Saturday, 13 August 2011

Goodbye Fiji, hello slightly intimidating workload!

Roughly 22,000 miles, 40 shark dives, more than 1,500 sharks, 5 different species, hours and hours of footage and an amazing experience and unfortunately it has now all come to an end and I am back in the UK, well, what's left of it anyway after the madness of the last week!

The month in Fiji was a truly amazing experience, a daunting, pressurised, intense and at times stressful one, but still amazing in every way! To be able to do the world's greatest shark dive almost every single day was an enormous privilege and to be able to learn from Mike and his amazing crew was a genuine privilege and because of that, I am now in a strong position moving forward with my career and for that I will be forever grateful.

So, what was I doing over there?!

First and foremost I was out there to achieve one main goal, to get as close to the Bull Sharks as possible and to establish a greater understanding of them and the unspoken communication with large, dangerous predatory sharks and do that I most definitely did. I'm not going to say how close just yet, I don't want to spoil the film after all, but according to Mike I was given the privilege of being the only person ever from a non-industry pro background, to do what I did and that is an enormous honour, to be given the trust that I could handle what was entrusted in me is one of the proudest achievements of my life thus far.

First things first, to the endless credit of Beqa Adventure Divers and their understanding of these animals, we must discourage the dolphinisation of these sharks because yes, they are very big and potentially very dangerous, when you come within inches of a half ton, three metre plus Bull Shark, your understanding of just how insignificant we are compared to them increases beyond measure and it is only when you can understand and accept this that you can start trying to understand them more.

I was also given a front row seat in learning all about the Shark Reef Marine Reserve project and it's effect on local Fijians and the economy. What they have in Fiji is the ultimate model of eco-tourism led shark conservation which should serve as a template for the rest of the world to follow. This ultimately depends entirely on the people running it and in Mike and the B.A.D crew they have the best of the bunch in Fiji.

I also got to meet some incredible people, the insanely talented and world renowned photographer, Michael Patrick O'Neill, the absolutely lovely Brenda Adkison who along with her husband Gary was a pioneer of the shark diving industry, Angelo O'Connor Villagomez from the excellent PEW Environment Group and Helen Sykes from Coral Reef Alliance who gave an excellent and articulate interview about her personal feelings on the shark feeding industry and although we may differ on some things, she was an impressive interviewee who will be a huge asset to the conservation of sharks not just in Fiji but worldwide. I was also fortunate enough to meet the Fijian fisheries minister who is responsible for pushing the bill for complete protection of sharks in Fiji through to legislation within the government (fingers crossed!) and an awesome group of college students from America representing Broadreach, an "experiential learning" organisation from the US.

The greatest privilege of all though was to spend time learning from people right at the top of their game. What the B.A.D Boyz don't know about shark diving and interacting with Bull Sharks really probably isn't worth knowing and their commitment to shark conservation and continuous learning is both refreshing and inspiring, about as far removed from sensationalist facebook ramblings and misinformed scaremongering as you can get, this is conservation how it should be, on the ground, continually moving and constantly looking for the next hurdle to overcome. I can safely say that everything I have learned this month, I have learned from the best.

This film will also feature footage you will have never seen anywhere else in the world...ever...anywhere, something truly remarkable which as far as I am aware is only happening on Shark Reef and which is not only fascinating but really, really cool! We also started using a Go Pro to get some interesting perspectives of the shark dives which provided some great moments and in keeping with the DIY, low budget approach I have become known for, utilised a seven foot piece of drainpipe, some rope, cable ties and a pencil to do something which ultimately proved beyond doubt that the Nauticam housing for the Canon 7D is Bull Shark proof, even when it's inside the mouth of a particularly large and slightly annoyed female!

Stars of the show, alongside the sharks, are the Fijians themselves who can definitely claim to be amongst the world's greatest, kindest, friendliest and all around amazing people so to the people of Galoa and Uprising Beach Resort, Alfie and James in particular, I extend my never ending thanks and gratitude for all you did in the month we were there, it was a total pleasure and honour to spend time with you all.

The whole point of this film was to show that if you want something enough, regardless of the sheer number of obstacles in your way, we, ordinary people, can get there in the end through sacrifice and although a great many people never thought I would pull it off, I did, so you can too. I also wanted to do something nobody else has, which still astounds me, tell the complete story of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. I have wanted to do this for over twelve years and always thought someone else would get there first, that they either didn't try or worse still, didn't bother, is something I am eternally grateful for because I now have it in the can. 

The edit will most likely take around three months, I am also doing most of the music as well so I certainly have my work cut out. I am still looking at the options I have for resources for editing which of course, depend entirely on finance so the duration of the editing process will be reflective of the tools I have at my disposal.

Finally I would like to apologise again for the lack of video diaries and updates whilst I was in Fiji. Unfortunately the almost total lack of internet for a fortnight put paid to that so I will endeavour to upload some behind the scenes stuff we shot over the coming weeks as a way to hopefully make up for that.

For up to date news and updates, please sign up to the mailing list, you can find the incredibly simple form to sign up at the bottom of and you will also benefit from special offers on the cost of "Behind Blue Glass" when I release that...More news on that coming soon!

Oh yeah, I was also interviewed by the Fiji Times and not only that, got recognised in the supermarket because of it! Ha! The article is here

As always, comments and questions are welcome as I love hearing from you all.


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