During a new Moon, the lights from the bagans (semi-mobile fishing platforms) in Cenderawasih Bay in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, attract shoals of fish into the nets of local fishermen. The lights act as a signal to filter-feeding whale sharks, which have learned to suck on the nets to extract the fish. It’s an easy meal, so easy that the whale sharks sometimes need to be shooed away from the nets, though some fishermen will feed them. Up to 10 whale sharks can cruise around a bagan at any one time, and the location is now becoming a dive hotspot. Attracted by the spectacle, Indra spent a few days diving there. As a huge whale shark – at least nine metres long – glided by on one dive, she noticed another swimming a little deeper, in a different direction. She swam quickly to position herself above both of them when their paths crossed. She adjusted her strobe output and ISO so the great fish would both be sufficiently illuminated. ‘The sharks will happily swim straight into you, gently nudging you out of their way,’ she says. ‘The fishermen see them as good omens and often jump in and swim with them.’ Elsewhere in Asia, these massive animals, the world’s largest fish, continue to be hunted.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 17–40mm lens; 1/100 sec at f11; ISO 640; Nexus housing + Inon z240 strobes.
Cendrawasih Bay, Irian Jaya, Indonesia
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Indra Swari Wonowidjojo, Indonesia
After university in the UK, Indra set about improving her photography skills, teaching herself from books and magazines. Soon, she was combining her new passion for photography with her love of diving, while learning as much as possible about marine life. Now based in Singapore, she often visits her native Indonesia for its great diving. Her pictures have won a number of awards.