Shark diving and big animal adventures


big animal and wildlife adventures


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melonheaded whales in Nuku Hiva


In a nutshell, we nailed it! Not only did we get to swim with huge pods of melonheaded whales (they are actually big dolphins) but the diving was beyond everyone's expectations!

The melonheaded whales live along an exposed stretch of coastline so we had to wait for perfect conditions before we could venture out to play with them. Fortunately a window of opportunity opened each week so both our groups got to swim with them during the time we were there.

The melonheads were shy but also extremely curious about us and they immediately started spy-hopping to get a better look at us.


Spy hopping melonheaded whales


Then we slipped into the water while our captain motored past in the dive boat leading the cetaceans right past where we were floating. It was a fantastic chance to watch a species that rarely comes in contact with humans.


melonheaded whales in Nuku Hiva


The last time I came to Nuku HIva I was shooting a story for Diver Magazine about the best spots to dive in French Polynesia. I was allotted only two days to dive at this remote island so I really didn't develop an appreciation for the high caliber of diving here.

This time, I quickly learned that Nuku Hiva is not just about encounters with melonheaded whales. The big animal diving around Nuku Hiva is world class!

Virtually everywhere we dove we encountered sharks. Even in the marina there were blacktip sharks milling around, waiting for scraps to fall from the fishing boats. At one point I jumped in to get some snaps but the visibility made it a sketchy shoot.


blacktip sharks in Nuku Hiva


At the edge of the bay where we stayed, we dove at a spot named The Sentinel. It was barely a mile from the village but it was a great spot to dive with scalloped hammerheads. I have never seen hammers so close to civilization. I have also never managed to get so physically close to scalloped hammerheads but these ones actually seemed interested in us and made very close approaches.


scalloped hammerhead in Nuku Hiva


We regularly saw scalloped hammerheads at a number of sites around the island. They were in small groups rather than the huge schools you see at destinations like Cocos Island or the Galapagos but the closeness of the encounters made up for the smaller numbers and once we saw a school of around forty hammers which was pretty good for Nuku Hiva.


scalloped hammerhead in Nuku Hiva


At most sites we would see grey reef sharks, whitetips, both kinds of blacktips and the odd silvertip. At one site named Tikapo (a current swept pinnacle far from shore) we encountered about a dozen silvertips, lots of other species and a squadron of eagle rays. The pinnacle was also swarming with fish.


Tikapo pinnacle in Nuku Hiva

blacktip shark nuku hiva


If you could pull your eyes away from the megafauna swimming by, it was easy to find octopuses and other secretive reef dwellers.


Day Octopus in Nuku Hiva


Some dive sites were literally crawling with morays. I counted more than ten species at a site named Tetemanu including the rare and beautiful dragon moray pictured here.


Dragon Moray Nuku Hiva


Last but far from least, we constantly ran into mantas. Sometimes they were at the surface and we would slide in next to them during our surface intervals. And sometimes we would encounter them on our dives. At one site I counted more than 20 mantas!


Reef manta ray nuku hivareef manta ray Manta alfredi


I could go on and on about the quality of the encounters at Nuku Hiva but you really need to see it for yourself. Big Fish Expeditions will be back there in the next year or two. Keep an eye on the schedule for upcoming trips.


melonheaded whale in Nuku Hiva








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Andy Murch Trip Leader

Andy Murch


Andy Murch is a fanatical big animal diver.

He has photographed and dived with more sharks than most people on this planet and he's very good at it.

Andy's images and shark stories have appeared in hundreds of books and magazines around the world from titles as varied as Canadian Geographic, Scuba Diving, FHM, Digital Photography,  and the Journal of Zoology.

Andy is the Creator of the ever expanding Shark and Ray Field Guide on Elasmodiver


When not running big animal expeditions or on photographic assignments, Andy lives and dives on Vancouver Island, Canada


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Predators in Peril

Andy is also the driving force behind the PREDATORS IN PERIL PROJECT which shines a spotlight on many endangered species of sharks and rays that are largely overlooked by mainstream conservation groups. Predators In Peril is entirely funded by Big Fish Expeditions.


Find out more here:


Predators in Peril Project