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Don Silcock

Member Since 08 Mar 2003
Offline Last Active May 06 2016 03:44 PM
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Topics I've Started

The Humpback Whales of Tonga

05 May 2016 - 12:06 AM

Last year, after a couple of failed attempts to get there, I spent three weeks in Tonga to swim with and photograph the humpback whales that migrate there every winter from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic. To say it was a seminal experience would be an understatement...

 

I have been fortunate to dive in many parts of the world, but this was my first experience with such large creatures. Tonga is not the easiest place to get to, particularly if you are traveling from the Europe or North America as you have to go through either Sydney or Auckland to get to the capital Nukuʻalofa which is the only international gateway. Then you have to get up to the north of the archipelago to Neiafu in the Vava'u group of islands which is where most of the whale watching is based because of the sheltered bays in that area.

 

But it's worth the journey because the whales are there, their numbers are slowly but steadily increasing and the encounters you can have are simply fantastic as Tonga is one of the few places in the world where a limited number of operators are licensed to take people in the water with the whales.

 

As I normally do on my big trips I have documented my experiences and images on my site - no financial angle here.... I paid for my trips myself and there is no advertising on my site. I just like to write about my experiences, simple as that.

 

There are numerous pages on the humpback whales of Tonga, covering everything from their annual migration to the different types of encounters you can have together with the logistics involved. You can access all that through this link to my site and PM me if you would like any advice based on my personal experience.

 

Don


Crystal River Manatees - Article and Location Guide

15 August 2015 - 04:22 PM

Last year I spent 10 days in Crystal River, Florida swimming and snorkeling with the manatees. It was a great experience and one I have wanted to do for a number of years, but Florida is so far from my part of the world that I just never was able to do it before.

 

It's also pretty confusing from a distance to understand what is actually required to swim with and photograph the manatees... There seemed to be a lot of rules, but exactly how they apply to underwater photographers was not clear till I got some great help from Bill Oestreich and Marty Senetra at Birds Underwater and Gregory Sweeney - who freely offered advice despite the fact that my dates could not work with his guided trips.

 

It looks like (for once in my life...) my timing was superb as I had a great time and had some real quality moments with these wonderful creatures, plus I was able to understand a lot more about them and their overall, somewhat troubled, relationship with the terrestrial residents of Crystal River - a very interesting situation!

 

My timing was good because access to the manatees is changing and some of the new rules were being put in to place when I went back to the Crystal River in January after a shark trip to the Bahamas.

 

I have written a pretty comprehensive location seven-page guide to Crystal River and the Florida manatees on my site to help others who are interested in experiencing these interesting and photogenic animals. Just follow the links at the bottom of each page or click on the relevant page you are interested in on the sidebar.

 

I also had a 18-page article on the Manatees of the Crystal River published in Anima Mundi magazine, with my favorite photograph from the trip getting the front cover!

 

I will update my site when the ramifications of the proposed changes at the Crystal River go in to place.

 

Don


Atauro Island, Timor Leste - Location Guide

08 August 2015 - 11:31 PM

Last year I went back to Timor Leste after a 4 year gap to spend 10 days diving Atauro Island in the Ombai Strait, about 30kms north of the capital Dili.

I had some great dives and have finally gotten round to finishing the editing of my images from that trip and putting together a location guide to diving Atauro Island which consists of an overview of the island itself, why the diving is good there, dive sites on the east coast and west coast plus where to stay if you go there.

Here is the link to the overview page and just follow the links at the bottom of each page, or the top menu bar to go to the other pages.

Don