Malpelo Island, Colombia

Malpelo Island, a volcanic "rock" emerging 500 kilometers away from the nearest Columbian port - © Fred Buyle

Hundreds of sharks gather up in this sanctuary - © Fred Buyle

Freediving for Marine Preservation

March 6 – 17, 2008, Malpelo Island, Colombia

William Winram is part of the shark-tagging program which is currently taking place in the waters of Malpelo Island.

A 36-hour boat ride aboard the Maria Patricia connects the port of Buenaventura to the remote Island of Malpelo. William and his fellow freediver Fred Buyle were hired to tag sharks in order to track and therefore protect these top predators from being extinct because of aggressive overfishing practices.

Experienced freedivers who are very comfortable at depth in the company of dense pelagic fauna are necessary to carry out the tagging process, since sharks are frightened by the air bubbles released from scuba tanks.

All together, the tagging process will involve 47 scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) and 7 ragged-tooth sharks (Odontaspis ferox).

This expedition is supported by UNESCO. For more information about it, check out the following links:

Malpelo Foundation

Sandra Bessudo, founder and director

Short segment from a Thalassa tv show (France, F3 channel), aired on February 23, 2007

The expedition has returned to the mainland of Colombia on March 17. Here’s a sample of William’s impressions of the waters of Malpelo:

” In trying to describe my experience while diving at the island of Malpelo, I have been at a loss for words… I wish that I could have video to share with you, later there will be photos and for now allow me to describe a dive… I exhaled and dropped silently towards a large school of hammerhead sharks, not moving so as not to startle them… I slip deeper into the midst of these beautiful creatures and as I feel the depth closing around me I wonder that I might decend past them so I look below and to my amazement for 20-30 meters there is nothing but ocean and sharks… as I roll to my left I am greeted by a large 2.6-meter female, two feet from me… I roll onto my back and I observe that above me for 20 meters again there are hammerheads… I am completely immersed in a school of 100′s of these amazing creatures…”