Diving with whales in Mirissa

Mar 28 2016.

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Diving deep into the cerulean waters off the coast of Mirissa in Sri Lanka, free divers Alexandre Roubaud, Alexandre Voyer and Marianne Aventurier came face to face with the largest leviathans in the world. Voyer and Roubaud, a duo from France who specialise in photographing life in the oceans under the name Fisheye along with freediver Marianne spent over 40 hours in the sea capturing these stunning images of blue whales and sperm whales. In an exclusive email interview with Living Life, Voyer and Roubaud share their story of a very surreal experience in the deep waters off Sri Lanka. 

How long having you been divers and photographers for? 

We have both been freediving for more than 10 years. We started freediving as it was a way to practice a sport other than spearfishing and doing competitions. Alex Voyer was also captivated by the marine life under the sea  and we decided to create Fisheye to promote freediving photography. 

Why did you decide to come to Sri Lanka to photograph the whales? 

As passionate freedivers we have travelled the world. We had heard that Sri Lanka is a hotspot for whale watching and that motivated us to come to Sri Lanka. 

 

How many hours did you spend in search of the whales? 

We spent more than 6 hours per day searching for the blue whale. We deliberately shifted our daily departures to avoid whale watching boats in order to preserve the animals and to ensure our security while freediving. 

 

 

 

How long did the entire photographing process take you? 

As we have been freediving buddies we are used to taking  pictures safely while keeping an eye on each other. Blue whales are very difficult to approach as they stay at the surface of the water for about a minute and a half. All the time we spent on the boat, we stayed alert to find the slightest breath we could see as we knew then that we had only a 2 breaths’ time to approach it before it disappears underwater again for more than 10 minutes. We always keep in mind that our approach should not stress the animal, hence we glide as smoothly as possible when we feel that we have a good position towards them. From this time we have approximately 1 minute to take a shot or two. 

 

What was it like to stare into its eyes? 

Staring into their eyes leaves a profound effect on you. You can see their impressive intelligence through their eyes and you feel that they are conscious about themselves and their surroundings. They also have an air of fragility about them. 

 

What are your overall comments about the expedition? 

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and we have been very lucky in accomplishing  our dream dive to meet the legendary blue whale. We discovered that whale watching is growing fast in Sri Lanka, and we worry that this could have a negative impact on the fragile biodiversity. Protecting these creatures is paramount and  whale watching activities must be regulated. Skippers must be educated on the proper approach techniques. Sadly we came across lots of plastic debris in the sea which is a danger to marine life. We are somehow confident that things could change positively with the engagement of some people like Anuradha Sampath, who helped us to set up our trip. We hope that our photos will reach many Sri Lankans and give them the motivation to preserve their marine wildlife. We have been amazed by the country’s authenticity and we will definitely come back very soon. 

By Tina Edward Gunawardhana 
Photographs by Fisheye



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