The Ankh-Morpork Times
David Eggerschwiler
Ankh-Morpork Times
Weedy and Leafy Sea Dragon
Galapagos Penguin
Caribbean Reef Shark
Hippocampus Pontohi
My first whale shark!
The Island of Sharks
Whales and Dolphins
Mountain Hiking
Penguins, Albatross and other birds
Stewart Island: Hiking, Birding and Kiwi Spotting
July 2003
August 2003
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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Weedy and Leafy Sea Dragon

I first encountered Sea Dragons in the New England Aquarium in Boston back in 2009 and I was fascinated by these creatures. When I started planning my second long diving expedition, viewing them was very high on my list. However, since they mainly live in Tasmania, which is not a diving hotspot, I was sceptical if I could fit the detour into my schedule. Fortunately, I learned that they also can be found in the Sydney harbour and so a plan was made.

Since Dive Center Manly only operated on the weekends, I planned two full weekends in the area, with side trips in between. And having clearly articulated my wishes, the dive guide went out of his way and found Weedy Sea Dragons for us on both weekends

Planning my onwards trip to Perth with a stopover in Adelaide, I learned that there is a different kind of Sea Dragon south of Adelaide, and so I organized a trip with Diving Adelaide.
First  we went to Rapid Bay, but we couldn't find any Sea Dragons there. The dive guide then gave us a choice. Either we try again here, or we get back in the car and head to another spot where they recently spotted Sea Dragons. We obviously voted to check out the second spot and so we headed to a dive site called The Bluff in Victor Harbor. And there we were extermely successfull, diving along the kelp and back I counted 10 Leafy Sea Dragons, 6 of which were pregnant males, however, since they all look alike, I might have counted a couple of them twice ;).

So, all in all I was very happy with my dive excursion in southern Australia :).

Here are the original blog posts and web albums:
- Sydney: blog, web album
- Adelaide: blog, web album

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Galapagos Penguin

From Honduras my trip continued to Ecuador for the main event, a two week liveaboard cruise in the Galapagos islands. Even though the visibility was not too good at times, we had amazing luck and spotted dozens of Whale Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Galapagos Sharks and quite a few playful sea lions.

Hands down the best dive, however, was at Punta Vicente Roca, where we spotted a Mola Mola, Red-lipped Batfish, diving flightless Cormorants, swimming and grazing marine iguanas and diving Galapagos Penguins! And those guys were fast! So I was extermely thrilled that I managed to capture this Snapshot :)

More pictures of this amazing liveaboard can be found here and my original blog post here.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Caribbean Reef Shark

Since the beginning of my diving career, I was fascinated by Sharks. Learning to dive in Thailand, I got many close encounters with docile Leopard Sharks, and then of course the jaw-dropping encounter with the Whale Shark.

So in 2012, I finally managed to get some time off to go on a serious diving vacation. The prospect to see Whale Sharks again, brought me to Utila, a small island in Honduras. And indeed, on a snorkling trip, I did encounter a Whale Shark. After Utila I headed onwards to Roatan for some more diving, and especially a shark dive with Caribbean Reef Sharks, where the sharks were lured in by food. I was so excited by the chance to see the sharks up close, that I had trouble finding my camera under water. Fortunately, it was firmly attached and another diver pointed out where it got to.

There were many sharks present and after the feeding, since there was no current, we were allowed to swim towards the sharks for a bit. And there the magical moment happened, a Caribbean Reef Shark lined up with my camera and I managed to get a perfect picture of the shark. This is still my favorite shark picture.

Here is a quote from my original blog post:
Already back in Utila I saw advertisements for Shark Diving in Roatan and so I booked this dive for Wednesday, it was offered by a company in Coxen Hole, but a short cab ride took me there. We went down to 20m and were able to sit/stand in front of 2m high corals, which ensured that no Sharks would turn up behind us. At first we just watched the Sharks, there were about 15 female Caribbean Reef Sharks present, but since there was no current, we were allowed to swim around after a while. And that was a breathtaking experience, every way I looked, I saw at least one Shark :). At the end we went back to the Corrals and the Sharks received the fish they came for, after a short frenzy everything was eaten and the Sharks disappeared. We then had the opportunity to look around the bottom for Shark teeth, and even though I was more interested in looking at the remaining Sharks, my roommate gave me one of the teeth he found :).
 Even though I enjoyed diving in Utila and Roatan, I will most probably not return, because it is very difficult to get there from Switzerland and there are many other places which offer similar or even better diving. Nevertheless, I will always treasure the shark encounters I had there.

More pictures from Honduras can be found in my gallery.

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Hippocampus Pontohi

From very big to very small. The highlight of my next trip were Pygmy Seahorses, and one in particular, a hugely pregnant male Hippocampus Pontohi.

But let me back up a bit. The year was 2006 and I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree, when I saw a documentary about the Pindito on Swiss television. The  Pindito was at the time one of the few liveaboards operating in Raja Ampat, which is located in the North-East corner of Indonesia. I was blown away by the fish live depicted and I decided to give myself this trip as a graduation present.

Because the dive cruise was scheduled over Christmas and New Years Eve, and the plane tickets were at a premium, I decided to head to Indonesia a bit earlier and also visit Bali, Lombok and the Gili islands. One of my most memorable non-diving moments happened on Lombok, when I climbed to the top of Mount Rinjani, but that might be the topic for another best of blog.

On the Pindito, I was introduced to Pygmy Seahorses. Tiny Seahorses that clung to huge fan corals. At first I had a very hard time finding them, even when the dive guide pointed them out, they were so small! And so it felt like a huge achievement, when by the end of the trip, I managed to find them on my own.

At that time the flight connections from Sorong to Singapore weren't that good, so I ended up spending three days near Manado, where I went diving in the Bunaken National Marine Park.

On a dive at Abang Point, our dive guide found this pregnant male Hippocampus Pontohi, only a couple of days before giving birth. Having had lots of experience in the last couple of weeks of taking pictures of Pygmy seahorses I did manage to get a decent shot.

More pictures from that trip can be found here.

Quote from my original blog post:
The last dives
Stranded for two days in Manado with nothing to do but Scuba-Diving. So that's what I did. My two last dives of this vacation took place at Bunaken National Park in North Sulawesi. The dives were fantastic. We saw millions of fishes, as well as the rare Hippocampus Pontohi, a small seahorse that's just been discovered two years ago.

However, there was a lot of trash on the water surface, as well as underwater. Making me wonder what they use the National Park entrance fee for...

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Friday, May 15, 2020

My first whale shark!

Inspired by a 10 photos in 10 days challenge on Facebook and the fact that traveling to go scuba diving is not possible right now, I decided to post pictures from my most memorable dive experiences.

The year was 2004 and I was on my second dive trip, having started diving in autumn of 2003. After visiting the Similan Islands for my first liveaboard trip, I headed onwards to Kho Phi Phi for some more diving. The best known dive sites in the neighbourhood are Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, which are quite a long trip by speed boat, but known for its large pelagic encounters.

On one of the two dives, we suddenly heard a huge commotion from the other side of the rock and our dive guide was quick enough to lead us there and we saw this juvenile Whale Shark swimming by. I tried to follow it for a bit burning through most of my air, but it was worth it, and I got a surprisingly decent shot out of it, considering my lack of experience with underwater photography.

Mor pictures from that trip can be found here, but keep in mind, my photography skills have gotten better since then ;).

And here a quote from my original blog post:
Whale Shark!!!!!!!!!!!
I've travelled to Koh Phi-Phi yesterday and made a trip to Hin Daeng/Hin Mueng in the south. There I saw a 6-7m long Whaleshark! Whoa, what an exiting trip. :-)

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Island of Sharks

A visit to Cocos in Costa Rica has long been on my wish-list and this year the time has finally come.

We started our trip with two nights in San José to ensure that everyone gets their diving equipment in case of missing luggage, fortunately, everything arrived on time. So we had a day to kill and we ended up visiting San José Downtown. It was a nice excursion with a couple of interesting old buildings and a fascinating museum showing artifacts of the Native Americans before the Spanish arrived.

The next morning we boarded the Okeanos Aggressor I and got ready for our 36 hour trip to the island. Departing the harbour we spotted many Pelicans.

Farther out lots of Mobula Rays that were jumping out of the water doing somersaults. After a while we were also joined by a pod of dolphins.

Once at our destination we started diving right away. The main reason for my visit was to see Hammerhead Sharks and I was not disappointed. Already during our checkout dive I spotted one swimming past. In the end we saw Hammerhead Sharks on 20 out of 21 dives! (Granted sometimes only a shadow, but still!)

Our time of visit coincided with the rainy season and so we had clouds and rain showers daily, however, from time to time we also saw beautiful landscapes with rainbows!

Sharks weren't the only inhabitants of the reefs, we also spotted lots of Marble Rays, Lobsters, Butterflyfish, Sea Urchins, Pufferfish and from time to time even a Yellowfin Tuna.
In case you are wondering, these are pufferfish, and not Tuna ;)

During the first land visit we could stroll past the ranger accommodation and their garden to the "El Copey" bridge, which was constructed exclusively from confiscated fishing nets.

The two dive spots we visited the most were both fantastic. At Punta Maria, we regularly encountered several Galapagos Sharks and Hammerhead Sharks (which often took a look at us during our safety stop). At Dirty Rock we also regularly spotted Hammerhead Sharks and hundreds of Bigeye Trevalleys.

The second land trip, was highly anticipated by me, because it gave me the opportunity to look for a geocache. After a strenuous climb I could not only enjoy a beautiful view, but also find the Cache, my first one in Costa Rica!

Cocos is not only fascinating under water, but also above, because it boasts a huge number of birds, which often followed our dive boat or were waiting for us when we ascended.

Due to heavy currents we could not dive all the sites, but we did manage to visit Alcyone three times and there we saw large schools of Hammerhead Sharks (at least 60) circling above us. Unfortunately, the visibility was not that great, so my pictures tended to work better in black and white.

From time to time, I also managed to look for the smaller things, because there was plenty. Especially a huge number of Blennies sitting in and on the rocks. This one wanted to say hi ;)

On the way to the last dive we saw a Humpback Whale breaching on the horizon which was a promising start. During the dive we then visited two frogfishes (who probably were relieved when all the paparazzi departed ;) ).

The way back to the mainland was "only" 32 hours, but because the waves were hitting the boat sideways, it ended up being the rougher journey and I was relieved when we finally reached the harbour.

All in all I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed all the great diving :).
This guy distracted me from Shark watching for a bit.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Whales and Dolphins

During our first visit to Kaikoura, on our way from Abel Tasman National Park to Lake Taupo, our planned Whale Watching trip was canceled due to heavy seas. Since we now had a couple of days to spare and it isn't too far from Christchurch we returned for another try.

We joined Wings over Whales, a small company which offers Whale Watching trips by small planes, as they were recommended to us by good friends. After a short briefing we boarded the plane and headed out to see. A short while later the pilot spotted the first Fin Whale and circled it. But it wasn't the only one around and at one time we spotted four of them swimming close together. The advantage of observing them from a plane was that we were able to see the whole whale, which gave us an impression of it's massive size. (The Fin Whale is the second largest Whale, only surpassed by the Blue Whale.)

After this cool experience we decided on short notice to also go Dolphin watching the next day. Since this trip was extremely popular, there were only places for the 5:30am or the afternoon tour (by which time we wanted to be back in Christchurch). So after some deliberation we decided to brave the early morning and joined Kaikoura Dolphin Encounter. The main attraction of this trip was swimming with the Dolphins, but since this is extremely popular, it was sold out and we could only join as spectators. However, this wasn't too bad, since it gave us more opportunity to take pictures :).

We saw mainly Dusky Dolphins, which are famous for their playfulness. So when the swimmers got into the water and made strange noises (as directed), the dolphins stayed around to take a closer look. Another aspect of their playfulness is that they perform acrobatic backflips, which are extremely hard to capture on camera, or repeated jumping out of the water. All in all they are great to watch.

One of the highlights, which even the tour guides hadn't seen too often, was that the dolphins herded a school of fish into a baitball and continually ate them (normally they only feed during the night), this of course also attracted lots of birds and so we spotted Hutton's Shearwater, Albatross and Australasian Gannets.

So it was a great decision to take the early morning tour, especially since the tour guides commented, that the dolphins are most active in the morning. Next time we might try to get a swimming spot though, that also looked awesome!

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