2022 My Year in Review

2022 Underwater photography

This year I left myself open to last minute and local underwater opportunities. I am also selecting “research trips” with the eye toward introducing them in the next year or two. In most ways it feels like things have returned to normal, but air travel continues to be unpredictable and annoying at times.  Some locations still seemed to have reduced numbers of people, especially South Africa.

Many of these trips were a once off (or less frequent offering) and some will be the last time I offer them – at least in the current form. . 2023 will be an exciting year for safaris as I have added an exciting addition to the itinerary which we tested out to great success this past May – check out the details below.  I am also always on the look out for last minute opportunities; especially if something disrupts a planned trip and this attitude was rewarded when cancelled whale shark trips allowed me to go to Tahiti and have a work holiday at my lodge in South Africa. 

Panoramic view in Baja, Mexico

You can see my safaris at https://www.photographafrica.com/  and underwater trips at GregorySweeney.com

Tiger Shark Dive in the Bahamas

This was my 15th year to host a the 9 day live aboard Tiger Shark Dive on the Dolphin Dream. 

With retrospect, there are more tiger sharks coming around than when I started way back when.   Each year I can recognize individual sharks which frequent Tiger Beach each season. 

As always, the crew are exceptional and achieve the perfect balance of fun for the guests and strict safety procedures to keep us accident free.   I shoot more and more video each year: the clear water and predictable swim patterns by the sharks make it easy to get plenty of exciting scenes. 

For a mid winter scuba break away trip there is nothing better than the warm and clear shark filled water of the Tiger Beach. You can not beat this easy to get to live aboard for exciting shark encounters: a unique photography experience.

May Safari in South Africa

This was the most anticipated trip of the year because it would be the first time we take our guests to the photography hide to photograph wildlife up close and at water level. 

Our itinerary stays the same with 4 nights at my own Tree House Lodge near Kruger where we get oriented to living amongst the African wildlife with visits to Kruger, private reserves, and nearby natural wonders and wildlife conservation projects.  We then spend 3 exciting days in the Sabi Sands Reserve to track and photograph their leopards.

The stay at the hide is  a welcome change from our established daily route for here the wildlife will come to us any time of the day or night and we can set up our cameras in the comfortable hide and we ready for whatever appears. 

It exceeded all expectations with encounters from giraffe and elephant so close we could hear them breathing. The night was full of anticipation of what would come out of the dark shadows to drink.  I can not wait to go back and share this unique experience with my groups in 2023.

Venice dive for Fossil Sharks Teeth

I have known about the fossil beds off Venice Florida forever but had never done a dive to try to find and collect them.   Four dives yielded some nice megalodon teeth and smaller shark teeth souvenirs. We even learned to recognize manatee rib bone fossils and mammoth teeth.  The bonus was hour long shallow dives seeing a surprising amount of sea creatures like stone crabs, pipefish, and squid.  This dive is year round and would make a great add for guests on the Tiger Shark Trip before we leave from West Palm Beach. It is also less than 2 hours from Crystal River where you can snorkel with manatees.

Basking Sharks in Scotland

This was my 2nd trip to photograph basking sharks in Scotland.  The snorkeling is only for the toughest characters and those with the best heavy wetsuits.   These fish are illusive and we had to make due with snorkels with seals and secularly large jellyfish until we had first basking shark sighting.  The landscapes and coastal views are stunning in Scotland and make the cold water well worth it.

Tahiti Humpbacked Whales

A last minute opportunity presented itself in mid summer. I needed to do a working holiday in South Africa to take care of my lodge, so with an eye to the future and offering new trips, I rearranged my schedule. The offer was to take part in a trip to Tahiti to photograph humpbacked whales from a private catamaran.   The water color and clarity is a idyllic as you imagine and we had first class encounters with whale  mother and calf pairs and escort male behaviors.  Stay in touch for future trip announcements about whale trips to Tonga or Tahiti with in water snorkel encounters

Polar Bears in Churchill, Canada

Every October and November, polar bears congregate in the Churchill area to await the return of the sea ice and access to their preferred prey: the ringed seal.  This year our trip to Churchill was in late October.  The weather was starting to get snowy, but the ice had not yet formed. Numerous bears are gathered in the area around Churchill and in their wildlife reserve area.  Each year my group stays at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in the center of the wild area instead of a hotel in town.  The advantage is that we are able to see polar bears out our window as well as other wildlife like foxes and we get dark skies from which to observe Northern Lights.

We had another great experience with up to 20 individual bears photographed  by the water and in the open fields.

For next year we will try a visit in Churchill in July when the cubs are little and the beluga whales are in the river where we can get in and photograph them underwater. No snow but still loads of wildlife.

Baja, Mexico Sardine Run & Diving

Baja Mexico is a treasure of beautiful scenery topside and thrilling and awesome wildlife in and under the water.  Each year it surprises and exceeds all expectations.  Together with friendly people and quality boat operators, hotels, top notch food, and wonderful weather in prime marlin & sardine run season, give my guests an adventure they love.

This year we had numerous jumps on sardine bait balls with marlin and some with sea lions or both. 

Magdalena Bay is always so alive with wildlife in excess of the marlins and sea lions who hunt the sardines.  We never know what we will encounter while out in our boats.  This year we had dolphin pod encounters and humpbacked whales close to our boat including a few breaching actions.

The scuba diving at the Cabo Pulmo Marine Reserve is full of pristine reefs and fish life around old wrecks.  Reef sharks, bull sharks, and grouper are often spotted.  The highlight that takes ones breath away are the mega schools of jack fish.  We swim mid water among them as they pulse and ripple around us.   This is a top dive sight for me and its wonders bring guests back year after year. 

Cenotes in Mexico

Perhaps I missed the Cancun area this summer without a whale shark trip and this prompted me to make a  short and specific trip to dive in familiar and a few new to me cenotes down in Playa del Carmine.   Snorkel and scuba in the cenotes is a great activity to add to whale shark trips.  I will be leading some guests to dive cenotes while in route to my Crocodiles in Chinchorro trip next year.