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Where’s Ellen? Part One… (Watch Video)

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In the first in an exclusive new series of blogs, renowned underwater and wildlife photographer Ellen Cuylaerts, takes Scubaverse visitors on her latest travel adventures…

After talking at Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) in Singapore 4 years ago, it was about time I would return for another visit and contribute to the special 25th anniversary ADEX celebrations with a talk, some panel discussions, live judging of the Voice of the Oceans Photo Competition and, imagine that at 49, participating in a fashion show wearing hand-painted designs by the talented Anne K. Adijuwono representing 25 endangered species.

This year’s ADEX is dedicated to plastic-free oceans and that’s something I’m very passionate about!

But I’m also passionate about reducing my already awful carbon footprint flying around, hence I try to minimize flying back and forth home unnecessarily and maximize ‘layover’ time looking for things I would otherwise not experience.

Singapore as my destination triggered an article I recently read about two otter families living in the Marine Bay. A true wildlife soap drama took place where the Bishan 10 family chased the Marine family, even resulting in the death of a pup. That’s the course of nature, but otters are known to be very elusive and are also known to only thrive close to clean waterways… and this species, smooth-coated otters, were on the critically endangered list in Singapore but they were also spotted on a regular basis.

The perfect reason for me to include three days of urban wildlife exploration in my trip!

Through Facebook I got in touch with the group Ottercity and they sent me a map of the huge territory the otters lived in and the time of day to best go out and explore.

On Day One, my jetlag and a late arrival only got me outside at noon, 33 degrees Celsius, hot and humid, but I walked the area for scouting. I did not carry my heavy lens and, to my surprise, I could hardly believe it, I spotted three otters in the river, munching on a freshly-caught fish. Pure joy to witness! Their human-like behavior in using their tiny webbed hands and standing tall on their wide tail, brought an instant smile on my face.

I took a few shots but mostly observed them and followed them around, which is hard because once they swim, they’re very fast.

The next day I did two rounds, morning and evening, 15 miles in total, but no otters spotted.

On my last day before ADEX would start, I decided to leave a bit later, my gut feeling told me the overcast weather and rain would also have an effect on the otters. At my return point, no otters sighted, I deviated and stopped at a Lily pond in the Gardens by the Bay to take a picture for my Mom’s birthday. I thought the frogs must be huge because they stirred up quite a bit, except… they were not frogs but… my beloved otter family. They hung out a while, playing hide and seek with each other. It was hard to take images, and suddenly they were gone.

The scouting of the previous two days came in handy and I anticipated on their next move running and sweating from point A to B to C where I found all 15 of them sleeping in the sand. I spent a whole two hours watching them sleep and taking images, sweaty, on my hand and knees in the sand (go low, go slow, go close), already out of water supply since I found them at the Lily pond, but nothing could make me leave them.

https://youtu.be/Zzg7Q_nUdIU

And then they woke up and off they went again, and off I went again too! Another hour of swimming action, running, eating and making funny sounds communicating with each ‘otter’. And as soon as I spotted them… they were gone, leaving me exhausted, sunburned but extremely grateful I took these days and went on a mission! Otterly pleased I should say!

This whole experience feels especially poignant with ADEX dedicated to plastic-free oceans and the otters a symbol of Singapore’s greening policy creating a healthier river system. I’m so very happy to have found the otters here…


Find out more about Ellen and her photographic adventures at www.ellencuylaerts.com.

As an underwater and wildlife photographer, Fellow of The Explorers Club and having a front seat in exploration being part of the Flag and Honours Committee, Ellen was also recently inducted in the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She travels the world and tries to make the most of every destination and the path that leads her there. Ellen acts as an ocean citizen and believes as divers we should all be ocean ambassadors and lead by example! She’s also a crazy cat lady and lives with her family in the Caribbean.

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The Rescue – available on Disney+ tomorrow (Watch Trailer)

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If you missed the recent cinema debut of The Rescue film, you can watch it on streaming channel Disney+ from tomorrow December 3rd.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), The Rescue is the edge-of-your-seat account of the rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave system in 2018.

The Rescue chronicles the dramatic rescue of the boys and their coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award®-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. An outing to explore a nearby system of caves after soccer practice transformed into a two-week saga of survival and a story that would capture the world’s attention. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork displayed during this heroic edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes.

Check back for our review of The Rescue soon!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Guardian investigation finds endangered sharks for sale in Taiwan

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A field investigation into Taiwan’s shark fin industry was conducted by Shark Guardian between December 2020 and March 2021. The investigation obtained documentary evidence of fins from endangered shark species being openly offered for sale by over half of all shark fin traders surveyed in Taiwan’s southern fishing port of Kaohsiung.

Of the 13 shark fin processing and trading companies visited, more than half were found to be trading CITES- listed fins, and seven had shark fins from CITES Appendix II-listed species as part of their product range. One company saidthere was no difference in selling protected or unprotected species. Protected sharks’ products usually create a problem for international shipping only.”

The new report details how seven out of thirteen traders surveyed in Taiwan were found to be selling shark fins from silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, mako sharks, thresher sharks and great white sharks in broad daylight – in contravention of Taiwanese and international law.

Over a three-month period, Shark Guardian investigators witnessed multiple shipments of shark fins from endangered species being unloaded at Donggang fish market which is in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung.

Alex Hofford, Marine Wildlife Campaigner with Shark Guardian, said “To save sharks and the marine environment, Taiwanese authorities should implement an immediate crackdown on its cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade, and should tighten up local laws to ban the domestic sale of shark fin as well as better enforce its international obligations under CITES. It is also high time that the Taiwanese government should rein in its out-of-control distant water tuna fishing fleet, who are a major supplier shark fin to Chinese markets. Whilst Taiwan is a beacon of democratic and progressive values in Asia, it is allowing its unsustainable and often crime-ridden fisheries sector to rape and pillage our ocean with impunity. This must stop. Taiwan needs to show leadership in environmental protection and must quickly clean up its act as regards its sleazy shark fisheries and trade sectors.”

During our investigation, Shark Guardian also found evidence of Taiwan-based online retailers selling fins of endangered species of shark in contravention of local and international law.

According to WWF, a third of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, yet fishing and trading in unsustainable shark fin remains a highly profitable, but environmentally destructive, enterprise for Taiwanese companies operating out of Kaohsiung.

Brendon Sing, Co-Director of Shark Guardian said “Clearly more must be done to protect sharks globally. There are over 500 known shark species with only a handful of them listed under CITES. Even then, CITES listed sharks are still traded illegally where monitoring and enforcement lack any power and expose loopholes in the system. As long as this continues, there is no real protection for any shark species regardless of CITES listing or not. Taiwan must be responsible and take positive action in response to this report.”

Shark Guardian believes that excessively large profit margins are the main reason why Taiwan has never acted to rein in its shark fisheries and trade.

Shark Guardian hopes that Taiwan can apply its progressive values towards preserving the marine environment by imposing a comprehensive ban on the physical and online selling all species of shark fin in Taiwan. Such a ban would go above and beyond what is required under international law, and Taiwan’s domestic laws can be changed with public support.

For more information about Shark Guardian visit their website by clicking here.

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Egypt | Safaga, Brothers & Elphinstone | 27 January – 04 February 2022 | Emperor Elite

Jump on board this famous Red Sea liveaboard and enjoy diving the famous wrecks of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer.  Emperor Elite offers a contemporary living space combined with the best itineraries available in the Red Sea.

Price NOW from just £975 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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