Rapa Expedition: Surrounded by Sharks at Last

Manu San Felix is the underwater filmmaker on the Pristine Seas team. His calm and distinguished air pair with his supreme physical conditioning to make him something of a Spanish James Bond. He is a great man who brings the marine world to the surface for people in his home country of Spain and around the globe with his creative, award-winning work.

As we explore the waters around the tiny southern islands of Rapa and Marotiri in French Polynesia, the whole team is excited to see what kind of diversity and abundance these remote waters hold. Today, Manu reflects on the thrill of finally getting to see some sharks!

By Manu San Felix

As many expeditions as we undertake,we are still constantly surprised and enthralled by the intricate and unique beauty of each location. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

Today was our fifth diving day at Rapa. This morning I woke up concerned about the results we have been getting while filming underwater. We have come to a very remote place, thousands of kilometers away from the closest continent. When you go to a place like this you never know what you will find (because so few people have been there) but definitely you expect a lot!

Before traveling to remote places I always dream of getting amazing shots and unique pictures. This is one of the main motivations of exploration: to find new and remarkable places and show them to people; to surprise everybody by revealing an unknown and spectacular world. On the first dives at Rapa we had found coral reefs with few fish on them. Some of the reefs we dove in were like deserts, almost depleted of fish.

But today everything changed.

(Photo by Manu San Felix)
The height of the coral pinnacle becomes clear as it and the surrounding sharks disappear into the blue below. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

We went diving with Ernest, a local Rapa skipper and he chose our dive site. He stopped and anchored at the entrance of Ha’urei bay, in the middle of the pass. The depth here is around 40 meters with coral pinnacles that rise from the sea floor to just 2 meters from the surface.

When I jumped into the water I saw below me a Galapagos shark. This was the first good sign.

My diving buddy Jose Arribas and I went down along the pinnacle and started to sight more sharks. Using rebreathers, our exhaled air was recycled into our tanks, preventing the noisy bubbles that can keep some animals at bay. This was perfect for allowing the fish to come close to us.

After years of diving with sharks, and knowing what a good sign they are for the health of the area, we always look forward to seeing them on our dives. (Photo by Manu San Felix)
After years of diving with sharks, and knowing what a good sign they are for the health of the area, we always look forward to seeing them on our dives. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

After a 100-minute dive we had about 30 Galapagos sharks around us, from small ones to big ones up to two and a half meters long. Normally sharks are wiped out first when fishing pressure is high. Thus, seeing such a variety of sizes is a good indication of a healthy ecosystem, or at least an ecosystem with a low fishing pressure.

Sharks were patrolling along the reef the entire dive, paying attention to us, expecting something to happen. We came up back to our rubber boat accompanied by some of these curious Galapagos sharks and extremely happy with the shots we finally got. Things are looking good for the Rapa expedition.


Read All Posts From the Rapa 2014 Expedition

Learn More About Pristine Seas

Worldwide Voyage Using Traditional Polynesian Navigation


The Pristine Seas expedition to Rapa is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Changing Planet

, ,

Meet the Author
Paul Rose is an ardent explorer, television presenter, journalist, author, and Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, and an Expedition Leader on the Pristine Seas team.