Below the cliffs of Malpelo

© Yann Chavance / Fondation Tara Expéditions

3 August 2016

At dawn on Tuesday morning, after 36 hours at sea, Tara arrived at the island of Malpelo (Colombia) to begin a week of daily dives. The new team will be observing the biggest fish in the world – the whale shark.

After 2 days of calm navigation between Panama and Colombia with a small crew (10 people on board) everything speeded up when Tara dropped anchor in Colombian waters. We moored for only a few hours at Buenaventura, the country’s main port – just enough time to embark fresh food, diving equipment, and some new crew members. We spent a minimum amount of time on land. Given the city’s bad reputation (considered the most dangerous in the country) the team preferred not to dwell here for sightseeing.

 

CREDITS YANN CHAVANCE - Samuel Audrain - Buenaventura-1
Samuel Audrain, captain, preparing the route to Malpelo Island © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

The day after arrival, Tara revved up the engines again with some new faces on board, including Roman Troublé, director of the Tara Foundation. Among the newcomers, Tane Sinclair-Taylor, a marine biologist (KAUST, Saudi Arabia) who will do the tagging of whale sharks, one of our objectives here in Malpelo. Equipped with a speargun, he will attach to the base of each giant shark’s fin a small GPS tag that will transmit valuable information on the lifestyle and movements of the sharks.

Alongside him underwater will be Erika Lopez, Colombian diver, and of course Sandra Bessudo, the French-Colombian “soul” of Malpelo who initiated the protection of this site. In 1999 Sandra created the Malpelo Foundation and for 30 years has devoted her life to preserving the archipelago. Of course we’ll also take the opportunity to study the reefs of this underwater sanctuary: Laetitia Hedouin (CNRS researcher, Criobe) and Luis Chasqui (Colombian marine biologist at INVEMAR) will assist Emilie Boissin in making an inventory of Malpelo corals.

 

CREDITS YANN CHAVANCE - Départ Plongée - Malpelo-1
One of the two annexes leaves Tara for the first dive of the week in Malpelo © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

So, on Tuesday morning we all came face to face with the huge cliffs of the Colombian island, accompanied by the cries of thousands of seabirds nesting in the rocks. Just enough time to put the 2 dinghies in the water and anchor Tara below the cliffs, and the team had already donned wetsuits, ready to test the equipment and diving conditions around the island. We don’t know if the whale sharks will come here to meet us. Answer in a few days.

Yann Chavance

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