Sunday, November 30, 2008

Freediving at night with Amanda Cotton

Felix Leander: "One of my best diving experiences ever"

So before I write about the night dive at Tiger Beach - I wanted to briefly introduce Amanda Cotton. She was one of the Ocean's 11 on our trip and we had become "friends" on Facebook before we met - I can now say she has become a real friend and one of the best photographers that I have met.

I have never seen anyone take more care of his/her camera than Amanda - we called it her baby... Even Wolf, widely known for being 'anal' with his stuff, was impressed... :-)

Amanda and one of her babies (Photo: One of the Leanders; neither remembers who took it...:-)

Says Amanda: "I love everything about being underwater including sharing my experiences through my photography. I shoot Nikon in Sea & Sea housing. I use a combination of several different strobes including YS110 and Inon Z-220s. I adore my wide angle Tokina 10-17mm. As a scuba instructing, cave diving, wreck loving, ocean and underwater obsessed "photog" I am simply trying to figure out how I can stay underwater 23 hours a day, everyday."

A little about Amanda: She is an advertising photographer specializing in underwater and travel stock photography.

Amanda is fueled by a passion to document the beauty surrounding us in our relationships and interactions with others, and in our physical existence within our environment. "Her innate talent and superb education at Brooks Institute of Photography, one of the world's leading Photography and Film schools, enables her to create photos that defy any ability to describe them." (Quote from Fuzionmedia).

Amanda has received many awards for her work including several from the International Photographers Association (Lucie Awards).

She currently resides in Florida,USA with her four year old daughter Kya.

Check out Amanda's work at: and

And back to the Tiger Beach trip:

Nov. 12th, 2008

“Night Dive”

While I have done a night dive in Bonaire, I have never been freediving in the dark, let alone with sharks. This probably has been one of my best dive experiences ever. While diving already is peaceful, night diving is even more tranquil. The lemons were resting on the bottom, being cleaned while the light of the moon and boat cast their shadows on the sand.

Interestingly the sharks were completely unphased by our presence and let us interact with them. So much for sharks being more aggressive or dangerous at night. I felt completely at ease with them and never at any point threatened.

Some of the divers had high density lights that allowed us to taking photos and video. During the dive we also found a strange looking crab that would dig itself into the sand.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

David Ulloa with some lemons...

Dee and David were kind enough to invite us for Thanksgiving to their house in Fort McCoy, FL - close to Gainesville. I think Tibu is enjoying more than anyone as they have a huge property fit for horses - David actually owns three.

We are looking forward to a nice Thanksgiving lunch/dinner - it will be the first time for the Wolf...

Back to the Tiger Beach trip...have a look at some of the some of the "above the water" images of the trip.

Nov. 11th, 2008

“Where are they”

It has been difficult getting the Tiger Sharks to come close – they are very shy, I am sure the Lemons and divers have something to do with that. From what I understand, tomorrow we will be doing a night dive, that will be the first time that I ever freedive at night and with sharks. But with the way they have been behaving, I am more afraid of the boogieman than of the sharks.

The trip has been physically exhausting, being in the water over 7 hours and freediving takes its toll – sleeping has been even better than usual…

Monday, November 24, 2008


Benjamin was kind enough to send his video of Tiger Beach - many sharks up close...might get to catch a few quick glimpses of some freedivers...

Nov. 10th, 2008


Everyone survived the crossing and Bahamian customs did not “confiscate” anyone. From Grand Bahama Bay it was about another 2-3 hour motor to Tiger Wreck. The group was getting pretty anxious to get into the water. Once we got there, the buoy line/anchor line had to be fixed which took about another hour.

Quick brief – and everyone was in, lemons sharks were already packing at the surface waiting for some bait to be thrown their way. The lemons reminded me a lot of the black tip sharks in Aliwal Shoal, except that these swim a little slower and are more engaging. Wolf and David managed to get a few hugs here and there. Fun loving animals that seem to enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs. Towards the end of the day we were graced by two small tigers, unfortunately they were shy and did not stay close to the commotion.

On the bright side, my video camera did not flood and I was able to get some decent shots. Jupp on the other had was not so lucky – his camera flooded the moment he jumped in – apparently his housing requires an o-ring in the front AND the back – no warning notice or o-ring placed in the front by the manufacturer – hopefully he will be able to order a new camera for his trip next week.

We stayed in the water until daylight permitted and then were spoiled by Gail – she prepared ribs, mashed potatoes, and some apple pie. For the rest of the night I watched David prepared his Gates housing which took about two hours to rig (Thanks to Fiona’s distractions). David is also diving on a re-breather, can stay down for about four hours and does not blow any bubbles.

Wondering what tomorrow will bring…

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tiger Beach November 2008

Photo by Wolfgang Leander

For the next few days I will post in chronological order the notes I took while at Tiger Beach. During that time I will also write about some of the people that made up the group which we coined "Ocean's 11" - we were 11 and on the Ocean (makes sense).

Nov. 9th, 2008:

“I don’t get seasick”

Today begins the adventure and we are setting sail to Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. Hurricane Paloma was supposed to give us a bit of a hard time but nothing to stop this bunch of “Ocean’s 11” and the crew - Dolphin Dream (the boat) is sturdy captained by Scotty.

Ocean's 11 consists of:

Amanda, Fiona, Jupp, Benjamin, Lyn, Bob, Wolfgang, Robert, Dave, Jeff, and me…all dive and shark enthusiast (I believe, if not they will be after this trip).

The night was pretty rough, the boat was rolling from left to right, not from front to back – which makes motion sickness a little easier to come by, so far we have confirmation that no one threw-up – I was sure that I was going to blow, but I think eventually the medicine, exhaustion, and my body getting used to the commotion let me pass out.

Our first stop is Old Bahama Bay on Grand Bahama Island, need to clear Bahamian customs and immigration…I was able to check the “Bahamian” box on the forms, pretty exciting and a great homecoming. Tomorrow we dive – can't wait to get wet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Patric Douglas is "ONE"

A while back, the people over at Shark Diver started a self-sufficent program that benefits sharks and helps marinas become greener - the concept is simple and has been implemented by various marinas in The Bahamas.

The program can be implemented anywhere there are sharks and spread the word.

I applaud Patric's work and foward thinking in developing this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Back from Tiger Beach - but first...

Photo: Gunther Deichmann
I have been meaning to post about the recent trip to Tiger Beach - will do so shortly - waiting to get photos and video from the others that were there.  In the meantime, please have a look at Patric Douglas' latest post about photographer Gunther Deichmann.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Tiger Sharks Killed in Aliwal Shoal

Four more tiger sharks have been killed in Aliwal Shoal by the shark nets...this makes a total of 10 sharks in about 1 month.  In the time since the first killings to the most recent ones, I have not seen or heard of any action taken by the local dive operators, organizations, foundations, etc. - I really do hope that all these entities are working together on a plan...

For more details on the Tiger Sharks go to the Shark Park blog...and read in detail what "Anonymous" posted as a comment - while some people may be offended by the tone - I think this person makes some great points.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A film by Jerome Espla

Back in April when I was in South Africa I had met a great bunch of guys, including some top freedivers.  Well, among the group was also underwater cinematographer Jerome Espla.  During their visit to Aliwal Shoal, he was doing a short feature on Fred Buyle (one of the best underwater photographers I have met - freedives and only uses natural light) and the tiger sharks. 

Take a moment to watch the video, while in French, you will get the essence of it:

This  movie has just won the "Prix du Jury" at the Underwater Festival in Antibes this year.  Have a look at Jerome's blog as well (in French).   I should also mention that Jerome's a great guy, humble and a real pleasure to be around.