underwater in Raja (except at Manta Sandy!). Of course the marine life is also a major reason for my love of the area: mantas, beautiful and healthy coral gardens, endless amounts of colourful soft corals, loads of schooling fish, cool critters such as pygmy seahorses and wobbegong sharks, and did I mention mantas?

It’s for these reasons that I always look forward to going back to Raja. But there is only so much that words can do, instead, have a look at the photos and video instead to see what I mean.

I will once again be heading to Raja Ampat aboard a great boat in 2017, the Mermaid II will be our home on an 8 night trip from 19-27 March 2017 departing and returning to Sorong. If you would like full information about this trip, including pricing, please let me know and I will be happy to send it to you. The best way to get a hold of me is at info@underwatertribe.com

R4MV13-2007 Manta Rays Raja Ampat Schooling Snapper Raja Ampat Soft coral in Raja Ampat Pygmy seahorse Raja Ampat Wayag Lagoon Raja Ampat Boo Windows Raja Ampat Wobbegong Shark Raja Ampat manta rays in Raja Ampat Soft corals in the shallows of Raja Ampat White sand beach Raja Ampat Kayaking in Raja Ampat

Story Behind the Shot – The Great Hammerhead

Great Hammerhead Shark

Great Hammerhead Shark

The Tuamotu Island chain, in French Polynesia, is one of the best locations on the planet to enjoy close up, pulsating action with a large variety of different shark species.  Grey reef, black tip reef, silver tip, tiger, sandbar, lemon, silky, white tip reef, and oceanic blacktip are a few of the species I encountered there during my two years of working on the Tahiti Aggressor.  However, my all time favourite shark to find was the elusive Great Hammerhead, a truly awe inspiring beast of a species.    The best location in which to find these incredible animals was in Tiputa Pass at the island of Rangiroa. From the months of Dec – March, large groups of eagle rays would gather together in the pass for mating purposes, which always drew in the local population of hammerheads looking for a tasty snack.  As luck would have it, we had a week of “down time” with no guests on the boat during the full moon of January one year, the perfect time of the month to encounter the eagle rays, and hopefully a hammerhead!  Between painting and other repairs, we snuck in a few sneaky dives throughout the week when the tides were perfect.  On this particular occasion, I dropped into the mouth of the pass and drifted in to the channel keeping a close look downward for the tell tale sign of a large group of eagle rays.  Sure enough, it didn’t take me long to spot the eagle rays and lo and behold, an absolutely gigantic hammerhead cruising directly behind them!  Knowing an opportunity when I saw one, I silently descended to the bottom and slowly made my way toward the oncoming hammerhead.  As I had encountered these shy beasts before, I knew that I would only get one or two shots off before it bolted off into the deep.  As the hammerhead and I quickly got closer and closer, I had to continually fight the urge to press the shutter button and allow it to fill the frame as much as possible.  Finally, I could control the urge no longer and I had to press the button before my bubbles scared the shark away, and sure enough, this is the only shot I was able to get of the shark facing toward me because as I expected: Boom!, off went the shark as soon as I took the photo.  It certainly goes to show that a 4-5 metre shark with the muscle mass of a prized bull is not the menacing eating machine that the media makes them out to be, but rather a relatively timid creature that spooks rather easily!

Nikon F90x, Ikelite housing, 18-35mm lens at 35mm, Provia 100 film, settings not recorded
(Note the eagle ray behind the shark)

Story Behind the Shot – Banded Sea Snake

Sea Snake on Surface

Sea Snake Surfacing

One of my all time favourite photos is this photo of a black and white banded sea snake (krait) surfacing for breath.  The photo was taken at the island of Bunaken on one of the famous Likuan dive sites which feature a shallow reef bordered by a sharp vertical wall.  It was during the morning on a dive to this site where I encountered this beautiful sea snake while doing my safety stop in the shallows.  I patiently followed the snake for a while taking a photo or two of it while it stuck it’s head into a few holes in the corals, possibly looking for a meal.  The snake was not bothered by my presence and continued to swim along the reef in no particular hurry.  However, as any air breathing animal is want to do, it eventually had to swim toward the surface for a breath of air.  This is when I knew the best photo opportunity would take place, as the snake would have to swim up toward the flat calm surface.  Sure enough, off the snake went toward the surface and I quickly followed it while taking a few shots of it from below.  Immediately, I knew the photos would be winners as I could see the beautiful blue/green water pop up on my screen afterwards.  There are two elements of this photo that I believe really make the photo:  firstly, the green reflection of the reef surrounding the white clouds and blue coloured snell’s window and secondly, the ripples that the snake’s head makes on the water as it surfaced for air.

Nikon D90, 10.5 mm lens, f7.1, 1/200, ISO 200   Sea and Sea Strobes

Mike Veitch

Peacock Mantis Shrimp – Story Behind the Shot

Peacock Mantis Shrimp

Peacock Mantis Shrimp Philippines

This is another cover photo from way back, it appeared on the cover of Scuba Diver Australasia in 2007.  This photo was taken at the site “Basura” in Anilao, Luzon Island in the Philippines, a stereotypical “muck” site that features a rocky slope dotted with larger coral heads located right in front of a fishing village. Hiding underneath one of these coral heads was a fairly large peacock mantis shrimp which proved to be one of the more feisty individuals that I have come across, as it showed no fear of my camera (or me) whatsoever!  It was a large specimen which was very protective of his (or her?!) space and came right out to challenge my camera as I tried to take photos. The key to this image was the fact that I had a +4 diopter on my 105mm at the time which allowed me to get much closer the shrimp than I would be able to with just the 105mm lens.

Mike Veitch

Raja Ampat January 2016 Highlights Video

 

The Underwater Tribe visited Raja Ampat a few weeks ago and enjoyed one heck of a great trip!   We chartered the smaller vessel Antares all to ourselves in order to pick and choose the dive sites that we wanted to go to, when we wanted to go!  It was a very relaxed and chilled trip with just a few dives per day, but the whole trip was very productive photographically.  As you will see when you watch this video, we encountered some incredible moments with manta rays throughout the week, both oceanic and reef varieties.  Enough with the chatter, please watch the video to see the highlights, if you are interested in joining us on our next trip to Raja Ampat please consider joining us on the Mermaid II vessel in March 2017, more information at Raja Ampat 2017 with the Underwater Tribe.

Story Behind the Shot – The Trumpet Fish

Juvenile Trumpet Fish in Yap

This photo appeared on the cover of Asian Diver magazine back in 2005.   As often happens with photos that get published, it was a last minute addition to a series of photos I presented to the Art Director who instantly knew this was the photo she wanted due to the myriad of colours that fill the frame. The main subject of the photograph is a juvenile trumpet fish that was hiding in a crinoid that was nestled within a sea fan on the dive site Yap Caverns in Yap, Micronesia. The idea behind this photo was to capture a bright blue background while shooting a small subject with a macro lens. The key element was finding a subject that allowed me to get below and shoot up, in this case the trumpet fish in a sea fan was a perfect opportunity.  Not many dive magazine at that time published macro photographs on the cover, this was my first “macro” cover, and I believe it was the blue background that really stood out to the Art Director.

Nikon D70, 105mm lens at f16, 1/60, iso 200 2 x Sea and Sea YS 120 Strobes

Mike Veitch

Komodo 2016 with The Underwater Tribe

We have been keeping this one a little close to the chest, but now it’s time to announce it to the masses!

We are excited to publicly announce two very special trips to Komodo National Park this coming July with the Underwater Tribe. We have reserved back to back sailings with the exclusive live aboard “Wellenreng” in the wonderful Komodo National Park, Indonesia.

The dates for these two trips are 5 – 14 July and 15 – 24 July 2016. What makes these trips so special is that the boat hosts just 3 cabins, which means our group will have a maximum of only 6 guests! With such a small group we will be able to pick and choose the best sites at the best times to avoid the crowds and dive the sites at the most opportune times, rather than sticking to a set schedule like larger boats do. If we find a particular site is really hot for diving and photography, we will stay on the site all day if we want! The Wellenreng prides itself on fantastic personal service which is one of the reasons we have chosen to work with the vessel, combined with their intimate knowledge of the area and flexibility of schedule. Of course the Underwater Tribe also knows a lot about the Komodo area so we will personally discuss the diving plans each day with the crew to ensure we are at the right place at the right time. Mike or Luca will be on the boat to host and lead the trip; we will not be conducting a formal photo workshop, however we will certainly be on hand to help everyone with their photography needs and conduct evening presentations about underwater photography and Indonesia in general.

July is a great time to dive the area with a very good chance of encountering mantas, turtles, and sharks. Komodo is home to some of the most varied diving that Indonesia has to offer with a huge range of eco systems to visit such as beautiful hard coral reefs, manta ray cleaning stations, action packed pinnacle dives, and amazing black sand muck dives as well. The sheer variety of dives in the Komodo area is a great attraction for underwater photographers who enjoy a mix of both wide angle and macro subjects and is one of the reasons we visit there every year.

There is only one full cabin available for each of our two sailings so please get in contact with us ASAP if you would like to confirm your place on one of these very special trips. The cabin can be configured as either a twin or double so it’s perfect for either a couple or else two friends to share. There is also the possibility to join us on back to back trips to spend almost one month of diving in Komodo!

In addition to this trip we will be also running a special underwater photography warm up session in Bali.

Send us an inquiry at info@underwatertribe.com
Komodo liveaboard on Wellenreng

Summarized:

Underwater Tribe/Wellenreng Liveaboard

Trip 1: 05-14 July 2016 – 9 nights with 4 dives a day for most days

Trip 2: 15-24 July 2016 – 9 nights with 4 dives a day for most days

Arrival and Departure from Labuan Bajo ( Komodo).

The trip costs 3800 Euro per person plus 200 Euro for Park/Harbour fees and 100 Euro for Nitrox.

(Park fees and nitrox to be paid on board)

The boat will depart and return to Labuan Bajo for each trip, therefore, guests will need to arrive into Indonesia from Bali and then connect to Labuan Bajo via domestic flight (approximately $200 USD return) We recommend that guests arrive in Bali at least 1 day ahead of the domestic flight and plan their international departure one day after their domestic flight case of delays.

Included in the price:
Accommodation in cabins with air conditioning, private toilet with shower, bathrobe & towels
Full board with extensive breakfast and two hot meals per day
Fresh fruits and snacks at any time, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, free tea and coffee
Use of all onboard equipment, use of the fiberglass boats (6 m), Bauer compressors, tanks and weights
3-4 guided dives per day guided by an experienced Indonesian dive guide.
Transfer from the local airport to the dive boat Wellenreng and return to the local airport
Land excursions during the dive trip
Nitrox for day dives (Please note that we cannot guarantee availability because the oxygen suppliers are not always reliable in Indonesia)
Harbour & National Park Fees (Please note: national park fees can be changed by the local government or the national park office without any advance notice)

Komodo Liveaboard Trip Does Not Include:

Not Included in the price :
Airfares (domestic and international)
Alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine
Nitrox during Night Dive ( due to limited stock)
Single cabin surcharge
Crew Gratuities
Health, Travel and Dive insurance ( Strongly recommend)
Excess luggages fee
Airport tax and departure tax

Hotel, airport transfers in Bali prior or after the trip

Please email us at info@underwatertribe.com for more information

Story Behind the Shot – The Liberty Wreck

The Liberty Wreck

My first time diving the Liberty Wreck in Tulamben, Bali was in 2006 during a photo workshop I was conducting with Tim Rock at Scuba Seraya. During my very first dive on the wreck, I swam the length of the wreck scanning the site for the best photo opportunities. Once I reached the midship area, with the open cargo hold, I kept it in my mind as being one of the best “photo ops” of the wreck as it certainly offered a real feel of being in a proper shipwreck as opposed to only the colourful soft corals which are plentiful on the Liberty.  Being ever the opportunist, I immediately decided that I wanted to incorporate photos of this scene into the photo workshop that we were teaching. Therefore, for the rest of the week I worked with each of the participants to set up this same shot again and again with very positive results for everyone who took the shot. Although it looks like a simple shot, the difference in brightness inside and outside of the hold does make it a great learning process for new photographers to work out the intricacies of shooting natural light photography and silhouettes.

For anyone who has taken a photo class with me in Bali since then, you will most likely recognize the photo. Knowing a good learning experience when I found it, I continue to utilize this scene in all of the photo classes that we teach in Tulamben to this day and I am sure will continue to do so far into the future.

If you are diving with us here in Bali, let us know if you would like to try your hand at this photo opportunity, we are always happy to model for you!

Thanks to Sofie for being the model in this photograph with the Liberty Wreck

Raja Ampat 2015 Video Highlights

It has taken some time but I have finally edited down my video clips from the Underwater Tribe Raja Ampat trip aboard the Mermaid II liveaboard in March 2015.  As expected, the Raja area delivered some amazing diving for our group of explorers and the Misool area was especially abundant with clear water and plenty of fish.  If you would like to read a brief trip report on our 2015 adventures then please head on over to our Trip Report from March.  If you are interested in joining us on a trip of a lifetime to Raja Ampat we have booked the Mermaid II for the same moon phase at the same time of year in 2017 and we still have spaces available, please check out the 2017 trip page here: Underwater Tribe Raja Ampat 2017

Giant Trevally Hunting a Baitball

One of the best things to experience underwater is a true baitball happening right in front of your eyes.  Areas such as South Africa are famous for its’ Sardine Run but it’s certainly not the only place in the world to see this sort of activity.  In Indonesia, Komodo National Park is a great place to witness baitballs at a couple of the popular dive sites, including where this one was filmed: Batu Bolong.  For those who don’t know Batu Bolong, it’s a large pinnacle sticking out of the middle of a large channel with a massive amount of water running through it.  On this occasion, instead of going to the “safe side” of the rock, I stayed on the current side in the shallow water in order to watch what sort of action would happen.  I was very happy to find that there was a massive school of fusiliers hanging just off the reef which were being hunted by several dozen giant trevally, napolean wrasse, and even a few white tip and grey reef sharks.  The best way to describe it?  Watch the video!  (perhaps the speed was played with a bit on this one…)