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Whalesharks of Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia


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#1 MikeVeitch

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 12:03 AM

Well, there is a lot of action on the Mexican whaleshark phenomenon threads at the moment, but in my opinion the whale sharks found in Cenderawasih Bay are just as an amazing encounter as Isla Mujueros. Although we only encountered a max of 5 at a time, these sharks hung around with us for 3 whole days. For those of you not aware of what is going on, the sharks in the bay have formed a relationship with the fishermen who live on the fishing platforms and the fishermen feed the whalesharks bait fish. This has been going on for many years and its an absolutely fantastic photo opportunity, I was just there for 3 trips, including one where I was teaching a photography workshop. Although photos are great, I think this little video with my D90 shows what is going on a little bit better. Enjoy!


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#2 HDVdiver

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 02:11 AM

I recently got back from my second trip there this year. Going again in October. A truly amazing experience...particularly shooting video of them uw at night while the fishermen are actually working their nets.

Where did you stay...Kwatisore?

#3 MikeVeitch

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 02:33 AM

nope, I was on a liveaboard, you stayed at the village in the school?
how did you get them to let you in the water at night? they kicked us off the bagan at 5pm..

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#4 Steve Douglas

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 12:29 PM

Hey Mike,
Smiles must have been around everywhere. Great stuff! I notice that all the whale sharks appear to be in the 25-30 ft range which makes them pretty young. Did you have any full grown adults on this trip? What live aboard where you on?
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#5 MikeVeitch

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 04:23 PM

Hi Steve, actually I would estimate they are all around the 12-22 ft range, all young males. No full on adults, i heard somewhere that the recent tagging they did there had a total of 23 sharks, 22 of which were male, all young.

I was on the Damai Dua liveaboard

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#6 HDVdiver

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 08:37 PM

nope, I was on a liveaboard, you stayed at the village in the school?
how did you get them to let you in the water at night? they kicked us off the bagan at 5pm..


I had my family with me so I didn't want to stay at the village school but at a nice private kampong on the beachfront a few km away.

The night diving took quite some "negotiations" and other string-pulling. I guess having a dive buddy and good friend who's a TNI General also helped :)

#7 Steve Douglas

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 11:38 AM

Thanks for the info Mike. What time of year were you there?
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#8 MikeVeitch

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 03:03 PM

i was there just last week :) but the whalesharks are there 365 days a year it seems

George: a general? that explains quite a bit then hahaha

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#9 diggy

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 09:43 PM

I would agree with Mike. Its an absolutely incredible experience to be with the Whale Sharks of Cenderawasih. I was there this July and managed 3 dives, each one close to 2 hours.

Have a really nice video shot with the 7D but the learning curve to edit and make a shorter clip is herculean :-) Will try post it in a fortnight.

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#10 Steve Douglas

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 07:32 AM

Hey Diggy,
What software are you trying to learn to edit on? Why only dives? Going all that way to only get a few dives in seems odd to me.
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#11 peterbkk

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:08 PM

Well, there is a lot of action on the Mexican whaleshark phenomenon threads at the moment, but in my opinion the whale sharks found in Cenderawasih Bay are just as an amazing encounter as Isla Mujueros. Although we only encountered a max of 5 at a time, these sharks hung around with us for 3 whole days. For those of you not aware of what is going on, the sharks in the bay have formed a relationship with the fishermen who live on the fishing platforms and the fishermen feed the whalesharks bait fish. This has been going on for many years and its an absolutely fantastic photo opportunity, I was just there for 3 trips, including one where I was teaching a photography workshop. Although photos are great, I think this little video with my D90 shows what is going on a little bit better. Enjoy!


Just got back from Cenderawasih yesterday. Dived with 5 whale sharks over 3 days. Liveaboard on the Raja Ampat Explorer. I even recognised a couple of the individual sharks from your footage (e.g. the one with the missing bottom tail tip). Shot some good stuff. Did an interview with some of the fisherman and the park ranger so planning to do a short TV documentary on how eco-tourism has improved the life of the local fishermen and helped protect the sharks.

#12 HDVdiver

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 01:49 AM

Just got back from Cenderawasih yesterday. Dived with 5 whale sharks over 3 days. Liveaboard on the Raja Ampat Explorer. I even recognised a couple of the individual sharks from your footage (e.g. the one with the missing bottom tail tip). Shot some good stuff. Did an interview with some of the fisherman and the park ranger so planning to do a short TV documentary on how eco-tourism has improved the life of the local fishermen and helped protect the sharks.


That's interesting. I thought that it was only two or three bagans that were directly involved with divers/ecotourists. There must be about 30 bagans thoughout the bay...and the impression I got (when I went to some of the non-touristy bagans) was that most of them didn't particularly want to have much to do with hordes of tourists on and under their bagans.

#13 peterbkk

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 03:03 AM

That's interesting. I thought that it was only two or three bagans that were directly involved with divers/ecotourists. There must be about 30 bagans thoughout the bay...and the impression I got (when I went to some of the non-touristy bagans) was that most of them didn't particularly want to have much to do with hordes of tourists on and under their bagans.


I didn't see any "hordes". The whole time we were in Cenderawasih Bay, I saw no other dive boat than ours. And there were only 12 of us on the Raja Ampat Explorer. Maybe because the live-aboards need to move back around the Sorong before the weather gets rough across the top of West Papua. I did not even see anyone come out from the resort.

I think that the reluctance from some bagans to get involved is to do with the "economics". Essentially, the dive boat pays them for the use of their bait fish and their time. About $50USD covers half a day. That pays the fisherman for their lost fishing time. In the interview, I asked them whether they were better off financially from fishing or feeding whale sharks. They said that it depends on whether the tuna were running or not. They could make more from catching tuna (which is why they keep the nets of live bait), but, if the tuna are not running, they catch less valuable fish like spanish mackerel. Then the divers become more profitable.

Also, the fishermen don't own their bagan. They pay 50% of the fish caught to the owner. Currently, the owners are not taking 50% of the money paid by divers to swim with whale sharks. So, I suspect some owners discourage it.

Right now, it is all very non-commercial. But I fear the day that someone decides that this can be a money spinner and commercialises that whole business...

Regards
Peter

#14 HDVdiver

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 04:17 AM

You were fortunate. When I was there in January it seemed as if we had the place to ourselves for the whole week. Last trip, however, it was pretty full-on with one day three liveaboards around the "eco-bagans". So I guess it's getting to be a bit of a hot-spot with the liveaboard itineraries...I think it's already very much becoming a "money spinner". I personally would prefer to see land based access only for several reasons...but that's my opinion.

So far it's definitely a good thing for the whale sharks. At least the fishermen no longer mistreat them (for whatever reason). I just hope the management of the area deals with the rapidly growing tourist pressure effectively.

#15 wagsy

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:37 PM

Looking pretty neat Mike.... amazing how they just hang around all together like that.
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#16 Drew

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 04:23 AM

Right now, it is all very non-commercial. But I fear the day that someone decides that this can be a money spinner and commercialises that whole business...

Too late! Other places are offering the same thing now. I suppose it's a good thing they aren't being hunted instead. I think it's also the fact that the tuna fisheries are super near collapse for yellowfin (and skipjack following very quickly as % of biomass take is increased EVERY year!) in Eastern Indonesia. They've already crashed the tuna (including skipjack) biomass in West Indonesia. So I think these guys will be looking for alternative income sources as the $200 million industry of tuna fishing slides into decline.

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#17 SimonSpear

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 12:59 AM

Very cool Mike. Was that your first video in about 5 years?? :D

#18 diggy

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 11:21 PM

Hey Diggy,
What software are you trying to learn to edit on? Why only dives? Going all that way to only get a few dives in seems odd to me.
Steve


FCP Steve and have still not got down to it. Have been busy at work.

Well i was staying at Ahe Dive Resort and did not opt for a live-aboard for various reasons. I am doing a complete trip/report article for a magazine, so once published will give you the link. From Ahe it is about 2.5 hours by boat one way. Two trips were included in my stay and the 3rd one i did as an extra. Hence the only. It is the closest land based resort to the whale shark site.

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#19 peterbkk

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:15 AM

Why only 3 dives? Going all that way to only get a few dives in seems odd to me.
Steve


Each dive is about 2 to 3 hours...