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Midnight Cannibalism takes Top Award at Yap’s Annual MantaFest 2019

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MantaFest brings professional and amateur underwater photographers together to Yap, a hidden gem in the Pacific.

Long after sunset, 35 feet down and miles offshore, a squid stalks in the inky darkness of the Yap Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. With a lightning fast strike, it captures its prey in a forceful act of cannibalism. The split seconds that unfolded in this drama of one squid catching and devouring another of the same species was captured by blackwater diver/photographer Sheila Ott of Switzerland. Her image was recognized as the Best of Show by the international panel of judges during MantaFest 2019 held August 24 to September 8 and hosted by the Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers on the remote island of Yap in Micronesia.

Blackwater diving is a fairly new scuba diving endeavor, done well after dark and far away from land. Lights are hung from a boat that drifts in the open sea. During MantaFest, the divers entered the water in the Yap Trench, the second deepest ocean trench in the world, that falls to depths past five miles. Then, camera in hand, they wait to see what the lights will attract. They search for photogenic pelagic larvae to drift by, but anything can show up. In this case, for Ott, it brought an act of nature few people have ever seen.

“Black water night diving is so addicting!”, exclaimed Ott. “If you get a chance, just do it! I first saw the squid attack at some distance and took off kicking to try to get a shot.” Ott’s efforts paid off as she won the top prize and racked up a free dive trip and other prizes.

Image: Mike Fusco

During the annual two week photo school and contest, the protected reef and ocean off Yap’s pristine shores produce daily shows from marine creatures big and small including its famous resident sharks and manta rays and a plethora of small, colorful tropicals like the brightly colored mandarinfish, MantaFest Photo School 2020 will take place August 31 to September 13, 2020.

Now in its 13th year, MantaFest brings underwater photographers, both amateur and professional, to the small island to compete for prizes, attend workshops, take tours of the island, and experience the unique culture of Yap, considered to be among the best preserved in the Pacific region.

Workshops are led by experts in the field providing their knowledge of still photography and video workflow and editing software. They also offer advice during sessions with local models in settings that include the island’s unique stone money banks and traditional dance performances. Daily underwater shoots provide opportunities to dive with the manta rays, sharks and other creatures that inhabit the surrounding, protected reefs and steep coral walls.

Image: Katja Jakobsen

In addition to Ott, who lives in Les Monts-de-Corsier, Switzerland, grand prize winners were Mike Fusco of Guam, Best of Class DSLR ; Katja Jakobsen of Smorum, Denmark, Best of Class Non-DSLR; and Judy Bennett, New Orleans, Louisiana, Best Video Submission. Prizes were dive vacations and gear from leading manufacturers of diving and photo equipment from Dive Damai, Siren Fleet, Truk Odyssey Adventures, Aquanautic Elba, Mares, Ikelite, Akona, Diver Design, Ear Shield, Henderson, Dive 1st Aid, Gear Aid and Light & Motion.

Bennett was also the proud winner of the Crying Towel Award. “This special award is for the last dive day, after everyone has submitted their contest entries,” said Bill Acker, founder/owner of Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers. “’Murphy’s law’ is that one of the best images or video clips is captured the day after and, as history repeats itself, a video of a Zebra shark waking up and swimming off into the channel won a special edition MARES – Just Add Water mask and snorkel and a custom crying towel.” Bennett was overcome and immediately used the towel for its stated purpose.

MantaFest Photo School 2020 will take place August 31 to September 13, 2020. For more information, go to www.mantafest.com.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 3

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somabay

Today we are diving one of the outer reefs from an inflatable. As we reach the bottom, a reef octopus eases its way into the cover of a small crack in the coral while displaying it’s incredible ability to change colour. They are arguably one of the most charismatic of reef dwellers and it is always exciting for me to simply hover and watch. I would have spent longer and waited for it to come and investigate me, but as dive time is limited we wanted to move on and find a turtle.

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The waters around Somabay are well protected and hold a rich variety of marine life. The reef edges are thriving colonies of coral and shoaling fish, while nearer the sea bed plenty of wildlife is still to be found.

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Then we located the turtles. They are very used to divers and so show little concern when slowly approached. In fact occasionally one will come over to see what you are doing. There is always huge excitement when diving with a turtle. The shear thrill of sharing a moment with another species.

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What a fantastic way to finish a wonderful few days diving and I would like to thank SOMABAY, ORCA DIVING and THE BREAKERS for making my stay such a good one.

I had a great time, with diving everyday either on the house reef or on one of the offshore reefs by inflatable or larger day boat. Orca diving provided high quality equipment and facilities while the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. The Breakers was right on the coast with nice rooms, good food and once again friendly staff making the whole trip a real pleasure.

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Soma Bay covers an entire peninsula and is home to several resorts as well as residential  compounds.

As well as scuba diving, Somabay caters for many other sports and activities, and so is perfect for families as well as individuals and/or groups. And of course there is always time to lay peacefully on the beach under the Egyptian sun.

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Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 2

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Day three of my trip to Somabay and we were spending the day on the Lady Christina and diving on the wreck of the Salem Express.

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Diving wrecks for me is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of diving a wreck is more than often tempered by the thought of loss of life when she sank. The Salem Express was a passenger ship and a roll-on/roll-off ferry travelling from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Safaga, Egypt. Most passengers were of poor class travelling home from their holidays while around 150 people were returning home from their pilgrimage to Mecca.

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The ship struck a reef and sank within 20 minutes. Passengers were trapped below deck and the ship was filled with fear and panic.

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The wreck area is strewn with personal belongings from the crew and passengers such as a transistor radio and a flat iron for clothes. A diver at sometime has put them in a prominent place to be seen.

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Tragically only one life boat was launched while the others went down with the ship. More than 600 men, women and children lost their lives here.

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It’s a stark reminder that the sea can be unforgiving and so when we dive on such wrecks we should do so with humble regard.

Returning to the surface, shoals of fish are gathered under our boat and seem to be welcoming us back into the light.

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Back at the Breakers I sat in the dining area with a beer and a very good meal while my thoughts still remained with the day’s dive on the Salem Express.

Check in for part 3 tomorrow for Jeff’s last day of diving with Somabay on the off-shore reefs looking for turtles.

Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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