The Two Oceans.

I visited Cape Town awhile ago and while there were many opportunities to go diving there I figured that it would be a new experience to dive in a completely controlled environment, to photograph amazing animals and get a sneak peak at the spaces and perspectives few can see. I dived the Two Oceans Aquarium.

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Whilst being waved at by excited children and their parents, students and tourists, I hovered above the glass tunnel following large stingrays and various pelagic fish, groupers and turtles, with my lens aimed cautiously at each subject, trying my best not to scare them off with any sudden movement.

I had only ever been to the aquarium once, in 1999 when I was 7 years of age, and I can still remember my eyes going wide with joy at the sight of such large and beautiful creatures. I had that same feeling that day, from getting taken to the rooftop, the entrance to the exhibits, being briefed by the resident Divemaster and getting a glimpse behind the scenes of an amazing aquarium.  However the cast of characters had changed. The Ragged-toothed Sharks, sometimes referred to as Sand-tiger Sharks, had been released back into the wild, leaving the only shark left in the Pelagic exhibit to not resemble a shark at all, but rather, a guitar.

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Rhincobatus djiddensis, the Giant Guitarfish. As flat as a shark can get before it becomes a ray, the Giant Guitarfish in the exhibit was quite shy at first, but with my attention on the rays had allowed this gentle giant to swim up behind me and rest awhile on the sandy bottom of the huge tank.

Amongst the rays and the Giant Guitarfish, the inhabitants of the exhibit also included groupers, jacks, turtles, and one or two very curious Batfish.

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This Circular Batfish was very curious indeed. Getting in between myself and most of the subjects I was shooting, I decided to give her a little attention of her own and captured this nice shot before she went for my finger! More of a peck than a bite.

After about 30 minutes we surfaced and made our way over to the Kelp Forest exhibit which was not only in a considerably smaller tank but the temperature was about 16°C, very chilly compared to what I’m used to, but not to worry, with a Hooded vest slipped over my 5mm wetsuit and a pair of gloves, I was very comfortable in the water, that is, until feeding time for the resident giant White Steenbras.

 

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A critically endangered species endemic to South Africa, White Steenbras surrounded me in the Kelp Forest exhibit. They swam all around me, appearing to be very curious. Getting a shot of them however proved to be abit challenging as they were rather quick and due to not being able to use my strobe in the exhibits I had a little trouble focusing on anything that was moving swiftly. Lucking the diver who joined the Divemaster (seem lurking behind one of the large Steenbras)  and I, happily agreed to take a quick shot of me surrounded by these monster fish.

The opportunity to dive the aquarium was truly spectacular. I was able to dive in two different environments with the space of afew hours, photograph some amazing creatures, make afew new friends and interact closely with an endangered species. What more could a guy ask for?

 

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Feeding the gentle giants proved not only that Steenbras have a pretty powerful bite but that they also love whoever is feeding them, as several of them snuggled up to me big time for their dinner.

 

 

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