MoalBoal, Philippines

- By JP Bresser

It’s another early morning, stories about a huge school of sardines have been traveling around the peninsula and I convinced the owner of the dive school to organize a search. So that’s why it’s another early morning and I’m waking up, lying up the front of the traditional Banka boat. Suddenly a lot of noise in front of us, fish are jumping out of the water and a big flock of birds dives in to the water. I grab my video camera and together with the local guide jump overboard. Suddenly it becomes dark, a ceiling of fish closes in over me, like a roof of moving quicksilver the enormous school of sardines moves like a single entity. Rays of sunlight dance in between the thousands of fish, generating tunnels and walls. Schools of jacks are hunting and creating fireworks when the sardines try to escape as one. I keep on shooting until I finally run out of tape, time to go up and when ascending my bubbles create a cylinder shaped exit in the sardine school, time to say goodbye.

High noon
The sun is high in the sky and the water is calm, I’m drifting with a slow current along a beautiful decorated wall, decorated with a variety of soft corals in vivid colors. A turtle swims by slowly and on the wall are plenty of critters to enjoy. Lionfish, porcelain crabs, nudibrances but we are on a mission. Manuel, my guide knows the location of a Pygmy seahorse so together we search between the coral for this 2 millimeter small beauty. I hear Manuel cheering in his regulator and try to locate where he is pointing, unbelievable but there it is, almost impossible to spot. I have a 60mm macro lens fitted on my photo camera and I’m able to shoot some amazing images.

I have this on my wish list for years, trying to film and photograph mandarin fish courtship. This is quite a challenge because this only happens a few minutes at twilight and they do not really like light. Bringing video lamps and flashes are not a recipe for success but I’m known to be quite patient. When the sun is setting a find a sandy spot between two coral beds, bring my gear in position and start waiting. Suddenly I see a male mandarin fish move in between the coral. When turning on my video lights he escapes back in the coral. By using a technique of slowly moving my video lamps in I fool him and YES!!!! Time after time I’m able to film and photograph their courtship. In an instant it is over and the mandarin fish disappear in the coral. I look around and it is pitch black. We decide to swim a bit around the reef and are rewarded with a great night dive, life is good in the Philippines.

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