Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shark Conservation: You CAN Make a Difference

Everyone and anyone can help sharks and our oceans.

Here are some links and graphics to help.

To book or presentation or get the graphic in high resolution please email me at

Have a conservation question? ASK ME

Best Fishes,

Sharky Jillian

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oceanicallstars Wild Dolphin & Shark Freediving Encounter

August 12-17, 2012
Bimini, The Bahamas
$1800.00 US
12 Spaces

The dolphin grounds off the coast of Bimini in the Bahamas are home to a natural aggregation of Atlantic Spotted & Bottlenose dolphins. Spend hours in the water and interact with these curious and playful creatures. Spend a day at Bimini’s own Stingray City and explore pristine reefs.
Duncan & Jillian are marine biologists that have spent thousands of hours in the water with sharks and dolphins. Let them share this amazing underwater world with you. This adventure will include UW photo & video, dolphin and shark conservation seminars .The emphasis of this trip is ocean conservation and will also include a reef shark snorkel and visit to the world renowned Bimini Biological Field Station ( Sharklab).


August 11: Guests fly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Stay the night.
August 12: Guests Fly from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini ( Morning flight on Pioneer Airline )
Guests join boat mid day. Boat orientation
Sharklab afternoon. Guest get gear fitted
Evening dolphin conservation seminar

August 13: Full day of dolphins
Evening shark conservation Seminar
August 14: Full day of dolphins and reef shark snorkel
Evening Underwater Photo & Video Seminar
August 15: Coral reef snorkel, Gulf Stream freediving & Stingray encounter
Evening discussion about ocean conservation and what people can do
August 16: Full Day of Dolphins
August 17: Guests watch trip video and depart vessel mid day

This is a tentative schedule that may be adjusted due to weather *
This is a freediving trip. No scuba. **
No snorkeling experience necessary ***
This is a liveaboard trip ****

Ensuite room aboard the M/V Indigo
Freediving mask, fins & snorkel
Weights & weight belts
3 meals a day plus snacks( vegan & vegetarian available)*
Underwater Photo/Video & Ocean Conservation Seminars
Sharklab Tour

Not Included:
Roundtrip Flight to Bimini ( Pioneer Air around $250 US roundtrip)
Hotel in Fort Lauderdale ( special rate available)
*Meal on the island ( evening on shore)
Donation for Sharklab tour ( $10 is suggested)
Alcoholic beverages or soda
Bahamas departure tax ( $20 US)


Duncan Brake:

Duncan has traveled, photographed and filmed, extensively throughout the world, from fighting bull elephant seals on the Antarctic Island of South Georgia to 4m tiger sharks in the crystal blue waters off Grand Bahama. After graduating in Marine Biology from Stirling University in Scotland, Duncan combined his passion for photography and film with his love for the ocean. He spent a couple of years in Scotland, studying, photographing and filming the fresh water habitats before learning the art of underwater film while working at The Underwater Centre in Fort Williams.

He then braved the elements of the South Atlantic for 3 years working from the Falkland Islands down to Antarctica, as a marine biologist and freelance cameraman. Duncan then defrosted by venturing up to work as the Media Operations manager and assistant lab manager for the world renowned Bimini Biological Field Station, Shark Lab, where he gained thousands of hours of experience in the water working with, photographing and filming sharks in their natural habitats.

Duncan has filmed for BBC, ESPN, Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic. He started the conservation media company OceanicAllstars and is an avid freediver.

Jillian Morris

Jillian has spent thousands of hours in the field working with sharks across the globe. As a researcher she has tagged hundreds of sharks from the pristine waters of the Bahamas to the wilds of northwest Australia. She has also spent hundreds of hours in the water with the wild dolphins of Bimini and graduated from University of New England with a degree in Animal Behavior.
Jillian has been on camera for numerous conservation shorts, television programs and TV pilots. As an active shark conservationist she writes for publications across the globe as well as developing curriculum for shark education programs. She was cited by Shark Diver Magazine as one of the top 5 woman shark conservationists in the world. She was recently featured in Woman’s Adventure Magazine.

As the executive director of OceanicAllstars, she has combined her passion for the ocean and her love of film & photography. Imagery acts as a powerful tool in the fight to educate the public on why our oceans need help. They give people a chance to see what lies beneath the surface, a chance to understand. She has filmed for National Geographic, BBC, E!, ESPN, Discovery and recently returned from filming Animal Planet’s Whale Wars in Antarctica. Jillian is an avid freediver.

For more information or to book your trip please contact

**$500.00 Deposit due upon booking. ( Due by June 1, 2012)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bimini: 2 Hours of Turtle Love

Probably the worse thing about Bimini, for us anyways, is being stuck on shore when the weather is beautiful. Duncan and I were more or less stuck for over a week and we going a little stir crazy. Normally we would rent a boat, but the resort is really busy, so we were dry-docked. We went down to the beach each day and enjoyed a swim in the sea, but we were anxious to do some freediving.

Our first day out was a bit of bummer for me, as my first few dives left my sinuses pounding. I kept diving and they loosened a bit, only to get unbearable when I returned to the water post peanut butter and banana sandwich. Having fought this strep throat, flu, cold, and sinus infection thing for nearly 6 weeks, I finally broke down and started a series of antibiotics. I gave it a few days rest, but was missing the ocean like a kid staring at a Christmas present that they cannot open.

We made plans to hit the water with Sean, a former lab manager and I could hardly sleep because I was so darn excited. I got up early to make sure all the gear was ready and paced around waiting for 10:00 am to arrive. We loaded the boat and headed out. We decided just to bring the video camera, as the boat was small and we didn’t want to load it up with gear.

We made our way to the first reef and Sean said we might have a tiny guest as soon as we hit the water. Apparently they had made friends with a small green turtle on the last few visits and like he was on cue, our little friend appeared. Duncan had his legs over the side and the turtle started nibbling on his fins. As we slipped in the water he immediately came to the camera. He swam in circles around us, getting so close to the camera it was difficult to film him at times. I was giggling and chatting with him, completely amazed at his curiosity.

I suggested calling him “Einstein” because if he exhibits this curiosity with another large object (think tiger shark) his luck might not be the same. As I was dancing at the surface with the little green turtle he swam over the dome port and onto the monitor before flopping away. I thought he was going to end up as a new hat for me. Sean and I both laughed loudly through our snorkels.

If you have not seen a green turtle up close they are truly remarkable. They have gentle and inquisitive eyes and delicate little mouths. The markings on their shells are intricate designs with no two exactly alike. When they are small the colors are brighter because they have not been covered with algae, scars or barnacles. They are almost like cartoon characters at this size. Think, “Crush” from Finding Nemo.

I am not sure if Einstein understood what we were or if he was just lonely on his little reef. I say he, but at this size it is difficult to tell gender. He visited Duncan, Sean and I each in turn, giving tons of love to the camera and amusing all of us. We fed him a little snack and he ate until his little belly was full and he was tired of our fishy games.

It was a really special moment, completely wild and very rare. I have seen plenty of turtles on dives, but they usually do not stick around for very long. It is also really nice to see turtles making a come back in the Bahamas now that it is illegal to take them. For many years turtle meat and turtle soup were seen on menus across the islands and considered a delicacy.

We finished our dive after nearly 2 hours in the water and climbed back in the boat. Duncan and I both, were completely blown away and thanked Sean for one of the coolest animal encounters we have ever had. Those moments where you actually connect with a wild animal and communicate without saying a word are moments that define what it is to live. All the money in the world could never buy that and there are no rules, no stress, just two animals at peace with each other and the ocean.

As we enjoyed our peanut butter and Bimini Bread sandwiches we saw some fins in the distance. We pulled anchor and headed to see if they were bottlenose or spotted dolphins. We were all hoping for spotted because they are highly social and will happily play. Unfortunately they were bottlenose and they were in a feeding pattern, so we were of absolutely no interest to them. One showed off a bit doing a small jump behind us and one did a few close passes to check us out. It looked like it had been through the wars and was probably a large male that had seen many a battle over a prize female. They continued on about their business and we headed on our way.

We headed to our next site and warmed up a bit before slipping in. When I put my face in the water all I could see was massive schools of fish. Some artificial wreckage and healthy coral patches have created a sanctuary off the sand flats. Huge schools of grunts, snappers and jacks painted the landscape with a wall of juvenile grunts on one side. I dove down and began exploring the underwater paradise.

My lungs were stretched out and I felt comfortable now lying on the bottom and just watching the show. I found a pair of spot fin butterfly fish and watched them for a while. I love how they are always in pairs; it makes my heart happy to see love on the reef. We found a nurse shark wedged under some wreckage and got it to come out for a snack. Unimpressed by the snack it flicked its tail and left, annoyed no doubt that we had disturbed it.

We worked up and down the reef looking for fish and filming some critters. I followed a trumpet fish as it hung upside down in a feeding posture. There were several male sergeant majors guarding their eggs with the dark blue color morph they take on when doing so. Two spotted moray eels picked up morsels from the snack we left for the nurse shark. They darted in and out trying to get their piece of the pie. Spanish hogfish, yellow tail snapper, banded butterfly fish and blue striped grunts darted in the check out the commotions and enjoy a tidbit of the lobster that was quickly vanishing.

After nearly 3 hours in the water we decided to call it a day. I love salty skin in the sunshine as the breeze washes over, while you zip along over the water. The ocean around Bimini is literally and metaphorically a buried treasure. The lure of Bermuda Triangle, The Road to Atlantis, and random shipwrecks with stories of adventures past, all rest just off the white sand beaches of this island in the stream. There are always new spots to discover and explore, so the island changes for me every time I visit. We headed along the west shore of the south island and started looking for eagle rays. They have been everywhere since we have been here including 6 in the marina just cruising around. Sure enough, just a long the beach we found a large one cruising along. Pretty epic to say, “ let’s go look for eagle rays,” and then go and find them within a minute or two.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Layin Low in Bimini: It's Good to be Home

Home is said to be,” where your heart is,” and for most people this goes along with the place they sleep, keep their belongings, have pets, raise their children and build their life. For Duncan and I the meaning is a bit more literal, with home being where our hearts, as physical organs, happen to be. We spend most of the year on the road and have, without even realizing it, become accustom to defining wherever we are as home. It is not home by most definitions, but it works for us. We even say we are heading home when leaving a restaurant or pub in some strange city rather than saying we are going back to the hotel. It just seems natural and happens without us realizing it, although we usually have a giggle about it. Sometimes we even get to unpack our suitcases and put clothes into drawers. It is strange and aside from their week vacation, the idea probably terrifies most people, but we have made it our life.

This uncanny ability flows with us across the globe, invisibly packed in our checked luggage, never costing us overage, only bringing us a sense of comfort wherever we are. I am sure being a working couple, traveling together, also aides in the process. There are, however, some places that really feel like home in the more traditional sense of the word and the islands of Bimini are one of those places for us. Bimini is located approximately 50 miles from the east coast of Florida and has a rich history of fishing, rum and mystery. Hemingway and the Rat Pack were regulars in their hay day, rumrunners used the island during prohibition and the road to Atlantis is thought to lie just off shore. The islands are also home to the world-renowned Bimini Biological Field Station (Sharklab) and the ocean is teaming with a diverse population of sharks.

Continental has a larger plane that flies to the island, but the standard planes are 8-10 passenger because the runway is fairly small. The great thing about small planes is the view of the island as you approach and a unique feeling of being closer to everything as you take off and land. On large planes you can get lost in the mass of people and may not even be able to see out a window. There is no bad seat on a tiny plane, well unless your head is hitting the ceiling. You might also have a big screen television or other home appliance buckled into the seat next to you. We have buckled in camera housings and Pelican cases before. The journey is really the start of the island experience.

When I wrenched myself out of the tiny seat at the back of the plane and unfolded my legs hoping they would work, I breathed in the island air. The islands run on a different schedule and it takes a minute to get into that groove. We flew Pioneer Air for the first time and arrived at a warehouse in Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport that was shut up and looked abandoned. Their agent assured us over the phone that we were in the right place, but they were running a little late. And so it starts. We corralled our luggage around the door and waited. I am drafting an email to my friends, who will be flying over for our wedding in a month, regarding the less than strict flight schedule they may encounter. We checked in for our 12 o’clock flight at 11:30 and Duncan helped the pilot load luggage onto the plane.

Duncan and I had 10 bags with us including 2 computers, hard drives, 2 full scuba kits, 2 underwater camera housings, 3 cameras, wedding favors, 3 wedding dresses, a kilt and a few other clothing items. Shenae and Craig were great and managed to get all but 3 of our bags on our flight. They assured us that they would arrive on the 4 pm flight. No worries. Probably seems bizarre to people reading this that we would just leave our luggage, but if you think about it you leave your luggage with less caring strangers every single time you fly! We had a full house of 8 on the plane and although I wanted to fly as co pilot, I opted to stay in the back on hold gear along with Duncan. The plane seats 10 with the pilot, having one seat in the cockpit next to him.

There is no lengthy safety briefing, no beverages or peanuts are served and there is no toilet. You reach altitude and begin your descent with the total flight time being approximately 20 minutes. We lucked out with a clear day and could see the island from quite a distance. There is a shade of blue that I have only ever seen in the ocean around Bimini and it is always a magical sight that makes my heart happy.

The tight quarters of the plane make for an easy conversation starter and we chatted with 2 girls that had just traveled to the states from Australia. I always get excited chatting about Australia. One was American now living in Australia, bringing her friend to see the island. We chatted about Aus and things to do on the island and pretty soon the landing gear was going down. Dunk helped unload the luggage again, as it seems a bit unfair that the pilot has to not only fly the plane, but also deal with everyone’s luggage. I fought with 3 dresses and headed to customs. We waited our turn before heading in. The typical questions of “why you are here,” and, “ how long do you want to stay,” were asked as the customs agent stamped my passport. I could feel myself glowing as I answered that I was here to get married in a month! We got our visas and loaded the gear into Nasty’s cab. A nice new carrier van has replaced his old passenger van. Nasty is one of the regular drivers on the island and his megawatt smile is anything but nasty.

The air, the water and the people wrap around you like a massive hug and I immediately felt a sense of ease and comfort. Getting all the gear over and moving it all around was a bit stressful, but all of that melted away. For us, Bimini is like slipping into your favorite pair of comfy pants; all seems right in the world and your entire being settles into a state of relaxation. They might be a bit ratty or frayed, but you cannot get rid of them.

We settled into our home for next 6 weeks at the Bimini Sands before hitting the Petite Conch for lunch. We headed for the beach after lunch to take a walk and test the temperature of that Bimini blue water. This is home for me, the salt air, the sand between my toes and the gorgeous sea surrounding us. These are my white picket fence and well-manicured yard in a safe neighborhood. I made several trips to Bimini before making it my home in 2009. Duncan managed the Sharklab before we both took a job working on a dolphin boat. We have a big family on the island and love hitching rides in golf carts, pot cakes, the water taxi, Saturday morning souse at the Beach Club and all the little nooks and crannies of the underwater world. We are greeted with massive smiles and hugs that make you feel like you are visiting a favorite uncle.

The South Island of Bimini is about 6 miles long and is where we stay when we are on the rock. There are very few cars with golf carts being a more sensible option. You can easily walk everywhere, but most people offer you a lift when they pass by. It’s fun to jump on the back and make new friends or catch up with old ones. Pot cakes are the stray dogs, “ a little bit of everything in the pot,” that roam the island. Souse is a traditional island dish that is anything (meat or fish) boiled down in the juice of fresh limes, lemons or sour oranges. Other ingredients include diced celery, carrot, potato, sliced onions, green peppers, black pepper, Bahamian red peppers and a touch of garlic. The water taxi is a five-minute boat ride between the north and south islands that costs $2.00. All little treasures of this gem floating in the Gulf Stream.