Bimini 2016: Day 2 – WildQuest, and Learning to Snorkel

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After arriving at WildQuest, we had an orientation meeting and discussed what would be happening this week. The general format is: early yoga (for those who can roll out of bed at 7:30 am), breakfast, pack lunch boxes for the boat, a bit of time to relax, and then head out on the boat to look for dolphins. People who want a massage or meditation/energy management session can schedule those as well, for an additional fee. There is usually an initial location that the boat visits, after which everyone has lunch, and the boat heads out to look for dolphins. This usually occurs between 1 and 6pm, when the boat returns to the dock.

I’ll talk about photo equipment in a separate post, but as a general note (this is listed on the WildQuest website FAQ), you can either bring your own snorkel and fins or rent them onsite, but if you bring your own, make sure you know what you’re doing when you buy, because the quality of your equipment will significantly improve your experience.

Other general notes:

  • Beware the Sun. This is not an experience where you go to an enclosure to swim with dolphins. The majority of your afternoon is spent looking for dolphins in the wild. They frequent a certain area of the ocean near the island, but there are no guarantees where or when they will appear, so you will spend a lot of time in the sun watching for them.
  • Buy a UPF 50 rash guard. If you’re not already familiar, rash guards are swimwear beyond the bathing suit designed to block the sun and protect the body from other irritants. They have flat stitching and dry quickly. If you have skin highly sensitive to the sun, I’d recommend a long-sleeved variety. (There are also leggings available for both men and women.)
  • Beyond the rash guard, pick up SPF 50 sun block. DO NOT GET SUNBLOCK WITH AVOBENZONE. WildQuest specifically prohibits its use, and for good reason. Avobenzone is known for staining materials it comes into contact with (everything from your other clothes and equipment to the boat itself!) I had good luck with Thinksport, and recommend it. Reapply sunscreen frequently. Fins, clothes, and other equipment can wipe the sunblock off your feet, hands, and legs easily. Keep covered.
  • A lightweight cover-up is a good idea. The catamaran has a sun shade deployed over the forward section when the wind isn’t too high, but it is possible to get burned even through it.
  • A lightweight beach towel or PackTowel. Good for drying yourself, but also handy as an ad-hoc sunshade for your legs.
  • If you have issues with motion sickness, grab some ginger pills for moderate problems, or Dramamine if you plan to be unconscious on rough water.

Ok, boring stuff done. Let’s hit the water.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I had some serious water phobias (Deep water, open ocean, general drowning, etc.) to overcome. And yet, I like swimming. No idea why, but the mind isn’t always rational about these things.

The first five minutes or so, I discovered that putting my face in the water was ok, but as soon as I tried to breathe through the snorkel while my face was immersed, panic set in. Good times were had.

But as before, having something else to focus on (photography) helps me push through. The panic subsided, and it was time to start taking photos.

Something I’d known as trivia before researching for this trip was that water filters out red wavelengths of light. But I’d never appreciated just how much until I looked at the photos I took the first day. Also note, I’m using a 15mm full-frame fisheye lens on a 7D Mk II (1.6x crop), so about a 24mm fisheye. Unless I am very close to something, photos will look distant.

Here’s an example of what a photo looks like straight out of the camera.

 (Warren Schultz)

Unedited photo (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

And here’s the same shot, cropped and edited for color.

 (Warren Schultz)

Oh, hey, there’s a fish in this photo after all. (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

My inexperience with snorkeling and not being able to zoom in with this configuration was frustrating at times, but as I adapted over the week, it really worked well overall.

Purple sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina), and Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis) fish on the coral reef. (Warren Schultz)

Purple sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina), and Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis) fish on the coral reef. (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

The WildQuest catamaran, DolphinQuest (Warren Schultz)

The WildQuest catamaran, DolphinQuest (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

 (Warren Schultz)

WildQuest staff freediving. (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

And here’s the difference when you dive down and have been practicing underwater photography for years. 😉 (Photos by WildQuest team)

Bluestriped Grunt (Atmoji Photography)

Bluestriped Grunts (Atmoji Photography)

 

Purple sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina) (Atmoji Photography)

Purple sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina) (Atmoji Photography)

 

And yeah, the water is ridiculously clear and many amazing shades of blue.

 (Warren Schultz)

The Caribbean (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

To close out the day, I thought I’d take a look to see what was overhead with a long exposure shot.

 (Warren Schultz)

The Milky Way over Bimini, being crossed by a satellite. (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

Unfortunately, a storm was moving in fast, and it was time to head inside for the night.

Lightning and clouds don't make for good astrophotography (Warren Schultz)

Lightning and clouds don’t make for good astrophotography (Warren Schultz)Buy this photo

 

End of day summary: No dolphins, but feel a lot more comfortable in the water. Learning to use the photo gear. Tomorrow, dolphins!

 

One thought on “Bimini 2016: Day 2 – WildQuest, and Learning to Snorkel

  1. Pingback: Bimini 2016: Day 3 – Dolphins spotted! (Also, spotted dolphins) - Geek Field GuideGeek Field Guide

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