Wild Wildlife

Scuba divers in complete awe after meeting school of manta rays58s

Scuba divers in complete awe after meeting school of manta rays

Imagine swimming through the vast blue ocean and noticing a shadow passing over you. You know something huge is above and you look up to see not one, but six enormous manta rays circling gracefully. It’s a beautiful sight that gets better by the minute as you drift closer to them. They bank majestically and appear to be flying as they move effortlessly through the water. These rays are known for their gentle nature and they pose no threat to scuba divers. They are filter feeders, scooping krill and plankton into their mouths as they swim. Scuba divers consider them to be one of the most majestic and beautiful fish in the ocean. Swimming with manta rays is a bucket list item for many but they are elusive and difficult to find. Slowly moving closer, this diver had the experience of a lifetime, briefly swimming among them and getting a very close look. This was his first ever encounter with manta rays. They are mesmerizing to watch on their own and even more so in a group. These mantas were sighted off Kicker Rock near San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. The word manta comes from the Portuguese and Spanish word “mantle”, meaning blanket or cloak. They are also referred to as “devilfish” because some believe that their mouths resemble horns, giving them an evil appearance. Manta rays are listed as a threatened species as their numbers have dwindled due to pollution, gill net entanglement and intentional harvest for the use of their gill rakers in Chinese medicine. They are particularly vulnerable due to their long gestation period of 12-13 months and their low reproductive rate. A female will give birth to one or two live pups and may not mate in consecutive years. As soon as they are born, the young are fully independent and receive no care from their parents. After passing through the bubbles of the divers, these rays made a few more slow circles and then glided off into the blue. The divers were left in complete awe.

Divers swim through hammerheads to meet world's largest shark1m48s

Divers swim through hammerheads to meet world's largest shark

Whale sharks are the largest known fish in the ocean. With the exception of some whale species, they are the largest animals on earth. Although we know very little about them, we do know that they can reach a length of 55 feet or more and can live to over 70 years of age. The weight of a full grown whale shark is estimated to be approximately 50,000 pounds. Roughly the size of a school bus, they dwarf even the largest great white sharks. They are gentle and slow moving giants that feed on plankton, krill, small fish, fish eggs and crab larvae. Although they have enormous mouths, they are filter feeders and incapable of posing a threat to humans or any other large animals. They follow ocean currents to feed, populating all tropical seas. With one of the most distinctive skin patterns in the animal kingdom, they are easily recognizable. Their spots are as unique as the fingerprints of humans. No two whale sharks are exactly alike. Scuba divers consider whale shark sightings to be one of the most sought after experiences. For most, it is the ultimate thrill, and swimming alongside one for more than a moment is likely to be one of life’s most memorable events. These divers have traveled to Darwin Island, the most famous of the Galapagos Islands, hopeful to see a whale shark. The Galapagos are one of the most diverse and remarkable areas on our planet. The environment is hostile and beautiful at the same time, and because three great currents converge around them, the habitat produces a food supply that attracts hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and more pregnant female whale sharks than most other areas of the world. Researchers don’t know where they go to have their young but they do know that almost 100 per cent of whale sharks sighted here are mothers carrying babies. Scuba divers make a rapid descent to the rocky bottom, eager to find shelter from the powerful currents that could sweep them away. They perch themselves on rocky ledges and peer out into the vast blue, waiting for that moment when one of these beautiful beasts will appear in front of them. The ledge around Darwin’s Arch is aptly named “The Theatre” and the show is a live performance that rivals any IMAX experience. The divers watch as schools of fish and large hammerhead sharks cruise past, along with occasional turtles and a few other shark species. The appearance of a whale shark is uncertain and often they are only seen from a distance. The dive guide will keep one eye on the group and the other on the depths beyond. If he sees a whale shark, he will signal the group by rattling a small shaker and he will point in the direction that they need to go. They quickly add air to their buoyancy vests and head into the blue to meet the shark and get a closer look. This large female whale shark is approximately 50 feet long and is carrying young. With a slow approach, divers were able to swim alongside her at a depth of about 60 feet. She calmly swept her tail back and forth, effortlessly maintaining a pace that a diver must work hard to match. If she becomes concerned, a few powerful sweeps of her massive tail will propel her out of reach in seconds. She is also capable of descending quickly to retreat from a threat. Whale sharks are often accepting, even curious, when they encounter scuba divers. A close encounter such as this one is something that very few divers will ever experience and it was a dive that these lucky people will never forget. The guides and crew of The Galapagos Sky Dive Ship and Float n’ Flag Dive Centre provided this group with exceptional memories that will be cherished forever.

Published: November 11, 20187,344 plays$25.98 earned
Giant tortoises engage in epic battle and 47s

Giant tortoises engage in epic battle and "high speed" pursuit

Giant Galapagos tortoises are majestic beasts that regularly reach a weight of over 500lbs and can reach an age of approximately 200 years. Slow moving and gentle, they eat almost any form of vegetation that grows on the islands that they inhabit. They spend a great deal of their time grazing or sleeping. They are wonders of nature with a metabolism so slow and the ability to store so much fat that they can manage to survive as long as a full year without eating or drinking, if needed. When full grown, they have few natural predators, although they have suffered from competition with invasive species such as goats, intentionally introduced by humans. They have also struggled with the effects of a rat population, accidentally introduced by humans. Rats will prey on tortoise eggs and young tortoises. Few animals compare to the giant tortoises when it comes to peacefulness, yet even these great beasts can be territorial and aggressive on occasion. These two tortoises found themselves in a skirmish when they came into close contact in a patch of grass. Two rival males, it was clear that one had to go. The first sign of trouble was that both of them raised their heads, extending their necks fully in an effort to bite the other. The slightly larger male on the left began trying to bite the neck of the tortoise on the right. The smaller tortoise wisely decided to make a hasty getaway. He turned and ran, carefully turning his body to prevent access to his neck. The large tortoise bumped the smaller in what appears to be a move to turn or flip the smaller one. This resembles a “pit manoeuvre”, a technique used by police to terminate an escape by a fleeing motor vehicle. The smaller tortoise escapes and puts on a burst of speed that is impressive for such a heavy and ancient creature. Skillfully putting a small tree in between them, he flees as quickly as a tortoise can. The larger male pursues at top speed but the tree slows him down enough that he gives up. The fleeing tortoise can’t possibly see over his shoulder and he doesn’t dare stop to see if he’s being followed. He continues his race to higher ground and safety. Although this is natural behavior in any animal species, essential to establishing the pecking order and domination, it is extremely unexpected to see two tortoises engaged in a full on battle and foot pursuit.

Warrior wasps: Small insects with world's most painful sting1m24s

Warrior wasps: Small insects with world's most painful sting

Warrior wasps, also referred to as marching wasps or soldier wasps have one of the world's most powerful stings, equal on the pain scale to bullet ants and tarantula hawk wasps. They are very unique insects that get their name from the way they defend their nest. The nest is built with chewed fiber and saliva that form a tough paper. There is often only one entrance to the nest and workers inside create combs and passages, as well as feed the larvae and the queen. The soldiers, or warriors guard the nest from the outside. They are especially sensitive to loud sounds and unusual vibrations. If the warriors perceive a threat, they begin to beat their wings in unison to produce a loud sound that warns the threat of impending attack. It is identical to the sound of hundreds of soldiers marching. They release pheromones that also signal the wasps inside the nest to come out and take part in the demonstration. Because they have barbed stingers, attacking and stinging means death for the wasp. It is in the best interests of all involved if the sound is sufficient deterrent. Ana, a skilled Naturalist Guide from Sacha Lodge, located just off the Napo River in the Amazon forest in Ecuador, led a tour down a small canal, stopping along the way to demonstrate how these wasps use their abilities to protect themselves. She provided an explanation and a warning that tour guests were to make one loud sound in unison and then remain quiet. When asked later if she had ever seen the wasps attack, she said with a serious look that nobody had ever dared to make further noise. Wisely, people are advised to not test the wasps. The pain of the stings has been described as feeling like you are chained in the lava flow of an active volcano. Scientists also commented that an individual will sound insane as they scream from the pain. As with many types of venom, researchers in Brazil have recently discovered that the compounds found in the sting may have a beneficial effect on people. It may be used to treat people suffering from anxiety. Warrior wasps can be found throughout the Amazon as well as Mexico, Central America and the northern areas of South America such as Brazil. These small but mighty creatures are a perfect example of the wonders of nature. Even a creature thousands of times their size would be no match for such well equipped warriors.

Enormous male sea lion charges at swimmer35s

Enormous male sea lion charges at swimmer

Sea lions are playful and adorable animals, often dog like in their behavior. They will interact and play with humans on occasion and will circle them curiously, mimicking their movements and nibbling on their fins. But adult male sea lions do not share this tolerance for people. They are territorial, aggressive, and they are incredibly powerful. This swimmer was snorkeling in a shallow bay off Isla Los Lobos, recording fish, turtles and other creatures in the water. He looked to his right and saw a large animal at the shore line. It was a full grown male sea lion, approximately seven feet long and weighing over 500lbs. At the same time, the sea lion saw the swimmer and approached rapidly. What looks like a curious first pass with friendly intentions was more likely a display of aggression. This pass was meant to make it obvious that he is larger and that he is dominant. At the edge of the water, several female sea lions and their babies were lounging under a tree. The male sea lion will not hesitate to chase off any rival male sea lions that venture close to his women. Even males from his own colony will be chased away when they reach sexual maturity. On this occasion, even a human was not permitted to be so close to the others. Watching cautiously and maintaining his distance, the snorkeler recorded the animal. With two powerful strokes of his flippers, the giant beast closed the distance and circled within two feet. Recognizing that this was not play, the snorkeler held his camera in front of him as much to deter the sea lion as to record it. Keeping watch, the cameraman begins to calmly swim backwards, away from the area, fully aware that he is not welcomed by the large male. The sea lion drifts slowly behind as he makes his way along the shore. Soon after the first pass, the sea lion decides the retreat is not happening quickly enough. With a few more strokes of his flippers, the sea lion rapidly approaches again, this time coming within inches of the camera and the swimmer's legs. He flips over in what was possibly a better position to bite or display his teeth. As he reached the man, the sea lion let out a bark that can mean only one thing. He is giving a stern and possibly final warning that it is time to leave. His teeth and the enormity of his head and mouth couldn't be missed. This is an animal that can cause serious harm to a human with very little effort. The cameraman called to his wife who was swimming in their direction and the two made a rapid retreat. The sea lion was obviously satisfied and din't follow further. Intentionally approaching wild animals can be risky, but approaching a large territorial male sea lion will have serious consequences. Upon realizing that they were in the wrong place, these swimmers began a calm retreat and made no sudden movements that could be confused as aggression. Had the sea lion interpreted their behavior as defiance, he would have likely put them in their place quickly. Had they shown obvious fear, the results could have been the same.

Great White Sharks come in close to inspect divers58s

Great White Sharks come in close to inspect divers

Scuba diving with Great White Sharks is an amazing experience. Near Guadalupe Island in Mexico is the perfect location to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. More than 100 miles off the shore of Ensenada Mexico which is just across the U.S border, means this is quite the trip. Boarding a live aboard yacht the group endured an over night voyage to get to the dive sight. Once there they were briefed on the very strict rules of engagement with these animals which is governed by the Mexican government. On board was also a government official to keep track and log the animals seen as the movements and return of these beautiful animals is of highest priority. Guadalupe Island is a mid point from the regular area the sharks live to their breeding grounds. Being a declared marine reserve the sharks are at no threat to humans making this the perfect location to view these beautiful animals in their natural environment. Divers and animal lovers alike travel from all over the world to visit the Great Whites of Guadalupe. These massive animals can reach 20 feet long and nearly 5000 pounds. Amazing. Many say they feel intimidated and anxious at first when entering the water with these sharks, but that soon becomes amazement once you see how graceful they are. Curious may be the best way to describe the sharks with the divers. But beware, wild animals can never be predicted. This definitely is an experience that creates memories.

Leafcutter ants hard at work in Amazon rainforest2m15s

Leafcutter ants hard at work in Amazon rainforest

These leafcutter ants from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador dissect a leaf with their strong mandibles and carry the pieces to their colony's fungus garden under ground. They cannot digest the leaves themselves but cultivate a special fungus on which they feed. The wingless worker ants are females. Each ant can carry up to 50 times its own body weight. This is equivalent to a man carrying a van over his head!

500 lbs Giant Galapagos Tortoise tramples GoPro34s

500 lbs Giant Galapagos Tortoise tramples GoPro

Galapagos Tortoises are among the most iconic animals in the world. Extremely rare, they exist naturally only on the Galapagos Islands, a province of Ecuador. Of the original 15 species of giant tortoise discovered, only 15 remain and most are critically endangered. They live longer than any other vertebrate and can store enough water to survive for up to a year without eating or drinking. The Galapagos Islands were made famous when Charles Darwin visited in 1835 and studied the animals and birds, finding that they had uniquely adapted to life on each island. Their isolation led to physical changes in a species that allowed them to thrive under different conditions. It was this adaptation that inspired and shaped Darwin's theory of evolution that changed the way we looked at the world and at ourselves. This giant tortoise weighs over 500lbs and measures roughly five feet across. He could be as old as 200 years. They are believed to live to well over 150 years of age and it is possible that some of the giants we see today were actually alive at the time of Darwin's famous visit to the islands. This big tortoise will spend the majority of his day grazing on almost any ground vegetation that grows here, as well as low hanging leaves. Ancient and majestic, they move slowly, but with determination. A camera set up on a path to record this great beast from a distance provided a unique view when he decided to walk right up to and over it. The rear part of his plastron (lower shell) collides with the camera and rolls it over as he passes. Luckily, the cameras are very durable. Darwin saw that the tortoises on the islands shared many characteristics, yet displayed key differences. He theorized that they had been descended from the same species found on the mainland and other continents, but that they had changed over time to survive. The Galapagos Tortoises had developed a large indentation in their shell that allows them to stretch their long necks to reach higher vegetation, a critical adaptation for life in this hostile, yet beautiful environment where food is scarce during dry seasons. Darwin found similar adaptations in finches that made the birds on each island unique from each other, despite being the same species. All of this pointed to the conclusion that animals underwent a process of physical change over generations that made them unique from one island to another. They key to this discovery was the isolation. The islands had formed from volcanic eruptions, some of which as recently as 700,000 years ago. The animals had no way to migrate the great distance between islands. They are believed to have arrived by floating rafts of vegetation moved by the varied and powerful currents that converge around the Galapagos Islands. Descended from the same species, yet different from their relatives on the neighboring islands, evolution was the only explanation. It was this discovery that led us to the understanding that we are descended from primates. Without Darwin's research, we had no understanding of our own origins. It was this research that changed the world in many ways. Darwin's research also led to the understanding that the Galapagos Islands hold many keys to our understanding of the world. Islands shifting on tectonic plates, like an enormous conveyor belt, they are young in comparison to other islands. So close to the equator, they hold an enormously diverse collection of animals and plants that have much to teach us. Many people have heard of the Galapagos Islands, and a lucky few have visited them. Seeing the Galapagos Tortoise is a significant and memorable experience for many who have been so fortunate.

Red Postman Butterfly shows off stunning colors in rainforest1m53s

Red Postman Butterfly shows off stunning colors in rainforest

This is a subspecies of the Red Postman butterfly from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. Its bright colors warn predators such as birds that it is unpalatable. There are close to 4,000 species of butterflies and some 10,000 moths in Ecuador, one of the countries with the highest biodiversity on earth!

Heron displays impressive balancing skills on back of hippo57s

Heron displays impressive balancing skills on back of hippo

During a recent safari in the Kruger National Park these people were treated to the site of a large bird, daringly sitting on the back of a hippo while showing amazing balancing skills in an attempt to remain on the back of the hippo. The visitors stopped at a large dam to observe a variety of wildlife in and around the water. There were various species of water birds present together with a huge number of large crocodiles scattered around the edges of the water. Inside the water there were pods of hippo spread all over. Suddenly they spotted a large bird called a grey heron, flying over the water. To their surprise, the heron landed on the back of one hippo in the middle of the dam. Grey herons are large water birds that are commonly found around shallow water bodies such as shallow rivers, lakes and open marshes. They spend their time hunting mainly fish, with a menu that stretches to aquatic invertebrates, rodents and even small birds. This specific bird seen in the video is no ordinary heron. Over time this bird has developed the insight to find an alternative fishing tactic. Instead of only hunting along the shallow edges of this deep dam, the bird amazingly figured out to use the back of hippos as a perching point to fish from. In the middle of the dam the bird has the opportunity to get to larger fish swimming in the deep waters. Most of the time these hippos will tolerate the bird on their backs but there are times when things do not always go according to plan for the bird. The video shows the heron was perched on the back of a hippo that kept on moving around with no regard to the bird standing on its back. The hippo would roll from side to side and the heron would react to keep its balance by walking forward or backwards, just like someone would attempt to keep their balance on a drum floating in the water. This made for very entertaining viewing and we could not believe how determined this bird was to stay on the back of the hippo. Eventually the movements of the hippo became more erratic when it started fighting with another hippo. Finally the bird gave up and flew off over the water. To everyone's amazement the heron didn’t seem to give up and flew over the water straight onto the back of another hippo with half its body exposed outside the water. It is rare to see an interaction between such two very different wildlife species. Hippos are known as one of the most aggressive and dangerous mammals in Africa. To see a large bird showing off incredible balancing skills on the back of one of these feared creatures was a fascinating encounter.

Arm-waving jumping spider is beautifully colorful1m05s

Arm-waving jumping spider is beautifully colorful

This video shows a little Jumping Spider from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. They do not build a web to trap insects, but jump on their prey and grab it with the jaws. Jumping spiders still produce silk for safety lines while jumping and also to build a tent as shelter from bad weather and to sleep at night. As most spiders they have four pairs of eyes, which give them a 360-degree view of the world. Their large frontal eyes are build like telescopes and provide them with very sharp vision. A mobile retina allows them to scan the object they are looking at.

Hairstreak butterfly fools predators with fake head45s

Hairstreak butterfly fools predators with fake head

This Hairstreak butterfly from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador not only has striped legs and antennae, but also a false head with orange and black fake eyes and tails that mimic antennae. This creates the illusion that the back is actually the front. Predators, such as birds and jumping spiders, will aim for the hairstreak's tail, rather than its head, and the butterfly may escape in the opposite direction.


"Zombie" ant victim of killer fungus

This carpenter ant from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador became infected with a fungus that forces the ant to climb up and bite down on the underside of a leaf. Then it slowly decomposes the ant and grows a spore-releasing stalk from its head in order to infect more ants. Such Entomopathogenic Fungi attack many other insects and may be employed as biological insecticides. Crazy!

Beautiful ruby gold target tortoise beetle from Ecuador55s

Beautiful ruby gold target tortoise beetle from Ecuador

Tortoise beetles own their name to the carapace under which they can find shelter like a tortoise, with the difference that their carapace can open for flight. This species with a ruby ring on gold ground that looks like a target is from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador.

 Slug Eating Food Is Caught Up Close On Camera16s

Slug Eating Food Is Caught Up Close On Camera

Every now and then we get to watch a video so otherworldly, but so well made it would be a crime to miss it. This video comes to us courtesy of that scope of nature that zooms way down to the macro lens. Somebody had the bright idea to make a video of a slug eating from a piece of cat food. Relativity is everything in this video. A piece of cat food is but a nugget to us, but to the slug it’s like eating straight from the shawarma rotisserie. Yes, slugs are disgusting little vermin that decimate our crops. There are many remedies for this, including saucers of beer (slugs check in, but they don’t check out), to sprinkling salt on the naked snails, which melts them. But to see a slug so up close , doing only what every other creature does to survive, i.e. eating, personalizes it somewhat. If the video was only a little longer, showing the different angles, then we could see the many body parts and how they work in unison. Look at those telescopic eye stalks, with the tiny pupils. What does the slug see? What does it think when it detects danger? The camera may be so beyond its limited ability to process its environment that it has no clue it could be crushed at any moment. Even if it did sense danger, surely the slug on a doorstep doesn’t have the speed or maneuverability to move out of mortal danger. The mouth parts, too, are amazing. We think of the slug as an amorphous blob of muscle, excreting slimy mucous wherever it goes. Truly only another slug could love it. So how does it chew its food? The first thing we know about slugs is that they don’t just eat your garden; they will eat just about anything that’s potentially chewable. In this case, it’s cat food. The slug’s jaw, called a radula, is more like a rasp with thousands of microscopic teeth. It essentially does what a wood craftsman does when smoothing a piece of wood with sandpaper. Under a microscope the slug’s teeth look dangerous, almost shark-like. Of course, once you pull out from under the spell of the microscope, we have nothing to fear from the slug. Slugs can also be heard while eating, and if the video had a sensitive microphone, we might hear the impolite crunching and scratching sounds of this slug eating with its mouth open. The videographer makes some excited sounds, and we get the feeling the slug is onto him. One eye stalk warily turns toward the camera. We can barely fathom what thoughts its tiny mind churns out. This is some pretty cool footage, and it’s great that camera phones are getting so much better, allowing for more creative experimentation. There are untold opportunities waiting for imaginative explorations of the tiny, and the microscopic. They are a lot of fun to watch, and highly educational, as well. So, don’t be a slug, get out there and make videos!

Published: October 17, 20187,927 plays$6.87 earned
Rainforest jumping spider feasts on long-legged fly1m59s

Rainforest jumping spider feasts on long-legged fly

This video shows a tiny jumping spider from the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador feeding on a long-legged fly. Jumping spiders do not build a web to trap insects, but jump on their prey and grab it with the jaws. Jumping spiders still produce silk for safety lines while jumping and also to build a tent as shelter from bad weather and to sleep at night. As most spiders they have four pairs of eyes, which give them a 360-degree view of the world. Their large frontal eyes are build like telescopes and provide them with very sharp vision. A mobile retina allows them to scan the object they are looking at.

Aggressive sharks bump and circle divers on their way to the surface39s

Aggressive sharks bump and circle divers on their way to the surface

Divers enjoyed an ordinary dive in Belize, off the island of San Pedro, until the sudden and unexpected appearance of eight large Caribbean Reef Sharks. These ten foot long beasts are new to the waters surrounding the island, having just appeared in the last 2-3 years, possibly due to a slight increase in water temperature. Divers were expecting to see an assortment of fish, turtles, and nurse sharks, a common species that is completely docile and harmless to humans. They did not expect a close encounter with the reef sharks. Divers had been underwater for approximately 50 minutes and they were making their ascent. A three minute safety stop was required, a standard procedure where scuba divers are suspended at 20 feet to expel the built up nitrogen gas from their bodies. People on a nearby boat had been chumming the water in the area for Nurse Sharks. Chunks of fish had been thrown in from the boat to attract them. The practice of chumming for reef sharks is inadvisable, however, and can be dangerous. Caribbean Reef Sharks have been known to become aggressive in the presence of food and can be dangerous to humans in the feeding area. This is obviously a risk created by people, and not an indication of sharks being dangerous in a natural situation. Normally, these sharks are shy and avoid close contact with humans. These sharks began circling divers, showing intense curiosity. Initially, they kept their distance and swam around and below the divers. But the sharks began moving closer and exhibiting behavior that was borderline aggressive. Circling closer and changing direction rapidly below signal a change in the sharks' mood. One shark can actually be seen coming straight up at the diver and bumping him with its snout. The nose of the shark briefly came into contact with the diver's groin. This behavior is more than mere curiosity and may suggest that the shark is trying to test the diver to see what his reaction will be prior to biting. The divers recognized the change in the behavior of the sharks and they finished their safety stop and got out of the water. Despite the fact that this was unnerving, such a close encounter with a full grown Caribbean Reef Shark was thrilling and beautiful, allowing for some spectacular footage as a result. These sharks a wonder to behold: full of grace and obvious power. Top predators, a full grown Caribbean Reef Shark has approximately 12 rows of formidable teeth and it has no reason to fear any other ocean dweller except Bull Sharks and Great Whites. But even those predators don't often attack such large reef sharks. Chumming the water for tourists' enjoyment has become very controversial. While there is no evidence to suggest that it has increased the number of human attacks by sharks, it is thought to increase the likelihood. But some people argue that the close encounters and the entire ecotourism that has arisen around this practice has been the driving force behind many conservation efforts. The value of the sharks rises dramatically when they represent more money alive than they do dead. The education and the popularity of the sharks has contributed to the desire to protect them. Many countries are moving away from using sharks as a food source, or banning the practice altogether. Shark populations are declining worldwide and losing the species would be disaster for the oceans and for humans.