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About leonandclaudia

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  • Birthday 03/06/1962

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    Raja Ampat, Indonesia

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    South Africa
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    Nikon D2X, D7000
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    Sea &Sea YS250
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  1. A 'tourist attraction semi aquarium type setup' would be rather impossible to orchestrate. Cenderawasih Bay is immense. And very deep. Hundreds of fishing platforms scattered randomly in a 25 000 sq mile, 2000 ft deep bay, is hardly what we would call an 'artificial and predictable'. With or without tourists, and whether or not they choose to make the long trip to jump into the water surrounding the platform, the fishermen and their platforms are always there; have been there for decades and as long as they have permits to fish, they will continue to foster their 'relationship' with these gentle giants. Recently, with a field station that happened to be in the nearby surrounds, scientists during their surveys curiously asked the fishermen why they had not been alerted to the presence of these whalesharks, they replied simply - ' ....well, you did not ask....' As much as you may think this a aquarium type set-up, it could not be further from the truth. The only predictability in this case, is the spectacular destination and the whalesharks - guaranteed.
  2. We did two whale shark trips departing Manokwari, and managed to squeeze in a leatherback turtle trip in-between. Here is a short movie of that incredible experience. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXYZSsJfnHE&feature=share&list=UUY1kD6sXVahMZJ9ki2W2U4w
  3. Hi John, a very jolly group indeed! but then our trips are typically loads of fun, so nothing unusual. In West Papua, whale shark behaviour is rather uncommon compared to other parts of the world; in this particular bay, the bagan fishermen through the years have 'befriended' the gentle giants as they come up from the depths to investigate their fishing platforms when the nets are being lifted. The nets are very large and bulge with small baitfish,and when they are pulled up, as a matter of course, lots of little fish escape their fate - and it is this 'overflow' to which the whale sharks are attracted. Whale sharks are usually filter feeders, true, and so this is certainly 'different'. The advantage as a visiting snorkeler or diver wanting an 'up close and personal experience' with whale sharks, is that the gentle giants tend to stick around, sometimes for hours on end (literally!), in the general vicinity, whether there are baitfish floating in the water or not. They have also learned to suck on the nets which bulge with baitfish, a strange sight to behold! And so, snorkelers and divers can really spend quality time observing the whale sharks as they slowly swim around and around the platform, unlike other places where sightings can tend to be hit and miss. We have done the 'microlight spotting, there's one!, jump in quick, don't make a splash though, swim for your life and snap a quick shot' whale shark experiences before, and this Papuan experience was altogether different, relaxed , with sightings guaranteed. Bear in mind that there is not much actual 'feeding' really, the presence of the whale sharks is merely the result of the fishermen lifting up their nets three times a day, and the whale sharks consequently lured in to the 'overflow' falling out of the nets, which they seem to find a tasty treat. The feeding itself is not entirely necessary to keep them there, merely to lure them back to the general platform area, once they have left. Once the whale sharks have visited a bagan for the early morning net lifting, they disappear into the depths, and can strangely enough be 'called' back (if you will) by a spot of 'dunking' of a small net in and out the water and a sprinkling of baitfish. Just this small action in itself, can bring single animals, more often two's and up to seven or more, up to the platform area, where they will tend to stay for hours on end: snorkelers and divers at this point in their element, of course. And this is a daily occurrence, (whether the divers are there or not) as long as the bagan fishermen are active, lifting their nets at regular intervals, this behaviour is par for the course. The fishermen are of course rather amused at the seemingly ridiculous foreigners who like to jump in and swim with their the 'hiu bodoh' as they call them locally (the foolish shark (!)). Anyhow, hope you can join us some day John!
  4. A mini movie of the Bittenbysharks team's most recent imaging expedition to the amazing whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua.The travel to Manokwari and ultimately, to the southern end of Cenderawasih Bay, was long and arduous, but well worth it! At the end of it all we found fantastic weather, glass calm seas, guaranteed whale shark sightings, we spent hours in the water with them each day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UdFaq9tqTM&feature=share&list=UUY1kD6sXVahMZJ9ki2W2U4w
  5. There are four choices (Lion/Wings, Express Air, Batavia, and Merpati), and they are equally bad or good, depending on which way you look at them... best to use the one that suits your itinerary
  6. We've been living in the Raja Ampat for almost 3 years now, and August is just fine, some fairly strong winds at times, but less rain, and the water is more clear (better viz), but less mantas... Misool in the South is closed during this time since it has no protection from the South-East winds. Some of the resorts in the Central/Northern areas are nicely protected from any wind, and is open year round. You have to book quickly though, as they tend to fill up quickly at the last minute.
  7. John! Good to hear from you:) Actually we aren't too far away! only 29.98km NW of Kri....did you not receive our newsletter? In essence, we are all speaking of the same thing here. Of course in an ideal world, it would be great if someone could (Drew, you sound keen) come in and teach these guys how to use a basic compass, and GPS (since they could never afford to buy one though, perhaps someone could also donate a GPS to each and every boatman operating a boat out of Sorong). Of course, people are always keen to learn, in the right context (we just had a Papuan guy install our broadband satellite internet on Pef) ...although at that very moment, on the boat, when the frustrations levels are high, and pride is on the line...learning is the last thing that they want or need... At the end of the day, the operator should be the one ultimately responsible for 'teaching' safety issues to his staff, and ensuring that hired boats have the minimum safety equipment on board. If not, avoid sending that particular staff member or avoid hiring that particular boat!
  8. The Papuan people of the Raja Ampat did not all have the opportunity to be educated, not to mention learn western safety standards on boats. One thing is for sure, they literally grow up living and fishing from small boats in this vast area, and they steadfastly refuse to use a compass or GPS (mostly because they do not understand the concept of a compass, and never heard of a GPS). 99.9% of the time, they can take you to your destination without incident, even in the dark on a moonless night. But we all know that during a rain-storm with zero viz, even the best sailor in the world cannot maintain direction. It is the responsibility of the resort manager to make sure that the boat is properly equipped at the very minimum with a compass, since the 75km trip to Sorong can become quite a long one when the boat driver gets lost! The exact same scenario happened to us in 2007, causing a 2 hour trip to turn into a 5-and-a-half hour nightmare (and the driver had a compass!- he could not understand why the 'bule' (foreigner) was pointing adamantly at the shiny round 'decoration' that was attached to his console!)
  9. Actually, the Raja Ampat is very good at any time of the year. The only exception is the southern part that is prone strong winds blowing up from Northern Australia during July and August. In the rest of the Raja Ampat, February occasionally gets more rain than other times of the year, and the visibility is reduced compared to July through September. However with the reduced visibility, manta sightings typically increase , and you may get a chance to snorkel with up to 30 mantas feeding at the surface in a glass-calm ocean. The water temperature hardly ever fluctuates, and ranges from 84 - 87 degrees. Bear in mind, the Raja Ampat is not about perfect blue waters and 100ft viz. It is all about the staggering variety of marine life; more than any other tropical region on earth. It is all about that deep sense of excitement when you descend and you are greeted by the raw power of a tropical reef in full swing, of thousands upon thousands of creatures hell bent on survival, and to being witness to the greatest show on earth. And when you are suffering through the long flights and bad connections, and you land in Sorong, (not nick-named 'so-wrong' for nothing)- be thankful that it is difficult, because if it were easy, the Raja Ampat would be no more... Regarding flight schedules: Jakarta is the best and biggest hub into Indonesia, with 3 flights a day to Sorong. But be prepared, you fly via Makassar, and each leg is approx. 2 hours. It is best to let your host organize the domestic flights for you to prevent any problems or misunderstandings. You can use Bali as a hub, but the flight connections to Sorong don't work as well, and you waste valuable hours laying-over in Makassar (Makassar is exactly in the centre of Indonesia, and most domestic flights go through this airport). Manado (the other international hub) is not recommended, unreliable and with few connections to Sorong. Hope this helps
  10. Lived for 7 years in Nassau with 3000 dives. The water is still cold this time of year. Expect around 70 - 75 degrees... Hope that helps!
  11. We just got the scoop on this fabulous little dome, here goes: Jürgen (otherwise known as Yogi) and Stella Freund are currently with us at Sorido Bay resort in the Raja Ampat, their 18 month WWF expedition in full swing http://blogs.panda.org/coral_triangle/, and they came bearing not only the new miniature Seacam dome, but the full story of how this ‘YOGI Dome’ came about: THE YOGI DOME by Stella Freund: Yogi, or professionally known as Jürgen Freund was a mechanical engineer before he became a full-time nature photographer. He created many gadgets like lenses, domes, underwater housings etc. for his cameras. He had creative images in his mind and experimented a lot to get the imagined shot done. One of them was a macro-wide angle lens and later on, a mini dome. Some 25 years ago, he made a macro-wide lens for his Nikonos 3. There was a Tauchen Magazine shoot-out in Cuba, made up of all German amateur underwater photographers. He had his weird looking Nikonos during this shoot-out and everyone saw what he was doing, what he was shooting. When he submitted his pictures, he was accused of sandwiching two slides to make the macro-wide single slide picture (A super imposition of 2 images as one). Of course this was not the case as it was a true single image. But still he didn't win anything. It was too early a concept for anyone to believe was the real thing. So through the years, he just did his own thing and never minded what other people thought. For many years, his film macro-wide pictures came out in many underwater magazines, particularly in the Sulu Sulawesi Seas book which we produced for WWF Philippines in 2001. Harald Hordosch, owner of Seacam, is a dear friend who we are lucky enough to have come visit us in Cairns, Far North Queensland for his vacation every now and then. He had a big hand in convincing Yogi it was time to shift from film to digital about 5 years ago when the Nikon D200 just came out. He and Yogi would simply talk for hours on end – creatively, and in engineering parlance. They've known each other a long time (more than 15 years) from when Harald started with Seacam. Yogi remembers the time when Harald would go to the Boot Show (Duesseldorf) with raw fingers, with aluminum dust still under his fingernails, straight from his workshop. Some 4 years ago, Harald visited Cairns again. Yogi and Harald had a boy’s day out in our backyard from morning to night. They were like kids playing with their toys. Yogi brought out all his cameras, all his underwater housings, some he made from Plexiglas and the D200 Seacam housing. The calipers were out, the table was full of measuring tools and odd bits that engineers use, and white paper and pens for Harald to scribble on. Then Yogi's self made mini dome came out. Yogi by now was already well known for his macro-wide shots. He also knew he couldn't keep his secret under lock and key forever and so he showed his creation to Harald. Yogi asked Harald if he could make a glass version of his plastic mini-dome for him. So bringing back to Austria's Yogi's plastic mini-dome, Harald found a way to nicely encase the raw plastic dome material in the slick Seacam way and sent it back to us. In the meantime, he had his suppliers working, and has now manufactured a glass version. We got the first prototype of what I call "The Yogi Dome" in time for the beginning of our WWF Coral Triangle Photographic Expedition. It works perfectly and when the subject is right, makes simply excellent macro-wide angle pictures which are now shown on Harald's website under Jürgen Freund starting with the mushroom coral on the sandy bottom - http://seacam.com/de/produkte/frontports/s...ports/beispiele The Freunds, collectively known as freundfactory, have been commissioned by the environmental organization WWF to swing through five of the six countries in the Coral Triangle, and bring this hotbed of marine biodiversity to the attention of the world. Last May, the couple embarked on a projected 18-month expedition that has taken them to the Philippines and Malaysia; they are currently scouring the waters of Raja Ampat Ampat, Indonesia, and are headed next to the Solomon Islands. It’s a trip that has so far taken them from beachside huts to five-star live-aboards and resorts and from tiny fishing villages to million-dollar live reef fish operations… You can follow their ongoing blog on the WWF website, or click here: http://blogs.panda.org/coral_triangle/ .
  12. The mantas are in full swing at Manta Point in the Raja Ampat, with up to 75 mantas in an area the size of 2 football fields. To add to the beauty of this incredible underwater event, we were graced by the presence of a certain ‘Jon’, a live-aboard guest or perhaps a dive-guide? Only Jon would know. Jon was armed to the teeth with a sharp object, and carved out his all-important name on a prominent coral head, to make sure that mantas would never forget that they met Mr. Jon. Jon, please join us next time, so that we can take a picture of you, and prove to the world that real idiots do exist. It would be really nice if you let us carve the word ’IDIOT’ on your forehead. Believe me, brother you will feel no pain, all you have up there is bone! Here is a screenshot taken from a video of the artwork!
  13. Batavia flies to Sorong from Jakarta daily, with a stop in UPG, and back. There are rumors that Garuda will start flying to Sorong soon, and that Merpati might cancel that route. BUT these are rumors only.
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