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Grand Prize Winner of the World Parks Congress 'SAVED' Photo Competition!

I just received the most incredible news!!

The image above has been selected has the Grand Prize winner (Specialist Category) of the ‘SAVED’ Photography Competition, organised as part of the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress!

I am left speechless. This means a lot to me, with regards to my photography but also with regards to the winning image which depicts an interaction between a diver and a reef manta ray. I am thrilled that manta rays were highlighted during the World Parks Congress, as they are in need of enhanced protection and can be a great eco-tourism asset if managed properly.

Here is a press release about the whole thing if you are interested in this story!

I will soon upload a short video presenting the ‘Story Behind the Shot’, but in the meantime below is the caption I submitted with this photograph:

BREATHLESS ENCOUNTER – Protected Marine Areas such as Lady Elliot Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef not only boast high marine biodiversity but also provide ideal ‘stopovers’ for highly mobile pelagic marine species such as manta rays. On this crisp winter morning, my dive buddy Chris and I entered the waters off Lady Elliot Island to monitor this vibrant reef. We were rewarded with the most incredible underwater encounter one could ever experience – a large female manta that was so inquisitive she came to greet Chris so close he could see inside her mouth! One second she was here interacting with us, the next she had vanished with a graceful wave, leaving us only this photograph and a memory of a lifetime. Manta rays are globally classified as vulnerable to extinction due to a high demand for their gills in traditional Chinese medicine. To date, the only way to fight this phenomenon is to turn local fishing communities into caring for these animals and promote sustainable manta ray tourism.

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