FOCUS ON MEXICO: THE SEA OF CORTEZ WITH ALEX TATTERSALL
Creative shooting in 'the world's aquarium'
Dates: Saturday 28th September - Saturday 5th October 2013 (8 days)
Leader: Alex Tattersall
Group Size Limit: 11 plus leader
Reaching down into the Pacific Ocean, the unspoilt peninsula of Baja California curls protectively around the Sea of Cortez. The wonderful secrets of Baja are as yet known to relatively few people. Baja is a land of deserts, ancient Spanish missions, remote beaches, superb seafood and long sun-filled days. The Sea of Cortez, studded with rugged islands surrounded by stunning, almost deserted white sand beaches, is one of the biologically richest bodies of water on our planet and has over 800 vertebrate species and 2,000 invertebrates. Here hammerhead sharks school in groups of up to 200 or even an amazing 2,000, colonies of sealions live undisturbed and Grey Whales come to mate, give birth and make their winter home. Few European divers have, as yet, had the opportunity to discover for themselves the amazing, unusual and adventurous diving that the Sea of Cortez has to offer. This unique destination provides excellent opportunities for those interested in marine wildlife, underwater photography or simply the chance to be amongst the first divers to explore a new destination.
The Sea of Cortez, enclosed by Baja California, but open in the south to the Eastern Pacific, has long attracted underwater photographers to its dramatic underwater topography, wrecks and particularly the abundant and charismatic marine life.
One of the primary focuses of this trip is to spend several days diving with the famously friendly California Sealions in the waters around Los Islotes off La Paz. Our trip is planned to coincide with the young sealions making their first unsupervised dives, catching them at their most curious, cute and mischievous. Over 350 sealions of all ages live here and they are used to divers. They love to demonstrate their in-water superiority and tend to hang around for extended encounters! The playful pups can move their sleek, long bodies very quickly through the water and you will almost certainly feel a tug or pull on your fins, or maybe on your tank or first stage, as one of the pups decides to test out your reactions. Anyone with long hair may well find that the sealions think that you are making them an offering of tasty seaweed and they will nibble at your hair! The shallow, brightly lit waters make for a perfect underwater photographic studio and at this time of year are probably the warmest temperatures anywhere in the world where you can interact with these magnificent marine mammals.
The Sea of Cortez offers much more than sealions. This is just one of those places where anything can and often does show up. With luck the Whale Sharks and Manta Rays will be visiting the Sea of Cortez at the same time as you will be. Manta Rays can be very friendly in the Sea of Cortez as they are quite used to diver. As we drop down on to some reefs, the mantas may well find us and treat divers to a personal acrobatic display. Check out the patterns on the undersides of the mantas as this will help in identification and you will know if a particular Manta Ray joins you on another dive.
Large pods of dolphins can often be seen from the boat and our boat operators will encourage the dolphins to bow ride. It is usually Bottle-nosed Dolphins that form these groups, but sadly they tend to disappear when you divers or snorkelers get into the water, though they do offer excellent above-water photo opportunities while travelling to and from the dive sites.
Swanne Reef is an excellent spot for fish photography and macro, the Salvaterria ferry wreck is particularly photogenic, while sea mounts provide chances of seeing Scalloped Hammerheads not too deep down and, more reliably, multiple moray eels packed into crevices in the rock! Many of the dive sites are home to large schools of fish and of course Eastern Pacific endemics such the Giant Hawkfish (which can grow to half a metre), the Cortez Angelfish and the attractive Mexican Hogfish. All are species that will provide truly spectacular and original subjects.
The attractions of the Sea of Cortez are the larger animals and unusual fish species that one does not encounter in other regions. This special group trip will give participants the opportunity to have three boat dives daily. In addition opportunities for snorkelling or diving with Whale Sharks will be offered when and if any of these wonderful creatures are located.
Boats will leave the Cortez Club each morning for a three-tank dive. Lunch will be taken on a deserted beach or small island. For those interested in land photography the enormous cacti found in this area (remember the ones on those old western movies?) make a superb subject for interesting images.
Perched on the southeast edge of the district of Baja Sur, the small colonial town of La Paz with its tree-lined boulevards and friendly people offers divers direct access to the semi-tropical waters of the Sea of Cortez. Here you will find a town of glorious landscapes and numerous bars and restaurants serving good seafood or spicy Mexican dishes that can be washed down with excellent local beer and tequila-based cocktails. Splendidly clean and well cared for, La Paz’s rather ramshackle waterfront buildings are surrounded by palm trees and aloes. Scrub desert surrounds the town and in the distance tall mountain ranges form a sun-washed backdrop. From time to time the huge cacti, their ‘fingers’ pointing skywards, blossom with yellow and red flowers.
Alex Tattersall is a relative newcomer to the world of underwater photography making his photographic achievements during this short time ‘in the industry’ all the more impressive. He learned to dive in 2001 in Venezuela and worked as a dive master on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia for one year. It was not until 2006 after some 500+ dives that he first picked up an underwater camera whilst living in Taiwan. His infectious passion was instant and he went on to set up an underwater photographic retail outlet in Taiwan. During this period he traveled extensively in South East Asia and picked up a number of photographic prizes for his underwater life portraiture. Returning to the UK in 2009, he went on to set up a photographic outlet, Underwater Visions Ltd. and is responsible for the innovative Nauticam product range in the UK. The philosophy behind this business venture is quite simply to be able to share his passion for underwater photography. He has much experience in leading photo trips and prides himself on promoting a relaxed, non-competitive and creative environment for all in order to learn through maximum hands-on underwater photographic opportunities and the sharing of ideas and experiences between the group whilst not under the water. Through his principals of creativity and simplicity in underwater photography, you will learn many insights into the thought and technique behind the award-winning photos for which Alex is becoming increasingly well-known.
The focus of this trip is to maximize our time underwater where the real practical learning can take place. As such, formal, directed teaching will mostly give way to a more informal hands-on approach to improving our photography together in a relaxed, non-competitive environment. Although Alex will be available to share his technical and creative experience and provide feedback and suggestions for developing your individual photographic style, the expectation is for all guests to contribute to a constructive and enjoyable peer-learning experience for all.
Saturday 28 September: The tour begins in La Paz with a transfer to La Concha Beach Resort.
Sunday 29 September – Friday 4 October: Up to three dives a day with additional Whale Shark snorkelling, if possible.
Saturday 5th October: The tour ends with a transfer to La Paz airport.
For more details of the diving and accommodation, please see our Sea of Cortez holiday description.
Note: Should two people travelling together apply for the last place on the tour, we may, at our discretion, increase the group size by one.
$2350 (La Paz/La Paz)
• Airport transfers in La Paz.
• 7 nights room only accommodation at La Concha Beach Resort on a twin/share basis.
• 6 days diving (3 boat dives daily), including lunch on diving days and marine park permits, and to include snorkeling encounters with Whale Sharks where possible.
• Services of Alex Tattersall as group leader.
Single Occupancy Supplement: $444. Please note that, while we will endeavour to find a room-mate for those on the tour who are single travellers and would prefer to share accommodation, in the event of a room-mate not being available the single occupancy supplement will apply. Room-mates will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
Deposit: $600 (for La Paz/La Paz arrangements)