The year started out for me running exclusive guiding trips aboard the Safari Explorer in the Hawaiian Islands. The second half of January provided some ample off time for an incredible scuba diving trip to Indonesia with Heidi. We spent some quality time muck diving around the shipwreck of the UST Liberty in Tulamben on the island of Bali and out on Nusa Lembongan, a small island just off the coast. I was overjoyed to be joined by Ed and Jamie all the way from Savannah. Then Heidi and I flew a couple of islands east to catch a liveaboard dive boat called 'Amalia' for a weeklong underwater photo adventure in the Komodo Islands.
After another stint in Hawaii during the peak of whale season, including a whale shark, Heidi and I flew back east for a road trip from Savannah to Miami. We had the privilege of swimming with and photographing manatees down in the Crystal River, and eating at Cafe Versailles in Miami with Nate and Kelly. Plus we finally got to dive the Blue Heron Bridge which has become famous for its muck diving and weird creatures. Add a little shark dive into the mix out of Jupiter, FL and of course some family and friends time back in good ol' Savannah.
April meant it was time to head back out for my second season with UnCruise in Alaska. I was expedition leader onboard the Wilderness Explorer for weeklong trips between Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka. So I pretty much had the entire Inside Passage as my playground. We went to towering glaciers, saw bears, humpback, and for the first time ever I saw hunting orca. I noticed these orca appear out of nowhere as we were watching humpbacks in Frederick Sound. We followed them for awhile but they had long dive times. Then I noticed a small pod of dalls porpoises swimming into the area. All at once the orca stealthily appeared in and around the pod of porpoises. They zeroed in on one porpoise and then proceeded to chase it, coral it, and let the young orca play train with it. It was amazing to see this kind of rare wildlife moment unfold in front of us.
|Orca flipping a Dall's Porpoise|
My first off rotation included a two week exploration of central Alaska, including Anchorage, Denali, Seward, and Homer. I was shocked at the number of moose we saw, and the vastness of Alaska. We did get to see the mountain at Denali, although the typical rainy weather was pretty consistent. We stayed inside a greenhouse in Homer, came face to face with a moose, and walked on a glacier in Seward. The train to Denali was another great experience. I especially liked the very back of our train car which had a half door that you could stick your body out of to get a beautiful view and some fun pictures.
|Trip Gallery Link|
After finishing out the season in Alaska I met Heidi in the Seattle airport and we flew on Emirates Airlines all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa. We had six weeks to play with so we flew out to Reunion Island for some diving and hiking. The island turned out to be very similar to Hawaii, even having an active volcano. Then we put some kilometers behind us as we picked up a rental car in Cape Town and drove Cape to Cairo, including shark cage diving, cold water nudibranch scuba diving, surfing J-Bay, the Wild Coast, tropical diving in Sodwana, sulphur springs, and finishing off with a week camping in Kruger National Park. Fun sightings included mating lions, tons of rhinos, lion cubs, and the mythical sable antelope. I also got to meet up with my dad in Kruger Park to catch up around the camp fire late into the night. We realized that we had perhaps spent more time together in Africa over the last decade than anywhere else.
|Shark Pictures from Around the World|
|Billowing smoke where lava meets ocean|
My last big travel was a real blast and combined with a bit of work at the same time. I was sent on assignment down to Baja, Mexico by the UnCruise marketing department to gather photographs of their trip in the Sea of Cortez. As an added benefit I got a plus one so I took my mom. We enjoyed the perks of being a guests which were plentiful, including some amazing food, drinks, great activities like swimming with whales sharks and sea lions, and even a massage onboard. It was Heidi's last week working the trip so I got to see her in action and then spend some time diving, snorkeling, and surfing with her until I had to go back to Hawaii to wrap up the year working.
I stayed busy this year and I hope you have enjoyed following along on the adventures. I took tens of thousands of pictures and had a few stand out. It looks like 2017 is going to be another busy year. I can only hope it will be up to par with this year. I have a few exciting things in the mix for this upcoming year so stay tuned.
-Dai Mar Tamarack