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Islands in the stream

As I am writing this I am on Bimini. North and South Bimini are the Bahamas most western islands, only 53 miles from Miami. For Ernest Hemingway, this place was his home from 1935-1937 from where he did a lot of big game fishing with his boat the Pilar. It was also his inspiration to write The Old Man and The Sea and Islands in the Stream.

More recently, Bimini is facing the greatest challenge challenge in its existence as currently a large scale casino and resort is being developed on the island by a Malaysian billionaire. Fabien Cousteau did a fantastic documentary on the development and potential impact on marine life and the island inhabitants of this large scale resort.

I have traveled all the way to Bimini to photograph the Wild Atlantic Spotted dolphins as part of my Giants of the Caribbean project. Around 120 Spotted dolphins are estimated to inhabit the sand banks just north of the island. Spending time in the water with these friendly animals has been a great experience and I can’t wait to share my photos once the book is released.

Sponsorship announcement

I am very happy to announce Accenture as the main sponsor of my project Giants of the Caribbean. Accenture is one of the world’s leading organizations providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services, with more than 293,000 employees in more than 200 cities in 56 countries.

Over the next 6 months I will be undertaking another 6 expeditions (Spotted Dolphins, Goliath Groupers, Great Hammerheads, Tiger Sharks, Humpback Whales, Sailfish, Leatherback Turtles). The book is scheduled to be released in May 2015. I will be running a Kickstarter campaign in early October making it possible to pre-order a special book edition. Thank you for visiting my website and your ongoing support!

Manta dive in Kona, Hawaii

Manta Madness Kona from Vincent Kneefel on Vimeo.

The Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii is likely the best place on earth to see manta rays up close and personal. In lighted waters along the coast, manta rays congregate nightly to feed. After dark, millions of plankton are attracted to the light. As thick clouds of plankton gather, manta rays come to feed on this favorite food. With cavernous mouths opened wide, manta rays gracefully glide, pivot, and somersault as they feast. This feeding frenzy started around 20 years ago when one of the hotels started shining its lights on the water, attracting first plankton and not much later the local reef manta rays. During my dive we saw over 15 manta rays; an amazing experience for divers and snorkelers alike.

Updated Giants of the Caribbean brochure

Whale Sharks & Manta Rays – Isla Mujeres

Last week I was in Mexico for my project Giants of the Caribbean. From late May to early September, off the coast of Yucatan, hundreds of whale sharks feed on zooplankton that consists mostly of the spawn of the bonito. This frenzy also attracts underwater photographers from all over the world; during my stay I had the pleasure of meeting Howard & Michele Hall (renowned IMAX film makers), Louie Psihoyos (director of The Cove), Greg SweeneyJim AbernethyShawn HeinrichsEric ChengDouglas SeifertAdam HanlonMarty Snyderman and many others. Both underwater and on land I had an amazing time.

The annual migration of Whale Sharks was discovered by Robert Heuter around 2003, who later described it in his paper ‘An Unprecedented Aggregation of Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, in Mexican Coastal Waters of the Caribbean Sea‘. Today, there are around 800 whale sharks in the Yucatan with conventional tags and another 35 are equipped with satellite tags that precisely track their movements. Researchers have compiled a photo database of more than 950 whale sharks that identifies each individual. They have also found that the whale sharks that participate spread out all over the western and northern Gulf of Mexico, and great Caribbean. Some whale sharks where even found to swim all the way down to Brazil!

This year for the first time there were also large groups of Manta Rays present in the feedings. This was particularly exciting for me as I had no expectations seeing any Manta’s (they are one of my favorite animals). It has been suggested by researchers that the Manta’s in Isla Mujeres are actually a third, putative species, the. Manta birostris, that are distinct from the Giant Manta Ray. However, at present there is not enough empirical evidence to warrant the separation of a third species of Manta.

This annual gathering of Whale Sharks and Manta Rays has become a magnet for tourist – as a result during rush hour there can be as much as a 100 boats on the water with a maximum of 2 people per boat allowed in the water at a time. The impacts of these crowds on the feeding behavior of Whale Sharks and Manta’s remains unknown, however tourism may be the only way that these species will survive. After visiting Mozambique in 2003, I have learned that the majority of Manta’s and Whale Sharks are now gone. I am hopeful that the countries surrounding the Caribbean will do a better job at protecting their Ocean treasures, because when managed properly this is a huge asset for tourism and the local economy.

Recent Video

  • bow dolphins
  • Spotted Dolphins
  • Manta Returns
  • Manta Madness Kona
  • Dolphin Resort - Taiji Japan
  • HC Bloemendaal uit de lucht
  • Leatherback turtle laying eggs
  • Earth Day - 22nd of April 2010 - Erasmus University Rotterdam

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