As the expedition leader, the question I’m asked most often about our expeditions is: What was the most beautiful expedition so far? And this is exactly the question that’s hardest to answer. It depends on your point of view and where exactly your personal interests lie. If you love sea slugs you’ll have been in seventh heaven on our Workshop Philippines . It’s hard to find more plentiful and more beautiful nudibranchs on this planet than in Puerto Galera! However, if you wanted to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to observe neons and altum angelfish in their natural habitat, close up and in colour, you could fill your boots in Colombia ( Colombia Expedition II & Expedition 2022 Colombia I ) in 2022. With the best will in the world, I can't name any ONE best expedition.
But I can tell you the highlights of the last six expeditions, from my own personal point of view:
JBL Expedition Australia 2015
We used the long journey to Australia to visit the fascinating Catalina Island off the coast near Los Angeles. Two species of fish live there whose colours look fake, like plastic fish. When you step into the cold water of the California Current and see the fish for the first time, it seems surreal. The garibaldi damselfish stand out like bright orange candies in the dark kelp forest. It's a very special experience and if you've never seen these fish live, you won't believe they really exist. I wonder what nature had in mind! They are not poisonous, so the colour is not a warning colour, and they do not live at great depths where orange no longer looks orange.
The second fish is only a few centimetres long, but it manages to top the garibaldi: the Catalina goby. It, too, has an orange colouring, but with bright blue stripes in the head area. No artist could ever have come up with a more colourful and beautiful fish. Under water, at a depth of only a few metres, you have to look closely. But the gobies are not rare and the sight, at least for me, is an absolute highlight!!!
We continued via Tahiti to the neighbouring island of Moorea in the South Seas, where underwater feeding trials were on the agenda. What I found most exciting was the scenery at a depth of about 25 m on the reef, where countless humpback red snappers swam greedily behind the JBL food tin and the sharks present, blacktip reef sharks and lemon sharks, swam irritably around us, smelling the food but unable to see it. A great experience!
In Australia I was very disappointed that we hardly found any lizards in the outback. I was really looking forward to seeing frilled-neck lizards and thorny devils alive in their habitat. But unfortunately that didn't happen. Instead, the clear waters with the rainbowfish were simply stunning. When the sun shone into the waters, it sometimes looked like a cathedral.
More details like the research results, pictures and videos can be found on the expedition page: Expedition 2015
JBL Expedition Venezuela 2016
In the first part of this expedition, we were travelling in the Orinoco Delta. During a conversation with our guide, I told him that I would love to see an anaconda. The next morning, our guide came to our camp with an anaconda. Anacondas are not rare, but you have to find them! When we released it again, I was extremely impressed by its camouflage: although we knew exactly where it was lying, it was hard to see. An absolutely impressive animal!
The second part of the expedition took us to the famous table-top mountains in southern Venezuela. Apart from the impressive geological formations of the table-top mountains, I will never forget the flight there. It all started when two passengers boarded a single-engine Cessna at the small airport down by the Orinoco and sat down on the two back seats. As a result, the plane tipped over backwards and broke. Unbelievable. Our participants were distributed among four small planes and the boarding was accident-free. The pilot of my plane attached a mobile TomTom sat nav to his steering wheel with Velcro. I had never seen anything like it before. When we were in the air, I noticed the pilot was twitching quite a lot. I asked our expedition doctor Ludwig, who was sitting next to me, what these twitches meant. His answer was less reassuring: “You twitch like that when you’re nervous." To this day I don't know why our pilot was so nervous!
The third extraordinary experience was again one with a snake. We found a lancehead on the riverbank, very close to Salto Angel, the world's highest waterfall. But unlike other snakes, it did not flee! It remained motionless and was in a clear attack position. This encounter with a deadly poisonous snake made me realise that we have to be very careful in remote regions. A bite cannot be treated in time, as in this case we were four hours by boat from the town of Canaima. Later I spoke to the doctor in Canaima and he told me that he had no antidote. There were too many different poisonous snakes in the region and he could not have all the serums in stock. This is one of the risks we still run when we venture into "untouched" nature. Caution and preventive measures such as sturdy footwear and bite-proof gaiters are often a good idea.
More details like the research results, pictures and videos can be found on the expedition page: Venezuela Expedition 2016