Wetpixel will be returning to Isla Mujeres to snorkel, photograph and video the amazing sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) that frequent the waters around the island over the winter months. The sailfish are hunting the schools of sardines (Sardinella aurita) that are present, driving them into tight baitballs before charging through the ball to spilt the sardines up and catch them. At the same time, the birds are aware of the hunting action, and are waiting at the surface to catch a snack too!
Sailfish and sardines are migratory and widely distributed, with populations in multiple oceans. But from December to June, Istiophorus platypterus and Sardinella aurita meet fish to fish in this stretch of sea. For predator and prey the continental shelf here makes ideal habitat. Plankton rich shallows, nourished by rivers draining the mainland and ocean currents pushing between Cuba and the Yucatan, promise ample food.
Isla Mujeres is a world renowned Atlantic Sailfish hot spot and considered to be one of, if not the best location, to encounter billfish.
Sailfish cooperate, sometimes for several hours, to turn unwieldy prey into a manageable meal. They shoot in from all sides, popping open fins and flashing iridescent colors as they get up close. Once a ball of bait is under control, the sailfish take turns shooting through it, heads whipping side to side as they use their bills to bat sardines with remarkable precision. Pursuers then nab stunned fish before they can escape, typically they will consume every last one.
The sailfish are a unique and relatively “underexposed” photographic subject. Images of them in action still have some commercial value, quite apart from the opportunity to witness an amazing natural spectacle.
This is a classic wildlife photography trip. The seas can be rough and the days long. Baitball action is fast and furious, so the day consists of spending a lot of time doing nothing, followed by brief periods of intense activity and frenetic photographic or filming action. We will be snorkeling, but you will need to be agile enough to be able to get on and off the boat quickly as the baitball moves and the boat moves to keep up with it. We will endeavor to provide the best imaging opportunities possible.
To try and even the odds somewhat, we use some of the best people available to find sailfish; that is professional sailfish fishing crews. If there are sailfish around, they will find them. We have run this trip with the crews from Keen M several times, and they have always been able to come up with the goods.
Dates are 16 to 22 February 2017. We will be on the water for 5 days (17 to 21 Feb inclusive)
The trip will be limited to 6 guests plus the trip leader only. This trip will be lead by Wetpixel editor Adam Hanlon.
- Private boat charter (8:00am - 6:00pm for 5 days) with experienced captains. Boats have shade and plenty of space.
- Simple lunch on boat + non-alcoholic drinks.
- Shared golf cart rental to get around the island.
- Transfers to and from Cancun airport and Isla Mujeres ferry.
- 7 days 6 nights twin shared (6 nights: 1 day before to 1 day after) accommodation at Playa Media Luna. Single rooms, suites, bungalows and other accommodation options are available for a small supplement.
- Tips and gratuities for boat crew.
Fees and bookings
The trip costs $2,900 per person. A deposit of $1,500 secures your place, followed by payment of the balance on 14 November 2016.
For further information, or to book, please email Adam Hanlon.